Exploring Serverless Technologies

Companies made the inevitable transition to cloud computing as it was scalable and required less infrastructure expenditure. All they needed was a remote virtual server that could be physically in a data center miles away or continents apart.

However, as the dependency on virtual servers increased, companies found it difficult and time-consuming to manage their software stacks in a distributed environment. It also started becoming expensive as developers over-provisioned server resources to manage traffic or activity spike, which went underutilized at most times.

To achieve a cost-effective and manageable solution, developers building cloud products or web apps started to turn towards serverless technologies.

Serverless computing enabled these developers to write and deploy code without worrying about the infrastructure. The code was run in a stateless container and was triggered during events such as a file upload or an alert, or during an HTTP request.
Exploring Serverless Technologies
That’s not all; serverless technology allowed developers to build a complete stack of serverless applications and serverless frameworks that would drive how the serverless applications should be built. They could also build serverless databases. So, there was no pressure of provisioning or maintaining a database.

According to Gartner, more than 20% of global companies would have deployed serverless technology by the end of 2020.

However, what does it mean for business, and how is it beneficial to end-users?

Let’s explore to know more.

How Can Serverless Technologies Benefit Businesses?

  1. Reduces dependency on backend infrastructure: 

    Developers are often bogged down by roadblocks such as provisioning, configuring, and managing backend infrastructure. Serverless technology removes that stress. It ensures that the developer focuses only on developing and deploying application code. The service provider looks after the provisioning, managing, and scaling of the infrastructure. There are two types of serverless computing:

    • Backend-as-a-service (BaaS): In this case, the developer does not have to create a backend for the databases, storage, authentication, etc. for each of the apps they build. They can link them all by using SDKs and APIs provided by the service provider. They can focus on the front-end and the user experience they provide.
    • Function-as-a-service (FaaS): In this case, the applications are separated into individual functions. The service provider manages the execution. This reduces the complexity of managing applications and improves productivity and agility in the development process.
  2. Reduces overhead costs:

    Serverless technologies are, obviously, an apt solution for companies who want to cut their overhead expenses. It does not require the same level of maintenance or human resources as technologies dependent on servers.  In fact, since developers do not have to worry about building the infrastructure from scratch, they can focus on managing the front-end. The other advantage of adopting serverless technologies is that infrastructure is priced based on usage. So, if the code is not running, the company does not have to pay for it. They just have to pay for the number of executions and the memory usage. This also becomes a valuable benefit for the end-users of the product or app when it passes into their hands.

  3. Scalability is events-based:

    Events in this context could mean uploading a new file or a video or an email being sent through an email sending service. These events change based on situations. Scalability cannot always be predicted. Hence, over-purchasing the server resources and underutilizing, while the norm, isn’t a viable solution. With serverless technologies, companies need not worry about scalability. The scalability depends upon an event. Every time an event occurs, a code is executed in response. This saves the company from spending on unnecessary infrastructure and resources.

  4. Reduces latency:

    Latency issues are a nightmare for developers. Imagine an application taking hours to download a file or an image. The end-user might lose patience with the application. Especially in the context of today’s digital consumer, speed is critical. According to Walmart, even a one-second improvement in page load time can improve conversions by 2%. One of the reasons for latency is the distance between the client’s device and the server responding to it. However, serverless technology can address this issue. Serverless technologies thrive on edge locations that are close to the end-user. So, the information doesn’t have to travel far. This allows for faster exchange of information to fix the latency issue.

  5. Faster go-to-market: 

    As the backend and other technical bottlenecks are taken care of, the developer can focus on writing the application code and deploying it. According to a survey by Dashbird, companies can save four developer work days by taking the serverless route. Even the delivery speed has reportedly been improved by 77% after using serverless technology. Developers also get time to experiment more and launch innovative products rapidly. This can add value to the business and give the company a competitive advantage over others.

How Can Serverless Technologies Benefit End-Users?

Considering that serverless technologies enable companies to experiment and create innovative products, there is an indirect advantage for end-users too. They are able to enjoy new features in their products quicker than before and with little or no latency issues, they are likely to experience a more seamless experience. Some serverless apps also offer client-side caching. So, even if there is no internet connectivity, the user can still enjoy the app’s experience offline. It’s fast, cheap, and more innovative. What’s not to like?

Notes of Caution:

Sophistication in product design and architecture have become crucial to ensure an appropriate coming together of the various elements to create a unified, seamless product or app experience for the end-users.

It’s also clear that the dependency on the cloud vendors increases as they manage everything from administrative functions to security. The internal teams lose some control over the technology and overall process. Obviously, it’s crucial to find the right vendor considering the criticality to the process.

But once appropriate care is taken, serverless technology promises to reduce operational costs and improve efficiency for great benefit and impact.

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