What is Serverless Architecture and how it works?

serverless_architecture

As organizations and their technology ecosystems grow, they often experience managing an architecture is a significant challenge. Instead of becoming experts at managing the platform, software development teams dedicate their time and resources to applications and development. Serverless architecture is one of the new techniques that is overcoming this challenge. But do you know what does the technology “serverless architecture” means? In this article, we shall discuss the following topics:

  • What does the term “Serverless” mean?
  • What is Serverless Architecture?
  • How is serverless architecture different from traditional architecture?
  • When to use Serverless Architecture?
  • What are the benefits of Serverless Architecture?
  • Limitations of Serverless Architecture
  • How does Serverless Architecture work?
  • Serverless Architecture on AWS. 

What does the term “Serverless” mean?

The term “serverless” was earlier used to define applications incorporating third-party cloud-hosted services and applications to manage server-side state and logic. Serverless can also be defined as applications where the app developers write server-side logic. Still, unlike traditional architecture, applications run in stateless compute containers that are event-triggered and managed by a third party.

What is Serverless Architecture?

Serverless Architecture is a software design model where applications are hosted by a third party, removing the need for provisioning, managing and scaling databases and servers. In this way, businesses can run their software applications via third-party services without spending on virtual or physical servers.

You can find a plethora of cloud providers, for example, AWS, Microsoft Azure, that manages the complexities of server management, computing, programming and allocating resources.

A survey by O’Reilly reveals that 40% of organizations implemented serverless architecture. Reasons behind the adoption of this model include scalability, developer productivity and reduced costs.

How is serverless architecture different from traditional architecture?

For the last many years, applications used to run on servers that had to update, patch and look after continuously after early mornings and late nights due to unimaginable errors that affected production. The functioning of architecture depended on a specific individual or a group of professionals who used to manage them.

However, serverless architecture is not managed by any individual or group of persons. Instead, the responsibility is on the cloud providers. Let’s discuss what are the factors that differentiate serverless architecture from traditional architecture.

  1. Pricing
    One of the significant advantages of using serverless architecture is reduced cost because the cost of maintaining and provisioning servers and hiring 24*7 teams for monitoring them is gone.
    The cost model of serverless architecture is execution-based; it means one needs to pay for the number of executions. You are given a specific number of seconds of use that changes with the amount of memory required. Therefore, shorter running functions are more suitable for this model, with a peak execution time of 300 seconds for most cloud providers.
  2. Third-party dependencies
    If not all of your projects have external dependencies, they depend on libraries that are not developed into the framework you use. So, in that case, you use libraries that include functionalities such as image processing, cryptography, etc., which are pretty heavy.You must package these dependencies into the app without system-level access. Serverless architecture is ideal for simple applications with few dependencies. However, traditional architecture can be used if the application is complex with more dependencies.
  3. Timeout
    There is a 300-second timeout limit with serverless computing. Long-running or complicated functions are not suitable for serverless architecture as it becomes impossible to execute specific tasks with a hard timeout. A hard time limit makes the serverless architecture unusable for apps with varying execution times and specific services that need information from an external source. In this scenario, traditional architecture plays a better role.
  4. Environment
    Launching different environments for serverless architecture is as simple as setting up a single environment. Since the serverless model works on a pay per execution method, it is a significant improvement over traditional architecture as you no longer have to set up dev, staging and production machines.
  5. Networking
    Serverless architecture is only accessed as private APIs. You need to set up an API gateway to access these APIs. It does not affect the pricing or process. But it means you cannot access them directly via the usual IP.

When to use Serverless Architecture? 

Serverless architecture is considered ideal for business goals, including resource allocation automation, agile work environments, improved response times and scalability. Also, it helps in reducing additional operational costs and provisioning for physical infrastructure, providing you the value for your investment.

Here are some of the use cases of when you should integrate serverless architecture in your business:

  • Build real-time and latency apps such as multimedia apps to perform automatic memory allocation and complicated data processing.
  • Build secure customer delivery dispatch systems and support dynamic resizing capabilities.
  • Serve unpredictable workloads for quickly changing developmental needs and complex scalability needs.
  • Resize images or transcode video dynamically and streamline multimedia processing for various devices.
  • Process smart device applications using IoT.

What are the benefits of Serverless Architecture? 

One of the advantages of serverless architecture is that developers can focus their attention on developing a product. They do not need to account for operating and managing servers. Components such as the physical security of systems or network configuration are handled by the cloud vendor instead of your team.

Here are some more benefits of using the serverless architecture:

Infographic for What is Serverless architecture

  • Server management not required
    Though serverless architecture takes place on servers, developers don’t have to deal with physical servers. It can reduce the necessary investment in DevOps, lower expenses, and free up developers from creating and expanding their apps without the constraint of server capacity.
  • Developers only need to pay for server space
    With the “pay-as-you-go” model, developers are only charged for services they use. Code only runs when the serverless application requires backend functions and it can scale up whenever needed. Provisioning is precise, real-time and dynamic. However, in traditional architecture, developers need to project how much server capacity they require and then buy that capacity, whether they end up using that capacity or not.
  • Quick deployments and updates
    With a serverless infrastructure, you don’t need to upload code to servers or execute backend configuration to release a working version of an app. Developers can quickly upload bits of code and launch a new product. They can either upload code at once or one function because the application is not a single monolithic stack, instead of a collection of functions that the vendor provisions.It becomes possible to update, fix, patch or add new features to an application. It is not required to make changes to the entire application. Instead, developers can update one function of the application at a time.
  • Code runs closer to the end-user, decreasing latency
    Since the application is not deployed on an origin server, the code can be run from anywhere. Therefore, it is possible to run the application functions on servers close to the end-user based on the cloud vendor. It reduces latency as requests from the user don’t have to travel to an origin server.
  • Serverless architectures are scalable
    Applications developed with a serverless architecture can scale automatically as the user base grows. If a function needs to be run in various instances, the vendor’s servers will start, run and end them as needed using containers. Therefore, a serverless application can handle a large number of requests and execute a single request from a single user. A sudden usage increase can impact a traditionally structured app with a specific amount of server space.

Limitations of Serverless Architecture

  • Long-running application inefficiencies
    Long-running application workloads could be very expensive on serverless. Therefore, using a dedicated server for long-running apps is more efficient.
  • Cold starts
    A “cold start” occurs when a platform initiates internal resources. It may take some time for a serverless architecture to manage that first function request. You can avoid a “cold start” by making sure that the function stays in an active state. This is done by sending requests periodically.
  • Third-party dependencies
     Serverless architecture wants you to be dependent on your provider. You don’t have complete control and changes may affect you without notice.

How does Serverless Architecture work?

Infographic in SVG Format for Serverless Architecture

Serverless architecture is based on a Functions-as-a-service model (FaaS) that enables cloud platforms to execute code without requiring entirely provisioned infrastructure instances. FaaS, also known as Compute as a Service (CaaS) is server-side, stateless functions that are scalable and managed completely by cloud vendors.

DevOps team writes code that emphasizes business logic and defines an event that triggers the function to be executed, such as an HTTP request. The cloud vendor then executes the code and sends results to the web app for users to review.

Microsoft Azure functions, Google Cloud functions, IBM OpenWhisk and AWS Lambda, are some of the widely used serverless services provided by the cloud providers.

Cost-saving and convenience benefits related to on-demand auto-scaling resources and pay-as-you-go services make serverless architecture an ideal option for business stakeholders and DevOps teams. Let’s understand the mechanism of serverless architecture with its application on AWS. 

Serverless Architecture on AWS

Modern applications are developed serverless first, an approach that emphasizes the adoption of serverless services in order to enhance application stack agility. We’ve built serverless services for each of your stack’s three layers: computation, integration, and data storage. Consider beginning with the following services:

COMPUTE

  • Lambda on AWS
    Execute programmes without deploying or managing servers, and pay for just the resources consumed.
  • Fargate AWS
    Utilize Amazon Elastic Container Service (ECS) or Amazon Elastic Kubernetes Service to run serverless containers (EKS)

INTEGRATION OF APPLICATIONS

  • EventBridge by Amazon
    Construct an event-driven architecture that integrates data from your own applications, SaaS, and AWS services.
  • Step Functions in AWS
    Coordination of numerous AWS services into serverless processes enables rapid development and updating of applications.
  • Amazon SQS
    Enables microservices to be decoupled and scaled using message queues that transmit, store, and receive messages at any volume.
  • Amazon Social Networking Service
    Receive high-volume pub/sub, SMS, email, and mobile push alerts with confidence.
  • Gateway to the Amazon API
    At any scale, create, publish, maintain, monitor, and protect REST and Websocket APIs.
  • AWS Application Sync
    At any size, you can create, publish, administer, monitor, and protect GraphQL APIs and Subscriptions.

DATA STORAGE FACILITY

  • Amazon S3
    Amazon S3 Scalability, data availability, security, and speed are all industry-leading features of Amazon S3.
  • DynamoDB by Amazon
    This key-value and document database delivers performance in single digit milliseconds at any size.
  • Proxy for Amazon RDS
    This proxy for Amazon Relational Database Service improves scalability, resilience, and security (RDS)
  • Serverless Amazon Aurora
    Automatically scale performance relies on your application’s requirements with this Amazon Aurora setup.

Conclusion

Handling infrastructure is a responsibility to deploy applications and secure the data because software carries sensitive data of thousands of users and it should work safely and precisely.

Though the term “serverless” suggests the absence of servers, serverless architecture still depends on physical or cloud servers. It is a computing model that removes infrastructure operations, allowing developers to focus on coding and deploying apps.

If you are looking for a technology partner who can help you migrate the existing app to the serverless architecture or implement it into your app idea, our team of experts is ready to assist you. Contact us and leverage the benefits of serverless computing.

Author’s Bio

Akash Takyar
Akash Takyar
CEO LeewayHertz
Akash Takyar is the founder and CEO at LeewayHertz. With the experience of building over 100+ platforms for startups and enterprise allows Akash to rapidly architect and design solutions that are scalable and beautiful.
Akash's ability to build enterprise-grade technology solutions has attracted over 30 Fortune 500 companies, including Siemens, 3M, P&G and Hershey’s. Akash is an early adopter of new technology, a passionate technology enthusiast, and an investor in AI and IoT startups.
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