Why You Should Care About Serverless

Azure Cloud computing has completely changed the ball game with regard to application development. Where upfront investment in hardware and software was once required, online services are now available in an instant. Hardware and software resources are available for every budget and every business need, making it easier than ever to deploy applications to meet demand.

What is Serverless?

The word serverless is actually a misnomer. It suggests that it means computing without servers, whereas servers are of course involved. What serverless really means is that users don’t have to provide the servers themselves. While the servers are, in fact, very real, IT teams don’t need to provide or maintain them. There is no need to consider processing power, memory storage or underlying software. The servers are for all intents and purposes invisible, and so is the worry that comes with them. 

Serverless computing is a model that removes server management and infrastructure decisions from developers. The allocation of resources is managed by the cloud provider, meaning the application architect can be more focused on the app itself. Serverless creates another layer of simplicity on top of cloud infrastructure. As there is no need to provide or maintain servers, infrastructure concerns and issues are removed. 

Most of the leading cloud providers have invested heavily in serverless, and with such huge investment, there has to be a good reason. Organisations large and small are going serverless, driven by the desire to focus on business logic and nothing else. 

How Does Serverless Work?

In a serverless infrastructure, each request relates to its own server, and after the server processes a function, it is immediately destroyed. Serverless infrastructures work by implementing various key principals, including:

  • Deploying third-party services
  • Creating a robust front-end
  • Executing performance checks
  • Building security mechanisms
  • Implementing push-based architecture

With serverless, the cloud provider dynamically manages the allocation and provisioning of serverless. Applications run in stateless compute containers and are event-triggered. Due to the event-triggered nature, pricing is based on the number of executions rather than a pre-purchased capacity. 

What are Function as a Service (FaaS) Platforms?

FaaS platforms are a means to deliver the serverless concept. They allow developers to create event-driven code without having to build or maintain complex infrastructure. This is specifically relevant in relation to developing and launching an application. 

FaaS platforms enable serverless computing through serverless architecture. Developers can use microservices to deploy individual functions, actions or pieces of logic. And, they start within milliseconds. Containers can be used for rapid deployment of applications across all platforms. 

The Benefits of Serverless

Serverless offers some significant business benefits:

  • Event-driven – cloud instances aren’t allocated and then left sitting idle until they’re required. Instead, resources are only provided when specific events occur. 
  • Faster time-to-market – as there is no requirement to provide or maintain servers, developers can focus on their own applications. Without concern around hardware and servers, app development is faster and time can be more effectively distributed to the client to ensure the right product is developed. 
  • Improved security – as a third-party manages both web servers and database servers, the back-end security concerns that are required in a standard client-server application are alleviated.
  • Reduced development and maintenance costs – building and running software systems are significantly less expensive with serverless. Paying by millisecond means that money is only spent on server processing when functions or applications are effectively running. 
  • Easily scalable – as more code is written to scale up applications, server management needs to increase. Issues that arise with servers can be a huge distraction. With serverless, developers focus on what they are building and expanding the codebase doesn’t affect the underlying architecture. Serverless functions can run when required with no need for provisioning. 
  • Increased developer productivity – developers are able to focus on the matter at hand, building applications. Issues around hardware and compatibility and back-end details like multi-threading are removed from the equation. 

The benefits of serverless are indisputable. Servers are able to autoscale; there is no idle time and associated costs and no over-capacity problems. With serverless, the infrastructure is reliable and available, and security is guaranteed. 

How Serverless Deliver Business Value

The short answer to how serverless delivers business value is that it allows businesses to focus on just that. Functions let developers focus on writing business logic instead of coding supporting infrastructures. Managed servers let developers focus on writing functions with fewer operations freeing up resources. With more time and money to play with, organisations can apply more energy to creating value for their customers.  

Serverless enables businesses to focus on creating value and applying technology to deliver that value. It brings together development and operations teams, with a joint focus. In fact, serverless is the result of a focus on business value. There is little point owning technology that isn’t core to delivering value. 

Every move towards delivering pure business value without unnecessary overheads is a tick in the box for serverless. This may start with migration from on-premises to a public cloud, then from VMs to containers and then onto Azure Kubernetes. Each step along the way offers increased business value. 

Why Should You Care? 

Quite simply, serverless offers a server with zero management. There is no need for upfront provisioning; it can be auto-scaled to meet demand and is extremely cost-effective. With the opportunity to reduce complexity and costs in one fell swoop, everyone should care about serverless 

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About the author

Michael Ridland is the Co-CEO and Founder of Xam Consulting.

Design-led problem solving delivering digital solutions.

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