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Serverless Computing and Serverless Architecture: An Overview of BaaS, FaaS, and PaaS

By   /  January 17, 2018  /  No Comments

Serverless ComputingThe term Serverless Computing immediately indicates an IT infrastructure where the business owner does not have to invest in a specialized or expensive hardware platform. The essence of Serverless Architecture and Serverless Computing lies in the provisioning of third-party services, which are also referred to as Backend-as-a-Service (BaaS) and a special code made available through Function-as-a-Service (FaaS).

The FaaS code can run in a traditional server environment or on a hosted environment, as part of an integrated application that contains both microservices and serverless code. Another type of Serverless Architecture is found in Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS), where third-party hosts handle everything from allocating server space, controlling computing power, to the deployment of applications.

Far from being just an industry buzz, the phrase Serverless Computing has begun to gain clout as one of the most viable and smooth Cloud service-delivery platforms. The real power of this unique architecture is hidden in the special apps or functions, which can easily replace most backend or microservices without leaving a heavy footprint on the Cloud.

On the Stackify website, the page titled Function as a Service Serverless Architecture brings out an interesting comparison between PaaS and FaaS. The point to note here is that while PaaS enables an application to execute on a server at all times, FaaS calls in a function only when it is needed to run. Thus, FaaS makes it easy to replace microservices or backend services with custom functions.

FaaS Shifts Computing from On-premise to the Cloud

The FaaS computing service enables users to develop, test, and execute applications on the Cloud without having to worry about complex on-premise infrastructure. AWS introduced this concept in AWS Lambda in 2014, which was readily imitated by Google as Google Cloud Functions. Then came the Microsoft Azure Functions, which are now in the public domain.

The article titled Serverless Architecture: Evolution of a New Paradigm discusses the strengths and weaknesses of Serverless Computing and its primary players. The readers of this article are also encouraged to review FaaS, PaaS, and the Benefits of the Serverless Architecture, which points out that Serverless is marked by two essential features:

  1. The application logic is spread across many third-party services
  2. The program flow is controlled by the Client.

So, What is the Serverless Hype All About?

The ultimate goal of Serverless Computing is to move away from the complexities of traditional databases, shift action from on-premise to hosted Cloud, and replace backend and microservices with efficient code snippets known as ‘Functions.” The article A Look at Serverless Architectures  will introduce you to the many benefits of Serverless Computing, with specific illustrations extracted from a Pet-Store application. The article repeatedly reminds the reader that FaaS enables the user to execute back-end processes without investing in an on-premise server.

The final goal of Serverless Computing is to simplify the deployment and distribution of custom functions, which can run on the front end of web applications. Gradually, as real-time computing becomes crucial in Cloud deployments, Serverless will gain more prominence in both scalable web applications and enterprise systems.

How can Enterprises Gain from Serverless Architecture?

The Forbes post How Can Enterprises Leverage Serverless Computing Platforms? suggests that enterprises will greatly benefit by combining the pricing models of FaaS with the computing power of AWS Lambda for increased efficiency in Cloud deployments.

It has long been acknowledged that Cloud is gradually eroding the status of Hadoop as a “relevant” choice for the Cloud. In the near future, Hadoop vendors may begin to experience a sudden drop in revenues as frustrated businesses will shift their data operations to the public Cloud. The problems associated with on-premise Hadoop implementations may be partially alleviated by Serverless Computing solutions, which may also necessitate vendors to find viable alternatives to Hadoop.

The Forrester blog post titled The Cloud Is Disrupting Hadoop seems to indicate that Hadoop vendors should unite and develop market strategies to preserve the importance of Hadoop platforms.

Many industry insiders feel that Serverless is a true “lightweight middleware,” which has a strong possibility of surviving where other competing technologies failed. In Serverless is the New Enterprise Lightweight Middleware, the indication is that Serverless surely has a chance to be a winner as it is strongly backed by industry heavyweights like Amazon, Microsoft, Google, and IBM. In a way, the apparent failure of the traditional middleware to innovate has catapulted the success of Serverless Computing.

The Code Testing Scenario in Serverless Computing

As the computing logic travels across many third-party services and functions in a typical Serverless scenario, very high-level testing will be necessary. The high-level tests will most likely run on the Cloud to test components deployed there. There will be less emphasis on running on-premise tests.

The critical difference in the current application testing scenario and the testing scenario in a Serverless environment is that the testers will need to have “live” connection to conduct the tests. As the “production” and “testing” environments will be highly akin to each other, there is great likelihood that some accidental changes may be made to the production code instead of the testing code. Through technology and tooling improvements and shared knowledge between team members, the development teams will develop a deep understanding of product development in a Serverless Architecture environment.

What’s in Store for Serverless in Future?

To understand how the industry thought leaders perceive The Future of Serverless Compute, just review the market predictions:

  • Early FaaS adopters will develop an edge over their competitors, due to the sheer price, labor, and time advantages associated with FaaS.
  • The Serverless platforms of the future are likely to combine FaaS and PaaS for efficient management of services.
  • Technology deployment frameworks including tools will become more sophisticated and robust.
  • More enhanced Serverless Architectures will emerge with time.
  • Enterprises need to adapt and develop the self-driven developer teams for reaping the maximum benefits of Serverless.
  • With Serverless, less code will be written, resulting in fewer tests.

In Five Serverless Computing Frameworks to Watch Out for, the author points out that Cloud Functions, designed for the public Cloud, will pose a serious business threat to AWS Lambda, the recognized Serverless Computing Architecture till now. On the flip side, the vendor-independent, managed platform from iron.io (IronQueue, IronWorker, and IronCache) will further enhance the marketability of AWS Lambda functions on all types of Cloud platforms.


Is Serverless Really the Future of Computing?

Can you envision an era of computing when your application front-end will have all the programming logic and wisdom of backend processors? The article Serverless – the Future of Software Architecture? predicts that in the near future, the user interface of a system will directly communicate with Cloud-based services and functions to complete critical application processing.

While the Serverless Computing environment grants limitless power to the user-developer, it also has many drawbacks and disadvantages, which could potentially ruin the effectiveness of front-end applications. The weaknesses of Serverless Architecture are many, but so are the advantages.

Photo Credit: Ekaphon maneechot/Shutterstock.com

About the author

Paramita Ghosh has over two and a half decades of business writing experience, much of which has been writing for technology and business domains. She has written extensively for a broad range of industries, including but not limited to data management and data technologies. Paramita has also contributed to blended learning projects. She received her M.A. degree in English Literature in 1984 from Jadavpur University in India, and embarked on her career in the United States in 1989 after completing professional coursework. Having ghostwritten and authored hundreds of articles, blog posts, white papers, case studies, marketing content, and learning modules, Paramita has included authorship of one or two books on the business of business writing as part of her post-retirement projects. She thinks her professional strength is “lifelong learning.”

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