Should You Be Using Serverless Computing?

The New Era of Cloud Computing

Back in the early days of the internet, if you wanted to build a website or web app, you had to own the physical infrastructure to mount your own server. Needless to say, that meant spending a lot of money and time in the process. Fortunately, years went by and cloud computing came along, relieving you from having to go through all that hassle.

With cloud computing, you only needed to rent the servers instead of having to own them. That translated into lower costs and increased convenience, which is why so many businesses started migrating to cloud computing. Yet, that doesn’t mean that cloud computing is free from disadvantages: you have to pay for a fixed quantity of server space so, to avoid problems with activity spikes, you’ll often have to over-purchase.

That feels like a minor issue but, in reality, it can quickly ramp up your costs while reducing your efficiency. That’s why cloud vendors are now offering an alternative that might become the new standard for many companies. We’re talking about serverless computing.

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What Is Serverless Computing?

Serverless computing is a service through which cloud vendors provide you with backend infrastructure that flexibly adapts to your use. Rather than paying for a fixed amount of servers or bandwidth, you’ll pay depending on the computational power you use. This means that you pay for the activity volume rather than by a fixed unit that measures the service.

Serverless computing lets you buy backend services under the “pay-as-you-go” model, which means you’ll only pay for things you use (as opposed to the cloud computing model that forces you to pay for an entire server or a predefined amount of space even when you don’t use them in their entirety). 

It’s also important to note that, even when it’s called “serverless”, there are servers involved (the ones providing the services). However, their performance and maintenance depend on the vendor, so you can forget about them. Truth be told, the term “serverless” conveys the nature of the service, since you don’t have to worry about their configuration and maintenance and also aren’t forced to rent entire servers. 

What Are the Benefits of Serverless Computing?

When compared to cloud computing, serverless computing offers a host of advantages, the most important of which are:

  • Easier scalability. With cloud computing, you have to hire extra space or servers when your traffic or web app activity grows. With serverless computing, you can scale up or down your computational use at any time without having to worry about additional configurations or policies. 

  • Faster turnaround. Rather than having to go through a complicated deployment process every time you need to roll out updates, patches, or upgrades, serverless computing lets you modify the code partially on the parts that need to be changed. This significantly reduces the time it takes for the product to hit the market. 

  • Decreased costs. Since you pay for what you use, you don’t have to worry about over-purchasing resources. In other words, you won’t have to pay for unused server space or idle CPU times, which will decrease the amount of money you’ll have to spend on storing your web solutions. 

Differences From Other Cloud-Based Backend Models

The way in which serverless computing works might cause some confusion, especially if you aren’t familiar with other popular cloud-based backend models. BaaS, PaaS, and IaaS are among the ones that share characteristics with serverless computing and that might have you believe they are the same thing. Here’s why they aren’t.

  • Backend-as-a-Service (BaaS). Unlike serverless computing, BaaS services and applications don’t necessarily run on the edge of the network or are event-driven.

  • Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS). PaaS also don’t necessarily execute on the edge and are harder to scale than serverless applications.

  • Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS). IaaS is more of an encompassing term that cloud vendors use to refer to a wide range of services. Serverless functionalities might be among them but they aren’t the same thing.

Should You Use Serverless Computing?

Before making a commitment to serverless computing, you should take into account that the model still has its drawbacks. One of the biggest has to do with its limitations when working with high-performance computing since serverless computing isn’t suited to high-volume workloads. 

Additionally, it’s worth mentioning that there’s also the issue of being locked into a particular vendor, which will be responsible for providing the serverless environment’s applications and software. This means that you might run into trouble if you decide to migrate to a different vendor later on.

Finally, there might be some performance issues with functions that are rarely called. When you don’t use a function, the serverless computing provider shuts it down to avoid overprovisioning. So, the next time you call that function, the host needs to spin it up, adding latency that can break your whole experience.

If any of these issues is a dealbreaker for you, don’t worry. Serverless computing is a developing technology that’s constantly evolving. With the emergence of edge computing, this execution model will surely gain more popularity and grow alongside that paradigm. In fact, it’s quite possible that serverless computing will become a common choice for companies in the near future, especially for mid-sized businesses and startups that don’t have the need for sophisticated backend infrastructures to run their services.

If that feels like you, then adopting serverless computing might be a good choice. It can provide you with a cost-efficient alternative to cloud computing while also opening the window for the cloud adoption model of the future. Of course, you might still have doubts about using this relatively unknown model, so you’d better talk to cloud experts like the ones at BairesDev to clarify any questions you might have and to better understand how serverless computing might be the backbone of your next web development project

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