October 1, 2018 | Last updated on July 17, 2024

How Serverless Apps Are Transforming The Cloud

Written by Mark Coulstring

If you are committed to maximizing the cloud resources available to you, “serverless” applications may be the ideal solution. Serverless apps enable you to pay only for execution time instead of paying for servers even when they’re idle. Therefore, you may enjoy significant cost savings by migrating from traditional cloud apps to serverless options.

Operating systems, components, and frameworks require maintenance and updates. If your app runs on a server, the cost and risk of managing these underlying systems falls on you. Often this cost is substantial, requiring teams of IT professionals to keep the servers up and running.

line of servers

With serverless apps, all of the maintenance and upgrades are managed by the cloud provider, allowing you to focus on your business and not the IT infrastructure.

Additionally, serverless apps provide unprecedented agility. They scale up automatically when usage is high, and back down when usage is low. If your application experiences load that is difficult to predict, or can be hit with sudden bursts of use, serverless may improve your apps performance while simultaneously reducing cost.

With serverless apps you not only are freed from maintaining your server, you never need to worry if there will be a server to run your code. The cloud providers have thousands of computers, and if one crashes then it will be replaced instantaneously. Your data is always copied to multiple locations, often to different data centers. Effortless high-availability and fault-tolerance might be the best reasons to architect your app on serverless technology.

Serverless apps tend to be more modular and de-coupled than traditional apps. This architecture allows you to modify and test the pieces independently, and can help you deploy new features or fixes to old ones much more quickly.

computer screen with code on it

How Do Serverless Apps Work?

Serverless apps work by composing hosted services, usually a combination of Platform as a Service (PaaS), Software as a Service (SaaS), and Function as a Service (FaaS). What makes serverless unique lies mostly in the use of FaaS to host the business logic in small, independent pieces rather than as part of a larger monolith. This architecture allows the developer to focus solely on the logic rather than on hosting details like virtual machines or operating systems.

AWS Lambda Drives Serverless App Deployment

AWS Lambda is an Amazon serverless computing platform that was introduced in November 2014 and was one of the earliest FaaS offerings. Lambda allows users to write functions in virtually any language that can be invoked from virtually any other AWS service. A common example is an imaging processing function could be invoked when an image file is saved in an S3 bucket. A serverless web application could be composed of Lambda functions providing the logic behind an API Gateway interface with storage provided by a PaaS offering like Dynamo. These services allow you to pay just for what you use which can save hosting charges for small or inconsistent workloads. Best of all there are free tiers for most services allowing you to work through development very inexpensively.

open journal with hands drawing a money sign

Potential Drawbacks of Serverless Apps

In cases where legacy applications or functions require sustained computing power or high read and write volumes, companies may actually wind up paying more for serverless apps than other options. Additionally, hosted functions suffer from a cold-start penalty and can be very slow the first time they are called in a while. This presents a dilemma: you only pay for what you use, but if you don’t use your function often you will pay with a dramatic performance penalty.

Vendor lock-in is another potential drawback to serverless apps. After a company builds its application stack on a CSP’s serverless infrastructure, it may need to perform extensive reengineering if it wants to transition to another vendor at a later date. Plus, there is a risk that a vendor will change its pricing or service terms or stop offering serverless options.

The Bottom Line on Serverless Apps

Serverless apps offer faster deployment, improved scalability, and lower initial infrastructure costs relative to traditional options. As more companies search for innovative ways to maximize their cloud investments, the push for serverless apps may increase in the years to come.

When it comes to weighing the pros and cons of serverless apps, it is important to work with an expert software development firm. Employing a software development firm that offers advanced web and mobile app development services, ensures a company – regardless of its size or industry – can get the help it needs to deploy apps that match or exceed end users’ expectations.

Mark Coulstring
Written by
Mark Coulstring
VP, User Experience, Seamgen
Product Design & Strategy Leader, Worked with CVS, Aetna, Oakley, KIA, Intuit, ViaSat, AARP, Experian, and many more.
Top Application Development Company San Diego and web design company in San Diego

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