The benefits of serverless computing

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Servers are necessary components for the “backend”. Any type of application or website that is designed to work online needs servers to “host” them. On a more abstract level, this type of network communication is known as a client-server connection. Servers are very important in any online application. However, there are many problems associated with managing them as well. The entire process of securing server sites, setting up servers, power supply, and other logistics is very cumbersome. On top of that, technical issues also arise when network traffic increases and you need to scale up storage and bandwidth to accommodate the increased demand.

Even after the servers have been set up by the developers, they can be vulnerable to cyber attacks and will have to be maintained and monitored consistently. In case of failure, backup options might be unlikely and teams will have to be delegated to have the servers running back up.

This is where serverless computing architecture solves the problem for us. While the name “serverless” might be confusing since it has been established that applications need servers to function. This type of service does indeed contain servers but they are hidden from the clients who do not need to worry about running them, as explained by IBM:

The name notwithstanding, there are most definitely servers in serverless computing. The term 'serverless' describes the customer's experience: the virtual or physical servers are invisible to the customer, who doesn't see them, manage them, or interact with them in any way

Serverless is just another type of architecture where the service provider does the provisioning, managing, and scaling of the servers and other infrastructure based on the demand and these resources are allocated in real-time. This way, business owners and start-ups can utilize their resources into developing and improving business logic and the tedious server management tasks are delegated to serverless computing service providers. The entire underlying infrastructure associated with the service is hidden from the client.

Benefits of Serverless Computing

The delegation of server management to a service provider has many benefits:

Easier deployments and maintenance

Developers no longer have to work long on constructing pipelines and securing their networks on the servers, any mistakes could result in security breaches, service downtime, and inefficient allocation of resources. With serverless computing, users only have to register their functions and can invoke them afterward with the help of credentials provided. 

Serverless is a “polyglot” environment, so developers are able to code in any language or framework they prefer such as Java, Python, node.js, etc.

Cost effectiveness

Traditional cloud services require the purchase/subscription of a fixed bandwidth. This might require extensive calculations to reach the optimal solution for a balance between cost and bandwidth. Eventually, there might be trade-offs as well, in case the current computational resources are greater than required, one might end up paying for un-utilized computing. Similarly, if they are slightly lesser than required, the client would have to again subscribe to additional resources.

Serverless architecture does not have a fixed resource bucket. This “pay-as-you-go” model means that you will only be charged for computational resources utilized by your application. In short, you no longer have to worry about optimal solutions and it eliminates the cost-to-computation trade-offs.  

Automated scalability

A major problem associated with applications is scalability. A certain trend or event might cause a sudden surge of traffic. For instance, when a blockbuster drops on Netflix, the network might experience a considerable boom in users tuning in to stream it. Unless the overhead is accommodated, the website could crash. Similarly, usage of websites also depends on the time of the day/week/year, for instance, e-commerce websites experience a surge on black Friday, holiday sales e.t.c. In such a case, a serverless architecture will scale up automatically and allocate resources that are adequate to handle the traffic.

The following graphic from Cloudflare explains how serverless is more efficient than traditional architectures:

ChartDescription automatically generated

 

Function as a service (FaaS)

FaaS is an implementation of serverless architecture, also known as serverless functions. These are small snippets of dedicated code or simply functions that have to be deployed. They are treated as independent working pieces which are triggered by specific pre-defined events. The FaaS provider then executes, scales and bills function as isolated instances based on demand.

Applications of Serverless Computing

With all the advantages discussed above, it is evident that the serverless computing architecture can enhance many applications and can be used to create new ones. Let’s take a look at some applications highlighted in a survey by Hossein Shafiei, Ahmad Khonsari, and Payam Mousavi.

Urban Management systems

Due to its efficiency and cost-effectiveness, serverless computing can be used to deploy many public sector projects such as:

  • smart waste management:

This smart bin solution is part of a garbage collection system that involves several IoT (Internet of Things) sensors connected to waste cans which stream data to the cloud where analytics are performed to suggest the most efficient route for the waste collection department.

  • oil and gas field management systems:

A federation of serverless edge computing which allows reliable and flawless green oil and gas extraction based on real-time analytics.

  • serverless platforms for land valuation:

This GIS (Geographic Information System) platform is based on a serverless cloud open source geospatial software stack, which allows authorities to store, view, analyse, and share real estate data and maps on the web.

Artificial Intelligence and Deep Learning

The survey also highlights how deep learning or machine learning models performance can be enhanced with the help of serverless architecture as it simplifies complex training mechanisms and increases efficiency.

Macrometa

Macrometa is a serverless computing service provider with a  streaming NoSQL database, integrated pub/sub and stream data processing and compute engine. Macrometa’s SaaS (Software as a Service) enables stateful functions & containers for extensive data stream processing in real-time to optimize business prospects.

Conclusion

Serverless computing is a type of cloud computing which is easy to build, maintain and is cost-efficient due to a pay-as-you-go model and auto-scaling of resources based on -demand. This paradigm can not only improve existing frameworks but also make new avenues possible in a wide range of applications involving IoT such as land and resource monitoring systems. It can also solve problems faced by very crucial integration of artificial intelligence in smart cities, homes and industry. 

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