6 Serverless Computing Benefits And Drawbacks To Help Decide If It’s Right For You

Jerry Wallis
13 min read
Motherboard with serverless computing

Are you tired of dealing with the hassle of managing the maintenance of your servers and infrastructure for your applications? Have you considered the potential benefits of using serverless computing? Are you a business owner looking to modernise your IT systems? 

Serverless computing is an increasingly popular option, but how do you determine if it’s the right choice for your company? Choosing a serverless platform can be confusing and tricky since there are so many options available. 

Serverless computing is an exciting and innovative cloud computing execution model that allows you to run your code in response to incoming requests without the need to worry about the underlying infrastructure. It’s called “serverless” because you don’t have to worry about servers – you simply pay for the computing time you use.

In this blog post, we’ll go through the basics of serverless computing―what it is, how it works and what it can do for your business. Then, our comprehensive overview of this innovative technology will help you decide if a serverless approach will best suit your business needs.

We’ll also dive deep into 6 serverless computing benefits and drawbacks to help you understand and decide on upgrading your IT operations. We’ll cover everything from cost savings and scalability to vendor lock-in and cold start issues. So sit back, relax, and let’s explore the world of serverless computing.

What Is Serverless Computing? 👨‍💻

Serverless computing is a cloud computing model in which the cloud provider dynamically allocates resources to execute and scale applications based on the incoming requests for those applications. In a serverless model, the provider manages the infrastructure and automatically allocates resources as needed, without the need for the user to provision or manage any servers.

Video Courtesy: IBM | YouTube Channel

One of the main benefits of serverless computing is that it allows users to pay only for the resources they consume rather than paying a fixed fee for dedicated servers or infrastructure. This means that users only pay for the specific functions or tasks that are executed rather than having to pay for idle capacity or unused resources. It can lead to significant cost savings, especially for applications that experience fluctuating or unpredictable levels of usage.

Serverless computing also offers a high degree of flexibility and scalability. Because the cloud provider manages the infrastructure, it can automatically scale up or down to meet the application’s demands. This means that applications can handle sudden spikes in traffic or usage without requiring manual intervention or additional resources.

Serverless computing is typically implemented using a “serverless platform,” which allows users to build, deploy, and run applications without the need to manage any servers. In addition, these platforms often provide a range of tools and services, such as functions-as-a-service (FaaS), which allow users to execute code in response to specific events or triggers. Common examples of serverless platforms include AWS Lambda, Google Cloud Functions, and Azure Functions.

Overall, serverless computing is a powerful and cost-effective way to build and deploy cloud-based applications, offering high flexibility, scalability, and cost efficiency. As a result, it is an increasingly popular model for many applications, including web and mobile applications, data processing and analysis, and Internet of Things (IoT) applications.

How Does Serverless Computing Work? 🤷

Serverless computing is one of the many ways code is executed in the cloud without worrying about the underlying infrastructure. It allows developers to write and deploy their applications without having to think about the servers that will run their code.

Woman coder working with a serverless computing model

Despite the name suggesting otherwise, serverless computing does incorporate servers; it’s just that the servers utilised are managed and maintained by a third-party cloud service provider.

Here’s how it works:

  • A developer writes code and deploys it to a cloud provider – such as AWS, Google Cloud, or Azure.
  • The cloud provider packages the code and deploys it to a fleet of servers.
  • When a request is made to execute the code, the cloud provider spins up a new container to run the code in and then destroys the container when the code has finished executing.
  • The developer pays only for the time their code is executing rather than paying for a dedicated server.

Developers get to focus on writing code and building applications without worrying about managing infrastructure. It also makes it easier to scale applications, as the cloud provider can automatically spin up new containers to handle increased traffic.

Serverless Computing Benefits 🏆

Serverless offers various benefits, from reduced ongoing costs to enhanced scalability. The most significant advantages of going serverless are as follows.

💸 Cost Savings 

Most serverless architecture systems provide backend services as needed and are charged on an event-based model. This means you only pay for the time that your code is executing. Therefore, you can save money compared to traditional hosting models, where you’ll have to pay for a dedicated server even when idle.

🤸‍♂️ Flexibility & Scalability

With serverless computing, you can quickly scale your application up or down to meet changing demands without worrying about managing servers. For example, imagine if the size of your local bus changed according to the number of passengers. That’d be neat, right? Well, that’s what you’d be getting with a serverless system.

You see, scalability is built into this infrastructure, as it will scale up as the user base increases. When the demand for functions increases, the vendor’s servers will adjust accordingly and start and run said functions as necessary. As such, a serverless application can handle an irregularly high number of user requests. It’s something that a traditional application built on an origin server couldn’t, as it’d be limited by its server’s storage and performance capability. 

💁 Simplicity

It is easier to build and deploy applications using serverless computing, as you do not have to worry about setting up and maintaining infrastructure. You will spend less on DevOps and give developers the freedom to spark their creativity and build applications without considering server limitations.

🦾 Improved Reliability 

Cloud providers that offer serverless computing have multiple layers of redundancy built in, which can help improve the reliability of your application. Furthermore, as the application is not hosted in an origin server, the code can be run from basically anywhere, meaning that it is possible to run the application functions closer to the location of the end user improving performance and reducing latency drastically compared to an application built in a standard server environment.

⚙️ Better Resource Utilisation

In a serverless environment, resources are only used when they are needed to execute code. This allows developers to achieve better resource utilisation and reduce waste.

Swifter Time To Market

Since it’s easier to build and deploy applications using serverless computing, you can get your product to market faster. For example, when releasing a working version of a software product, you won’t have to upload any source code or make server-side backend functional configuration changes. Instead, developers can just upload a few bits of code and run the program because, unlike traditional monolithic applications, serverside applications rely on functions or a series of functions sanctioned by the vendor’s infrastructure during run-time. 

This also means updating, and patching applications become much faster since developers can update one function at a time and still have a fully operational application instead of updating the entire application.

Disadvantages Of Serverless Computing 🛑

Office team discussing over serverless computing drawbacks

❄️ Cold Start Issues

When an application that hasn’t been used in a while is re-activated, it can experience a “cold start,” which delays the necessary resources. This can lead to slower performance in some instances.

🚫 Limited Control

As the vendor essentially manages the servers, you don’t have direct control over the underlying infrastructure, which means you may have less control over certain aspects of your application.

🧩 Increased Complexity 

While serverless computing can simplify building and deploying applications, it can also add complexity in some instances. For example, debugging can be more difficult, as you need access to the underlying servers.

Furthermore, companies that rely on serverless providers must consider multitenancy – having several customers share a single server. This could lead to low performance and security risks if not managed properly, making data exposure possible. But with the exemplary configuration and powerful enough infrastructure, multitenancy can be acceptable for networks utilising this process.

🤐 Limited Language Support 

Some cloud providers may have limited support for specific programming languages and runtime environments.

🤼 Compatibility Issues

In some cases, existing applications may not be easily migrated to a serverless architecture. 

Furthermore, serverless will not be the right solution if your application has long-running processes. This is because serverless solutions charge on the amount of time code is being run, which makes running applications with lengthy processes more costly with a serverless model.

🚧 Challenging Quality Control 

The nature of serverless computing and developers’ often lack of backend visibility can mean that testing and debugging code can be complex in these cloud environments.

Overall, it is essential to carefully consider the trade-offs of using serverless computing and determine if it’s the right fit for your specific use case.

Is Serverless Computing Right For Your Business? 🤔

Ultimately, the decision to go serverless rests on the specific needs of your business. Serverless computing can be a good fit for companies with variable or unpredictable workloads, as it allows for easier scaling and can help reduce costs. It’s also suitable for companies looking to build lightweight and flexible applications fast, with a view of regular improvements and patching. Lastly, going serverless makes sense for applications that want to run their functions close to the user’s end to reduce latency and boost performance.

However, there are better options than serverless computing for businesses with large applications with predictable workloads or requiring a high degree of control over the underlying infrastructure. It may also not be suitable for companies with existing applications that cannot be effortlessly migrated to a serverless architecture.

For example, building hybrid applications using a serverless backend system has helped companies achieve multiple benefits, such as automatic scalability, lowered overhead costs, faster updates, lower ongoing costs, and reduced latency. 

With a serverless web application, your vendor takes the tedious task of backend management, which is split into “functions” — small pieces that run in response to user triggers like clicking buttons or swiping the screen! When a user initiates a command, a series of functions light up on the serverless backend to record the command and activate it.

In conclusion, it’s crucial for businesses to carefully evaluate their specific needs and determine if serverless computing is the right fit for their unique requirements.

Comparing Serverless Computing With Other Cloud-Based Models ⚖️

Several other cloud-based backend models are commonly used in addition to serverless computing. Here are a few of them compared with serverless computing.

Software developers engaged in using a serverless computing model

🖥️ Virtual Machines

With a virtual machine (VM), you can rent a pre-configured server from a cloud provider, which you can then use to host your application. VMs offer more control over the underlying infrastructure but require more management and can be more expensive.

📦 Containers

Containers allow you to package your application and its dependencies into a single unit, which can then be easily deployed and run on any server. Containers offer more flexibility than VMs, but still, require some level of infrastructure management.

🚉 Platform As A Service (PaaS)

Platform as a Service (PaaS) is a cloud-based service that provides developers with a pre-configured platform for building and deploying applications. The platform typically includes operating systems, databases, storage, and other necessary components.

PaaS is an excellent approach to simplifying the building and deploying process of applications, as developers do not have to worry about setting up and maintaining the underlying infrastructure. It can also make it easier to scale applications, as the PaaS provider typically handles the necessary resource allocation.

However, PaaS can limit a developer’s control over the infrastructure and may only be the best fit for some use cases. 

🔙 Backend As A Service (BaaS)

Backend as a Service (BaaS) is a cloud-based service that provides developers with a pre-built backend infrastructure for their applications. This includes databases, storage, user management, and other standard backend components.

Using BaaS can streamline software development, as developers do not have to worry about setting up and maintaining the backend infrastructure. It can also help reduce costs, as developers only pay for the resources they use.

🏗️ Infrastructure As A Service (IaaS)

Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) is a type of cloud computing that provides users with access to infrastructure resources such as virtual machines, storage, and networking. With IaaS, users can rent these resources on a pay-as-you-go basis rather than purchasing and maintaining their hardware in-house.

IaaS allows businesses to scale their infrastructure up or down as needed and can be a good fit for those that need a high degree of control over their infrastructure. However, it also requires more management than other cloud models, as users are responsible for installing and maintaining the operating systems and applications that run on the rented infrastructure.

Overall, IaaS can be a good fit for businesses that need a high degree of control over their infrastructure and are willing to manage it themselves. However, there may be better fits for companies that want a more hands-off approach to infrastructure management.

📊 How Is Serverless Computing Different From Other Cloud-Based Services?

Serverless computing differs from these other models because it does not require you to worry about the underlying infrastructure. It allows you to write and deploy your code without thinking about servers, and you only pay for the time your code is executing. 

This can make building and deploying applications more accessible and can also help reduce costs. However, it can limit your control over the infrastructure and may only be ideal for specific use cases.

Is Serverless The Answer? 🧐

Serverless computing offers several benefits, including cost savings, flexibility, simplicity, and improved reliability. But it’s equally important to consider the potential drawbacks, including cold start issues, limited control, increased complexity, limited language support, and compatibility issues.

In summary, whether or not serverless computing is the right fit for your business depends on your specific needs and use case. For example, it can be a good fit for companies with variable or unpredictable workloads or those who want to focus on building and launching applications rather than managing infrastructure. 

However, there may be better fits for businesses with more predictable workloads or requiring a high degree of control over the underlying infrastructure. Therefore, you’re recommended to carefully evaluate the trade-offs of using serverless computing and determine if it’s truly the right fit for your business.

Serverless computing has a lot of potential benefits, but it’s only suitable for some organisations. Thus, It’s important to understand your situation before making the switch. If you need expert assistance in deciding if serverless is the best option for you, reach out to us, and let’s have a discovery chat. We’ll discuss your specific needs and business requirements to help you make the best decision for your business.

Published On

January 01, 2023