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Serverless Computing - The Complete Guide

Back in 2017, the serverless market was estimated at around $3B USD. However, it is currently projected to reach $20B USD by 2025. With numerous advantages over traditional cloud computing and server-centric infrastructure, serverless architecture provides more flexibility, scalability, simplified deployment, and reduced cost. Learn what serverless is, how it works, major benefits, top serverless providers, and how to get started.

What is Serverless?

Serverless Computing Explained

Serverless is a cloud computing model where the service provider dynamically allocates the exact amount of resources needed on-demand. The main advantage of serverless computing is the provider only charges you for the exact machine resources needed, whereas in cloud computing, you pre-purchase units of bandwidth and resources are dedicated to you at all times, whether they're in use.

While the name serverless is not the elimination of servers from distributed applications. The name serverless refers to the fact that the provider manages, provisions, and maintains backend services on an as-used basis. A company that gets computing resources from a serverless vendor is charged only for the resources their application actually consumes. Hence the client does not have to reserve and pay for a fixed amount of bandwidth or a number of servers, as the service is auto-scaling.

How Serverless Works

Serverless architecture relies on functions, or more specifically functions-as-a-service (FaaS). It is a service model that allows developers to run code directly in the cloud without the need to build packages or maintain any infrastructure. Applications are broken up into individual functions that can be invoked and scaled individually. Listen to the podcast, or read the blog to learn more about serverless stream processing with Apache Kafka®.

Benefits of Serverless

Full scalability – Developers do not have to upload code to servers or do any backend configuration in order to release a working version of an application, nor administrators to upgrade existing servers or add servers. Scalability is automatic and you don’t have to worry about the need to provision the underlying infrastructure.

Easy To Deploy – By using a serverless solution you will get a faster deployment of resources than you would by using other cloud computing models. Instead of weeks and months to deploy an app, you can do it within minutes. The main reason behind such a quick and simplified deployment is that you don’t have to take care of the infrastructure.

No infrastructure requirements – Since developers will be literally using someone else’s computer to execute their serverless functions, there will be no infrastructure to maintain.

No server or software management – Even though ‘serverless’ computing actually takes place on servers, developers are not required to deal with the servers.

Fault-tolerant – Developers are not responsible for ensuring the fault tolerance of the serverless architecture s. The cloud provider provides the IT infrastructure—compute, storage, networking, and databases that will be automatically allocated to account for almost any kind of failure

Lower cost – The costs related to serverless computing are minimal compared to other cloud services, developers are only charged for the duration of execution and not by the server unit. The serverless model enables customers to avoid the costs associated with operating a server such as access authorization, presence detection, security, image processing, and other costs.

No upfront payments – Since you will only be paying for the running code there will be no upfront investment

Reduced Latency – Using serverless functions will bring minimal latency to end-users. As the serverless functions do not operate from a designated origin server, there will not be just one location that an end user’s traffic has to be directed to. In this case, all of the cloud provider’s data centers will be used and the function will be executed by the nearest server, hence greatly reducing the response time.

Simplified backend code – As the app is not hosted on an origin server, its code can be run from anywhere

Types of Serverless Technologies

There are two main types of serverless computing. By using one of the below methods you can build an entirely serverless application, or comprise an application of partially serverless and partially traditional microservices components.

Backend-as-a-Service (BaaS)

A BaaS or mBaaS or Backend as a Service is mainly used to develop applications for Web and Mobile. It refers to a platform that allows developers to focus on the frontend of an app by relying heavily on the use of third party applications, databases, and APIs to manage server-side logic

Function-as-a-Service (FaaS)

The Function-as-a-Service architecture calls in a function only when it is needed to run and it runs in containers fully managed by a cloud provider.

In addition to the above mentioned popular FaaS and BaaS platforms, there are a few other serverless architectures including:

Serverless Databases – Serverless databases are intended to store data, unlike FaaS and BaaS. This type of database has been specially designed to address the need for unpredictable workloads that can change quickly, By using a serverless database you get to pay only for the database resources you use, on a second-by-second basis.

Serverless Frameworks – are great tools for deploying and operating a serverless application. These frameworks (previously known as JAWS) consist of a Node.js or Python open-source CLI and a hosted dashboard.

Full List of Serverless Providers

The market of serverless architecture providers is no longer limited to major vendors, we have recently seen new players entering this space.

AWS Lambda – an event-driven, serverless computing platform that belongs to Amazon Web Services. It was released in 2014, and now holds the leading position on the market offering the widest range of services available. AWS Lambda can be used for a wide range of tasks and supports code written in Java, Python and Node.js. In addition, the service can launch processes in languages supported by Amazon Linux (includes Bash, Go & Ruby).

AWS Aurora – a relational database engine offered by Amazon Web Services. AWS Aurora is compatible with all the versions of MySQL and PostgreSQ and makes it easy to set up, operate, and scale a relational database in the cloud. It seamlessly grows with business needs.

Azure Functions by Microsoft – the serverless computing service hosted on the Microsoft Azure public cloud The Microsoft Azure service allows you to run small pieces of code in Node.js, C#, Python, PHP and Java and enables running application code on-demand without requiring the provision and management of the underlying infrastructure.

Google Cloud Functions (GCF) – a serverless, event-driven computing service that allows you to create small, single-purpose functions. It became generally available in August 2018 and it caters a series of modular cloud services such as computing, data storage, data analytics and machine learning.

IBM Cloud Functions – a serverless programming platform based on Apache OpenWhisk. IBM Cloud Functions support many programming languages such as JavaScript or Python. It accelerates application development,and allows developers to write out applications on IBM’s servers and have them executed remotely and on demand.

Apache OpenWhisk – an open source distributed serverless cloud platform developed by the Apache Software Foundation. It executes functions in response to events that can originate from various sources, like timers, databases, message queues, or websites. It offers per-request scaling and automatic resource allocation, so it can easily adapt to a growing site, service or application.

Spotinst – founded in 2015, Spotinist acquired AWS partner StratCloud. It now offers a complete solution for cloud users by automating multi-cloud infrastructure management. They help enterprises run any workload and support large-scale migrations on any cloud provider.

Cloudflare Workers – offers a suite of products which allows developers to build and extend the capabilities of serverless sites without having to configure or maintain the infrastructure, Cloudflare Workers provides a lightweight JavaScript serverless execution environment that adds performance, security, and reliability for your website.

Oracle Fn Project – an open-source serverless compute platform that you can run anywhere (public, private and hybrid cloud) and supports all programming languages. It has been written in Go and is performant and easy to use.

Kubernetes – an open-source system for container orchestration across multiple hosts. Kubernetes started as a project within Google.in 2014. It is great for deploying all types of apps as it supports all programming languages.

How to Build Serverless Data Streaming Apps

Serverless architectures can be used for many types of applications. For example, you can process transaction orders, analyze click streams, business transactions, evaluate performance data generated by operational IT or manufacturing systems, or telemetry from sensors and other edge devices.

There are numerous industries that heavily rely on data, so most industries use data aggregation to combine data from multiple sources into one place. The main advantage of real-time data integration is that it can transmit accurate and timely data between systems so businesses can make better-informed business decisions in real-time.

Confluent offers a streaming platform based on Apache Kafka that enables companies to easily access data as real-time streams. The Confluent Platform, improves the way businesses manage and act on the data that is continuously produced. With its help business have the capability to organize and manage the massive volumes of streaming data that is being generated

Confluent addresses the requirements of enterprise streaming applications. It provides your business a simple way to build an enterprise-wide streaming platform for a wide array of use cases.

You can start by downloading Confluent, the leading distribution of Apache Kafka and the only enterprise event streaming platform available in the industry, or learn more about real-time data streaming.

Moving to Serverless?

Learn how to implement a real-time data pipeline architecture and sync on-prem, cloud, and serverless deployments while accelerating migration times and reducing cost.