As a backend developer, the server is one of the pain points in every development project. Agree? Yes. However, if we are to program applications without the need of a server, won’t it be great? This is where serverless computing comes into place. There is no need of implementing servers in serverless architecture, serverless computing, and even serverless infrastructure.
Now, developers can easily develop, execute and run applications and services, without the need to worry about servers or how to deal and manage those servers.
Before we go through the pros and cons of serverless architecture, it is important to have a clear understanding of what serverless is about.
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Let’s have look on what is serverless architecture.
Serverless is a different or unique kind of software architecture, wherein an application logic’s execution is rendered in an environment, without the need for introducing virtual machines, operating systems, visible processes or servers.
Such an environment is capable of running on top of any operating systems, with the help of virtual machines and/or physical servers. However, the responsibility of managing or handling the entire infrastructure lies in the hands of the service provider.
Here, the software developer is responsible only for writing the code. The software developer needs to bridge the communication gaps between functions and services and ensure that their interaction with the external world goes well. The most interesting feature about serverless infrastructures is that the developers can upload functions on the basis of the event, which is executed in the order of the events, as and when they occur, and these events are predefined. This process is referred to as event-driven computing.
As you are aware software systems have been evolving and have come over a long way from the traditional old days of mainframe computers to palmtops. As newer technologies evolved, along with better networking facilities and personalized computers, the entire computing task was split across the centralized servers. These servers were capable of doing all the heavy lifting along with the client needs and expectations that were more aligned toward the result presentation.
The server was once considered to be a computer with an aim to present information on the internet – which evolved along with the revolutionary changes in technologies that came across the web. So once, computers gained more power and had better control than older times, the server tasks were capable of being standalone without the need for a computer to take up these tasks.
This is where the next stage in the development process came up, known as virtualization.
As we move forward, it is important that you have a clear idea about what virtualization is.
By using software for sharing the resources within a computer amid several operating systems that are capable of functioning independently, where multiple servers are blended into one, we usually refer to such a process as virtualization. This is when a server’s main composition shifted from one pole to another – hardware to software. As AWS started offering cloud computing service in collation with EC2 services, the servers that they provided comprised virtual servers, capable of running on hardware that was shared by other AWS users.
So what is the current condition of the serverless?
Currently, an application or application programming interface (API) that mainly depends on microservices, having its code hosted on the function-as-a-service platform is what serverless is going through. Serverless architecture comes with a variety of advantages for their app development and is capable of influencing your workflow as well.
Now, let us take a look at the advantages of serverless architecture.
When your services are not required, you need not to pay. The same applies to hardware – which comes free of cost. This means you only need to pay for what you use. This means you save a lot of money when you go serverless. There is this ‘pay-as-you-go’ model in serverless that can be opted to pay only during the time when you utilize the services if you do not have a bulk requirement – which minuses the idle server time costs.
Security is one of the biggest concerns that we all have. But when it comes to serverless applications, you need not worry about the latest security being implemented as your servers are being monitored and controlled by a third-party services provider. This means you do not have to worry about fixing the bugs or examining for loopholes in your app.
If you are planning to build an app that should go around and become a hit across the globe, for instance, “Netflix”. But in this case, you would not want to provision infrastructure. However, when you are having serverless architecture run the app, it comes with a highly tremendous capability to fetch traffic volumes with ease. Scaling is dependent on user location and their network strength.
But the service providers will ensure that there are no delays, allowing the apps to perform well, no matter which is your geographic location.
The infrastructure or the process of development of the app – in fact, nothing matters to your users – all that they care about is the features and functionalities of the app. Since there are no server downtimes or server issues that would lead to a failed performance, there is no point of thinking that there would be discomfort for the users when they use the app from the perspective of user experience.
Server maintenance is no longer a point of concern for the developers, which means they can shift their focus to improving the customer-facing components. Now, you can offer a high-quality and satisfactory user experience with more time available.
Though serverless architecture is capable of providing great user experience, eliminating the struggles of a backend process, it still does not fulfill certain requirements and hence there are a few drawbacks.
The vendor locks you in. Now, it is the vendor who decides what has to be done and the control is not in you, but their hands. You need to go by their rules. As your servers are in the hands of third-party providers, then you do not have control over the run times, updates and even the hardware. This is not beneficial to you – as there would be inconsistencies appearing along with the limitation of resources.
So when you accept the services of a particular vendor, you cannot just walk out one fine morning. It would be highly challenging if, at any point, you wish to move away from a particular vendor to another. And if at all, in any case, you manage to switch over from one service provider to another, a lot of time, effort and resources would be invested into reengineering your app.
Another concern is that the vendor can revise its service terms or pricing policies as and when required, and even cease offering the option.
It is found that serverless is one of the best options for a short-term process. Even, for real-term processes, such as sending emails, you can opt for the serverless options.
But when the duration of your task increases, there would be functionalities that might need to be executed more often and requiring you to make payments for the time these functionalities run. For instance, if you are uploading a video with long files, it would require a lot of other functions to be called, which would take more time and of course, money.
For instance, you need to complete a file upload in say 10 minutes. But this task extends or goes beyond the expected time, which means you would require to call another function to complete the task. But there is a limit to the number of functions that can run simultaneously – so if you run a number of functions at once, you are doing denial of service on your production apps.
You are paying for what you use. What if you never need to use a function – you would be penalized, which comes over the services charge that you are already paying. This is what a cold-start penalty is, which is imposed on hosted functions – which could be slow for the first time
Hosted functions suffer from a cold-start penalty and can be very slow the first time they are called in a while. But this can be taken care of by limiting your functions – keeping those to small amounts – because cold starts cause to increase the code size and even memory.
It is not easing to get a hold of how serverless applications operate. It might take a lot of effort. The integration units that come in serverless are much minuter than those you might find in other architectures. This might need you to take some time to organize the functions such that they work in sync with the data. You might have problems with the versioning and deployment side.
You might get only a small span of time, say five minutes since AWS functions have time restrictions. In case, there is a task that needs large quantities of data that might exceed these run time limits, then you might want to spend a lot of effort into code rewriting for another architecture.
Serverless comes as a new technology for developers. It might seem to be complex when it comes to testing. If it is not taken care of well, it might lead to poor performance.
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