Serverless computing

Serverless computing is becoming the talk of the town. Breaking it down, it is the method of providing backend services on an ‘as used basis. In this case, there are servers still being used but companies pay based on their usage and not based on a fixed amount of bandwidth or number of servers.

Serverless functions will scale automatically. Once there is a surge in inbound traffic, the functions will then spin up more instances of functions to better handle the increased load automatically. The pricing model in serverless computing is also very different. While servers like AWS, Heroku charge based in a timely fashion, this serverless model is a pay per execution pricing model. Here, you only need to pay the time for which the server-side code is run. Thus a wide range of use cases, in which traditional servers become too costly, can find more benefits this way.

As functions and FAAS providers go serverless here, third party software providers also are extended to the notion of ‘going serverless’. In this model, developers have few things less on their plate as FAAS(function as a service) providers take the sole responsibility of running functions by scaling the server-side code, loading balancing traffic and patching the underlying servers for security vulnerabilities. Thus developers can focus on apps core business logic and they can spend time on the UX and making their application stand a class apart. 

This new model focuses more on streamlining everything to make sure the process is as efficient as possible. These serverless models facilitate event-driven workflows. Infrastructure providers for the models expose events from databases, buckets and more that stand as a mechanism for triggering your business logic.

Serverless functions are nonetheless functional and can help build a lot of business components. This includes web and mobile backend APIs, form processing, image processing, web testing tools, serving dynamic HTML, dynamic binaries, SAAS webhook listeners, DevOps/infrastructure automation, IoT events and more.

It is also very important to understand what doesn’t fit well for serverless functions. Mainly, the maximum timeout for functions is 5 minutes and if your code exceeds this time to return a response, it’s best advised to keep this code run in a better suited and long-running container. It is also significant to understand here that this limitation is more of an ‘artificial’ one as it is only imposed by different FAAS providers. This limitation is also expected to vanish in the near future as FAAS providers are working strongly to find methods to overcome this limitation by unlocking various new functionalities. 

Serverless functions impose another limitation for applications that require ultra-low latency characteristics/ With this limitation, these applications still work on serverless models but if these applications have serverless functions, it might not be the best fit. The list of such applications includes real-time gaming or applications that use WebSockets. Limitations like these are the only major and important ones and are also expected to go away soon with more research.

Netflix, Coca-cola, Nordstorm, BBC Online are some of the world’s biggest businesses that have gone serverless. Popular businesses like By understanding Serverless functions, we can realise that serverless technologies offer a wide range of ‘super powers’ to developers as it opens up a world of possibilities for them where they can now set up an API that can handle production traffic with minimal experience of frontend developers and which might have been too costly to run, scale and maintain using traditional server models. 

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