Function-as-a-Service first came on the scene when AWS Lambda was made available in 2014. It initially was designed as a tool to react to events happening on your servers. It took a year to for Amazon to expose an HTTP API to the public with the API Gateway. That’s the actual point when the term Serverless came into existence. Since then, there have been several promoters who are championing the serverless movement.
And it’s easy to see why they do this, considering that serverless computing promises to offer several advantages over the traditional server-based infrastructure.
For instance, it could offer greater scalability, more flexibility and allows developers to release their products quicker. This is especially important in a competitive market where a business’s ultimate success depends on its ability to release quality products faster. In addition, it also saves developers costs. However, is it the solution for everyone? To answer this question, we’ll look at some of the benefits and disadvantages of using serverless infrastructure.
The Pros of Using Serverless
Before looking at why serverless architecture is hard to launch and maintain, we must look at the benefits if we get it right. In short, Some of the benefits of using serverless computing include:
- Simply put, no server means no server management is necessary. Although serverless computing does require servers, it doesn’t require maintenance by the developers. In simple terms, developers never deal with these servers, and the specific vendor manages them. This reduces the cost of the infrastructure because companies don’t have to invest in DevOps, and it also allows developers to focus on expanding their applications, integrating new features, and improving their capabilities without wasting time on server maintenance.
- Another aspect that reduces the cost of serverless architecture is that developers only pay for the server space they use. In simple terms, we can almost equate this to a pay-as-you-go phone plan where the vendor only charges developers for what they use. As such, code only runs when needed by the application, and resources scale up automatically as needed. This provisioning is dynamic, precise, and in real-time. Compared to traditional server-based applications, this saves money because developers no longer have to project the total capacity the application will need and buy that capacity.
- As a result of its dynamic and automatic provisioning, serverless architecture is inherently scalable. So, if an application’s user base or usage grows, the application will grow with it. This is unlike traditionally structured applications, where a sudden increase in the user base or usage can overwhelm the server.
- When developers use serverless infrastructure, they don’t need to upload code to servers or do any backend configuration to release a working application. They can quickly upload bits of code and release a new product, or they can upload all the code at once. This capability gives developers the ability to quickly update, batch, fix, and add new features to any application.
- Because code is not hosted on one server like the traditional server architecture, the code can be run from anywhere. So, depending on the vendor, it’s possible to run application functions on servers close to the end-user. This reduces latency, speeds up the application, and improves the user experience.
The Cons of Using Serverless
Now, these benefits sound fantastic. Developers save time, it saves them money, and it’s easy to scale applications or add new features. But here’s the thing, serverless is not perfect, and it has several drawbacks that could count against it when considering it or traditional server-based applications. Let’s look at some of these drawbacks in more detail.
Loss of Control
One of the most significant criticisms against serverless is a loss of control. This is simply because it’s controlled by a third party. Here, the services are managed by third parties, often referred to as a Backend-as-a-Service. When using traditional server-based computing, we control the entire stack. This means we have control of which version of the software goes into each part of the application, and we develop the queues, databases, and authentication systems one at a time. When we move to serverless architecture, we give up this control and hand it to the vendor. Here, few of these vendors resemble one another on an operational level. In other words, there is no standardization of cross-vendor platforms when it comes to the way that functions should be written, deployed, and managed. As a result, migrating functions from one vendor to another is extremely time-consuming and can be complicated.
Another drawback to using serverless architectures and developing serverless applications is that even the simplest applications can have highly complex architecture diagrams. This is simply because the code for functions generally tends to be very simple and only does one thing. As a result, this leads to a lot of parts for every application. Add to this the fact that we often use many managed services for all kinds of tasks like storage, identity management, and queues, and it gets even more complex.
Difficult to Test
As a result of its distributed nature referred to above, serverless applications can be complicated to test. In general, developers prefer to perform local tests simply because that was the way of doing it before serverless computing. However, testing serverless architecture locally is complicated because developers would then need to reproduce cloud services on the local machine. So, in addition to code, developers have to test configurations and integrations to make sure the application runs as it should.
Difficult to Monitor
For the same reason that makes it difficult to test, serverless applications are very difficult to monitor. With traditional applications, developers usually focus on monitoring the execution of code or, in other words, how the application runs. With serverless applications, they now also need to monitor the integrations between the different services to make sure that the application runs smoothly across the entire distributed system.
The Bottom Line
Considering the above, it’s easy to see why many developers want to shift to a serverless architecture. It decreases their time to market and allows them to build flexible applications that can be expanded and updated quickly. It also reduces their costs because they only pay for what services are provisioned. So, for developers that want these features and benefits, it makes sense to use serverless architecture. However, for developers who, for instance, work on large, complex applications with relatively constant and predictable workloads, it may still be cheaper and easier to use a traditional server-based architecture. If you want to know more about serverless architecture or about the services we offer, visit our website or contact us for more information.