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.