In a world of fast-paced computing, millions of applications are available to us. To speed up application development, businesses are choosing to go 'serverless,' which is proving to be a reliable and efficient option. This article will explore what serverless computing is, the benefits, disadvantages, and the differences between it and traditional computing.
If your company is considering creating a new app or is predominantly a web-based business, this article will give you a better understanding of how serverless computing is used. It will also discuss how it could benefit your development process and decrease your underlying costs.
What Does Serverless Computing Mean for Your Company?
Simply put, serverless computing means developers no longer have to worry about scalability, security, robustness, OS updates, or software updates. Now, they can focus on the coding of applications and not on the infrastructure of a server.
And this is possible with the help of cloud computing partners that base these solutions on third-party serverless suppliers such as AWS (Amazon Web Services), Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud Platform.
By going serverless, companies pay only for the services they are using with their provider. They don't have to cover the costs associated with owning the physical and fixed hardware needed to host their website or application. In essence, you are paying for the lease of the service being used and are charged based on usage. With that said, choosing to go serverless means companies don't have to purchase more server space than needed for day-to-day activities. In cases of activity spikes, the provider only charges as usage adds up.
Traditional vs. Serverless Computing
Most of us are familiar with the term 'the cloud' where we can access documents and more through a third-party. While servers will always be needed in one form or another, with serverless computing, companies are no longer involved in the upkeep, maintenance, and coding of the server to host their application(s) or website(s).
Traditional computing can refer to two options: physically owning a server and keeping it in-house, or renting a server through a third party (cloud computing). With cloud computing, companies don't have to own the infrastructure to run their websites or applications. They do, however, still need to maintain their server. This includes handling all of the setup, back-end, coding, and updating of it.
In-house servers have proven to be expensive. Regularly maintaining them is also time-consuming. Larger companies would typically need a whole team of engineers devoted to supporting them. As companies grow and expand, so do their server needs. Constant upgrades and updates to the company's physical hardware need to be purchased, and IT specialists must be employed to keep up with these demands.
Serverless, on the other hand, allows you to rely solely on a provider who physically owns and hosts the server for your company. So, you can run your website or application directly through them. This removes the stress of having to keep a server in-house or worry about your assigned server. With serverless, you implement your source code on a platform that runs on top of servers, and you don't have to care about the servers themselves. For example, with AWS, there is a serverless service called Lambda function. With this service, you upload your source code to AWS, and then AWS runs this source code as a Lambda function. Under the hood, AWS has thousands of servers dedicated to running these functions. AWS maintains the servers while you simply maintain your function. In essence, their servers deploy the code that your developers create.
According to a study by Research and Markets, in 2016 the serverless computing market size was valued at $1.88 billion and it is expected that by 2021, it will reach $7.72 billion.
That is a massive increase over a short period of time!
Key Advantages of Going Serverless
One of the advantages of serverless computing is that it costs less. Companies no longer need to pay to own the physicality of a server, which can be pretty expensive. Servers also typically last five years and need to be replaced frequently. With serverless computing, business owners only pay for the price to compute, and the amount of time their functions are in use. Providers typically don't charge any fees upfront.
Companies can also save money by not having to allocate space or employee time to host the physical servers. Ultimately, money is saved, spending less time focusing on, maintaining, setting up, and upgrading the physical server itself.
Simpler Deployment & Maintenance
When choosing serverless, developers don't have to fret over tricky deployment and maintenance of hosting a server. They can focus more on the coding, which speeds up the deployment process. When the code is uploaded through the supplier, developers won't have to wait for their virtual machine or container (physical property) to start up.
Developers no longer need to stress about coding for the server or working through the back-end. Now, they can simply code only for their product(s) all at once or as needed. Then, they can upload their app code through the serverless provider. This also makes fixing code and patching things much simpler.
Without agonizing over physical servers, companies can focus on the business objectives of their applications and their customers' needs. When they say time is money, it couldn't be more accurate in this scenario. By employing developers to simply code, extra IT specialists are no longer needed to maintain the physical servers. Developers can simply focus on writing clean code and not having to continuously update the infrastructure to make sure it can withstand the application.
When deploying to service providers, companies can also rely on the even distribution of their information across multiple servers instead of a single one. That being said, if one server fails, data isn't lost, and the 'downtime' is significantly reduced compared to that of traditional computing.
Developers like the fact that they can create apps in a shorter amount of time – about 10-20%. This is significant, considering that there are millions of apps fighting for our attention every day. Going serverless gives business owners an edge by not having to worry about or invest in creating a scalable and robust server infrastructure. Now, they can rely on the already-scalable and robust servers of their provider.
If the app you develop gains traction that you didn't initially anticipate, you don't have to worry about adding more storage or your server being disrupted. Your serverless provider has unlimited storage and is capable of handling the increased traffic.
Accessibility & Flexibility
Serverless computing is exceptionally convenient. Developers can access their data from anywhere, on any computer or tablet, and can add storage as required.
Data can also be backed-up frequently. Developers can sleep easy, knowing that if something were to happen, they could rely on the back-up version.
The flexibility of choosing serverless is an advantage that can save tons of headaches. Instead of relying solely on the storage you currently have – like in traditional computing – companies won't have to buy more or waste money on unused bandwidth space. Serverless providers have more than enough storage space available that can be allocated in real-time.
Choosing Serverless Computing Now
It all comes down to what your company is okay with handling. If you'd like to be in charge of all of the maintenance and deployment, you would choose traditional computing (cloud computing or hosting a server in-house). If you're comfortable having a third-party host everything for you, serverless would be the right choice.
As a new startup or a smaller company, it could be worth your while to look deeper into serverless and decide for yourself if this is a good fit. It would be much simpler to choose serverless now instead of having to switch everything over later. Plus, as a new company, the initial expenses of the fixed infrastructure are no longer an issue. Going serverless will also enable you to get your product to the market quicker with advancements in-development code. As stated previously, timing is crucial when getting your product to the market and in front of consumers.
Serverless can save you time, money, and valuable resources. If your company isn't a booming success right away, you can rest easy knowing you haven't spent thousands of dollars employing multiple IT techs and buying infrastructure. As your company grows, so will your bandwidth needs. With serverless, these needs can easily be accommodated.
In the end, you and your company need to assess the advantages and disadvantages. Choose whether traditional or serverless computing will benefit you the most. If you choose serverless, you then need to decide which service provider is right for you. As mentioned above, some of the top companies right now are Amazon AWS, Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud Platform.
Serverless can drastically change your business, making it faster and more efficient overall. While the decision is totally up to you, it seems that this is the route many companies have chosen to go to. It will be interesting to see if traditional computing becomes utterly non-existent in the future.