To the less tech-savvy among us, serverless computing probably isn’t exactly what it sounds like. So then, what is it, exactly? Well, it’s a type of cloud computing where cloud providers manage the execution of code for software developers, a marked change from how applications were once traditionally built and deployed.
This doesn’t mean much to the everyday Joe who isn’t creating code or developing apps, but for developers and business owners, serverless computing can make composing code easier, more efficient, and cost-effective, potentially speeding up application deployment in the long run.
Are there really no servers at all?
The term “serverless computing” is somewhat misleading. There is, in fact, a physical server out there somewhere hosting cloud servers (after all, technology hasn’t evolved that much yet!), but the “serverless” aspect refers to the fact that developers need not have anything to do with the server itself. That cloud provider takes care of everything, from hardware maintenance to managing the back end, so that the developer can focus on creating code.
To put it in context, when it comes to the traditional development model, a server is something that would need to be considered and maintained, whether you owned it directly or were renting it from another company. You would need to think about hardware upkeep, how many servers you required, and how powerful they needed to be. Cloud computing streamlines this somewhat as you’re freed from thinking about the hardware element. However, software considerations such as the operating system and keeping everything up-to-date are still your responsibility.
Serverless computing streamlines everything further. Instead of paying the server provider by the month or by the hour, typically, you only pay for the computing power as you need it. This tends to be more cost-effective than the traditional server model, as you will not need to pay for anything you don’t use, such as unused space or idle CPU time.
How does it work?
Serverless computing typically offers function-as-a-service (FaaS) platforms to its users. These platforms essentially execute the code for the developers and maintain the necessary infrastructure for developing and launching an app. All the developers need to do is provide the code.
For instance, AWS Lambda, one of the most well-known FaaS platforms, allows users to upload code in a Zip file. The platform will then precisely allocate the compute execution power needed for any request or event.
While serverless computing may not mean a lot to anyone who doesn’t code, it’s a game-changer for software developers. Unlike traditional computing, where — in addition to deploying code — developers may also need to think about hardware maintenance, provisioning servers and managing the backend, serverless computing takes care of all that for them. So, developers can focus on doing what they do best: coding exciting new apps.