Serverless Computing - What You Need to Know

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What is Serverless Computing?

In the rapidly changing world of IT, "serverless computing" is an important and integral term. Some think of serverless computing as a flavor of cloud services, but it's really broader than that. Serverless computing is actually a good moniker for a lot of what has driven enterprise IT into the future – the idea that instead of running vital business applications off of in-house servers, companies can simply order up functionality, in this case computing functionality, as a service. This places serverless computing squarely in that realm of "software as a service" or SaaS models that have revolutionized enterprise vendor options. So serverless computing is cloud and SaaS, but it's also more: For example, the moves toward network virtualization and the use of containers to separate data and operating system clones have a lot to do with serverless computing as well.

One good definition of serverless computing is as follows: Serverless computing is a scenario where the buyer "provides only application logic" and is not responsible for or even privy to infrastructure issues. At its most basic level, serverless computing is another tendril of the rapidly emerging model of "on-demand services" – companies don't have to worry about storing and maintaining server farms, keeping servers cool, or provisioning them in key ways. They just order functionality from afar, and use it to seamlessly integrate application functions.

In this sense, serverless computing is really a bellwether of our world and the way that enterprise IT has evolved. It's quintessential outsourcing, and the agile design of elastic and scalable systems that businesses can use to compete. When you have dynamic needs, serverless computing can provide dynamic responses. It's a booming field, and one that's getting a lot of attention in tech press.

To really get a sense of what serverless computing is and what it represents, it's important to note that in reality, serverless computing is more than just "not having a server" – many different flavors of technology that replace bare-metal machining with virtualized systems can get rid of the company's responsibility for housing servers. The difference is that, with the most popular serverless computing services, you don't "rent a virtual server" – instead, you rent each little instance in which a server would run code. That's quite a different model and one that merits a lot of research and brainstorming before enterprise adoption.

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Written by Justin Stoltzfus
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Justin Stoltzfus is a freelance writer for various Web and print publications. His work has appeared in online magazines including Preservation Online, a project of the National Historic Trust, and many other venues.