Serverless vs Microservices: Detailed Comparison

Cloud computing is a big-time technology enabler that allows handling changing requirements with less effort and results in lowering the operational costs in larger load environments. Deployment of software as a service on cloud-based platforms helps to eliminate the need to worry about underlying infrastructure and just focus on good code delivery and also helps in minimization of costs as you pay only when you use processes. 

Today we look more in detail about two important terminologies: Serverless computing and Microservices architecture. How microservices can help to build a serverless architecture, understand their key differences i.e. serverless computing vs microservices, benefits and purpose they adopted for.  

What is Serverless Computing?

Serverless term is misleading, it does not mean no server, but serverless actually means when organization do not want or need to invest in physical hardware but rely on a third-party provider to manage the underlying physical infrastructure comprising servers, network, storage etc.

This approach let organization focus more on application development without worrying about the underlying infrastructure it needs to run its application. Some of the popular serverless platforms are AWS Lambda, Microsoft Azure functions, Google platform functions etc.

Serverless computing has two perspectives:

  • Function as a service (FaaS) which is an evolved model which lets developers run code modules of an application without thinking about underlying infrastructure.
  • Backend as service (BaaS) model is handled independently and offered as a service (such as database, storage etc.) and involves outsourcing backed services to providers for maintenance and management so organization can focus on developing core functions.

Benefits of Serverless Environment

  • More focus on deployment of quality applications
  • Less time and money spent on building, maintaining underlying infrastructure
  • Best suited for short and real time processes which are expected to scale faster and client heavy
  • Reduction in costs of hiring skilled staff 
  • Subscription based pricing models for budget projections

What is Microservices Architecture?  

Microservices Architecture is built upon several autonomous components which interconnect to each other using APIs. Each of these smaller components are referred to as microservices and perform one single function. These are deployed via containers and operate in itself as an independent stand-alone application.

There are three basic elements of each micro services – a database, libraries and templates. Devops teams break down all functions and features into smaller services within a software or application in such a way that application core functionality remains intact and features are decentralized. The dependences are defined between each of these smaller components to different teams for development and maintenance.

Each of these micro services are developed and tested independently in isolated containers before moving into product . This approach helps to establish a framework where even if one microservice breaks down, it is easy to fix and redeploy without impacting other services. 

Microservices are ideal for applications and systems which are constantly processing large amounts of data constantly evolving, complex in nature and demand high scalability.

Benefits of Microservices

  • Can be tested independently, deploy and test faster services without impacting the entire application or services
  • Fault isolation is easier as compared to identify issue with a bigger application code
  • Agility is increased due to quick development and fixing issues at faster pace
  • Easily scaling of performance by adding more microservices during peaks in traffic
  • Possibility for re-usability is enhanced 

Serverless vs Microservices Architecture

Below table summarizes the key difference between the two:

Final Words

Microservices and serverless technologies have advanced considerably since the ‘traditional’ monolithic architectures. They meet the current needs of applications in terms of scalability, flexibility, and continuous integration and the related technologies are being upgraded more and more. Nevertheless, when designing the infrastructure, care must be taken to choose between them. It’s all about making the right decision and making the best use of the advantages of each approach.

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