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The Advantages and Disadvantages of Serverless Computing

Serverless computing is the next big trend in cloud computing. For enterprise or software developers, it offers simplified infrastructure and potentially large cost savings. Operational costs normally associated with access, security, and processing are eliminated under a serverless model. 

But despite clear advantages, serverless computing isn’t the solution for every organisation and it does come with its own set of drawbacks for some applications. So let’s take a closer look at the pros and cons of going serverless so you can decide if its worth employing for your business. 

What is serverless computing?

Despite the name, serverless computing doesn’t actually mean there’s no servers involved, just that you don’t see them and don’t have to worry about them. Instead, serverless computing services involve code being executed on pre-existing servers that run similar functions for many other customers simultaneously. 

Because you’re using someone else’s hardware to execute your serverless functions, there is zero hardware or infrastructure that you need to buy or maintain, even virtually. Instead, cloud providers charge users only for the computing resources and storage needed to execute requested functions. The operational costs associated with the actual running of the servers are completely covered by the cloud provider. 

Serverless advantages

Cost - on-premise server infrastructure has high operating costs, primarily associated with cooling and maintenance requirements. These costs must be paid even if you are not utilising 100% of the servers’ capacity. Going serverless means you are leasing access to someone else’s servers so only pay for exactly what you use. 

Scaling - Because the established cloud providers have enormous capacity, serverless scaling capabilities for any sized organisation are essentially infinite. Serverless also enables enterprise to scale rapidly and additionally offers the flexibility to reduce resources and costs on short notice too if necessary. 

Low latency - Because the larger cloud providers such as Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure have multiple data centers distributed around the globe, latency times remain low. This means enterprise can access high performance servers no matter where they’re located. 

Serverless disadvantages 

Vendor lock-in - when running a serverless system, users can become vulnerable to the risk of vendor lock-in. This is because providers know that migrating from one platform to another can be complex as code needs to re-written or API’s may not exist on other platforms. 

Security risks - servers that provide services for multiple customers are naturally more vulnerable to security concerns than dedicated on-premise servers. This is due to the wider set of event sources, which increases the potential attack surface. These risks include those caused by reliance on third-party software derived serverless functions such as open-source packages and libraries as well as distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks. 

Debugging - debugging is generally more difficult. This is because every time a serverless instance spins up it creates a new version of itself, which makes it more difficult to collect the data necessary to debug and fix a function. Debugging serverless functions is possible, but is more complex and requires increased time and resources. 

Is a serverless solution right for you?

Serverless computing can be a very effective cost and complexity reducing solution for many businesses. This is particularly the case if your computing needs lean towards sole purpose, shorter running functions. The longer running a computational function is, the less likely serverless computing is to be a good alternative. 

If you’re going to invest in a serverless platform, it's important to make sure the vendor being considered is a good match for the business’ current needs as well as future goals as users do become vulnerable to vendor lock-in. So ensure the provider you pick is the provider you want to stay with for the near future. 

For more information on whether serverless computing is the solution that can save your business significant time and money, talk to the IT experts at FinXL.