1st September 2020
Forward-thinking business leaders are turning to serverless systems to maximise their use of the cloud.
Companies looking to expand their business offerings, services or capabilities invariably come up against the question of how to ensure delivery and maintenance from a technology perspective. The ongoing move from on-premise hardware to cloud computing has tested many business leaders’ understanding of digital workflows and service delivery — making the concept of serverless computing seem almost like a bridge too far for many executives.
Upon closer examination, however, not only does the idea of serverless start to make sense, but the business benefits of serverless architecture become clear. This helps explain why more organisations are considering and adopting serverless structures as they head into one of the most uncertain decades in history.
What is serverless computing?
The term serverless can be confusing, especially for business and IT leaders who have spent decades managing server use and capacity because all data systems need servers to operate. To be clear, serverless computing doesn’t mean servers aren’t involved — it just eliminates the need for businesses to own, lease or manage their own servers.
Serverless is often called Functions as a Service (FaaS), particularly by Amazon Web Services (AWS) who first introduced it. This ‘as a service’ view also incorporates Backend as a Service (BaaS), both referring to the use of cloud computing in business. In fact, many benefits of serverless apply to any technology where the servers are transparent to users, such as with managed container services, like Kubernetes as a service.
The concept of serverless evolved from the original cloud business model where virtual machines or bare metal containers are leased from a provider. However, that original model requires companies to lease a pre-decided amount over a set period of time, whether it is fully used or not.
With the serverless computing model, organisations pay for the amount of time and memory an application’s code takes to perform the tasks it needs to. Amazon calls this measurement gigabyte-seconds.
Why consider going serverless
Think for a moment of all the time, effort and cost involved in managing and maintaining servers. Now, think of the complexities involved in adding to or adjusting server space as services scale and needs grow. These thoughts likely raise ideas of complicated budget and project planning that most companies would prefer to avoid.
Unfortunately for most organisations, avoidance is not an option, and the resources needed to scale capacity are often slow to come. In fact, a recent Forbes article called legacy databases “a bottleneck to digital transformation”, citing a report that found 80% of IT architects have had to scale back ambitions for mobile applications and services because of the challenges in using data.
Serverless aims to solve these kinds of business challenges by transforming the way IT organisations operate. Rather than buying cloud space or on-premise hardware according to projected usage needs, developers using serverless can access server memory as they need it on a pay-as-you-go basis.
This approach of using what you need when you need it allows developers to design and build serverless applications with increased agility and at a lower cost. From an operational perspective, a move to serverless eliminates IT infrastructure tasks like server provisioning, patching, operating system maintenance and more. This means technical teams can focus on building or improving products instead of worrying about managing and operating servers.
Of course, there are some cases where it may be better to stick with self-managed servers or capacity offered as a regular service, for example, when using large applications which have constant and predictable workloads. In most other cases, however, employing a serverless architecture can make a lot of sense from both a technical and business point of view.
Key business benefits of serverless
When organisations come around to the idea of going serverless, they uncover a range of advantages, affecting everything from product development and testing to the bottom line. A few of the main benefits of serverless include:
In order to disrupt or compete in today’s world, businesses need to be able to move fast. Adopting a serverless architecture removes a lot of complexity and delay, and helps teams deploy products quickly.
The serverless model also boosts a company’s ability to quickly scale services. Because they’re not limited by server capacity, they can scale services up or down depending on business needs or ambitions.
Better user experience
A serverless architecture helps reduce the latency time that can occur between servers interacting with each other, thereby delivering a faster, more frictionless experience. Speed of service delivery is a key factor in both user satisfaction and loyalty.
Going serverless can dramatically reduce infrastructure and operational costs as companies don’t have to house bulky servers or pay for idle resources. Moreover, teams can quickly adjust spending according to service needs.
The pay-as-you-go model of serverless can help organisations monitor usage and match business requirements to the capacities available. having greater transparency of costs and needs – and how they fluctuate – can improve the accuracy of budgets and resource allocation.
Securing the ability to scale
Most importantly, a serverless infrastructure gives business the agility to move quickly in what is a highly disruptive time for all industries. With user expectations on the rise, the ability to innovate has never been more crucial. Making the switch to a serverless architecture enables companies to better keep pace with customers, without being hamstrung by the limitations of more traditional architectures. ￼
From a developer’s point of view, the benefits of serverless can be summarised as more efficiency with less administration. Without needing to maintain and run servers, software engineers can focus on building applications faster and without concerns about limited capacity.
When business leaders start to stack up the various benefits of serverless, they find a solid case for making the switch. While it’s understandable that many C-suites will remain wary or even confused by the new technology, it’s equally likely that more and more businesses will turn to serverless as a key evolution of cloud computing — and reap the benefits.