Understanding Serverless Computing

cloud computing multi-cloud Feb 03, 2024


In the ever-evolving landscape of cloud computing, "serverless computing" has emerged as a transformative force, offering a new way for developers to build and deploy applications. Unlike traditional architectures, serverless computing abstracts the server layer, enabling developers to focus purely on the code without worrying about the underlying infrastructure. This blog post will dive into serverless computing and how it differs from managed services. We will also explore examples from popular cloud providers like AWS, Azure, and GCP.

What is Serverless Computing?

Serverless computing is a cloud computing model where the cloud provider automatically manages the allocation and provisioning of servers. The term "serverless" is somewhat of a misnomer because servers are still involved. However, the responsibility of managing these servers and infrastructure falls on the cloud provider, not the developer. This allows developers to write and deploy code without dealing with the underlying hardware or server configurations.

Why is it Called "Serverless"?

The "serverless" moniker comes from the idea that the tasks of managing servers, storage, and networking are invisible to the developer. This doesn't mean that servers are absent; instead, the complexity of managing these servers is removed from the developer's plate. It's all about abstracting the server management to make deployment and scaling as straightforward as possible.

Serverless Computing vs. Managed Services

Serverless computing and managed services both aim to simplify infrastructure management, but they differ in scope and control.

  • Managed Services: In managed services, the cloud provider manages the computing infrastructure (servers, storage, databases, etc.) on behalf of the customer. While this reduces the burden of server management, customers still need to provision, scale, and manage the services based on their application requirements. In most cases, pricing is also based on pre-purchased units of capacity and not based on actual usage.

  • Serverless Computing: With serverless, the cloud provider goes a step further by dynamically managing the allocation of machine resources. Pricing is based on the actual amount of resources consumed by an application, rather than on pre-purchased units of capacity. For example, with a serverless function, we wont be charged if no one calls it. This model offers even greater flexibility and efficiency, as it automatically scales with the application demand.

Examples from Popular Cloud Providers

  • AWS Lambda: AWS Lambda is a pioneer in serverless computing, allowing us to run code in response to triggers such as changes in data, shifts in system state, or user actions. Lambda automatically scales our application by running code in response to each trigger, with billing based on the number of requests for our functions and the time it takes for our code to execute.

  • Azure Functions: Azure Functions provides a similar offering, enabling us to run event-driven code without explicitly provisioning or managing infrastructure. It supports a wide range of programming languages and integrates seamlessly with other Azure services, making it a flexible option for building complex applications. Azure also considers logic apps as serverless, which is a low code / no code solution.

  • Google Cloud Functions: GCP's entry into the serverless world allows us to run event-driven functions that respond to cloud events without the need for server management. It scales automatically, from a few requests per day to thousands per second, and we pay only for the compute time you consume.


Serverless computing represents a significant shift in the way applications are developed and deployed, offering an unprecedented level of operational efficiency and flexibility. By abstracting the complexities of server management, it enables developers to focus on what they do best: building great applications. Whether you choose AWS Lambda, Azure Functions, or Google Cloud Functions, you're leveraging a platform that allows for rapid development and deployment, without the overhead of traditional server management. Serverless computing is not just a trend; it's the future of cloud computing, enabling more scalable, efficient, and flexible application development.

See also

Read and learn about serverless programming in-depth from the Serverless Programming Cookbook by Heartin Kanikathottu.

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