Serverless architecture, the cloud computing model that is transforming business technological development

May 5, 2022 - Read 5 -10 min

Serverless architecture is an application development model that has positioned itself as a new trend in web development, we will analyze how disruptive it has been as a new paradigm in the technology industry. To this end, we will enunciate its technological bases, what benefits it delivers, who are its leaders and how to take the first step to migrate to this new archetype of cloud computing for business development.

Reality VS Hype

When it comes to web architecture, using the term serverless is more pretentious than accurate. While it is clear that developers who opt for this technology will be able to forget about planning and configuring virtual machines, as well as not worrying about the task of managing and maintaining updated servers for their projects, this only happens because the responsibility will fall on someone else. In this case, companies dedicated to serverless computing.

In other words, thanks to this model, development teams will be able to dedicate all their efforts only to the functionality of their applications, leaving second and third order tasks in the hands of third parties, under the FaaS (Function as a Service) modality. In this way, a website or application with serverless architecture can use a specific provider to validate user access, another to reproduce content according to the interaction and another to capture data from new visitors. Leaving to the determination of the providers the efficient distribution of the resources of the virtual machines to satisfy the demand of the application.

Thus, serverless architecture has proposed a new paradigm for both developers and businesses thanks to the decoupling of the intrinsic responsibilities of the applications. This favors cost reduction and promotes the development of monolithic or monolithic the development of monolithic systems or traditional structures of microservices to simplify processes according to the IT needs of the business.

Consequences of serverless implementation

Before we talk about advantages and disadvantages we will describe, roughly speaking, how a deployment under this infrastructure operates: In a serverless development certain functions are processed by others which are called wrappers, these in turn may instantiate one or more subroutines for the purpose of absorbing their input data and processing it to deliver the resulting data expected by the system. In the process of including new functions for their serverless applications, it is imperative for programmers to create and load the necessary wrappers under the appropriate language, be it Java, Go, PowerShell, Node.js, C# F#, Python or Ruby among others, as these are completely indispensable for the processing of such functions. Thus the environments are originated and these are invoked to be able to execute the demanded methods.

These environments and their functions are stored within the serverless infrastructure along with an API gateway that can process the requests and instantiate the appropriate ephemeral container(s) to deliver the service. As a final step, after satisfying the request, the (ephemeral) containers are programmatically destroyed.

In practical terms, when an application has no resources assigned to it, it is because it is not being demanded by any user and thanks to this state of non-existence it does not generate operating costs. Let us now talk about the most outstanding advantages of the serverless architecture:

For businesses:

The requests determine the costs (pay-per-use): The operating costs of the applications are directly proportional to the use or access of its users. In other words, only the resources consumed in each request handled by the provider will be billed.

Zero waste of resources (on-demand computing) In the past, or rather with traditional hosting offerings, the only way to be prepared for high traffic events was to adopt an "over-provisioning" strategy. Now, thanks to the elasticity of the serverless architecture, we have managed to put an end to this waste of resources.

For developers:

Fewer (underlying) responsibilities: By leaving aside the peripheral tasks of application development, a fast track can be opened to reach the highest level of service optimization.

Auto-scaling (elasticity): It is no longer necessary for programmers to spend time configuring auto-scaling structures proportional to demand. This is now the direct responsibility of the supplier who calls them elastic systems because of their dual scaling (up or down).

For users:

High availability (intrinsic): The serverless infrastructure offers high availability by default, the necessary resources will always be available according to the demand of the visitors.

Individual storage (for the customer): It is highly probable that applications under serverless architecture allow their users to integrate their own storage backend such as Google Drive, Microsoft OneDrive, Dropbox, etc.

Does serverless architecture have disadvantages?

Applications under this infrastructure have a very neat and debugged source code which allows them to be highly efficient in function and delivery. Even so, they must adapt to the power and work standards of the various cloud computing providers, since they implement the serverless scheme in their own way.

We can already talk about the disadvantages of this architecture:

For business:

Lack of total control (dependence on third parties): The scope and availability for this type of applications will always be in the hands of its providers.

Resilience to security breaches (Incident management): The risk of an (indirect) cyber-attack that puts a serverless application out of service is higher because the attackers will aim at damaging the provider's networks. Again, it is up to the provider to overcome the eventuality and reactivate the operation as soon as possible.

For developers

Best practice development guide (vendor-independent): Serverless technology is in a state of immaturity which has fragmented its interpretation. This results in each vendor developing its own concept of the service, making a global implementation difficult in many ways.

Limited local testing (variable complexity): Difficulty in testing and verification increases due to dependence on third party configuration.

For users: High latency risk (from application design): If an application does not have a good structural design it will cause delays in service delivery to its customers.

Heterogeneous operation (service uniformity): It is very common for applications based on serverless architecture to have more than one provider for their deployment and this segmentation can cause the overall performance to fluctuate.

In summary, serverless architecture allows the creation of both flexible and lightweight applications, shortening the time to market for new products, reducing operating costs according to traffic peaks, as well as saving resources by sectioning their operation. On the other hand, its disadvantages lie in the immaturity of the technology itself and the existence of processes that cannot yet be relegated to vendors due to the size of their functions.

Market alternatives for serverless computing deployment

Serverless architecture allows programmers to abstract the underlying infrastructure but does not remove it from the workflow, which is why some companies offer FaaS (functions as a service) packages through which they store and run their customers' applications. Currently, these are the most predominant serverless service providers in the market:

AWS Lambda (Amazon): "AWS Lambda is a serverless, event-driven computing service that lets you run code for virtually any type of application or backend service without provisioning or managing servers. You can power Lambda from more than 200 AWS services and software-as-a-service (SaaS) applications, and you only pay for what you use."

Azure Functions (Microsoft): "Develop more efficiently with a serverless, event-driven computing platform that helps solve complex orchestration problems. Build and debug locally without additional configuration, deploy and operate at scale in the cloud, and integrate services via triggers and bindings."

Cloud Functions Google): "Cloud Functions lets you treat all Google and third-party cloud services as blocks. Connect and extend them with code, and quickly go from concept to production with end-to-end solutions and complex workflows. Plus, employ third-party services that provide webhook integrations to quickly extend your app with powerful features."

As mentioned above, since this is a young technology, it is up to each provider to decide the best concept of serverless architecture, so before opting for this service it is necessary to analyze introspectively and carefully which business functions can be adapted to the serverless model and thus be able to combine them with what the industry providers offer.

Migrating to serverless

Before taking the first step towards serverless architecture, the main thing is to understand the limitations of both the business and the technology itself. For example, in the case of a large application, it is mandatory to evaluate whether the current market options have the necessary processing capacity or whether it is better to continue with the traditional server model. Often companies with very robust applications gradually migrate, after analysis, certain components of their systems to keep the operation under control while adapting their services to reach the maximum level of release.

If you are looking for advice to take a step of precision when migrating your company's services to the cloud, it is time to contact us because we want to put at your disposal our experience in the development using AWS Lambda and Microsoft Azure in relationship with our agile work methodologies, which ones provide excellent results in a reiterative way. Visit us here and let us advise you on the optimization of your digital processes so that together we can develop the ultimate technological solution that maximizes your business services.