Technology We Like: Serverless Computing

Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.
— Arthur C Clarke

Ok, so this is one that could be a potential candidate for Buzz Words That Suck. The reason it’s here instead is because we are finding more and more about serverless computing that we really love. Plus, it’s our blog; we can do whatever we want.

Amazon says serverless computing “allows you to build and run applications and services without having to manage infrastructure.” Another term for this is “Infrastructure-as-a-Service”, also known as IaaS. There is absolutely still a server involved in your application, but the server only runs your code when it’s actually asked for by a user. The upshot? You’re only paying for it when you’re using it.

The name “serverless” is probably misleading and confusing. Like I said, there is absolutely a server involved, a server simply being a computer somewhere connected to the Internet that serves content and performs calculations. The difference is that in traditional web computing, your server or application is always “active”, just waiting for requests from users on the web.

In a serverless environment, the code is still always out there ready to go, it’s just not activated until someone actually makes a request. This means that your web host can cycle processing power wherever it’s needed, whenever it’s needed, and you only ever pay for the computing time you use.

In traditional hosting, you pay for computing availability whether you run the most popular website on the Internet or you run, you know, this blog. (Yes, we love it very much, but it takes lots of time to gain a real following and we are admittedly fairly new at this.) Serverless computing allows us to post to our heart’s content and we only pay our hosting provider when someone actually reads what we have to say (like you).

There’s another upside too: When a developer no longer has to worry about setting up a web server, configuring options and databases, and all of the other underlying services that accompany a web application, that developer is freed up to focus on the core business value of the application being designed and built. We are seeing much faster time-to-market as a result, and typical features and functions of a web application (such as user management, session management, authentication and basic app security) are already built-in to the infrastructure. That’s less time coding features that are required in almost every web project nowadays.

Infrastructure-as-a-Service is not new, but it’s gaining a ton of ground and cloud hosting providers are spending big marketing dollars enticing developers and operations decision-makers in this direction.

Now if only AWS could walk my dog…

By: Cynthia Delaria, CEO/COO @ Raika Technologies, LLC