Serverless Architecture – Paradigm Shift in the Cloud

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Pankaj Soni

September 27, 2017

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Cloud computing is continually growing and evolving.

As a response, many cloud platforms including Microsoft’s Azure Cloud Services, are shifting to Serverless Architecture.

But what exactly is Serverless Architecture? Does it actually mean an application is hosted on cloud infrastructure without the dependency on a server?

Paradigm Shift

Before we get into the details of Serverless Architecture and why it’s causing a shift in cloud computing technologies, let’s first try to understand how cloud development and implementation has reached this stage and how an overall evolution has happened in this area, which is depicted in the infographic below.

Serverless Graphic

1.   As business requirements grew, static web pages were replaced  with more complex applications. Web app development companies became more dynamic and data driven, using various server-side technologies.

2.   These technologies, however, were strongly coupled to a server in a platform referred to as server-client architecture. Down the line, this architecture matured with 3-tier/N-tier implementations.

3.   While this revolution was happening, cloud-based offerings, also known as IaaS (Infrastructure as a Service) also started picking up. Initially, the main inducements for moving to cloud were: 

 a.   Reduced IT costs

 b.   Better support for network management and its complex topology.

4.   Cloud development and implementation strategy continued to evolve and further offerings entered    the market, including PaaS (Platform as a Service) and SaaS (Software as a Service).

5.   This is where there was a shift in cloud process. In addition to providing infrastructure for hosting apps, IT costs could be reduced further by decomposing the tightly coupled server components of traditional server-client architecture into functions or micro services that are more reusable and highly scalable. This brought up a new concept of XaaS (Anything as a service).

6.   Instead of just focusing on infrastructure, new platform capabilities emerged, such as Backend as a Service (BaaS) or Functions as a Service (FaaS). With these possibilities, the focus shifted more toward development versus the underlying servers or infrastructure — and that is how Serverless Architecture came into existence.

What is Serverless Architecture all about?

Serverless Architecture refers to applications/designs that considerably depend on third-party services for the backend (BaaS) or on the custom code that runs in the cloud containers that enable functions (FaaS). Serverless Architecture does not really mean that an application runs without any servers. Instead it’s divided into multiple reusable tasks executed on the cloud.

These tasks can be spread across multiple cloud servers, each providing a specific type of service. All of the cloud servers are typically managed by the provider, sparing users of such administration. Most of the business logic and workflows are also managed by these third-party services or self-developed micro-services.

In this architecture, the tasks/services run in the cloud as self-contained services utilized by clients. Overall, this design is easier to build because the server-side components have a high throughput and extensive scalability. Of course, there is still a need for hardware, but users aren’t directly responsible for managing the infrastructure.

Where can Serverless Architecture be used?

As part of an overall Cloud Development Strategy, Serverless Architecture has found an integral place in assisting the promotion of cognitive technology and Internet of Things (IoT) apps. Cognitive chatbots and IoT apps use a serverless architecture platform for the ability to integrate with advanced technologies.

Serverless Architecture technology can be used for summation of data, converting different formats, encoding, and processing of data. Its ability to automatically scale quickly helps in managing substantial workloads. This makes Serverless Architecture suitable for real-time analysis and processing of logs and events.

Advantages of Serverless Architecture

  • Reduced IT Costs – Since certain parts of the server are moving into custom functions (FaaS) or third-party backend services (BaaS), the infrastructure maintenance cost is cut down considerably.
  • Scalability – It extends the microservices patterns, which are always highly manageable and scalable in the cloud.
  • Technology Stack – As services are developed independently, they are not bound to the application as a whole, instead they just serve the individual functionality. That offers the ability to develop these services in various technologies with no language constraints.
  • Reduced development efforts and overall time – Implementing small services requires less time as compared to complex systems. They are also reusable, which helps reduce the overall development efforts.
  • Pay as per your usage – Organizations are charged only for the amount of time they use the services.

Serverless Architecture is a new concept of distributing the server-side logic into small services or functions facilitating the implementation of a cloud integration strategy without managing the underlying infrastructure. It enables this by offering a lesser dependency on a single server due to reusable tasks being executed on multiple cloud servers.

If your organization is interested in utilizing Serverless Architecture as part of your overall cloud services strategy, Emtec can help. Contact us to learn more. 

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