Serverless Applications on Cloud: The Hype Vs Reality

The massive adoption of cloud technology in this digital economic era has paved the way for organizations to migrate from a CAPEX to an OPEX model with respect to their IT spend. And now, organizations are seeking to bring in optimizations in their use of cloud resources. The advent of “Serverless” architectures have enabled CIOs to achieve optimizations in compute consumption on cloud. Nowadays, Serverless architectures are gaining acceptance among CIOs and architects as it serves as a means to not only optimize compute consumption on cloud but also as a preferred method to migrate applications to cloud.   

Interestingly, ‘Serverless’ - an out-of-the-box terminology does not extract a ‘No Server’ interpretation.  The cloud provider shoulders the responsibility of server management enabling an ephemeral compute service; that executes a piece of code on-demand triggered by requests and events. The consumer is charged only for the duration of execution of the code.

In application architecture parlance, the term “Serverless” is often used interchangeably with “Function - as-a-Service” or FaaS. FaaS, has brought in a radical change in our understanding on application architecture and the methodologies adopted in designing the integration of various application components. The key is to visualize systems as a succession of ‘events’ that forms the basis for a response or an entirely new set of events. For instance, when a user clicks on a web-page or while a database undergoes an updation process, it could trigger a set of functions based on these events.  Furthermore, systems can be considered as ‘State machines’ wherein state changes trigger events which in turn trigger functions.

‘The Three Giants’ amongst the existing cloud vendors—Amazon, Google, and Microsoft—have made heavy investments in Serverless or FaaS. While Amazon’s service is called AWS Lambda (launched in 2014), the services of Microsoft and Google are called Azure Functions (launched in 2015) and Google Functions (launched in 2016 – alpha release) respectively. Similarly, IBM has released its Serverless service called OpenWhisk. The CIO Magazine published by IDG lists “Serverless” as one of the key enterprise cloud strategy trends for 2019.

This whitepaper outlines meaningful insights on the traits encompassing Serverless, that throws light on design approaches to Serverless applications and cites the imperative security concerns involving Serverless applications.

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