Is serverless the future of cloud computing

By Jeevan Babu August 25, 2020 8 min read

Serverless architecture – the future of cloud computing

The cloud services industry is a fast-paced, ever-growing, and innovative field where multiple service types now exist. For instance, IaaS(Infrastructure-as-a-Service), PaaS(Platform-as-a-Service), and SaaS(Software-as-a-Service) and FaaS (Function-as-a-Service). With it is the ever-growing demand for higher resource, capacity and cloud computing resources. One such innovation in cloud computing is called the serverless architecture. Businesses can have more focus on developing, deploying and managing their applications and software because of serverless cloud computing. It is a much-needed paradigm shift in cloud computing to alleviate the mundane task of system administration. With the advent of serverless cloud architecture, gone are the days when a system administrator has to deal with the nuance of housekeeping, maintenance, and the ability to administer the cloud infrastructure, thus allowing businesses to create and produce high-quality applications.

What is cloud computing?

It is essential to identify how cloud computing works to understand the concept of serverless technology. Cloud computing points to the use of dynamically scalable computing resources accessible via a public network like the Internet. The required resources, often referred to as a ‘cloud,’ provide customers with single or multiple services. Cloud Hosting companies allocate their services based on types, including applications/software, platforms, infrastructure, virtualization, servers and data storage. Cloud-based services or only cloud services refer to services provided by a cloud resource. Also, it is a type of service provisioning in which cloud customers contract with cloud service providers for the online delivery of services offered by the cloud. Cloud service providers manage a public, private, or hybrid cloud to facilitate the online distribution of cloud services to one or more cloud customers.

How does serverless technology work on the cloud?

Serverless technology functions are an example of cloud services wherein execution of singular or multiple code functions happens in the cloud. The serverless process alleviates the need for the user to deploy and manage physical servers on which these functions execute. Also, users are only billed for the actual execution time of each Serverless function instance and not for idle time of the physical servers and VM instances. Another benefit is the continuous scaling of function instances to address varying traffic load.

The adoption of cloud-native that orchestrates serverless technologies varies significantly across global regions. However, the penetration of serverless is maturing with an annual growth of 75% indicating it as the fastest growing public-cloud service.

The five key players dominating the serverless market post-pandemic are:

  1. Amazon Web Services Inc.
  2. Microsoft Corp.
  3. Google LLC
  4. Alibaba Group Holding Limited
  5. IBM Corp

Benefits of serverless cloud computing

Let us take a closer look at actual case studies of US companies taking advantage of serverless functions and technologies on their cloud premises.

Faster deployment time-Netflix

Serverless architecture simplifies the process of developing scalable applications rapidly and cost-effectively. 

Netflix, Amazon, and Uber are some big names that are winning hearts through their cloud-native strategies. Startups and enterprises can develop and deploy applications effectively with cloud services whereas, developers can utilize their time to concentrate on delivering functionality and drive innovation. 

Serverless is considered to be the next trend of cloud-native app development. Serverless roots out the infrastructure challenges in the application. Cloud provides the entire instance for running codes and also makes all the provisions of servers. They are responsible for the entire backend infrastructure for offering serverless functions. 

Netflix depends on the serverless code. AWS Lambda, Azure, and Google Cloud Functions are some of the cloud providers that are investing in Netflix. As a business, you need to assure that the cloud vendors are solid on the security part. If you are planning to move to serverless, you need strong security prerequisites via end-to-end encryption, efficient codes,  access controls measures, and third-party tools like Cloud Watch. 

Cut costs – Netflix, Coca-Cola, Heavywater

Thanks to serverless cloud computing, costs per streaming start ended up being a fraction of those in the data center — a welcome side benefit for Netflix. It is made possible due to the cloud’s elasticity, enabling them to continuously optimize, grow, and shrink their cloud footprint near-instantaneously. We can also benefit from the economies of scale that are only possible in a massive cloud ecosystem.

Thanks to serverless technology, Coca-Cola started cutting costs from $13,000 to $4,490 by migrating their previous AWS EC2 instances to Lambda serverless instances for its vending machines. Coca-Cola now mandates serverless solutions or requires a justification for why you won’t use serverless. With Lambda, all this happens in under a second, and Amazon charges 1/1,000 of a penny. Plus, Coca-Cola is only getting billed if a transaction executes successfully. Otherwise, Coca-Cola pays nothing. For Lambda, reaching about 30 million calls a month, the cost was $4,490 per year.

Heavywater Inc has witnessed the AWS bill to $4000, which was much lesser than the previous $30k invoice. After switching to serverless architecture, the benefits Heavywater Inc witnessed are:

1. Decreased costs.

2. Decreased human intervention with a decrease in batch processing from 24 hours to 16 hours. 

3. A decrease in EC2 instances to 211.

4. A decrease in errors in SWF. 

The team focused more on converting the services to lambda and the workflows into step functions and continue to leverage the benefits of serverless architecture.

More focus on customers – T-Mobile

According to Satish Malireddi – Principal Cloud Architect, T-Mobile, “Jazz and serverless computing on AWS has cut out many time-consuming development and deployment steps. That’s time we can spend innovating and iterating on the solutions customers want to see. Jazz and serverless computing on AWS are major accelerators in how quickly we can give our customers what they want (Amazon, n.d.).” 


Figure 1. T-Mobile / Jazz architecture diagram (Amazon, n.d.)

Serverless- Not perfect 

Considering all the benefits, Serverless is still not perfect. It does have some drawbacks. The technology and the market are very much in the early stages. Also, the software it uses for monitoring, security and optimization has much room for improvement. Besides, it requires a technical team that knows how to implement the serverless architecture and do a bit of coding in a whole different way – making for much unlearning and relearning. 

Fortunately, addressing some of the significant disadvantages of serverless technology is expected in the coming years, if not months. The big cloud companies will automate and innovate functions to run for longer, support more languages, and allow deeper customizations. Companies are starting to leverage the serverless cloud platform to improve their business operations through seamless, automated, and regular functions .

Serverless- A forward thinking approach

With the ever-increasing demand to scale, leverage, and spin applications and services on the fly, Cloud technology has to catch up, and serverless architecture is the way to go. Cloud services are moving forward to deliver real-time demand, cost-effective and readily deployable services and applications. 

Indeed, without a doubt, the next generation technology for cloud services is serverless functions. Software architecture and the previous server diagrams will be expected to change and accommodate serverless processes. Numerous use cases for millions of small, medium and enterprise businesses prove that adopting serverless results increased deployment timings, cost cutting and operational boons. 

Author Bio

Jeevan Babu is a technology enthusiast and strong believer in agile product development. He is a senior project manager at Fortunesoft IT Innovations a leading custom software development company. A computer engineer by education and a technology adherent by passion. His interest in computers & the internet has made him a self-proclaimed geek.

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