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  • Writer's pictureNisha Sashidharan, Head of Marketing

Intro to Serverless Computing: Definition, Benefits, and More!

In the world of technology, we keep reading and discussing various new technologies daily. One of the most exciting technologies that needs discussion today is Serverless Computing, a new way of doing things. In this blog post, we will journey into the world of Serverless Computing, exploring the fundamental ideas behind the technology. We will explore how it changes how we build things, makes our applications more flexible and cost-effective, and opens new opportunities. We will compare it to the traditional way of doing things to see how different this new approach is.

Stay tuned to this blog series, and let us begin with the very first question — “What is Serverless Computing?”

Defining Serverless Computing

Serverless Computing, a subset of Cloud Computing, is a revolutionary model that empowers developers to build and run applications without the hassle of provisioning and managing servers or backend infrastructure. Contrary to its name, "Serverless" does not signify a complete absence of servers, but rather indicates that cloud providers take charge of server management. It liberates developers to focus on creating exceptional front-end applications and refining their business logic. They can concentrate solely on writing application code without worrying about server provisioning and backend infrastructure management. 

With Serverless, developers can write their application code and deploy it into containers managed by a cloud service provider, which provides the necessary cloud infrastructure and scales it dynamically. Moreover, the Cloud providers manage various server management tasks, such as operating system updates, patches, security measures, capacity planning, and system monitoring. 

In the recent landscape, every major cloud service provider, such as Amazon Web Services (AWS Lambda), Microsoft Azure (Azure Functions), Google Cloud (Google Cloud Functions), and IBM Cloud (IBM Cloud Code Engine), offers a robust serverless platform. In conjunction with microservices and containers, these platforms constitute a powerful trifecta of technologies widely recognized as the cornerstone of cloud-native application development.

Core Concepts of Serverless Computing

Let us now elaborate on the core concepts of how serverless computing operates and briefly state its advantages. These core concepts or principles collectively make serverless computing a powerful choice for modern application development, offering the flexibility, scalability, and cost-efficiency needed in the rapidly evolving world of technology.

Event-Driven Architecture

Serverless Computing operates on an event-driven model, where specific events or requests trigger functions. This fundamental concept enables developers to create applications that respond dynamically to a wide range of stimuli. Events can be diverse, including HTTP requests, database changes, file uploads, user interactions, and scheduled tasks. When an event occurs, the corresponding serverless function is invoked to process it. This highly flexible architecture aligns with modern applications' need for real-time responsiveness.

Scalability and Auto-Scaling

Scalability is at the heart of Serverless Computing. Serverless platforms are designed to scale functions to match the incoming workload automatically. It denotes that the application can effortlessly manage varying traffic levels without requiring manual intervention. When demand spikes, additional instances of your functions are automatically created to distribute the load. Conversely, during periods of low activity, resources are scaled down to minimize costs. This dynamic scaling capability is a powerful feature, ensuring your application's high availability and reliability.

Pay-As-You-Go Pricing

Serverless Computing is characterized by a pay-as-you-go pricing model. Unlike traditional computing, where you may need to make significant upfront investments in server infrastructure, serverless platforms charge you based on actual usage. You're only billed for the compute resources consumed during the execution of your functions. This approach aligns costs with the true value delivered by your application and is incredibly cost-effective for startups and businesses looking to optimize their budgets.

Stateless Functions

Serverless functions are designed to be ‘stateless’, meaning they do not maintain data or state between invocations. Each function execution is independent and isolated. Any state or data required by a function must be managed externally. Typically, this is done by storing data in databases, object storage, or other external services. The stateless nature of serverless functions simplifies their management and allows for seamless horizontal scaling. It also encourages using external storage and services to manage application data, which can enhance data durability and availability.

Serverless vs. Traditional Computing: A Comparative Analysis of 6 Key Differences 

1. Architecture

Serverless Computing:

  • Architecture is built around microservices and event-driven design.

  • Functions serve as microservices, each focusing on specific tasks.

  • Functions can be independently deployed and scaled.

  • Promotes modularity and simplifies application development.

  • Developers focus on code, not server management.

Traditional Computing:

  • It often involves managing physical servers, virtual machines, or containers.

  • Can adopt monolithic or microservices architecture.

  • Requires configuring, provisioning, and maintaining servers, which can be complex.

  • It offers more control over infrastructure but comes with added operational overhead.

2. Scalability

Serverless Computing:

  • Automatic scaling of functions based on demand.

  • Ideal for applications with unpredictable workloads.

  • High availability and responsiveness to traffic fluctuations.

Traditional Computing:

  • Scaling requires manual intervention.

  • System administrators or DevOps teams plan and execute scaling operations.

  • Slower and less responsive to sudden traffic spikes.

3. Cost Efficiency

Serverless Computing:

  • Pay-as-you-go pricing model.

  • You pay for computing resources consumed during function execution.

  • No upfront hardware or infrastructure costs.

  • Cost-effective for applications with varying workloads.

  • Ideal for startups and businesses looking to minimize initial investments.

Traditional Computing:

  • It involves significant upfront costs regarding hardware, infrastructure, and operational expenses.

  • Need to maintain continuous payment for resources regardless of utilization.

  • Managing resources efficiently can be challenging.

4. Vendor Lock-In

Serverless Computing:

  • A potential concern with vendor lock-in.

  • Migrating between different cloud providers' serverless platforms can be challenging.

  • It may limit flexibility and choice in the long term.

  • It requires careful consideration of dependencies on proprietary features.

Traditional Computing:

  • It offers more flexibility in infrastructure choice.

  • It supports multi-cloud strategies.

  • It requires management of a broader spectrum of technology stack components.

5. Cold Start Latency

Serverless Computing:

  • Functions may experience "cold start latency."

  • There is a slight delay when invoked for the first time or after inactivity.

  • Concern for applications with stringent low-latency requirements.

Traditional Computing:

  • It provides more consistent and predictable response times with proper infrastructure management.

6. Security

Serverless Computing:

  • It offers security advantages as cloud providers manage server maintenance, security patches, and updates.

  • Requires proper implementation of security measures within application code and configurations to mitigate serverless-specific risks.

Traditional Computing:

  • It provides complete control over security configurations.

  • Depending on your team's expertise and resources, it requires a higher degree of responsibility for securing the infrastructure and application stack.

These are among the most critical differences, and there could be more, though each category's importance depends on the project's specific objectives and requirements. When choosing between serverless and traditional computing, it is essential to consider how these distinctions align with the teams' or projects' development goals, resource constraints, and scalability needs.

As we wrap up this blog post, we realize that Serverless Computing is like a bright new star on the horizon. It is not just a new idea; it is a new way of doing things that will make our lives easier and more exciting. We will discuss this topic more in our next blog post in the series; stay tuned!

Read other Extentia Blog posts here!

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