Serverless Computing – Pros, Cons & How it works

Serverless Computing - Pros, Cons & How it works - Augmento Labs

For the most part of time, developers are wasting a lot of their time managing, checking and caring for the server infrastructure. Due to this they are not able to invest the time in their job that makes the most difference, creating codes. In addition to that, they also have to look at the operating system and web server hosting process required for the application. Thus their concentration, attention and efforts are getting divided.

Here comes the easy way around, serverless computing.

So, what is Serverless computing?

Serverless computing is a method in which a company uses backend services from a serverless vendor. It charges not by the fixed amount of bandwidth or number of servers but based on its usage. It allows its users to write and deploy code without worrying about the inconvenience caused due to the underlying infrastructure. As this service is auto-scaling, any company that gets backend services from a serverless vendor charges based on their computation. Developers need not worry about the servers for practical purposes. It is all handled and managed for them. The service provider takes care of:

  • The virtual machine and container management
  • Hardware allocating
  • Specific tasks built into the code, such as multithreading

Why auto-scaling was introduced? Traditionally when anyone wanted to build a web application they had to own the physical hardware which required running a server. This was a cumbersome and expensive undertaking. After that cloud computing was introduced which fixed numbers of servers or amounts of server space could be rented remotely. The developers and companies who rented these fixed units of server space usually over-purchase to ensure that there is a spike in traffic or that activity will not exceed their monthly limits and break their applications. This lead to much of the server space getting paid for go wasted. Thus the auto-scaling method was introduced to address this issue.

Cost benefits of serverless computing– When the developers purchase the backend services provided by the serverless computing they get a flexible ‘pay-as-you-go’ basis, meaning that they will only have to pay for the services that they use. This is just like switching from a cell phone data plan with a monthly fixed limit, to one that only charges for each byte of data that gets used.

What kind of backend services the serverless computing provide? Serverless providers offer database and storage services to their customers, in Function-as-a-Service platforms, like Cloudflare Workers. Developers execute small pieces of code on the network edge and can build a modular architecture, making a codebase that is more scalable without having to spend resources on maintaining the underlying backend, using FaaS.

Traditional vs Serverless Computing - Pros, Cons & How it works - Augmento Labs

Advantages of Serverless computing

There are several key benefits provided by serverless computing. Those who make the switch to building applications on serverless platforms can expect the following benefits and enhancements.

  • Lower costs- Serverless computing is very cost-effective, as compared with the traditional cloud providers of backend services. Only when backend functions are needed by the serverless application, codes are used automatically scales up as needed. Provisioning is dynamic, precise, and real-time. They provide exact services that they break their charges down into 100-millisecond increments. In comparison with traditional ‘server full’ architecture, developers need to project in advance the amount of server capacity they will need and then purchase that capacity, whether they finally use it or not.
  • Effortless efficiency- As fewer people, processes, and technologies are required to deploy applications, serverless computing offers an efficient way to launch fully scalable applications.

Serverless computing offers:

  • Zero server management
  • Scaling options
  • Optimal availability
  • Eliminates idle capacity
  • Simplified scalability- Developers who use serverless architecture face no problem in policies to scale up their code. The scaling on demand is handled by the serverless vendor. Applications built with a serverless infrastructure will scale automatically as the user base grows or usage increases. The vendor’s servers start up, run, and end the functions as they are needed, using containers. As a result, a serverless application handles an unusually high number of requests just as it processes a single request from a single user.
  • No server management is needed- ‘serverless’ computing does use the servers, but the developers never have to deal with them. They are completely managed by the vendor. This reduces the investments that are required in DevOps, which lowers expenses, and it also frees up developers to create and expand their applications without being constrained by server capacity.
  • Simplified backend code- Developers are able to create simple functions that independently perform a single purpose, like making an API call, by the help of FaaS.
  • Code can run closer to the end user, which decreases latency- As the application is not hosted on an origin server, its code can be run from anywhere. Thus based on the vendor used, it becomes possible to run the application functions on servers close to the end user. As the request from the user does not have to travel all the way to the original server, this reduces latency.
  • Quicker turnaround and updates possible- Serverless architecture significantly cut time to market. You do not need a complicated deploy process to roll out bug fixes and new features, developers can add and modify code on a piecemeal basis. You do not need to upload code to servers or do any backend configuration to release a working version of an application. This helps the developers a lot as they can quickly upload bits of code and release a new product. Uploading of codes all at once or one function at a time is also possible, as the application is not a single monolithic stack but rather a collection of functions provisioned by the vendor. As a result, this makes it possible to quickly update, patch, fix, or add new features to an application.

Disadvantages of Serverless computing

While serverless computing offers various benefits, there are some potential downsides for certain type of developers and teams. Whether these are drawbacks for you will depend on the type of product you’re building. The drawbacks that come with serverless computing are:

  • Testing and debugging becomes difficult- It becomes difficult to know how the code will actually work once it is deployed as creating a replica of the serverless environment is difficult. As the application is broken into separate smaller functions, the developers do not get the visibility into backend process. This makes debugging is more complicated.
  • Serverless computing introduces new security concerns- Security becomes an issue for application that handles personal or sensitive data as, vendors run the entire backend, and it may not be possible to fully vet their security. As companies are not assigned with their own discrete physical servers, serverless providers often run code from several of their customers on a single server at a given time. This issue of sharing machinery with other parties is known as ‘multitenancy’. It affects application performance and, if the multi-tenant servers are not configured properly, that could result in data exposure.
  • Serverless architectures are not built for long-running processes- As serverless providers charge for the amount of time the code runs, it may cost more to run an application with long-running processes in a serverless infrastructure compared to a traditional one.
  • Performance may be affected- As it does not run constantly, serverless code may require ‘booting up’ when it is used. This startup time may degrade its performance.
  • Vendor lock-in is a risk- If a vendor is allowed to provide all backend services for an application that inevitably increases reliance on that vendor. But setting up a serverless architecture with only one vendor can make it difficult to switch vendors when required, especially when each vendor offers slightly different features and workflows

Why use Serverless Computing?

Serverless computing offers a range of advantages over traditional cloud-based or server-centric infrastructure. Serverless architectures offer greater scalability, more flexibility, and quicker time to release, all at a reduced cost, hence why developers seek this. Serverless architectures also relaxes developers from worrying about the purchasing, provisioning, and managing backend servers.

Who should use a Serverless Architecture?

Severless computing benefit those developers who want to decrease their go-to-market time and build lightweight, flexible applications that can be expanded or updated quickly. Serverless architectures also reduces cost for applications that see inconsistent usage, with peak periods alternating with times of little to no traffic. For such applications, it may prove to be a wastage for purchasing a server or a block of servers that are constantly running and always available, even when unused. A serverless setup will not incur costs when at rest and will respond instantly.

The next step for serverless computing

The serverless computing keeps evolving as serverless providers are coming up with solutions to overcome some of its drawbacks. One of the major drawbacks is cold starts. Generally when a particular serverless function has not been called in a while, the provider shuts down the function to save energy and avoid over-provisioning. So next time when an user runs an application that calls that function, the serverless provider needs to be spinned up fresh to start hosting that function again. This startup time adds latency, and is known as a ‘cold start’. As more and more of the drawbacks of using serverless get addressed the popularity of edge computing keeps growing. Thus the future of serverless architecture seems more widespread.

How Augmento Labs can help businesses build serverless architecture?

We at augment labs we can help your business grow with the right implementation of serveless computing. We will guide you how to utilize the serverless computing. With our experience of 18+ years in the IT industry, we are here to share our experience and help you. We will provide you with cutting edge solutions and our team of experts will help you move up the chain and use the latest technologically assert to benefit your company and developers.


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