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Serverless Architecture: Revolutionizing Business Operations for the Digital Age

Serverless architecture allows you to outsource server management. With a third‑party provider, you can enjoy increased efficiency while reducing costs.

Developing software or an app is a complicated, time-consuming, and costly process. But what if we told you that you could develop an app without worrying about managing servers and physical machines?

Without servers, developers can free up their time to dedicate more to writing code. This allows you to deploy your app faster and more cost-effectively. Serverless architecture eliminates the time-consuming process of ongoing server management from app development, reducing the complexities needed to develop software.

With serverless apps, developers can focus on implementing their code and software while a third-party service provider handles the server. Instead of spending hours upon hours managing the server, developers only need to concentrate on building the app.

In this article, we'll define serverless architecture to help you understand what it is and how it might benefit your business.

Serverless architecture, also known as cloud serverless architecture or serverless computing, is a new cloud-computing approach to app and website development that eliminates the need for devs to manage servers while building an application.

In a serverless computing model, a cloud service provider manages, scales, and maintains the server without any help from the developer. A common example is Amazon's AWS serverless architecture service, AWS Lambda, a FaaS platform that provides scalability while simplifying development.

Under a serverless framework, developers write and deploy code. Businesses hire cloud providers to run the servers, databases, and storage systems, making it a more flexible and efficient way for businesses to use cloud computing resources while reducing overhead and delivering cost-effective software.

Real-world examples of serverless architecture

While serverless architecture is relatively new, many companies have started using it to develop serverless apps. A few well-known serverless applications include the following:

  • Netflix: Netflix is completely serverless, meaning it hires a third-party cloud provider to manage its servers and infrastructure. Instead of focusing on servers and code execution, developers focus on writing code to make adjustments and provide a better experience for end users.
  • Slack: Slack bots are supported by serverless architectures, allowing them to handle a variety of tasks at increased capacities.
  • Uber: The popular ride-sharing platform uses serverless architecture as part of its pricing algorithm to adjust fares based on demand at scale.

How does serverless architecture work?

Serverless architecture isn't really serverless. Instead, it's only serverless to the business and dev. Your serverless application will still operate on a server, but the server won't be your responsibility. Instead, you'll build and run applications without managing the server, letting a third party take care of that part of the process on your behalf.

These third parties can be function-as-a-service (FaaS) or platform-as-a-service (PaaS) providers. The difference between these two options is that a PaaS provider offers a more comprehensive environment while a FaaS platform focuses on individual functions.

With serverless computing, function code is executed based on events or triggers. When an event is triggered, the cloud provider manages the request by scaling up the resources and executing the functions on the server.

Event triggers can be user actions, system events, or messages from other services. For instance, when you request a ride on Uber's app, the serverless application determines your fare costs. In this case, the event trigger is your ride request.

When the event is triggered, the serverless platform executes the code and delivers the requested result. In our Uber example, the result would be the user seeing their fare.

Serverless architectures can significantly reduce resource allocation costs and consumption associated with developing and deploying apps. Most serverless cloud providers use a pay-as-you-go plan based on resource usage. Therefore, you'll only get charged for the resources being used.

What should serverless architecture be used for?

Serverless architectures can be used for any app, but it's best suited for those with event-based triggers and third-party app integrations. Apps with event-based triggers allow developers to write serverless functions that respond in real-time.

At the same time, third-party integrations with other services and APIs can be developed faster and more seamlessly. Serverless architecture is also a good option for any business that doesn't want to manage its servers in-house.

Examples of when serverless architecture can be used include the following:

  • Email automation: Serverless architectures can automate various tasks involved with email marketing, such as sending emails based on users' actions on your site, updating mailing lists, and adding personalization. Email automation triggers communication with the server to perform the desired action in the same way it would if you were using a traditional model.
  • API gateways: APIs can be used within a serverless architecture to facilitate communication between two applications. For instance, they allow serverless functions to interact with databases and payment gateways. When customers go to check out on your website, they enter their information into a payment gateway, which may function within a serverless architecture.
  • Workflow automation: With its event-driven nature, serverless architectures can be used for workflow automation by setting event triggers based on actions, events, or conditions. Then, once an action is taken, the serverless architecture performs specific tasks. Under this model, serverless functions can execute individual tasks or define a sequence of events, dependencies, and conditions for each step of the workflow.
  • Two-factor authentication: Many apps employ two-factor authentication (2FA) to add an extra level of protection to user accounts. Serverless architectures can be used to implement the functionality of these systems, triggering an event like a text message or email when the user attempts to log in.

What are the benefits of serverless architecture?

Cloud serverless architecture offers a wide range of benefits to businesses and their developers. By removing the server from the process, developers can focus on what they enjoy most — writing code and developing the best serverless apps for their business.

The benefits of a serverless architecture include:

Reduced costs

Serverless architectures allow you to optimize your server space more effectively, saving money in return. Since developers aren't managing physical servers or server hardware, you don't need the physical hardware required for traditional architecture.

In addition, since devs won't be required to manage the server themselves, they'll be able to focus most of their time on developing serverless apps rather than monitoring the server.

Serverless architecture cloud providers offer affordable pay-as-you-go pricing plans, so you'll only pay for the server resources actually used by your app, eliminating the space required for idle servers and the costs of unused infrastructure.

It also comes with zero server management costs because there's no overhead other than what you pay the cloud provider. Cloud service providers will handle your infrastructure for you, eliminating the need for additional IT resources just to maintain your app.

Serverless architecture is inherently scalable because the cloud services provider manages the server for you and is prepared to scale up depending on your needs. Resources are allocated based on demand, so when a serverless function is triggered, the platform automatically increases resources to accommodate the work.

Faster updates

Since serverless architecture allows your devs to focus on building high-quality apps rather than spending lots of time managing the server, you can deploy updates faster than with a traditional architecture model.

Businesses using serverless architecture don't have to manage the underlying service, so they're not responsible for scaling or allocating additional resources, allowing them to write code and implement updates without additional tasks.

Then, when updates are deployed, the cloud service can scale the resources required to handle an increase in traffic.

More time for innovation

Removing the burden of server management through serverless architecture empowers businesses to redirect their focus toward innovation. Organizations can allocate more resources to areas that drive innovation, such as improving user experience (UX) or developing new offerings.

With serverless architecture, developers can concentrate on writing code and implementing new features instead of spending time and effort on server provisioning or maintenance, allowing you to innovate rapidly, experiment easily, and deliver better user experiences.

Are there any disadvantages of serverless architecture?

Serverless architecture can help companies scale faster and deliver better apps to their loyal customers. However, there are potential drawbacks. Understanding the potential disadvantages of serverless architecture can help you determine whether you should use it when deploying your next app.

Reliance on a third-party

Relying on a cloud vendor leaves you with limited control over the server configuration and maintenance, which can potentially introduce risks, including service disruptions and performance issues. In addition, features are often provider-specific, making it difficult to migrate in the future.

Testing difficulties

In a serverless environment, business logic -- the communication between databases and end users---is divided into independent functions. This type of business logic can make testing apps more challenging.

Testing code using serverless architecture requires you to test each individual function and validate its integration and interaction with other serverless functions. In addition, creating a local replica of the server for testing is challenging since serverless platforms have unique features, configurations, and dependencies.

Cloud providers may use the same server for multiple clients. Shared infrastructure can increase the potential for leaks or unauthorized access if the server isn't configured correctly. In addition, this environment creates the possibility of code or data impacting the privacy or security of another app.

Not ideal for long-running processes

A serverless environment is not suited for long-running processes because they may surpass time limits resulting in timeouts and data loss. Serverless functions must respond to an event within a given timeframe before termination. Instead, this model is best suited for event-driven, short-running processes with quick execution.

Leverage serverless architecture for your business

Serverless applications are the future of software development. Serverless computing offers numerous advantages for businesses creating apps. By eliminating the burden of server management, developers can create innovative products with a better user experience. Serverless apps are cost-effective and scalable, making app and software development more accessible to small businesses.

Experiment with serverless architecture using Mailchimp developer tools. Our suite of marketing tools enables you to use event-based triggers to perform critical functions like updating email lists, sending drip campaigns, and developing workflows. Try Mailchimp today.

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