What is serverless computing? | BitBakery Software

What is serverless computing?

July 13th, 2022 by Joe Reda

The humble server has been the workhorse of the internet since the university and government networks were connected to become the foundation of today’s internet. Those first servers were built to fit in a room and handled one to two massive tasks. 

Over the last years, these giant servers transformed into hundreds of thin rack servers in data centers doing everything from processing business data to hosting websites to modeling advanced weather predictions. 

The last decade saw the introduction of cloud-based storage. Businesses could reduce their dependence on costly on-premise hardware by leveraging cloud storage services from Google, Amazon, Microsoft, and others. 

But storing data was just the beginning. Today, developers are leveraging serverless computing services to provide on-demand backend services to power their web and mobile applications. Instead of purchasing or leasing hardware based on usage projections, developers can add on as needed using cloud-based providers.

This is a paradigm shift in how applications are built. Progress in development often comes from abstracting away more and more, giving developers more time to focus on the actual problems they're trying to solve. 

For example, developers use higher-level programming languages like C and JavaScript to abstract away the complexity of assembly languages. Cloud computing then allowed developers to abstract away the complexity of managing hardware. 

Today, serverless computing abstracts the whole idea of a server. With serverless computing, developers only need to think about the problem they're solving—not where it will run.

In short order, we've gone from writing code directly for the hardware to not having any hardware at all.

4 benefits of serverless computing

Adapting to serverless computing requires changing how we think about software development and demand planning. Traditionally, when designing an app, you would need to consider the number of API calls, data storage, and processing power. 

Developing with serverless computing doesn't remove the need to think about these things. It just means that you can add more power or storage when needed rather than design around them as limitations.

Reduced costs

Serverless computing allows developers to purchase backend services on a flexible 'pay-as-you-go' basis. Need more processing power because your app is in the App Store top 10 list? It's not a problem with serverless. Another benefit is that you're only paying for the service you use instead of purchasing credits and seeing them left unused. 

Scaling made easy

When Facebook first launched in the early 2000s, it limited its launches to a school-by-school basis. This helped them build up hype and demand for the site, but it also protected them from crashing their servers as they added new hardware to meet that demand. Whether developing a consumer app or an internal business tool, serverless computing enables you to scale as needed. 

Faster time to market

Serverless means no hardware to think about. Developers and product managers can focus on development and deployment without worrying about demand projections or working with IT teams to figure out what new hardware will be required. 

Easier to maintain

One of the most significant risks from operating your own hardware is managing its security. From BIOS patches to operating system security updates, there's a daily barrage of risks to watch out for. Serverless brings zero trust security into play, with cloud computing providers responsible for maintaining the infrastructure. 

Serverless computing challenges

Serverless computing has its advantages, but that doesn't mean there aren't potential issues and risks. The most significant risk is that your app or service will depend on a third party. If Google or Amazon depreciates support for a service you use, you'll need to rewrite that portion of your app. 

While they're not common, cloud service providers do experience outages. Cloudflare and Amazon Web Service outages have taken down services from major providers, impacting consumers and businesses. 

Another challenge in the on-demand nature of serverless computing is the time it takes to spin up before becoming available. The time is negligible for many applications but could impact time-sensitive workloads. 

Why do we choose serverless for some projects?

We make the call on whether to use serverless computing on a project-by-project basis and always with input from the client. Our team has three main reasons for choosing serverless:

  1. It's incredibly fast to get started since there is no time required on network provisioning
  2. Serverless costs scale with demand. We can develop for a low cost and then scale up services as demand grows.
  3. Serverless allows us to use JavaScript at each layer, providing us with optimization opportunities.

As trusted partners in development, our team works with our clients to ensure they're delivering the best solution for their customers while maintaining security and keeping costs manageable. Contact us to learn more about how we can help your organization.

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