Serverless Computing: Definition, Advantages, and Providers

Serverless computing

Definition of Serverless Computing

Serverless computing is a subset of cloud computing that allows cloud providers to provide machine-based resources on demand and manage the servers on behalf of customers. The name “Serverless”, however, is misleading as it does not mean that there are no servers. This refers to the fact the service providers’ servers are not under the control of customers but are managed entirely by them. This allows developers to focus on the front-end, business logic, and application development.

Cloud providers can manage various server management tasks such as operating system patch management, security planning, monitoring, and infrastructure management.

Cost benefits

Developers can use serverless computing to buy services on a “pay-as-you-go” basis. This means services will be provided when and how they are needed and the cost of usage will be billed accordingly. This is similar to only paying for the time and equipment used in the gym, rather than a monthly membership.

Not only is serverless computing free, but developers also don’t have to pay for any idle capacity. The cloud provider will only provide the necessary resource instances when the code execution requires it. After the code execution is complete, the provider will de-provision them. This is known as “scaling to zero”, and it helps reduce the resource’s provisioned times and, therefore, lowers costs. The billing begins and ends with the code execution.

Also read: What is Server Virtualization: Definition, Types and Benefits

Many cloud serverless computing providers

Many cloud service providers offer serverless computing to users according to their needs. These are the most popular providers:

  • AWS Lambda
  • Google Cloud Functions
  • Azure Functions
  • IBM Cloud Functions
  • OCI Functions

Types of serverless computing services

Two types of Serverless architectures are common in the industry.

  1. Baas: Backend as a service or Mobile Backend is a service, that describes an application that fully integrates cloud-hosted services to manage server-side logic. These apps can be single-page web apps or mobile apps and use an ecosystem of cloud-accessible databases, authentication services, and other services.
  2. Faas: Function as a Service. This is an architecture in which the server-side logic of an application is written by a developer but is executed on a stateless compute box. This means that, unlike traditional architecture scenarios, containers are event triggered, completely managed by a third party, and can only live for a single invocation (short-lived). AWS Lambda, one of the most well-known Faas platforms in today’s industry, is AWS Lambda.

Advantages of using Serverless Computing

1. No need for server management

Servers are necessary to run the applications. However, developers are responsible only for creating code. The management and running of the code are taken care of by a third party called the cloud service provider.

2. Only the cost of use is incurred

It operates in a pay-as-you-go model. Users have provisioned services when they are needed and are only charged for the time and units they use. The operations are free of additional charges.

3. Intrinsic Scalability

Serverless architectures can be scaled and reconfigured to meet changing requirements. The cloud providers will increase the number of server units if there is an increase in requests. If there is a decrease in incoming requests, the server units provisioned by cloud providers will be less utilized and not used.

4. Almost instantaneous deployment and updates

The uploading of code to a server is not required. This makes it easy to deploy and release newer versions of your application quickly. Developers can upload one function or all of the functions at once, depending on their needs. This simplifies the repair and patching of applications.

5. Reduced latency

Applications aren’t dependent on their origin server so they can be run anywhere in the world. It is possible to run applications on servers closer to the user. This leads to reduced latency due to the decreased distance that the request and answer may need to travel through the network.

Also read: Top 5 Cloud Servers You Should Know

Disadvantages of serverless computing

1. Testing and debugging are challenging tasks

It is difficult to recreate a serverless environment in order to test the deployment of code. This makes fault and bug detection more difficult.

2. Security issues

Security is the responsibility of the serverless computing service provider, not the consumer. In other words, attackers have multiple access points to the server in case of an attack. This lead increases system vulnerability and sees the customer powerless against such intrusions.

3. Resource limitations

In high-computing situations, serverless computing is not the best choice. This is because service providers only have limited resources to provide serverless computing. Even if there are no restrictions on provisioning, there are still some applications in that limitless provisioning is not cost-effective.

4. Latency in response

Serverless computing has one major disadvantage: the possibility of latency in response. The time delay between the moment a request is sent and when it is answered is called response latency. Serverless computing can cause a decrease in response latency due to the server taking some time to restart. Serverless computing is useless in time-critical applications.

Conclusion

Serverless computing can be extremely useful for applications that are more concerned with the business side than IT infrastructure management. Despite obvious limitations, serverless computing remains the preferred method for service provisioning. This is due to the fact that the customer has the ability to take control of the service consumption. It allows you to quickly and efficiently build event-based applications. Serverless computing can be used to save resources, increase productivity, and improve efficiency within any organization.

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