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Serverless Architecture and Its Traits

Rajesh Prakasam

May 16, 2022

When it comes to serverless architecture, it’s crucial to understand every trait of this popular cloud execution model. Many content pieces focus on the positives of serverless services, which is just fine because its benefits are outstanding.

However, it’s essential that we note, when dealing with any new or new-ish (serverless architecture hit the market in 2014), that it not only comes with positives and negatives but traits. But what do we mean by “traits” regarding cloud computing execution models?

The traits of serverless architecture are features, attributes, or characteristics if you will. They’re not really pros or cons but simply part of the software model we have to deal with to take advantage of the perks.

What is Serverless Architecture?

For those unfamiliar, serverless architecture is the relatively straightforward method of developing and deploying applications and services without maintaining a server. Of course, your application still runs on servers, but you don’t have to operate them. Instead, your serverless services provider will handle that aspect.

With serverless architecture, you will not need to provision or scale your servers to support your storage systems, databases, and applications. Instead of spending substantial time on server management, your DevOps team can focus their time and effort on product development. In addition, server security and network configuration fall under the responsibility of your serverless vendor.

The Attributes of Serverless Architecture

Companies can significantly reduce overhead and channel more energy into creating scalable, dependable solutions with serverless architecture. Serverless architecture has many characteristics (traits) that some find to their advantage while others do not. The light that you shine on serverless architecture, whether it be negative or positive, has much to do with your specific company needs.

If you believe that serverless architecture might be right for your business, but you’re unsure, we’ll discuss its traits now.

Serverless Architecture is Hostless

Developers and business owners love that serverless architecture doesn’t rely on hosting or servers, and therefore, there is little to no server maintenance. Traditional server-based systems require a great deal of troubleshooting and infrastructure monitoring, and you don’t have to patch your server.

The lack of a server means that standard server hosting data will not be available to you. These data sets include Peak Response Times, Requests Per Second, Average Response Rates, and error rates. Instead, the cloud provider will report such metrics.

Since the typical data isn’t part of your serverless management methodology, you’ll have to learn to use metrics that don’t coincide directly with the server. You’ll also need to study new ways of executing and optimizing the acceptable performance of your serverless architecture.

While shifting to a serverless service sounds simple, it can be overwhelming, keeping many businesses from making the switch. It’s up to you to decide if you’re ready for the challenge. Is the absence of hosting responsibilities worth learning and implementing an entirely new architecture?

Serverless Architecture is Stateless

FaaS, or Functions as a Service, is one of the options given by serverless architecture. FaaS allows a platform for users to create, deploy, and administer applications without the burden of managing a server.

However, FaaS is short-lived, and the system uses code containers only one time before deleting, which means that you cannot save application data on a FaaS serverless service; it’s stateless. For some businesses, FaaS works well, and for others, it’s not an option. Again, this is a fantastic example of how serverless architecture manages to be both helpful and hindering simultaneously.

Serverless Architecture has Elasticity

In terms of scalability, the elasticity that serverless architectures have is an advantage. Because the model is stateless and, obviously, serverless, it can scale resources automatically. This automation means that your developers are free from manual scaling, as well as finding and eliminating typical resource allocation challenges.

The flexibility of a serverless model can help your business save money on operating expenses because you’ll only see charges for the aspects you utilize in certain situations. It’s likely necessary to integrate your serverless architecture with legacy systems that have lost some relevance and can’t handle the higher levels of serverless elasticity and flexibility. In turn, this could cause downstream system issues and failures, but that’s not a guarantee.

Regardless, it’s crucial to brainstorm with your team concerning coping with system failure circumstances if you decide that serverless architecture will work for you. Modernizing digitally and building microservices requires the constant need to lean into the evolution and inevitable change. Implementing serverless architecture is not an exception to that standard rule.

Serverless Architecture is Inherently Distributed

The term “distributed” in DevOps often refers to splitting an application, project, or business into sub-service categories and assigning them to varying servers or computers. Serverless architecture is stateless, and therefore all pieces of data must exist on a BaaS, or Backend as a Service, platform. Because of this, serverless architecture distributes automatically and inherently.

We previously discussed elasticity, which is a massive advantage to distributed systems. A distributed architecture equates (in most cases) to a single region of high availability that will minimize service interruptions by eliminating scheduled downtime and exhibiting stellar failure control.

Teams can utilize serverless architecture in other availability zones that are up and running, even if one of them experiences failure in the region of your cloud computing vendor. It should be clear by now that choosing any architecture model involves a distinct level of compromise, as constant availability reduces system consistency.

In cloud computing, serverless architectures have consistent models that remain specific to that architecture. At some point during the migration to a serverless model, you’ll face the decision of which BaaS platform you want to implement, and you should consider the behavior of the consistency model of each one.

Serverless Architecture is Event-Driven

Designed to execute tasks and receive data, serverless architectures react to incoming information in the way of creating a subsequent event. Each serverless architecture function runs only when prompted by a particular event. So, each process of your program or application will run when triggered.

The use of a BaaS platform is why serverless architecture is so event-driven. Essentially, you have zero control of the code of your third-party services. While this can be scary for some development teams, others appreciate that no control means your provider can enable extensibility and quickly expand upon their existing features.

Without question, the event-driven design reduces dependence between components and, as a result, reduces the coupling of processes. However, most businesses agree that the bigger picture is an essential operational aspect, and employing event-driven architecture could contribute to losing sight of that bigger picture. It’s not a requirement when implementing a serverless model, but it happens, and it makes troubleshooting your system more complex.

There are two sides to every characteristic, and it’s crucial to consider both. Know what will work for you and what won’t, weigh the pros and the cons, and then go from there.

Working with Serverless Architecture

As serverless architecture gains more attention because it requires little to no maintenance and a low barrier to entry, businesses must educate themselves on how to work with a serverless system before jumping in with both feet. From better observability across your applications to speed, there are many reasons that businesses choose to take the serverless architecture route.

Internal architecture administration is typically a considerable investment for a business, and the appeal of the serverless model lies in the relief of those expenses. Developers can leave server maintenance behind and focus more on the user experience, which would seem to raise your revenue inevitably.

Serverless architecture is ever-evolving. It’s not all perfect and can provide application inefficiencies and third-party dependence, which are two aspects that may not work for many companies and development teams.

Deciding if Serverless Architecture is Right for You

There’s no denying that serverless architecture is exceptionally appealing. Having your applications and programs exist on a third-party computing system that you don’t have to maintain frees up a substantial amount of time and money.

While there is an initial investment, the costs are often low. However, it can take some time to get your serverless model up and running, and “cold starts” are common due to the system needing access to internal resources to get up and going. It’s all about deciding what your company can deal with from a developmental and operational point of view. Do you currently have the time to deal with the potential bugs that assist serverless architecture?

Any digital modernization switch will have its drawbacks, and we have to stop talking about benefits and limitations and more directly about attributes. In short, serverless architecture is just another means for deploying applications, but it’s crucial to have the troubleshooting and management knowledge that it requires.

Educated decisions are essential when choosing an architecture for your company. Compared to other cloud models, serverless services are still in their early days. As experiences and patterns evolve, so will the ability to build a better, more efficient serverless architecture.

By

Rajesh Prakasam

VP - Engineering

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