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Serverless Computing: When to Go Serverless?

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5 minutes read

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Luis Minvielle

Jun 26, 2024

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Serverless has become a mainstay in cloud computing for a few years now. A 2022 report already showed how all major cloud providers were already seeing significant serverless adoption: More than half of all organizations running through the three major cloud vendors had already adopted serverless models.

Not every company adopts serverless for the same reasons. And not every company might be best suited to run serverless with gigantic cloud vendors. According to an IEEE Software report , of the 89 serverless applications looked at, 47% chose serverless to save costs, 34% went serverless for its built-in scalability, and another 34% were motivated by the fact that serverless means no longer dealing with server management concerns. If those priorities weren’t true of major vendors, then seeking niche, easy-to-run platforms might be the best alternative for entrepreneurs needing to scale fast and frugally.

This article will explain serverless computing and explore when and why it should be adopted. If you’re considering serverless and need to know which platform to partner with, read on.

What is serverless computing?

Serverless computing is a cloud-based approach to building and deploying applications. As an alternative to managing your own servers and infrastructure, you sign up for backend services on a pay-per-use model. This means you’re not charged for idle resources, just like you wouldn’t pay for electricity when your light bulbs are off. While the term “serverless” might suggest no servers are involved, cloud providers still handle the underlying infrastructure. Serverless means that the developer can focus on writing code and concentrate on growing their business without worrying about server management tasks.

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When to use serverless computing

Serverless computing is a great fit for applications with peaks of activity followed by quiet periods. Unlike traditional setups with constantly running servers, serverless scales resources up or down to match your needs. This makes it suitable for short-lived tasks that kick off in response to events, like tasks in microservices, mobile backends, chatbots, or even machine learning predictions. Serverless also handles unpredictable traffic well, automatically scaling to meet requests, so you don’t have to worry about managing idle servers. Event-driven projects that rely on real-time processing or workflows triggered by specific events, consequently, benefit from serverless.

Serverless computing is also well-suited when managing multiple databases or launching a pilot project alongside a convoluted, corporate tech stack. Choosing the right serverless platform can be a time-saver down the line, provided the pilot project becomes productive and needs to become available to more API calls. Using a scalable serverless platform allows hobbyists and IT workers to transition from “pilot” to “now shipped” status in a second, without having to go through migration steps.

Depending on the use case, serverless has some shortcomings, especially if the platform is not tightly optimized. While it offers faster development and potentially lower costs, there might be a trade-off in terms of control over the underlying infrastructure, or even on debugging. Serverless is best suited for new applications or complete redesigns, especially those that don’t rely on legacy databases. Legacy databases can cause bottlenecks because they don’t scale as easily with serverless functions.

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Serverless computing vs cloud computing

Cloud computing reshaped application hosting and web development by allowing users to rent fixed amounts of server space instead of buying physical hardware. This came with more flexibility and scalability, but it still required users to manage the servers themselves and estimate their resource needs. Often, companies over-provisioned servers to handle unexpected traffic peaks, leading to wasted resources and unnecessary costs. While auto-scaling features exist in cloud computing, they might not be reliable enough for sudden surges like DDoS attacks , or, on the brighter side of things, a sudden increase in demand for your product (following a new feature launch or press release).

Serverless computing takes the flexibility of cloud computing a step further. It also relies on the cloud for services, but it holds a key difference: Users don’t manage the servers at all. The serverless provider handles everything—infrastructure, hardware configuration, and even scaling. Businesses that go serverless only pay for the time their code is actually running, without wasted resources.

Pros and cons of serverless computing

Here’s a balanced look at serverless computing’s advantages and disadvantages:

ProsCons
Economical and practical: Automatic scaling means you only pay for the resources your application uses at any given time, saving you money on idle servers, especially in applications that have highly variable workloads (or that are used only at certain times of the day—think of enterprise applications in companies that work in a single time zone).Cold starts, especially if the environment is not optimized: Serverless functions may experience a brief delay (cold start) when used infrequently. Now, this happens when you base your serverless setup on a non-specialised cloud vendor. A specialized partner will likely bypass this problem, even as you scale up.
Scalability: Serverless applications automatically scale to user growth, starting and stopping functions as needed. This cuts out the need for over-provisioning and guarantees high performance during traffic surges.Debugging challenges, unless the programming environment is typesafe: The lack of direct access to backend processes makes debugging more tricky. Traditional debugging techniques might not translate directly to serverless functions. Debugging is considerably more scalable if the application in question is scalable.
Improved latency: By having data centers in various regions (thanks to the vendor’s distributed infrastructure), users experience faster response times because they connect to the nearest one.Possible vendor lock-in, especially with big cloud vendors: Relying on a single cloud provider for backend services can make it difficult to switch vendors if necessary. That’s why it’s always a good idea to run serverless software with a dedicated service provider.
Faster development: By outsourcing server management, developers can focus on coding and business logic, accelerating time-to-market.
Faster deployment: Serverless lets developers upload code in chunks and update functions individually.

Who should use serverless computing?

Consider serverless infrastructure if you’re building a lightweight, fast-scaling application that needs to be updated frequently and manage fluctuating usage. A serverless setup will respond instantly when needed and will not be subject to costs when at a standstill. Since billing is based on actual usage, serverless reduces costs for applications that do not require constant computing power. Also, serverless architecture is beneficial for applications that need to position functions closer to end users for faster response times.

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Why type-safe serverless platforms are best for business

Using type safety on your serverless platform helps filter out programming mistakes, because the compiler will catch the silly mistakes for you. This is especially the case if you compile your application with a solution that allows static type-safety with autocomplete on your preferred editor. This makes certain that the parts of your codebase work well together. With a type-safe platform, you—or the techies you’re working with—won’t add typos when you’re developing code, and, by extension, you won’t be surprised by unexpected bugs when you’re using it.

Going for type safe models, then, means fewer or no crashes when your app is running and when your app scales. It could also mean a quicker turnaround time when you need to ship your solution. All of these things are important for making sure you can focus on your business and not on urgent client calls. Relying on a type-safe serverless platform sounds like a move only a techie would prioritise, but, in fact, it’s a business and strategic decision.

How does Genezio help full-stack developers build serverless apps?

Building serverless apps can be complex, but Genezio helps full-stack developers get started fast. The solution simplifies things with a single command line for building entire serverless applications. This cuts through the usual setup concerns, letting developers focus on writing code and running their apps quickly. Genezio.Cloud takes it a step further by automating every stage, like creating serverless functions or testing and deploying. Plus, the cloud solution eliminates the performance lag—“cold starts”—often experienced with serverless functions.

Unlike some tools that force a specific approach, Genezio lets you write code your way while still giving you autoscaling and future-proofing. Head over to our website and sign up for a free account. It only takes a few clicks to get started building your serverless application. Good luck!

To learn more about type-safe serverless platforms for entrepreneurs and techies, visit Genezio.com.

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Genezio is a serverless platform for building full-stack web and mobile applications in a scalable and cost-efficient way.



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