What is Serverless & How Does it Work?

Serverless architecture

Serverless architectures can help you build scalable, cost-effective applications faster. They remove the burden of operating your own servers and leave you with APIs that you can use to trigger events when a user performs an action in your application or when new data is available. Because serverless also takes care of capacity monitoring and load balancing, it allows you to focus on developing your app instead of building out infrastructure. However, serverless architecture presents its own set of challenges and considerations that are unique from other architectures. This guide will explain what serverless architecture is, why it’s beneficial, how it works, different types of serverless solutions, and the pros and cons of using this type of architecture in your next project.

What is Serverless Architecture?

Serverless architecture is a type of architecture where the developer does not have direct access to server-side code. Instead, they define a set of rules that dictate how the application will respond to certain events. In this way, serverless architecture is similar to event-driven architecture, with the key difference that it also takes care of hosting and scaling the application itself. In traditional architectures, developers use what is known as “colocation,” or locating their services on the same server where an application is hosted. In a serverless architecture, however, developers use “federation,” which means locating their services on different servers that are owned and managed by a third party.

Some Notable Serverless Frameworks and Services

Image credits: MaxKelsen

AWS Lambda: AWS Lambda is a serverless computing service that makes it possible to build and run applications without provisioning or managing servers.

AWS Lambda provides the following benefits:

  • Serverless architecture: AWS Lambda will automatically scale up or down as needed without any additional configuration.
  • Pay only for what you use: AWS Lambda charges you based on how much time your code spends running, not by the hour or minute.
  • Flexible and easy to use: You don’t need to be an expert in server management, AWS Lambda takes care of all of that for you.

Google Cloud Functions: Google cloud functions is a serverless computing platform that allows developers to run code in response to events without having to manage the underlying infrastructure. Google cloud functions are an easy way to build and run code without the need to provision servers, configure firewalls, or scale your computing resources. Google Cloud Functions can be invoked through HTTP requests and messages from other Google Cloud services like Pub/Sub.

Microsoft Azure Functions: Microsoft Azure Functions is a serverless computing platform that allows developers to create small, single-purpose functions that are triggered by events in the cloud. Azure Functions allows developers to write code in any language they choose and have it run in the cloud without having to manage any servers. This service can be used for many purposes, such as data processing, event handling and backend web services. Functions are event-driven and can be triggered by a variety of Azure services or third party systems such as GitHub, Slack, Twitter, SMS, etc. Functions are easy to develop and deploy. They don't require any long-term commitments or resource allocation.

IBM Cloud Functions: IBM Cloud Functions is a serverless computing solution on the IBM Cloud Platform that enables developers to build, host, and scale serverless applications in the cloud. The functions can be triggered by events such as user login, email arrival or data entry. They are deployed using a simple YAML file while they are triggered by the event.

API Gateway: The gateway is your main entry point into the serverless ecosystem. Like Lambda, API Gateway can be deployed as an Amazon Machine Learning or Amazon Cognito user account. Once you’re ready to deploy your service, you need to create an API Gateway endpoint that defines how and where your service will be accessible by users of your app.

Why use a Serverless Architecture?

Serverless architecture gives an edge to the organization when it comes to cost-effectiveness. Developers can focus on important things rather than building and maintaining the infrastructure, scalability issues, etc. Serverless ensures the applications always perform as expected and when the load changes, the scaling up and down can be managed easily without any manual intervention.

The three primary benefits of a serverless architecture are scalability, cost savings, and agility. Scalability is achieved by only paying for the resources used. Because of this, you can use serverless architectures to handle sudden spikes in traffic without worrying about incurring extra charges. Serverless architectures also allow you to focus on building the specific features of your app rather than worrying about how you will scale the app in the future. Additionally, serverless architectures are often built with a database that offers high availability and low latency. This will allow you to decrease your response times and scale your app when necessary. Finally, using a serverless architecture can help you transition faster between projects and teams. Having a standardized architecture allows you to onboard new developers more quickly, thus helping you to keep pace with changing or evolving requirements.

How does a Serverless Architecture work?

Serverless architectures rely on a third-party service to execute your code. While many services like AWS Lambda and Google Cloud Functions provide services that let you execute your code, many others let you store and analyze data, send emails, etc. This is one of the biggest benefits of serverless architecture: you can use a single service to do many things. In the case of AWS Lambda, for example, your code will run in a container that is isolated from other containers. This means that a single function cannot essentially “infect” other functions with its state, which makes it easier to scale and maintain your application. AWS Lambda also scales automatically, so you don’t have to worry about overloading your system and manually scaling down.

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Managing servers is not an easy task; it takes a lot of time and resources. In addition, teams must maintain server hardware, software, and security updates, as well as backup data in case of failure. Developers can ditch these burdens to a third-party provider by using serverless architecture. With serverless architecture, developers can concentrate on writing application code rather than wasting time on maintaining the underlying server-related infrastructure. Function as a Service (FaaS) is one of the most popular and widely used serverless architectures. The function performs a specific task when triggered by an event configured by developers - such as an email or HTTP request. Functions are deployed to a cloud provider account after testing. When a function is triggered, the cloud provider either executes the function on an existing server or, if there is no server active, spins up a new instance.

Different Types of Serverless Solutions

There are many different types of serverless solutions, including both managed and un-managed offerings. They often integrate with other services like databases, CRMs, messaging systems, and more to allow for greater scalability and flexibility. This can make serverless architecture even more attractive to businesses.

  • Managed services - Managed services are those that are hosted and managed by a third-party service. An example of this type of service is AWS Lambda, which lets you run code without having to worry about infrastructural concerns.
  • Self-hosted services - Self-hosted services are those that you host and manage yourself. An example of this type of service is Google Cloud Functions, which is a fully managed and integrated service similar to AWS Lambda.

Pros of using a Serverless Architecture

  • Scalability - Because you are only paying for the resources you use and there is no fixed cost to your architecture, you can scale your app to meet sudden increases in demand.
  • No downtime - Because you are not managing your own servers, you don’t have to worry about them crashing and causing your app to go down with them.
  • No or low maintenance - As a developer, you don’t have to worry about patching your servers or ensuring that your apps are running smoothly.
  • Resource efficiency - Because every serverless solution has built-in scaling mechanisms and uses only what it needs, you can be sure that you are not over-provisioning your resources.
  • Quick development - You can develop your app quicker because you don’t have to worry about setting up your own servers and can focus instead on your code.

Cons of using a Serverless Architecture

  • Data governance - Because you do not control the servers where your code is running, you do not have full control over how your data is governed. This can be especially true in un-managed solutions, as you have no control over the servers themselves.
  • Security - Because your code is running on someone else’s servers, you cannot fully secure it. While most managed services have some sort of security features built in, un-managed solutions do not.
  • No direct access to the hardware - Because you are not hosting your code on your own hardware, you have no direct access to the infrastructure powering it. This can lead to issues if you need to make modifications to your code.
  • Less control over scalability - Because managed services can scale your code for you, you don’t have complete control over your application’s scalability.

Conclusion

Serverless computing has been around for a while, but it has grown in popularity over the last few years. It is a cost-effective and scalable solution for companies that have a lot of traffic and need to handle more requests at once. The serverless architecture is also perfect for companies with unpredictable traffic patterns, as they don't need to spend money on expensive servers when they don’t have any traffic at all.

With some incredible advantages, it’s no wonder that serverless architecture is predicted to rise in popularity in the coming yekodars. However, just like any other architectural choice, it comes with its own set of tradeoffs and considerations. As a DevOps professional, it is essential to know and understand what is serverless and how it works. You might get hired to work on serverless concepts in your current and future company, and having a thorough knowledge of it can help you get the job easily.

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