For more than 50 years, information technology professionals have envisioned a day when a wide range of computing services could be delivered as public utilities such as water, gas, electricity and telecommunications. Serverless computing is the latest — and perhaps greatest — manifestation of this vision.
The name is a bit misleading, however. There are definitely servers involved in serverless computing — you just don’t have to mess with any of them.
In the serverless model, the cloud provider owns and manages all servers, databases, containers and other infrastructure components, and takes care of all management tasks such as capacity provisioning, maintenance and patching. Customers can build and run applications directly in the cloud without the need to buy, build or maintain any infrastructure.
Although it sounds a lot like conventional cloud services such as Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) or Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS), there are some key distinctions. One of the big differences is how you’re billed. Rather than charging a set monthly fee as with most cloud services, a serverless provider only charges for the actual compute time needed to execute your code.
Serverless also enables almost effortless scalability. With most cloud systems, you contract up front for a fixed amount of compute, networking and storage capacity. Adding or reducing resources requires an engineer to evaluate workload demands, estimate capacity requirements and manually adjust server instances.
Serverless architectures monitor your applications and automatically adjust capacity based on the load being generated by your application. After a few minutes of inactivity, it automatically scales down to zero capacity. This autoscaling ensures predictable performance at the lowest possible cost.
By eliminating much of the infrastructure setup, configuration, provisioning and management burden, serverless architectures enable the type of operational simplicity that utility computing proponents have long anticipated. Here are a few of the ways that organizations are leveraging the technology:
- Data lakes. Serverless platforms allow you to store vast amounts of structured and unstructured data from any source. With the ability to rapidly write and run new programs, you can run a diverse range of analytics at low cost.
- Web and mobile applications. You can build full-featured web and mobile applications that link with powerful backend features such as data access, storage, backup, analytics and more through serverless APIs. This saves time and money by providing a consistent way to connect apps to cloud services.
- Internet of things. Serverless works well with IoT platforms by providing backend storage and data processing. Because IoT devices sometimes sit idle for long periods of time, serverless autoscaling reduces cost by making as-needed connections and eliminating unnecessary server idle time.
- Serverless websites. By eliminating the front-end work of setting up a web server and other infrastructure, serverless allows you to launch fully functional websites in a matter of days.
- Cloud automation. You can use serverless technologies to automate workflows and repetitive cloud tasks such as backing up databases, changing configurations and updating firmware.
The 2014 launch of the Lambda platform sparked interest in the serverless model. A new report from Datadog finds that the concept is starting to take off. At the beginning of 2021, Lambda functions were invoked 3.5 times more often, on average, than they were two years earlier. Competing platforms from Google and Microsoft are also seeing increased usage.
The cloud experts at Technologent are here to help customers evaluate and take advantage of serverless computing. Contact us to learn more about serverless scenarios that could improve your operations.