Serverless-first: implementing serverless architecture from the transformation outset

Anna Holden, marketing manager at Merapar, discusses the benefits of bringing in serverless architecture at the start of a transformation to businesses

As evidenced by the range of external factors affecting modern-day businesses over the last few years, companies across numerous industries need to adapt to new circumstances while ensuring innovation, scalability and the ability to quickly design and launch new products to market. This is especially relevant for organisations with short product release cycles, as underlying systems need to remain reliable while new features are regularly delivered. With agility a necessity in the face of the unknown, what is the key to addressing these evolving market demands? One possible solution is a serverless-first mindset, which represents a radical departure from always-on server solutions to message based architectures and changes to the way teams design those architectures.

Going serverless

The implementation of a serverless architecture generally means that a cloud provider supplies the user with a backend-as-a-service that allows them to run discrete functions of code. Critically, this removes the requirement for developers to manage the underlying infrastructure. While there’s varying iterations, Function-as-a-Service (FaaS) is likely to be the version that professionals in the sector think of first when serverless is mentioned.

Organisations witness a range of benefits when shifting to serverless. Faster idea-to-development is made possible due to developers having the flexibility to add and modify serverless functions without the responsibility of managing supporting infrastructure. Even when faced with the most drastic of market shifts, organisations are empowered to deploy updates rapidly to enable adaptation.

Serverless systems are usually constructed around a pay-as-you-go pricing structure. With organisations looking to keep operational and infrastructure costs to a minimum, this means charges only relate to the resources used. Costs therefore correlate with business growth and usage.

The future of cloud

Much of the serverless mindset is based around the evolution of cloud computing. Under the serverless banner, the cloud provider optimises resource utilisation, with continuous tweaking of allocated compute capacity based on the level of demand. This provides scalability and reduced costs.

Serverless systems enable the cloud provider to leverage scale, security and functionality to manage and perfect the infrastructure logic, giving developers the freedom to fine-tune the application logic. A serverless mindset is also highly suited to agile transformation, with generalist developers able to rapidly deliver new features with high levels of security.

Organisations must now play an active role in reducing carbon emissions. The European Commission has set a target to cut greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55 per cent in 2030. Unlike provisioned-capacity machines, serverless systems only run for the period they are used, which enables significant energy savings and reduced CO2 emissions. The higher hosting density enabled by serverless systems also drives efficiency, with usage shared among a wider set of users and servers.

Key considerations

While a serverless-first mindset provides a range of benefits, some businesses may be hesitant to make the transition due to concerns around cloud provider security, vendor lock-in, sunk costs from other strategies and ongoing issues with debugging and development environments. However, even among the most serverless-adverse, this mindset can provide benefits to a select part of an organisation.

Take for example a bank’s operations. While the maintenance of a traditional network infrastructure is crucial for uptime of the underlying database, with a serverless approach they have the freedom to implement an agile mindset with consumer-facing apps and technologies as demand grows. Agile and serverless strategies typically go hand-in-hand, and both can encourage quick development, modification and adaptation.

In relation to concerns around vendor lock-in, some organisations may look towards a cloud-agnostic strategy. However, writing software for multiple clouds removes the ability to use features offered by one specific cloud, meaning any competitive advantage of using a specific vendor is then lost. Serverless users can gain more value with access to more services from their dedicated provider.

The time is now

When considering the current landscape, organisations must now look towards serverless-first to ensure that they don’t get left behind. The shift from strategy to mindset is a necessity as solution architectures, team structures and training approaches must be transformed to make it a success. Effective implementation brings about a wide-reaching number of benefits, from quicker time-to-market to lower infrastructure costs and reduced environmental impact. To gain the advantage, companies must take action in order to adapt, firstly by bringing the right people into the business to develop these systems. As more businesses look to make the transition, a serverless-first mindset will increasingly become the norm across numerous industries.

Written by Anna Holden, marketing manager at Merapar


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