The Coming of Serverless – Opportunities and Challenges

by sagacity

Serverless, as opposed to what its syntax suggests, does not mean that there are no servers. Instead, it implies that developers are no longer burdened with the responsibility of managing and provisioning servers. This is something that cloud providers handle to let developers focus entirely on creating software in line with the business logic. In other words, the servers are abstracted away so that the development team no longer has to manage computing resources and worry about tech stack implementation.


Why Has Serverless Taken Off?

Think of Bare Metal programming; you’re responsible for low-level configuration, managing, and provisioning of servers and the associated environment. The upgrades and patches are also handled in-house. At best, such a development model increases developer workload and is extremely time-consuming. 

With Virtual Machines (VMs), you have better resource management, but you still have to worry about managing updates, patches, and the like. In addition, VMs come with a decent overhead of their own, are resource-intensive, and of course, aren’t portable. 

Containers solve this portability problem. They essentially let you pack the application and deployment code and all dependencies together in a package that’s portable and can be moved to different computing environments quickly. However, with containers, the costs accrued for scalability can snowball — something that businesses need to be wary of. Also, they can become a target for attacks, which can spread quickly across containers.

Enter Serverless. Of course, here you don’t have much control over the infrastructure. Bare metal and serverless are at the extremities in that respect. But this lack of control goes hand-in-hand with greater flexibility and less cost. Essentially, a cloud provider facilitates the business (or developers) with the resources for deploying the production code. This is precisely where the concept of Function-as-a-Service (FaaS) comes in. Serverless code is deployed in response to events and is essentially stateless. This makes it predictable, scalable, and cost-effective.

Of course, such benefits of serverless architecture are bound to attract interest. In the era where scalability, faster time-to-market, availability, data security, and cost savings drive much of the industry, serverless is just what the developers ordered (and need). 

A recent State of Serverless report by Datadog outlines that more than 50% of the organizations across each cloud (i.e., AWS, Azure, and Google Cloud) are already leveraging serverless in some capacity. In fact, research firm Verified Market Research projects the serverless computing market to be worth $36.84 billion by 2028, up from $7.29 billion in 2020 — growing at an excellent CAGR of 21.71% during the forecast period. 


Application Development Opportunities with Serverless

Agility, modularity, speed, and data security are the hallmarks of modern application development – be it mobile or web apps. Serverless development is a promising addition to this pantheon of software engineering practices. Here’s a rundown of some of the key areas where serverless can make a significant difference for development teams:


Multilingual Applications – the Polyglot Advantage

Firstly, the serverless architecture gives you the advantage of a polyglot stack. This means you can choose your preferred programming language (like Java or Python) and development framework to develop end-to-end applications. But this goes beyond just selecting a language.

Consider this; many sophisticated cloud-native applications are now being developed using serverless. So, it’s challenging to entertain the idea that everyone (i.e., every team) would be developing functions using the same language. Maybe a team wants access to certain libraries, or perhaps their skill set and preferences dictate a slightly different language. What serverless offers is the ability to seamlessly integrate the functions. This is excellent for development teams, as they’d want to implement new languages over time and not remain dependent on one language forever.


Auto Scalability – Keeping the Developers Away from Menial Tasks

As elucidated above, cloud providers handle the infrastructure resources for you. This also means that users can automatically scale up or down serverless functions as needed. This is ideal for modern applications, as they are often designed with the notion of elasticity.

As a matter of fact, this is different from the IaaS model. There, users have to define the resource parameters that suit the application. Based on the requested capacity, servers are provisioned on demand.

However, a serverless architecture does not have any such recourse for the users – functions are allocated dynamically – thanks to an event-driven architecture. 


Cost Efficiency – the Business Advantage

Because serverless is based on an event-driven execution model, it’s easy to understand why it wouldn’t accrue as much cost as the traditional IaaS model. Serverless functions are deployed in response to events, leading to optimal infrastructure (and hence costs) required for development and deployment. This means that when the function is idle, it does not incur any cost. 

All these opportunities and advantages combined allow development teams to:

  • Enable DevOps practices because they can rapidly run iterations, address bugs, and carry out updates – functions that serverless can also help automate
  • Decrease the time-to-market, as they can take advantage of faster feedback loops that are essential in a competitive and dynamic market
  • Leverage Backend-as-a-Service (BaaS) to gain access to third-party tools – something that helps with augmenting the applications with additional encryption and authentication
  • Ensure high availability because fault tolerance is taken care of by the cloud provider


Challenges to Serverless Adoption (and How an Expert Partner Can Help)

Often, businesses shy away from adopting serverless because of security concerns, vendor lock-in problems, cloud migration hassle, inadequate skilled resources at disposal, observability concerns, fear of the unknown, and the list goes on. 

Security, for instance, is something that is frequently outlined as a hindrance to adopting serverless – presumably because of the fact that serverless applications (owing to the fact that they’re built using multiple small components) are vulnerable to SQL injection, cross-site scripting (XSS), unvalidated redirects and forwards. 

An expert partner like Sagacity can ward off these challenges and more by:

  • Helping build a zero-trust architecture, developing secure code, and implementing testing to nip vulnerabilities in the bud
  • Taking care of the entire product engineering process – from designing to developing and testing to maintaining
  • Ensuring that the migration to the cloud is seamless and without any hitches
  • Helping organize and manage all the varied functions – an essential task in keeping stakeholders up to speed
  • Developing synergy between development and production teams to enhance collaboration and improve the time-to-market

Interested in learning more about how we can build the right platform for you to make the most of serverless? Get in touch with us today!


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