Besides eliminating infrastructural cost savings, serverless architectures simplify IT management, improve efficiency and minimize unnecessary charges — if they suit operational requirements

According to a report by Gartner, serverless computing is redefining the way businesses build, consume and integrate cloud-native applications, eliminating the need for infrastructure provisioning and management.

Meanwhile, analysts from Mckinsey point to a trifecta of technologies — software-as-a-service, serverless architecture and open-source code — as formidable in helping businesses to launch new ideas quickly, securely and at a lower cost.

Each of these technologies offers significant benefits, but when all three are combined, businesses can drastically simplify and accelerate the development process and scaling new business. 

A primer on serverless architecture

Serverless architecture is a cloud computing model where a service provider takes responsibility for managing the infrastructure and servers, allowing developers to focus solely on writing code. In this scenario, developers do not need to worry about managing the underlying infrastructure, including servers, operating systems, or network configurations. Instead, they can deploy their code on the provider’s platform and let the provider handle the scaling, security, and availability of the service.

One of the main benefits of serverless architecture is cost savings, as users only pay for the actual time their code runs, rather than maintaining a server that may be underutilized. Additionally, the scalability of serverless computing is automatic, meaning that the provider can handle sudden increases in traffic or workload without any action required from the developer.

Rahul Pradhan, Vice President, Product and Strategy, Couchbase

Today, many businesses are adopting serverless architectures that act as an instance or node, that grow as needed as the data scales. The rethinking of infrastructure consumption has resulted in the industry gravitating towards this dominant design due to its scalability. Serverless computing consists of two main components:

    1. computing abstraction known as Function-as-a-Service (FaaS)
    2. the backend infrastructure abstraction of Database or Backend-as-a-Service (DBaaS/BaaS).

The key enabler of this serverless architecture is the serverless computing layer. It receives communication from the gateway and executes specific business logic according to the abstractions provided by the cloud provider. Today, popular FaaS such as AWS Lambda, Google Cloud Functions and Microsoft Azure Functions have evolved as the main computing platforms. The availability and horizontal scalability of distributed database architectures like NoSQL has enabled greater flexibility and agility for the business without imposing hidden and additional operational costs.  

With the adoption of serverless databases, a new serverless data management system has arisen:

    • Firstly, common Create, Read, Update, and Delete (CRUD) operations using HTTPS-based APIs (Data APIs) can be performed without concerns about servers and customer development kits.
    • Secondly, users no longer need to manage connections to databases. Instead, Data APIs are utilized for access. This has opened the possibility of utilizing even HTTPS connections, which are lightweight and are not limited like database connections.

Next, serverless databases eliminate infrastructure provisioning and management, without the need for capacity planning. This frees up users from tedious hardware selection processes or time-consuming planning for cluster capacity throughout the application cycle. Instead, serverless databases have enabled the business to scale for computing or storage according to need without limits.

Finally, the benefits of serverless infrastructures are summarized here:

    • Serverless architectures scale out and scale in automatically without having to spin up more or higher-powered instances, and with no downtime. An important characteristic of serverless architecture with its scaling dimensions is also the ability to scale to zero to eliminate costs when idle or not in use. Customers pay for only the burst capacity across the infrastructure for the scaling spike or lull.
    • Unlike non-serverless environments where functions are limited by the infrastructure and not necessarily application needs (when an app needs 5% more resources in the short term, users are charged for the next higher instance such as 30%, resulting in unnecessary costs), serverless infrastructure costs move in lockstep with usage. Since costs scale very closely with usage, users only pay for what they use and are not charged for idle infrastructure.

What about containerization?

Fearing cloud lock-in, many businesses have turned to containerization, believing it helps them during migration. However, containers have their own hidden costs and often require technical skills. 

While serverless technology is a boon to many industries, it should not be taken as a silver bullet because any form of technology will come with its own sets of limitations. However, it is imperative to understand this technology, use cases and benefits in comparison with alternatives such as containerization.

Businesses with on-premises data centers and applications will not be suitable candidates for a serverless cloud infrastructure. Furthermore, if critical applications have requirements that serverless technology cannot meet (such as granular control, infrastructure provisioning, security or customizations), serverless technology may not be the right fit.