Serverless architecture is another buzzword to hit the cloud-native space, but what is it, is it worthwhile and how can it work for you?
Serverless architecture is on the rise and is rapidly gaining acceptance. Already businesses are talking about the benefits it can deliver to how it can best be implemented. For organizations knee-deep in digital transformation projects, serverless architecture could be the fuel they need to supercharge their efforts.
What is Serverless Architecture?
Much of the hype surrounding serverless architecture comes from the likes of Amazon Web Services (AWS) and other cloud providers who have been heavily promoting the concept, but scratch beneath the surface and you will discover something of immense value. In serverless applications, a cloud provider manages the provision of servers. These last in stateless ephemeral containers which are fully managed by the cloud vendor. The code can be written in either a completely serverless code that uses no provisioned servers, or in combination with a traditional approach like microservices. For example, a web app could be written using both microservices and serverless code.
The adoption of serverless architecture is growing rapidly. According to a recent report, the market could grow from $4.25bn in 2018 to $14.93bn in 2023. The likes of Netflix, for example, already rely on the serverless code and most of the cloud providers like AWS Lambda, Azure, and Google Cloud Functions, are investing heavily in it. However, while serverless architecture can do great things, it won’t solve all your infrastructure problems.
What are the benefits of serverless architecture?
Serverless architecture removes much of the heavy lifting for organizations. It provides a true platform as a service option in which the provider takes care of all the backend infrastructure while developers can simply concentrate on creating the code. It reduces the amount of time spent worrying about back-end operations and allows the focus to shift towards more interesting and profitable tasks.
Serverless architecture can be a great advantage in cloud-native app development. Cloud computing has allowed people to use virtual servers whose physical location may be an entire continent away. This has enabled them to increase their data management capacities while also reducing the amount of infrastructure required onsite. It is an affordable way to dramatically open up increased capacity for data management.
Even so, maintaining software stacks on a virtual server is complex, expensive and arduous. It is a process which developers must spend significant time managing and much of that time could be better spent doing something else. However, with the serverless approach, a developer can upload snippets of code which are called into action as and when they are needed.
The pricing model is very affordable. Rather than renting servers from a cloud provider, costs are determined on a per execution basis. In most cases, this will end up being a cheaper way of doing business. You can also set up different environments with all the ease of a single environment. This is a massive advantage over traditional applications and means you no longer need to set up development and production machines.
What are the drawbacks?
Despite the enthusiasm for serverless architecture, it does have its critics. A major part of the criticisms involves the devolution of control to a third-party. Serverless architecture surrenders a certain amount of influence and means being heavily reliant on how a third-party operates. If this third-party has a problem, so will you. You will be wholly dependent on that third-party for management and debugging.
Integration can be difficult. It uses a function as a service (FaaS) model which deploys a function as business logic. Functions are processed in a certain timeframe and typically have a time-out limit. This can make serverless architecture inappropriate for complex or long-running functions or functions with variable timing. A hard limit may make some operations impossible. With the FaaS model, units are smaller than with most other architectures and you may need a separate FaaS artifact for every function in your logical app.
Networking can be difficult. You will not be able to gain access through the usual IP but will have to use a private API gateway. This may take time to set up and, while it has no impact on pricing structures, it can reduce your options.
Making it work for you
Despite these concerns, serverless architecture provides an exciting new frontier in the development of cloud-native applications. It can be great for small event-driven scenarios and allows you to build a low-cost microservices architecture. But the biggest concerns will be around issues of vendor lock-in, relinquishing control and security. Businesses must ensure that they do everything they can to reduce the potential risks associated with operating in the cloud.
It is important to first ensure that the cloud vendor’s security protocols are airtight. Internally, businesses looking to move towards serverless architecture should ensure security on their end by encrypting files, avoiding the use of publicly readable access controls, employing an efficient code, and using third party tools such as Cloud Watch.
It may also be worthwhile to employ cloud experts to manage strategies and integration. Like all developments in the native cloud space, serverless architecture has a lot of potential and can really move a business forward. However, failure to properly implement can cause a world of problems. The serverless architecture will not be ideal in every situation but does present a new and exciting way to run and develop cloud-native applications.
Market Research Team, RapidValue Solutions