Serverless: the new trend

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Recently the new hot buzzword seems to be “serverless”. There is a meetup group called “Serverless NYC”, and there have been a few “Serverless” conferences. Lambda is the new tool from Amazon that gets thrown around by developers at every meetup. But what are we talking about exactly? Just to be clear, even though the name is serverless, when you eventually get to the bottom of the tootsie roll pop, there is a server there. It’s just about who controls it.

The people who are using the services provided are still running their work on someone’s server.”With a serverless architecture, you focus purely on the individual functions in your application code. Services take care of all the physical hardware, virtual machine operating system, and web server software management.”[1] This allows the developer to focus on being a developer, and not  necessarily require the extra skillset of knowing, Linux, networking, and infrastructure. Since the focus here are functions, it should probably be some smaller project, or something that can be independent of the scope of a larger project.

The benefits of a serverless architecture is no need to deploy or administer any servers, install software, or run updates. That is handled by your provider. If you need more compute you can just purchase more consumption rather than build and deploy new servers, even if just virtual machines. You don’t need to architect for availability and fault tolerance  since that too is built into the architecture you are buying. Availability would refer to your service being up, while Fault Tolerance would refer to withstanding the failure of a sever.

With every upside there is a downside. Some of the downsides of serverless computing are:  1) multitenancy problems, which means that if the provider over provisions their resources and available compute is limited, it will affect your services. 2)vendor lock-in: if you design your services around the capabilities and api’s of provider A, then it makes it much harder to move to provider B. 3) security concerns – you don’t really know the status of the security of your host. You trust your provider, but for those with the need for absolute control or some regulations, they need to make sure the solution is viable for their needs.

While there are some downsides, there are many potential upsides. Serverless is here to stay and should be weighted as a viable solution for any deployment.


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