Serverless computing is a method by which backend services are rendered. This is over an as-used basis.
By using Serverless computing, an end-user need not worry about the underlying infrastructure. All he needs to do is to write and deploy the code.
It is but important to note that Serverless computing uses physical servers. This is even while the service is called serverless.
But this is a fact that need not affect the developers since the vendors or the Serverless providers take care of the infrastructure and server space concerns.
If a company avails backend services from a Serverless vendor, they do not need to pay for their bandwidth or the number of servers that they use. Instead, they are charged based upon the amount of computation that they do. The service is hence auto-scaling.
Serverless computing: an approach to cloud computing
Serverless computing is essentially an approach to cloud computing. Herein, the customer makes a request for a container PaaS (Platform-as-a-Service). The provider, in turn, starts and stops PaaS as per the requirements.
Correspondingly, the customer then no longer requires renting or buying and configuring servers in advance. A few of the top Serverless offerings include OpenWhisk, Lambda, and AWS.
History of Serverless computing
Owning physical hardware to run the server
When the internet was launched, one required physical hardware to run a server. This would let one make a web application. While the undertaking was tedious, it was expensive, as well.
The Cloud allowed renting a fixed amount of server space
Following this, the cloud came into prominence. Herein, one could rent a certain amount of server space or a fixed number of servers.
Renting of a fixed amount of server space typically results in over purchase. Companies and developers do so to ensure that when the traffic is excessive, their applications do not break, and they do not exceed their monthly limits as well.
But this came with a downside. A large section of server space that was paid for went waste. To counter the issue, cloud vendors introduced auto-scaling models.
But even when unwanted spikes inactivity, such as a DDoS attack is dealt with auto-scaling, the process might end up being very expensive.
The advent of Serverless computing
Serverless computing is the most flexible alternative among the lot. Developers purchase backend services and pay by a ‘pay-as-you-go’ basis.
The types of backend services provided by Serverless computing
The services most frequently provided by serverless providers are database and storage services. In some cases, they may have Function-as-a-Service (FaaS) platforms. An example of the same is Cloudflare Workers.
FaaS platforms execute codes on edge and do not store any data.
Serverless computing comes with a range of advantages:
Serverless computing is a cost-effective alternative to go for. As in the case of other alternatives, a user is not required to pay for idle CPU time or unused space.
Scalability is easier
With the use of Serverless architecture, developers need not worry about policies required to scale up their code. Serverless vendors take care of all of the scalings on a pay-as-you-go basis.
Backend codes are simplified
Using FaaS, developers can easily come up with simple functions. They perform a single function independently. An example of the same is making an API call.
Lower time to market
By using serverless architecture, time to the market reduces significantly. To accomplish bug fixes or new features, complicated processes need not be deployed.
The code can instead by modify or added on a piecemeal basis by the developers.