The rise of a new buzzword has made many people think that servers no longer exist, but the fact is, a server is still needed somewhere. This is why the “serverless” term may mislead many people. What makes “serverless” term is that you can successfully build your applications without deploying code to your own servers. Therefore, as a web developer your dream of spending less time worrying about servers and more time for building software will come true.
Serverless in Action
When your site serves many readers a month, it means that the traffic that comes to our scale is significant and sudden, as articles can go viral at any moment. As a result, you may have trouble keeping up and our engineers are spending too much time on operations. Therefore, as a solution, you can take a look at serverless platforms which offer you a complete success of your projects, such as more maintainable, easier to operate, and cheaper.
Amazon Web Services
Serverless has a close relationship with Amazon Web Services (AWS). In fact, AWS is the answer for one critical question; where does the custom code go? The concept of using third-party services and platform is not new, with database, you can push notifications, caching, and many other layers of an application have all been available ‘as a service’ for a while, but they sat on the edge of your application. Therefore, a server is still needed as a place for core application code, which is usually a server responding to external requests. Through AWS Lambda and AWS API Gateway, you can deploy custom application code without the overhead of managing your own servers.
Applying Lambda is quite simple, you only need to write code and upload it. Lambda is Amazon’s version of functions-as-a-service (FaaS). Then, as a response to events including HTTP requests, S3 uploads, DynamoDB updates, Kinesis streams, and many others, AWS will run the code. Since scaling happens automatically, you are only charged when your functions are running.
None of these features are strictly a requirement for serverless, but AWS has certainly set the bar high. Any serverless platform will likely to have a stateless FaaS offering with very granular billing because of the precedent set by AWS.
Right now, Amazon may still be the first competitor in the arena, but other providers are showing up quickly. All the major cloud platforms have recently launched services targeted at serverless applications. Here are a few of them:
- Google Cloud Functions: Still in alpha, having almost the same functionality to AWS Lambda and can also be triggered by HTTP requests.
- Azure Functions: This platform is still relatively new and similar to Lambda. Other benefits are Azure has a pleasant UI and makes it easy to expose functions over HTTP without needing a separate routing service.
- IBM OpenWhisk: This is the only open source platform. You will want to investigate this, if you are interested in deploying your own serverless platform or just curious with how they work under the hood.
If you think serverless is the solution of every problem, you might be wrong, for serverless does not come without its challenges. In fact, the community is still discovering best practices, especially when it comes to operations as the space is new and as such. In fact, this platform still requires tools for deploying, maintaining and monitoring our applications. However, many believe that there will be many new startups’ third party services targeted at solving these problems for serverless developers.
With lots of open source community, it is possible to manually build and deploy serverless applications yourself, but we suggest that you use the existed frameworks, since a few endpoints, building, packaging, zipping, uploading and versioning all become difficult to manage. Here are some frameworks that you might want to consider:
- Serverless framework: This framework has a robust plugin system and integrates with many community developed plugins with many community developed plugins. Its stated goal is to eventually support deployment to any of the major cloud platforms.
- Apex: Even though it is written in Go, it supports Python, Node.js and Java runtime languages. Furthermore, the inventor of this tool, TJ Holowaychuk, is a well-known fixture in the open source community and has a great sense of what makes for good developer tools.
- Chalice: it is the only framework created and maintained by AWS and currently supports Python.
- Shep: If you are looking for framework that can be used for all our production services, Bustles’ own open source framework can be a great choice. It focuses on the Node.js runtime and strives to be opinionated about how you should structure, build, and deploy applications.
It seems that in 2017 “serverless” technology will keep growing and you will see rapid adoption from startups to fortune 500 companies. This is because many developers have realized that the serverless movement is the best way to build better software.