What Is Serverless and Is It in Your Company’s Future?

Serverless computing has become a massive trend in enterprise businesses. Is this technology right for your company?
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Technology continues to evolve at an incredibly fast pace. Blink and you’ve probably missed some new addition to the IT and developer landscape. Take a break and you’ll find yourself far enough behind that it might take a while to catch up.

It seems every day a new solution to a problem that may or may not exist arrives and is ready to make the lives of admins and developers either much easier or much more complicated. One such addition to the world of IT is serverless.

The name is a bit misleading, as it implies a server is not involved. First, let’s clear up that misnomer and then discover if this new wave of serving up apps and services is right for your company.

Spoiler alert: You’re probably already making use of serverless technology. 

What is Serverless?

First off, serverless does not mean a server is not involved in the process. In reality, serverless is a way for businesses to be able to host services and applications without having to use in-house hardware for the process. Instead, the services and applications are hosted by a third party.

Effectively, serverless simply means a third party is providing all of the backend services, on an as-used basis, to serve up those apps and services. With serverless, your development teams can write and deploy their code to the hosting service in such a way that customers, clients, and consumers are completely unaware that anything is hosted outside of the company. 

In other words, serverless makes it possible for your company to go serverless by deploying apps and services to a cloud host (such as AWS, Azure, Google Cloud, Rackspace, and Linode).

Think about serverless this way: Instead of purchasing costly hardware to fill up a data center, your company rents compute, networking, and storage space from a third-party cloud vendor that charges you on an as-used basis. In other words, you pay only for what you use. This less-is-more approach offers significant benefits for everything from startups to long-standing enterprise businesses.

The Benefits of Serverless

Let’s take a look at some of the benefits of going serverless.

Cost-Effectiveness

One of the biggest benefits of going serverless is the startup cost advantages. Instead of having to purchase data center-worthy servers, you simply rent space from a third party. This has the added benefit of being better capable of scaling to meet demand. 

With a regular data center setup, if your hardware isn’t capable of meeting current demand, you must either upgrade those servers (RAM, internal storage, CPU), or you have to purchase new hardware. That’s an expensive endeavor that will continue to haunt you every time you see yet another spike in demand that your hardware cannot cope with.

Easier Management

Along that same line, your IT department won’t have to bother managing the hardware, as that is taken care of by your hosting provider. In the same vein, backups are considerably easier to achieve and manage (and, in some instances, are even automatically set up for you). 

Better Scalability

Serverless also makes it faster and more reliable to scale up. In fact, you can even build a platform that automatically scales up and down as needed. Although you could also achieve auto-scaling within an on-premises data center, you’ll still need the compute power and storage to make it possible.

Green Hosting

In today’s environment, going green has become a necessity for many companies. Those third-party hosting companies (such as Google and Azure) are much more capable of lowering their carbon footprint, all the while still maintaining massive power for businesses across the globe. 

A single business (even on an enterprise scale) might not have the resources to keep up with the existential threat that is climate change. So, if lowering your carbon footprint is important to your business (and it should be), going serverless is as good as going green.

Better Uptime

Those massive companies offering serverless services are capable of delivering on uptime in a way that most businesses cannot compete with. Providers such as Google offer plenty of tools (such as the Google Cloud Status Dashboard) to view status information of all services. 

One caveat to this is that even when using serverless platforms, your uptime will only be as good as the applications and services your developers deploy. 

Focus on What Matters

When going serverless, your developers can focus more on what matters to customers, such as UX, reliability, adding new features, and developing new front ends. 

Is Serverless For You?

Now that you understand the benefits of serverless, you have to ask yourself if this technology is a good fit for your business. First and foremost, you have to know if your company has a development team up for the task. Do your developers understand cloud-native technology and do they have the ability to develop for containers and Kubernetes? Both of these technologies go hand and hand with serverless.

But cloud-native and containers aren’t the be-all-end of serverless. You could leverage serverless technology to deploy (at scale) mobile or web apps, in-house company tools, databases, and websites. 

In the end, however, the biggest reason why serverless is probably the best route for your company is that it allows you to handle scaling without breaking the bank. Yes, your developers will have to have a solid understanding as to how they optimize applications and services to best work with the as-needed approach to scaling but once they have a handle on that, the savings can be considerable.

Do keep in mind, your developers and operations teams must be well versed in numerous technologies before you make the move to serverless. If done properly, serverless will save you money, keep your customers very happy, and offer an unmatchable uptime. If done poorly, however, serverless can be a nightmare of problem-solving, re-deployments, and downtime. In the end, approach serverless with as much information and skills as you can before diving in.

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