Understanding Serverless Architecture: Made Easy 101

Manisha Jena • Last Modified: January 25th, 2023

Serverless Architecture_FI

Serverless Architectures are application designs that use third-party “Backend as a Service” (BaaS) services and/or proprietary code that runs in controlled, ephemeral containers on a “Functions as a Service” (FaaS) platform. By utilizing these concepts, as well as related ones such as single-page applications, such architectures eliminate the requirement for a traditional always-on server component.

In this article, you will gain information about Serverless Architecture. You will also gain a holistic understanding of Serverless Architecture, their working, fundamental concepts in Serverless Architecture, differences between Serverless Architecture and Container Architecture, benefits and challenges of Serverless Architecture, use cases, and tools. Read along to find out in-depth information about Serverless Architecture.

Table of Contents

What is a Serverless Architecture?

Serverless Architecture
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Serverless Architecture is a Software Design approach that enables developers to build and execute applications and services without having to maintain the underlying infrastructure. Developers can write and deploy code, while Cloud providers set up Servers to execute their applications, databases, and storage systems at any scale. Applications are divided into discrete functions that can be called and scaled independently.

How Does a Serverless Architecture Work?

Servers allow users to connect with an application and access its business logic, but administering Servers requires a significant amount of effort and resources. Teams must maintain server hardware, manage software and security upgrades, and generate backups in the event of a failure. Developers can offload these tasks to a third-party supplier by Adopting Serverless Architecture, allowing them to focus on writing application code.

Serverless Systems are used by developers to execute specific functions. As a result, Cloud service providers provide Functions as a Service (FaaS), one of the most popular serverless architectures, in which developers write their application code as a collection of discrete functions.

The functions are written and executed in Serverless Environments in the following steps:

  • The Developer Writes A Function: This function often fulfills a specific role or purpose within the application code.
  • The Developer Defines An Event: The event is what triggers the Cloud service provider to execute the function. An HTTP request is a typical sort of event.
  • The Event Is Triggered: If the defined event is an HTTP request, the event is triggered by a user with a click or other equivalent action.
  • The Function Is Executed: The Cloud Service provider determines whether or not an instance of the function is already executing on a Running Server. If not, it launches a new Server to execute the function.
  • The Result Is Sent To The Client: The user sees the output of the function that was run within the application.

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9 Fundamental Concepts of Serverless Architecture

Some of the fundamental terms frequently used in Serverless Architecture and systems are as follows:

  • Invocation: A single function execution is called an Invocation.
  • Duration: Duration is the time taken by a Serverless Function to be executed.
  • Cold Start: Cold Start is the time it takes for a function to be activated for the first time or after a period of inactivity.
  • Concurrency Limit: Concurrency Limit refers to the number of function instances that can execute concurrently in one region, as determined by the Cloud Provider. If a function exceeds this limit, it will be blocked.
  • FaaS: Function-as-a-Service (FaaS) is a means for running custom code in the Cloud without first provisioning a dedicated server to host the code.
  • Configuration Management: Configuration Management refers to the practice of specifying, versioning, and distributing configurational properties of component resources inside an application (usually by Developers and Operations Engineers).
  • Event-driven Architecture: Event-driven Architecture refers to an architectural pattern in which a software system reacts to and produces its own events. With Serverless Systems, this pattern nearly comes as a standard.
  • Monolith: A Monolithic software system keeps and manages all application functionality in a single large unit of deployment.
  • Microservices: Microservices is a software architectural approach in which the system is divided into small sections of functionality that are deployed separately and connected with each other commonly over HTTP.

Serverless Architecture Vs Container Architecture

Both Serverless and Container Architectures enable developers to deploy application code by abstracting away the host environment, but they differ significantly.

Serverless Architecture: Serverless vs Container Architecture
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The key differences between Serverless and Container Architecture are:

Supported Host EnvironmentsContainers can operate on modern Linux systems as well as some versions of Windows.Serverless runs on specific hosting platforms, the majority of which are hosted on public clouds, such as AWS Lambda and Azure Functions.
Running LocallyContainers can run in a local data center or on a developer’s workstation with ease.Outside of a Public Cloud Environment, Serverless is more challenging to implement. Local Serverless Frameworks exist, but they are still complicated and not widely used.
CostThe majority of container engines and orchestrators are Open Source and maybe run in a local environment for free.Serverless Environments are hosted in Public Clouds and are charged on a per-use basis.
Supported LanguagesContainerizing applications is possible as long as the underlying host server supports the language in which they are written.The Serverless Runtime must explicitly support the same language in order to run an application in a Serverless Model (different platforms support different languages).
StatefulnessContainers are stateless by definition, however persistent storage may be configured to allow stateful applications.The majority of Serverless Runtimes are built to accommodate Stateless Workloads. Some Serverless solutions give just a limited amount of support for stateful services. Serverless runtimes also provide Data Persistence by connecting to Cloud storage services.
AvailabilityContainers can operate for extended periods of time.Serverless functions normally operate for a brief length of time (minutes or seconds) and are terminated as soon as the current event or data is processed.

Benefits and Challenges of Serverless Architecture

Some of the benefits associated with Serverless Architecture are as follows:

  • Scalability: Most Serverless Environments provide auto-scalability, making scalable solutions a precise science. Scalability is also determined by the Pay-as-you-go concept. Function instances are automatically generated or destroyed in response to traffic variations, within the boundaries of Concurrency Constraints.
  • Cost Friendliness of Hosted Solutions: Serverless Architectures eliminate the need for substantial expenditures in in-house infrastructure as these are hosted by Cloud Providers. Furthermore, Cloud providers bill you on a per invocation basis, so you don’t need to pay for inert servers or virtual machines.
  • Agility: CSPs are designing systems that deliver solutions in short release cycles.
  • Quicker Time to Market: In-house teams do not need to wait for large investments or costly IT installations to turn their ideas into commercial solutions.
  • Disaster-Response-Time: In Serverless Systems, recovery from an outage or breakdown is practically instantaneous, thus reducing costs and efforts.
  • Productivity: Engineers who leverage Serverless Architecture may simply release their code without having to manage any servers, which speeds up delivery cycles and allows companies to swiftly grow their operations.

There are also some challenges associated with serverless architectures:

  • Lack of Control: Users lack control over the software stack that their code runs on in a Serverless environment. In case of a hardware issue, Data Center Outage, etc., you’re dependent on a Cloud provider to fix it.
  • Security: A Cloud provider can run code from numerous customers on the same Server at the same time. Hence, there is a possibility that your application data may be exposed if the Shared Server is not correctly set up.
  • Architectural Complexity: It takes time to examine, develop, and test decisions regarding how granular the function should be. There should be a clear balance between the number of functions and application calls. Too many functions become cumbersome to handle and ignoring granularity results in mini-monoliths.
  • Performance Impact: When you invoke a function post a time period of inactivity, Cold Starts are prevalent in Serverless Environments, adding several seconds of delay to code execution.
  • Testing: Unit tests on function code can be run by developers, but Integration Tests, which examine how frontend and backend components interact, are difficult to perform in a Serverless Environment.
  • Implementation Drawbacks: Serverless app integration testing is challenging. Because the integration units of Serverless FaaS (i.e. each function) are much smaller than in other architectures, users rely on Integration Testing much more than they may in other architectural styles. There are also several other problems associated with deployment, versioning, and packaging.
  • Vendor Lock-In: Large Cloud Providers, such as AWS, provide a variety of services, such as databases, message queues, and APIs, that can be used in conjunction to operate serverless applications. Although elements from multiple vendors can be mixed and matched, services from a single provider are designed to integrate easily.

Serverless Architecture Use Cases

Serverless architecture is best suited for performing short-term operations and managing workloads with occasional or unpredictable traffic. The main use cases for serverless include

1) Trigger Tasks

Serverless Architecture may be applied to scenarios where numerous devices access different file types, such as Mobile Phones and PCs uploading photographs, videos, and text files. Any user action that triggers an event or sequence of events is a strong candidate for Serverless Architecture. For example, a user signing up on your website may trigger a database update, which in turn may trigger a welcome email to be sent. A series of Serverless Functions can handle the backend operations.

2) Building RESTful APIs

You may use Amazon API Gateway in conjunction with serverless functions to create RESTful APIs that scale with demand.

3) Asynchronous Processing

Serverless functions can perform behind-the-scenes application operations like displaying product information or transcoding videos after uploading without disrupting the application’s flow or introducing user-facing latency.

4) Security Checks

When a new container is launched, a function can be invoked to scan the instance for misconfigurations or vulnerabilities. Functions may also be utilized to provide a more secure alternative for SSH verification and two-factor authentication.

5) Continuous Delivery (CD) & Continuous Integration (CI)

Serverless Architectures can help automate various of the processes in your CI/CD Pipelines, removing the requirement for pre-provisioned hosts. Code commits, for example, can trigger a function to generate a build and pull requests can trigger automated tests.

6) Shared Delivery Dispatch System

Customers can leverage a dispatch platform to select from a variety of sellers’ services, such as ordering meals or purchasing products. The dispatch platform then alerts the nearest delivery personnel to pick up the necessary product from the nearest seller and deliver it to the customer.

Tools That Support Serverless Architecture

The correct set of tools can help streamline the switch to serverless. These ensure that your platforms perform well for all.

A robust Serverless Deployment Framework, such as Serverless Framework or Amazon’s Serverless Application Model (SAM), uses an API to communicate with the cloud provider’s platform and allows you to specify your functions, triggers, and permissions. Some providers, such as AWS, also provide serverless testing tools that allow you to test serverless applications locally before deploying them. Furthermore, serverless security solutions examine your functions for vulnerabilities, with some even preventing code injections and unauthorized executables at run time.

After you’ve created your serverless application, you’ll need to monitor on its health and performance. Serverless functions often travel via a complex network of Microservices, and Cold Starts, Misconfigurations, and other problems can occur at any node and have an impact on the entire system.

The rise of Serverless Computing has resulted in a large growth in the number of providers of Function as a Service (FaaS) and Backend as a Service (BaaS). Some of the most well-known are:

  • AWS Lambda Functions
  • Google Cloud Functions
  • Microsoft Azure functions
  • Amazon API gateway
  • IBM Cloud functions


In this article, you have learned about Serverless Architecture. This article also provided information on Serverless Architecture, their working, fundamental concepts in Serverless Architecture, differences between Serverless Architecture and Container Architecture, benefits and challenges of Serverless Architecture, use cases, and tools.

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