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Grow Your Business Technology

What You Should Know About Serverless Computing

computing
Credit: ruivalesousa/Shutterstock

Serverless computing, a highly scalable cloud-based computing model, sounds like an oxymoron. Businesses small and large have come to terms with the benefits and near-necessity of moving storage infrastructure to the cloud. The most popular model – offered by major companies such as Amazon, Microsoft and Google – is to rent out server space in exchange for cheaper costs and artificial intelligence insights.

But serverless computing is catching on, because it has the potential for additional cost savings to the customer and more flexibility for the business. The bill is based on resources used, with the allocation of such machine resources optimized by the cloud provider. Despite the name, servers are very much in use. It's just that what you're paying for and the potential benefits are quite different.

The best-known example of this is Amazon Web Services Lambda. The major claim is "you pay only for the compute time you consume." Your code can also trigger any other AWS services. This deep connection to other tools in the AWS kit is a feature that's replicated by other providers offering their own serverless solutions.

Google is also getting into the game with Cloud Functions. The service is currently in beta, though it also promises that developers can get on-demand service without the need to manage their own servers.

According to Google's documentation, "Developer agility comes from building systems composed of small, independent units of functionality focused on doing one thing well. Cloud Functions lets you build and deploy services at the level of a single function, not at the level of entire applications, containers, or VMs."

The Google initiative may be an intriguing option for its connection to Firebase. The popular mobile developer platform can tie in to Cloud Functions and Firebase Analytics, a real-time database, storage and authentication service.

Microsoft Azure has its own serverless offering. Azure Functions also has a serverless architecture and connects to company tools such as Visual Studio and OneDrive.

Serverless is a good option for an organization that has considerable computing and resource needs that may ebb and flow over time. It gives the organization the ability to assemble an application from various functions and microservices.

Of course, if you're only barely in the cloud or still thinking about how to get there, serverless may not yet be the right fit. A serverless setup comes with a caveat – you're bound to be locked into a particular vendor, given the deep integration that the cloud service will have with other applications and APIs available to you. Such intertwining is an essential part of making the entire operation smooth, but it's a factor to consider.

The bottom line is that serverless computing brings a lot of opportunity. Developers won't have to worry about managing servers or spend as much time writing code and managing libraries. In time, it's likely to be an enticing move for organizations that see it as the right fit. Given the fierce competition in this space, companies will entice more to make the leap to the world of serverless computing.

Derek Walter

Derek Walter is a freelance writer in northern California. He is the founder of Walter Media and author of Learning MIT App Inventor. Follow him on TwitterFacebookLinkedIn or Google+.