EngEd Community

Section’s Engineering Education (EngEd) Program fosters a community of university students in Computer Science related fields of study to research and share topics that are relevant to engineers in the modern technology landscape. You can find more information and program guidelines in the GitHub repository. If you're currently enrolled in a Computer Science related field of study and are interested in participating in the program, please complete this form .

How to Build Apps With Serverless Architecture

August 2, 2021

Any company considering building a serverless application has to re-adapt to the specifics of cloud architecture.

This article will draw attention to developing the frontend and backend of applications in the serverless architecture model, explain its benefits, and look at the best examples of the same in the market.

Understanding the concept

Serverless refers to designing and deploying applications without the development team dealing with the physical server infrastructure. The server is managed and maintained by trusted third-party companies.

With the serverless approach, a company does not need to worry about its application’s back end since it is outsourced to a third-party vendor. It only has to deal with the front end of the application as its primary concern.

To better understand serverless architecture, we will look at two main types of serverless computing.

Types of serverless computing technologies

Backend as a service (BaaS)

The platform allows developers to deal with the frontend of an application without worrying about the backend since a third party already handles it.

The serverless backend design depends on how the company acquires the service. The company pays a third-party vendor to deal with the application’s inner logic. It deals with the storage of information, devices, security, and backend. As the platform auto-generates the backend, a lot of time is saved on development and testing.

Most providers use a flexible per-use model, meaning that the company is charged based on use and processing power and not for a specific timeframe. If more server space is needed, the platform modifies the subscribed plan automatically.

Functions as a service (FaaS)

In a serverless model, the FaaS functions are regarded as the frontend of the application. The functionality is divided into several functions that run independently.

Each function executes once a trigger action is received from the application’s user. An application will then respond to the trigger action. As a result, the functions start running. The cloud service providers limit a function in terms of runtime and size. The function stops running once the event that triggered it is cancelled. The application is sensitive about its memory usage, and this results in low computing costs.

Serverless architecture for mobile applications

Most cloud platforms have dedicated environments for serverless mobile application development. For example, AWS has a feature called Cloud Mobile Hub, whose purpose is to connect mobile functionality and interfaces to AWS serverless platform.

The notable difference between the use of on-premise infrastructure and serverless design is that the backend resides in the cloud. This would mean that developers have to build the frontend functions that listen to the client-made triggers. Flexible applications on serverless architecture are fast, dependable, and lightweight.

Serverless architecture promises a great future for mobile application development. It ensures application development has low costs, takes less time, and is easy to scale.

Advantages of serverless architecture

Companies using the monolithic approach in their application development back in the day are now switching to serverless to decentralize their functionality.

The major reason is its efficiency and lower subscription costs. The other advantages developers get with going the serverless way are as follows:

  • Simple structure: Serverless comes with ready-made templates that can be used for frontend function development. It means that the developer only needs to copy-paste the code into a predefined framework. Also, a developer needs not to set up the application’s business logic or write the backend.
  • Lower costs: With serverless platforms, the company only pays for the used storage and computing resources and not the specified timeframe. This translates to reduced costs for the company.
  • Scalability: Application development using a serverless approach is very flexible. The developer has to edit a single function to effect a change in the application. This results in fast development and more accessible updates.
  • Functionality focus: As the developers are not involved with hardware, data processing, or even internal business logic, they can shift their focus on the main functionality of the application. It leads to the high quality of product and responsiveness.

How serverless application model works

A serverless application consists of a combination of functions built to work together at the same time. It includes APIs, event source mappings, and databases.

  • Template specification: Specifies the application’s syntax, events, permissions, and settings. Developers can opt to use a ready-made template and customize it to fit the application’s purpose and functionality. Examples are Google Cloud and SAM by AWS.
  • The command line: With customized command-line tools, the developers can execute the commands in the CLI to debug code, call functions, modify the template files, create and sort packages.

Examples of serverless applications

Below are some of the examples of companies that utilized FaaS in their serverless application development:

Royal Dutch Shell

The company previously had a mobile application that could not easily integrate with complex analytics. It also never accommodated the required number of users and had poor data handling. They needed a total application redesign to improve security.

They decided that they had to switch Amazon Cloud infrastructure for serverless application development with Node.js. Now, the company has adopted many Amazon instances to allow for complex functionality. It has also integrated third-party security components.

UPS

UPS decided to utilize a serverless approach and cloud-based infrastructure to improve their chatbot.

The organization required an AI partner that would handle customers’ requests, consult and update the team. To boost the performance of their system, the organization decided to use Microsoft Azure.

Azure cloud and serverless development gave the company a ready-made infrastructure. They outsourced their backend to Microsoft and only had to deal with client-side functionality making it more reliable and intuitive.

T-Mobile

The communication company decided to switch its platform to AWS Lambda for web and mobile development. Their platforms used to process massive amounts of sensitive data and had to be highly scalable.

The change to serverless application development was not easy. Apart from coding, the organization had to do data migration, documentation, and API integration.

Conclusion

Moving the serverless way is beneficial to established organizations and new businesses. It significantly reduces costs, improves the quality of services, and shortens the time to market.

Organizations will also benefit from the pool of ready-to-use development tools, API integration automation extensions, and on-demand scaling. Any company that wants to get ahead with serverless technology should hire the right serverless development team and enjoy the technology’s success.


Peer Review Contributions by: Onesmus Mbaabu