Serverless Architectures: How They Can Benefit You
If you’re looking to build a web application, you may have heard of Serverless Architectures.
Serverless Architectures represent the next wave in content delivery that many developers and organisations are already using as the basis of their application frameworks. Because Serverless architecture is so flexible, easy to setup, and provides application owners with a number of safe-guards around access to and use of their data, those who have taken the time to analyse the key differences between a standard delivery architecture model and serverless model, and really seeing the benefits.
In this article we’ll walk you through the benefits of Serverless Architectures and why you should consider utilising this content delivery model as part of your next application.
From utilising serverless-type architecture models in unison with API’s, to security benefits and even database management, you’ll soon see why 'going serverless' is for you!
What a Serverless Architecture looks like
If you’re new to Serverless Architectures, one of the best ways to understand how this concept works is by analysing the flow of information.
As shown below, you can see that in between your application accessing your files and database values there's an API Gateway. Although not limited to the following functions, the goal of an API Gateway is predominantly to:
- Read content
- Write content
- Protect access to particular content
- Authenticate user access to content, and
- Manage security access to particular content
In addition to your your own on-site API Gateway calls, external services may also be called in the same way in accordance with the rules of the external Gateway. Some great examples of this include:
- Writing new users to an email marketing service
- Accessing user details from an external database
- Recording user actions in a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tool, or
- Referencing static files uploaded to affordable storage
5 Major Benefits of Serverless Architectures
Serverless Architectures have numerous benefits for both developers and application owners. Now that you’ve got a better idea of what a Serverless Architecture looks like, it’s time to take a closer look at the benefits of this application framework.
Right off the bat, one of the most obvious benefits of Serverless Architectures is security.
When you setup your API Gateway, you can add a permissions model restricting access to your content. This means that instead of implementing a single layer of security between your application and your content, you can use the controller you've just put in place to manage security. When compared with updating your application or database settings to deliver every time you need to make a chance, this can provide a very easy means of maintaining your security and limiting holes in your service.
2. Ease of update
If you’ve ever been involved in working with a Serverless Architecture you’ll know that they’re extremely easy to work with. Why? Because instead of updating your entire application when you need to make a change, you’re only dealing with one small part meaning maintenance of your applications is a breeze.
Gone are the days of having to update multiple points in your applications when a function, database call, or system update occurs, simply edit your API Gateway permissions model and you’re good to go.
3. Downtime mitigation
One of the really nice things about Serverless Architectures is that the concept provides application owners with an extremely segmented way of setting up their services.
For example, if you were to setup your database, file storage and API Gateway on different servers, the likelihood of all three of these items going down would be very low. Because Serverless Architectures are based on the principle of distributed content use and access, this model is extremely safe for application owners.
Now you may be asking, “What if one component goes down, would that mean my entire application would be useless?” Good question, and you’d be right; however if you provide a secondary backup of each of the components of your application, this will safe-guard you against any downtime of this nature.
An example of how you may counter this type of catastrophe spreading to your application may be by implementing regular database and static file backups to limit any loss of data, in unison with a failover process to reference backup services when/if any downtime occurs.
4. Simplied workflow management
If you’re looking to manage who has access to certain data, what they can do with that data, and when your data can be accessed, Serverless Architectures are a great way of doing so.
With a Serverless approach, you can easily turn on or off access to particular file nodes, database tables, and expand your API to be as complex or as simple as you like, all while maintaining a strict set of rules your application developers and those external to your organisation are required to follow.
This can be particularly beneficial for those looking to provide external access to content, whether it’s read or write access. Because maintaining a control model is so important in this case, this model is a great way to go that your industry partners will love you for.
5. Data transformation
In your travels you may have heard of RESTful API services and calls. These types of services are synonymous with Serverless Architectures as they allow developers to share and access content using an industry standard data transport layers that format data into human readable content.
For example, commonly you’ll see RESTful API’s offer up access to their services using a data format called JSON. This is basically pre-described data in the format of an array. This data once retrieved can be used to do anything you like, but it’s the simplified grouped formatting of common data that makes this method of accessing content via API’s across serverless setup’s such a great way of transporting data, and using only what you need.
What else should I know about Serverless Architectures?
Like all application frameworks, a successful Serverless Architecture implementation requires number of key elements to work together. In the case of a serverless implementation, because the underlying model is based upon distributed content access, you’ll need to pay particular attention to the following items:
Documentation is incredibly important
Documenting how your API Gateway provides access to content is the number one area of your documentation you’re going to want to update over time, however it’s equally important to provide a thorough network diagram that summarises where your content sits, what technical constraints are placed on your systems, and who is responsible for maintaining those services.
Redundancy and backup measures should form part of your overall strategy
As mentioned, having measures in place to not only backup your data and files on a regular basis, but use those backups temporarily if you experience any sort of down-time across your applications is a step most would agree is vitally important.
If you’re really looking to take advantage of the benefits of Serverless Archictectures, this process is non-negotiable. Many of you may be thinking this, "Is a costly exercise?", but you’d be wrong. The effort required to maintain and implement redundancy and fail-over services is relatively simple. The question is, how important is your data to you and your customers' experience whilst using your application?
Performance monitoring is now ‘a thing’ for you
If you’re planning on rolling out a serverless solution to a handful of users, then this item's really not for you. However, if you’re planning on opening up a web service to a wider audience, you'll want to take the time to monitor the responsiveness of your services during peak times, and whether your application is supporting you goals.
If you don’t know how to do this, then you’re probably going to want to talk to a Managed Hosting expert who'll walk you through how to implement services such as New Relic or maintain your service for you. By placing service monitoring software such as this on your server, and building on scalable tech such as Amazon Web Services (AWS), you should be well positioned to offer a highly functional service to your customer base.
Summing up Serverless Architectures
As security and ease of maintenance for enterprise solutions becomes more of a concern for organisations, it’s highly likely that Serverless Architectures will feature more commonly.
The benefits of going serverless are many, and although at first may seem a little strange if you’re used to directly accessing your content on a server, you’ll soon see that by adding an extra layer of control over your data and files you’ll be running a much simpler to maintain service.
Serverless Architectures can work for applications which are incredibly large and complex, all the way down to micro-services that are only required to undertake a single funtion. If you’re looking to learn more about ‘going serverless’ or need an application developed, feel free to contact the team at OSE for a confidential discussion.