A Serverless-First Mindset in an Evolving Landscape

Businesses are facing a battle on two fronts in the modern age.

On one hand, they need to uphold innovation, scalability and the ability to rapidly design and bring new products to market. On the other, they need to adapt to evolving circumstances. This is especially relevant for those with short product release cycles, as underlying systems need to provide a reliable foundation while new features are devised. As agility becomes a needed ability in an uncertain market, how do businesses address evolving market demands? One possible answer is a serverless-first mindset. This moves away from the always-on server solutions to message-based architectures and a transformation in how teams design them.

The move to serverless

With a serverless architecture, a cloud provider offers a backend-as-a-service solution, which provides the ability for discrete versions of code to be utilised. Critically, this removes the requirement for developers to manage 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.

Serverless brings a range of advantages to businesses that adopt it. 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.

Rather than pay a set fee that’s unlikely to reflect actual usage, serverless systems will usually be offered under a pay-as-you-go 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.

Moving forward with cloud

Cloud computing is a critical aspect of the serverless mindset. 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.

Perfecting the infrastructure logic is made possible by the security, functionality and scale of serverless systems, which also allows developers 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.

In terms of sustainability, businesses are under greater responsibility to be greener in their practices. The European Commission has set a target to cut greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55% 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.

Business considerations

A serverless-first mindset is no doubt beneficial in a number of ways, but some businesses may have reservations in terms of the potential for vendor lock-in, the security offered by the cloud provider, existing sunk costs and other issues in debugging and development environments. However, even among the most serverless-adverse, this mindset can provide benefits to a select part of an organisation.

When looking at a bank’s operations for example, the continued uptime of the underlying network infrastructure is crucial for database access, and with a serverless-first mindset, employees have the flexibility to develop consumer-facing apps and other solutions as consumer demand increases. 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.

Some businesses may be tempted by the lure of a cloud-agnostic strategy due to existing reservations around vendor lock-in. 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.

Time is of the essence

The current landscape is constantly evolving, pushing serverless-first to the top of the priority list for organisations wanting to keep pace. More than simply a strategy, solution architectures, team structures and training approaches must change to make a serverless approach a success. Faster time-to-market and reduced infrastructure costs await those who effectively implement this mindset, along with a reduced impact on the environment. To take the opportunity, businesses must initiate effective action, firstly by recruiting the right talent to develop these systems. As more make the transition, a serverless-first mindset will become the standard.

About the Author

Anna Holden is Marketing Manager for Merapar Merapar. Merapar, an alfa1 company was founded in 2015 by entrepreneurs and senior executives in the Telecoms, Media and Technology sector. We aim to become the leading full service innovation partner in the Media, Broadcast and IoT sectors by leveraging the experience and backgrounds of our founders. Our dedicated software development capability and profound experience in scalable cloud solutions has resulted in a rich portfolio of cloud based platform components that can be swiftly deployed for our customers.

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