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Introduction to Serverless Computing
In the early days of computing, hardware dictated the flow and development of products and services where PCs shined above the rest. But with the advent of cloud technology and Saas (Software as a Service), the direction of Software development and design changed.
Then came containerized architecture which packs the software package and its dependencies in a remote unit called a container, which can run independently. This was still expensive, difficult to scale, and challenging maintenance procedures made development difficult. Serverless solved this problem, though, with any new technology, there are several issues with serverless. Still, saving time and money and providing ease of development has made Serverless one of the most popular architectures.
In 2008, Google launched its google app engine, which enabled developers to code and deploys without the worries of managing the infrastructure. Amazon soon followed suit with its serverless infrastructure called AWS Lambda, closely followed by Microsoft Azure function in 2014. Google later launched its Cloud run and cloud functions, putting it on an equal footing with the other giants like Amazon, Microsoft, Alibaba, and Cloudflare.
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What is Serverless?
Every developer wants to have the holy trinity of software attributes in today's market: cheaper, better, and faster. Thus the need for a framework that could do just that. Serverless is fulfilling that role by being easier, affordable, and scalable.
Serverless computing provides Faas (Function as a Services) on an as-used basis by the vendors to the developers. Instead of hosting the entire infrastructure so the system may function, Serverless offers a much more flexible and efficient alternative, i.e., to host the functions as needed. Developers do not need to reserve a set amount of bandwidth and server space as Serverless offers auto-scaling. The very name is a misnomer as servers are still in play; it's just that developers do not need to be the ones worrying about it.
An example of how Serverless is better in certain situations when appropriately implemented is how a company called iRobot (a company that manufactures intelligent vacuum cleaning bots) used AWS Lambda (Serverless service from AWS) to handle sudden spikes in requests with less cost.
What are the advantages of Serverless Computing?
Serverless computing eliminates the need to rely upon a rigid infrastructure like a traditional cloud which provides several advantages.
Shorter Time to market: Serverless provides backend support such as storage solutions and APIs integration. The vendors handle all the backend configuration thus, rolling out updates or fixing bugs becomes relatively more straightforward as code runs one function simultaneously.
Reduced Operational Cost: In serverless, developers do not need to reserve the server space or computational power. It is pay-per-use, so it is very cost-efficient.
Dynamic Scalability: Serverless is easy to scale as per the demands of the developers, and they do not even have to scale it themselves. The vendors are responsible for that.
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Use Cases of Serverless Computing
Traditional Mobile and Web Applications: Serverless is becoming increasingly popular with traditional mobile and web applications due to its ability to serve as a FaaS (Function as a Service). One example is Coca-Cola's payment service on their vending machine that uses a serverless architecture.
Chatbots: Serverless is becoming the go-to option for all the applications that can have vast and sudden traffic like a chatbot due to its ability to scale.
Live Streaming Services: Serverless is more efficient in handling data streams as after a cold start for a new function, it is faster than a traditional cloud-based server as it only needs to compute just one function.
Direction Serverless technology is headed for
According to RightScale's 2018 State of the Cloud report, serverless is one of the fastest growing technologies, with an annual growth rate of 75%. Few of the trends where serverless is headed :
Standardization of platform: Being a new technology means despite its ability for adaptation and integration, there is still a lack of standardization with serverless. Tech giants such as Google, IBM, SAP, and Red Hat are working collectively to bring Kubernetes' experience to a serverless architecture.
Enabling hybrid IT systems: With AWS Lambda leading the integration of IaaS (Infrastructure as a Service) with Serverless, it will function as a hybrid model that can span multiple environments and work in parallel with other technologies.
Better security solutions: One of the glaring concerns for serverless is its security or lack thereof. As more and more companies shift their business to serverless architecture, these concerns are likely to get resolved quickly so we can see better security on serverless.
Improved testing options for developers: Another issue with serverless is its testing and debugging capabilities which are more complex than the rest due to a lack of uniform testing tools. Though with API testing and integration of testing models, it will become simpler and easy to use.
Better observability and monitoring: Monitoring the functioning of serverless is difficult due to the abstract nature of its architecture. Its monitoring capabilities will likely improve as the demand for serverless host complex applications grows.
More use cases: Serverless is one of the fastest growing technologies and is being adopted by more and more organizations. There will be more use cases for serverless in upcoming years.
Integration with other architectures: Serverless in recent years are being used to fill the gap left by Edge. With the integration of these two technologies, new avenues in application development might emerge in the coming years.
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Impact of Serverless on our lives in future
With the advancements in serverless, its adaptation in the industry has happened at an astonishing rate. Everyone wants to use this technology and reap its benefits. But how will it impact the future with us in the center of it all? These are a few changes Serverless capabilities are going to bring :
Faster computation: Serverless being faster, cheaper, and easier to scale, it has become industry standard, enabling faster computation as monolithic codes are broken down into smaller functions that are computed in a fraction of time compared to their counterparts.
Developers that develop: The real job of a developer is to develop, not manage servers or think about managing infrastructure. Serverless is giving the developers the much-needed freedom for their creative sides to make and deliver complex and feature-rich applications.
Creating opportunities for new avenues: Being everything a new fledgling startup needs (cost-efficient, scalable and shorter time to market). Serverless is giving the ability to create innovative entrepreneurs.
Integration with Edge: With serverless can bridge the gap between Edge's limited computational power and the cloud's data-driven capabilities. Both architectures can eliminate each other's limitations creating new possibilities for the future.
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Serverless has garnered attraction from giant tech companies, cloud enthusiasts, engineers, and developers alike for its apparent advantages. Serverless is being seen as the next evolutionary stage in the development of computing and network architectures. It is still a fledgling technology in its early stages of development. Nevertheless, organizations are flocking to it rapidly. Despite its significant drawbacks and glaring flaws, the pace at which serverless can evolve due to a dedicated community of developers and researchers is astounding. With serverless being integrated with legacy systems and architectures and its ability to come together with other technologies like Edge, it is a promising perspective to keep an eye on.
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