“Serverless” computing is a bit of a misnomer—it doesn’t actually mean that there are no servers required, just that developers don’t have to worry much about the task of provisioning them.
Under this paradigm, serverless functions and applications are executed only in response to a particular event or trigger, rather than needing to run on a server 24/7. This model is also referred to as FaaS (“Function as a Service”).
But despite the confusing name, serverless computing is growing in a big way: The adoption of serverless computing has grown rapidly in recent years, for a few very good reasons.
According to a 2020 survey by Datadog, nearly half of Amazon Web Services customers use AWS Lambda, AWS’ serverless computing solution. This aligns with a 2018 survey which found that 46% of IT decision-makers are using serverless, with another 35% considering its use.
So why should you switch to serverless? Below, we’ll discuss four reasons you should consider going serverless, from lower costs to easier software development.
Try out the benefits of serverless for yourself by signing up for IronWorker’s 14-day free trial.
Table of contents
Benefit #1: Built-in Scalability
Scalability should be an essential concern for any enterprise application in order to avoid unexpected downtime and performance issues. Unfortunately, developers have often had to micromanage the issue of scalability by spinning up more servers when an application is under heavy load,
With serverless applications, however, it’s the server vendor who’s responsible for scalability, not the developers.
If an application undergoes an increase in its users or usage, the vendor will automatically scale and provision new servers for you, often by using containers or virtual machines.
Many serverless computing solutions also improve scalability by automatically performing load balancing, routing new requests so as not to overwhelm a single server.
Benefit #2: Significantly Lower Costs
There’s a flip side to the scalability of serverless computing: not only can you scale up when usage increases, but you can also scale down during times of relative quiet.
With serverless computing, users have a “pay as you go” model: You’re only charged on-demand for the server time when your applications are actually up and running.
By allowing for these cost-cutting measures, serverless computing stands in stark contrast to the traditional cloud software model, where applications have a continuous runtime and you need to pay for computing 24/7.
Often, users need to estimate and then purchase the amount of server resources they’ll need ahead of time—with no chance of getting a refund if some of this capacity goes unused.
Benefit #3: Ease of Software Development
Many developers and architects find that serverless computing makes the task of software development significantly easier. This is largely thanks to two conveniences: the lack of server maintenance and the ability to release updates more quickly.
First, as explained above, serverless computing largely frees developers from the task of server management and maintenance, which is instead the obligation of the server provider.
This helps cut costs, reduces the workload of your DevOps team, and lets developers do their work without having to worry about the constraints of server capacity.
Second, serverless computing harmonizes well with popular development methodologies such as the microservices architecture, by encouraging developers to split up large monolithic applications into a loosely coupled collection of smaller functions.
With each function having a single purpose, it’s much easier to update and patch the application and release new features, because you need to modify less of the codebase.
By using a serverless computing solution like IronWorker, software development can be even easier. IronWorker offers full support for Docker containers and is compatible with any programming language, giving developers ultimate choice and flexibility.
Benefit #4: Variety of Cloud Providers
With serverless technologies becoming so popular, it’s no surprise that major public cloud providers such as Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure have decided to get in on the action.
Thanks to this bevy of choices, it’s easy for users of serverless frameworks to have their pick of solutions and enjoy cutting-edge features and integrations.
AWS Lambda functions, for example, are nicely compatible with other parts of the AWS ecosystem—such as Amazon DynamoDB, a fully managed NoSQL database service with features such as in-memory caching and automatic scalability. AWS users also benefit from other solutions like API Gateway, which makes it easier to define and develop APIs for your application.
Of course, there’s no need to use the serverless offerings from public cloud providers themselves. IronWorker is a cloud-agnostic serverless computing solution that is compatible with all major public cloud providers, helping to avoid vendor lock-in.
Thanks in large part to this flexibility, IronWorker has received top marks on business software review websites like G2, with an average rating of 4.6 out of 5 stars. Reviewer James C. writes that IronWorker has “helped us harness the efficiency of the cloud” by seamlessly merging with AWS:
“We used Iron.io as a one-stop-shop to help us get onto the cloud and tune our services to get cloud efficiencies. It was overwhelming looking at the many disparate services that need to have the dots connected to get underway with the cloud, so giving this problem to Iron made things much easier as we had a single touchpoint… The result has been a drastic reduction in the AWS spend we have been getting, as we are finally optimized to take advantage of the elasticity that cloud computing offers.”
The Drawbacks of Serverless
Of course, there’s no such thing as a technology that’s the right choice for every situation. While there are many good reasons and use cases for going serverless, there are also a few drawbacks involved with serverless computing, which we list here so that you can make the most informed choice for your organization:
- The “cold start” problem: Serverless applications sometimes have a problem with “cold starts,” i.e., delays and latency when running a function that hasn’t run in a long while. There are a variety of solutions for this issue: for example, practising “function warming” by sending pings to reactivate a function at regular intervals or doing software development using languages like Node.js, Python, or Go.
- Testing and debugging: Running tests and fixing bugs can be more challenging with serverless. It’s difficult to replicate the serverless environment, and developers have a hard time peeking behind the curtain of the vendor’s servers. In addition, because serverless encourages microservices architectures that break up applications into smaller functions, it can take a long time to identify the source of an issue.
- Complexity: As a corollary to the above concern, serverless architectures tend to be more complicated than traditional applications. While the system is decomposed into smaller, simpler functions, the application as a whole becomes more complex because each function comes with some overhead.
- Vendor lock-in: We mentioned above that the risk of vendor lock-in can be an issue with serverless computing by allowing a single cloud provider to provide all backend services. The good news is that you can mitigate this risk by using cloud-agnostic solutions like IronWorker.
Should You Consider Going Serverless?
With full knowledge of the advantages and disadvantages of serverless computing, here are some of the most important questions you should ask to decide if serverless is right for you:
- How much weight will serverless take off your shoulders by automatically handling the scalability issue?
- What are the potential cost savings you can achieve with serverless, as opposed to reserving server capacity ahead of time or running applications 24/7?
- How easy will it be to rearchitect existing applications and develop new applications according to the serverless paradigm?
- Can you tolerate or mitigate potential issues with cold starts that might affect the end-user experience?
- Do you have a solution to address the risk of vendor lock-in?
As we’ve discussed, the reasons for going serverless include:
- Built-in scalability.
- Significantly lower costs.
- Ease of software development.
- Variety of cloud providers.
Do the reasons to switch to serverless above have you convinced? Give IronWorker a try. IronWorker is a flexible work-as-you-go platform for building serverless architectures The benefits of IronWorker include:
- Running in a variety of environments, including the public cloud, on-premises, dedicated servers, and a hybrid solution combining on-premises and the cloud.
- Support for major programming languages including Ruby, PHP, Python, Java, Node.js, Go, and .NET.
- A user-friendly learning curve and excellent customer support.
Companies like Twitter, Philips, Whole Foods, and Bleacher Report have all leveraged IronWorker to gain more power and control over their job processing needs. Want to join them?
Get in touch with the IronWorker team today for a chat about your business needs and objectives, or to start your free 14-day trial.
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