10 things to know about serverless computing — before you make the leap

The concept of serverless cloud computing emerged from Backend-as-a-Service nearly five years ago but it has now become the focal point of all discussions pertaining to cloud computing in the IT industry. At its core, serverless computing hides the servers from the developers in virtualized environments. Server resources aren’t allocated on a fixed basis, but are dependent on events. This sort of ideal business implementation sounds rather pleasant and possibly commands a reduced price point as well. Before its full potential can be realized, however, the technology must first overcome several misconceptions and myths. So, let’s take a critical look at serverless computing below, with 10 things you should know before you embrace this technology:

1. Upward movement of responsibility

serverless computing

The rapid upward movement of the responsibility interface by serverless computing is something that developers should be aware of. After all, Amazon Web Services’ responsibility officially ended at the hypervisor level. Then it was the responsibility of the user to determine the correct instance type and family, load the app code into it, and take stock of the app’s virtual machines to make sure everything kept on running smoothly.

Containers offer an execution environment that is comparatively lightweight, increasing the utilization of hardware and promoting quicker instantiation. However, the basic application of the operations process remains intact. Users must still bear the responsibility of checking whether the app stays running uninterrupted.

Thanks to Lambda, Amazon Web Services is tasked with ensuring the loading and execution of the application code. This ensures the availability of suitable computing resources for running the Lambda code, irrespective of how much processing is involved.

2. Compatibility issues

New Stack conducted a survey on serverless computing among IT executives and found that half of the respondents mentioned already implementing a serverless architecture. What’s more, 28 percent revealed they wish to do the same in the course of the next 18 months. Are you one of the IT firms considering serverless computing? Then keep in mind that serverless works great for new applications. The problem begins when you try to port an existing app to a serverless system.

The process is extremely time-consuming and laborious. Plus, there are multiple risks involved that prevent developers from achieving the expected outcome. This is why it’s usually recommended to begin from scratch rather than port something incompatible into the serverless framework.

3. New approach to workload management

serverless computing

Serverless computing deftly combines traditional and big data workloads for advanced real-time decision support and analytics, such as the live risk profiling of insurance members with the help of different data sources, including hospital data, registry data, claims, inflation index, social data, and others. Moreover, serverless architecture also supports the provisioning and auto-scaling of resources for variable and voluminous workloads, like the data being received by IoT (Internet of Things) devices.

4. Increased focus on app code and functionality

Cloud computing separates application delivery from the management and ownership of infrastructure. Application deployment in the cloud was possible without hardware concerns. Serverless computing expands on that trend and lightens the burden on application developers further. This allows IT companies to turn their attention towards what is most important — the application itself.

If a particular software becomes all-consuming, eliminating low-value activities for improved investment in application functionalities of higher value, it’s actually a huge step forward for IT as well as the related organization.

5. High availability

High availability

No discussion on serverless computing is complete without touching upon the built-in availability of serverless applications as well as their fault tolerance. The need to architect for such capabilities is nonexistent as the services behind the application are set to offer the same by default.

6. Idle capacity no more

When it comes to serverless computing, there is absolutely no need for over- or pre-provisioning capacity for aspects like storage and compute. For instance, there is zero charge during the time the code is not running.

7. IT spend efficiency increases

Although cloud computing removes the need for investing in infrastructure, cloud virtual systems often run endlessly without doing any productive work. This makes capacity management, including virtual capacity, quite hard. Serverless cloud computing though offers a solution in this scenario. Rather than operating an execution environment around the clock, serverless computing allows the code execution to run only when required, triggered by a specific event that is indicative of a computation request.

8. Supports event-driven applications

The driving principle behind serverless cloud computing — executing code the moment it is required and not otherwise — seems like a fine fit for a rising category of event-driven apps that indicate an even bigger proportion of corporate application portfolios during the future. These kinds of event-driven applications could lend support to user-driven or IoT content submission, including the likes of Snapchat.

However, bear in mind that these applications are mostly episodic, event-driven, and susceptible to unexpected traffic patterns. So, they would never be the right technology for standard container-focused or virtual machine-focused application architecture. Their role makes them exceptional in single-event, short-duration transactions.

9. User benefits

User benefits

So, according to the users, how can serverless computing benefit them? Well, for starters, when businesses are relying on the competitive edge to ship new, exciting features quicker than before, it means that customers can get access to new features earlier than before. Moreover, serverless cloud computing makes it easier for users to offer their personal storage backend, such as Google Drive and Dropbox more easily. It is more than possible that such apps provide client-side caching for a smoother, more positive offline user experience.

10. Costs involved

Contrary to popular belief, serverless computing does not cost organizations an arm and a leg to implement. Users pay only for what they are using. Thus, it is actually extremely cost-effective, especially for small use cases. Companies where the application usage varies considerably over time will also stand to profit from serverless computing. Customers interested in managing operations and workloads will save considerably by investing in serverless computing.

Serverless computing: Overall, too many benefits to ignore

Serverless computing is enjoying its time in the IT limelight, and for good reason. Despite a few inherent challenges involved in this architecture, the long-term benefits are too good to be passed up.

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