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What is Serverless Architecture? | Tech Terms to Know

November 19, 2020

Categories: B2B eCommerce, Headless eCommerce

What is Serverless Architecture?

Serverless Architecture is a cloud-based execution model where the management of servers is outsourced to a cloud-based vendor. The application is deployed automatically in the cloud by the vendor instead of on virtual machines or physical servers. It eliminates the need for server maintenance tasks like patches, capacity management, and scaling generally done by developers.

In other words, serverless architecture is a way to build a cloud-based application without having to maintain or scale servers. 

Serverless does not necessarily mean there are no servers used. The maintenance and management of servers are just being done by the cloud provider. With serverless architecture, a development team is essentially breaking up the server into smaller chunks. This kind of architecture allows you to launch apps as needed. An event triggers code and that app is deployed. 

What are the Benefits of Serverless Architecture?

In short, serverless architecture is a much more flexible and scalable development model than traditional server-based architecture. 

Here are the top three benefits of serverless architecture:

  • Reduce Total Cost of Ownership – The most obvious benefit to serverless architecture is the fact that a business does not have to own or maintain any servers (security, patching, support contracts, auditing). Additionally, since the code is deployed on-demand, you only pay for executed and deployed code leading to cost savings. 
  • Reduced Time to Market – Since your development team only needs to focus on the business logic code, building an application is much faster and easier. Your development team doesn’t need to worry about infrastructure maintenance or scaling and function codes only need to do one thing at a time. Updates and upgrades can be deployed quickly as changes are initiated through API calls without having to (re)deploy the entire application.on the fly and as needed.
  • Increased Scalability – Serverless architectures can scale both up and down according to the demand. Vendors are responsible for managing any traffic spikes.
  • Separation of Concerns – Encourages best practices in isolating different parts of your business logic into more manageable chunks that can both be reused by other systems and more clearly understood across your architecture landscape.

Microservices vs. Containers vs. Serverless

Microservices, containers, and serverless can easily be misconstrued.

Microservices Architecture:

Legacy monolithic software is built as a single unit comprising 3 main parts: User Interface (UI), Database, and Server Side Application. The result is a single pipeline of execution where each is dependent on the other for functioning. 

On the other hand, Microservice Architecture is designed to break apart individual components that exist within a monolithic structure. The desired outcome is to create a separation of concerns between logical components of the overall service. 

The separation of these components provides a number of advantages for business and technological outcomes. Technologically they provide an ability to scale horizontally, monitor independently, and release rapidly. The business is able to enhance the service independently of the other units and deploy enhancements without disruption.

The OrderCloud platform is technically constructed and deployed as a microservice. It is intended to act as an independent service within the construct of a larger service-oriented architecture solution. This is why we are able to rapidly enhance and scale the capabilities of our platform for all customers at once while each independent application utilizes our API. We leverage the services of Azure for the platform rather than configuring containers with all the supporting services for deployment.

Containers:

A container, the most popular being Docker, is a package that contains all the elements (instructions) needed to deploy and host a service. An example would be a container that has a basic web server host, a database, and a language VM (.NET or Java)  installed as well as the application code. This container is then easily deployed into a physical infrastructure much like virtual machines, ideal for scaling out in parallel. Additionally, many cloud providers provide ways to orchestrate and manage hundreds or thousands of these containers at once for you.

Serverless:

Serverless can be considered an evolution of the container methodology. The primary difference is the supporting services configuration and deployment– the container is prebuilt for you and your only concern is deploying your own application code. AWS and Azure essentially introduced their platforms as a managed container environment. This allows the developer to entirely focus only on the business logic component.

Both serverless computing and containers enable developers to build applications with far less overhead and more flexibility than applications hosted on traditional servers or virtual machines. Which style of architecture a developer should use depends on the needs of the application, but serverless applications are more scalable and usually more cost-effective (CloudFlare).

What is Serverless Architecture?

SERVERLESS VS. CLOUD-NATIVE

Cloud native is a term used to group both serverless and container strategies into a single term. At its core the premise is that the software is leveraging Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) and Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) services from cloud providers such as AWS, Azure, and Google rather than hosting on-premise in data centers. In other words, it means to take full advantage of the cloud service model.

Cloud-native technologies empower organizations to build and run scalable applications in modern, dynamic environments such as public, private, and hybrid clouds. Containers, service meshes, microservices, immutable infrastructure, and declarative APIs exemplify this approach.

These techniques enable loosely coupled systems that are resilient, manageable, and observable. Combined with robust automation, they allow engineers to make high-impact changes frequently and predictably with minimal toil (Github).

The OrderCloud platform leverages the entire cloud service model – our system deploys NO virtual machines. In other words, OrderCloud is a true cloud-native platform.


Today, businesses need a digital transformation strategy in place to be successful and differentiate. As you evaluate your technology vendors, look for those using modern architectures, and determine which fits your unique business needs.