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Serverless or Microservices? Find Out Which Architecture to Choose

  • DevOps

29 August 2022

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To start a software development project, it’s important to think about the future for scalability and performance. There are 2 approaches to building an application that is scalable and secure. Both architectures prioritize security but approach it in their way. Let’s take a look at how businesses can benefit from the adoption of serverless architecture and microservices.

What Is the Difference Between Serverless and Microservices Models?

Microservices are small and autonomous. They are not monolithic — they do just one thing and do it well. The microservice architecture is an approach to building software applications as a suite of small services, each running in its process and communicating with lightweight mechanisms, often an HTTP resource API. These services are built around business capabilities and are independently deployable by fully automated deployment machinery.

Microservices offer long-term solutions. Each service can run 24/7 continuously. It’s a great permanent solution for teams with scaling in mind.

On the other hand, the functions of serverless apps are short-term. They only activate when there is a specific condition or input. Serverless architecture is event-driven, meaning it only starts working when there is a trigger. It’s an efficient development approach — the application doesn’t consume more CPU than needed, and teams get to cut costs on computing and storage space.

These fundamental differences aside, there are other aspects in which the two architectures are different. Let’s zoom in on several main factors in choosing between serverless computing and microservices.

Serverless Functions

In a few words, these functions are smaller, more narrowly focused, and can run only when triggered by a specific event. They are temporary, whereas microservices are long-term and can handle multiple related processes simultaneously. A single microservice can perform the same work as several functions.

Different Approaches to IT operations

Businesses that have microservice architecture have a ton of responsibilities. They need to hire super-talented developers and managers who can design and build these applications. They also must pay for the computing, network, and support of the architecture.

On the other hand, serverless architecture depends on a third-party vendor. The company doesn’t have to develop, secure, and maintain its servers. The Cloud vendor handles all internal operations. This approach reduces costs, bypassing hiring and onboarding expenses, storage costs, and hardware investments.

Costs

Microservices are less cost-effective in the beginning. First, you need a lot of teams to get it rolling. Second, the inter-component relations must be set up, which takes time and thorough planning. Finally, microservice development and maintenance are more expensive because you rely on in-house resources.

The main competitive advantage of serverless architecture is the possibility to reduce costs. When companies use serverless architecture, they benefit from sharing resources. Third-party vendors distribute servers among many clients, which is why they can allow cheaper subscriptions.

Runtime

Serverless functions have a time limit. Every provider has its time limit for a given function. On AWS Lambda, for instance, a function can work for 15 minutes. This is because serverless functions are designed to be short-duration processes that shouldn’t use too much RAM.

Microservices are not limited by vendors’ requirements to runtime, storage space, and RAM. This is why they are a better fit for complex long-term operations that involve storing and manipulating vast amounts of data.

Why Choose Just One?

Today software development teams don’t necessarily need to choose between a serverless and microservice architecture. This is a new approach that bridges the gap between the old and the new. Cloud providers, who have been pushing customers to restructure their business operations, picked up on this new trend and found ways to bridge the gap. A microservice can be developed as a set of event-driven functions that are hosted on a third-party vendor’s infrastructure.

Here’s how software development teams can approach building a combined system without choosing between microservices architecture vs serverless architecture.

  • To be serverless, microservices should be event-triggered. Microservices should respond to particular conditions and user actions to work as a function.
  • Developers can increase the viability of serverless functions by integrating them. It can be done with Logic Apps (Microsoft) or Step Functions (Amazon). These tools allow assigning triggers to microservices and combining several functions into a service.
  • Transfer to the Cloud is crucial. Serverless development heavily relies on Cloud storage and computing. If you are considering implementing certain principles from serverless architecture, switching to a Cloud infrastructure should be your first move.

Both microservices and serverless architectures follow the same principles. They oppose traditional, monolithic development approaches, which prioritize stability and scalability. Microservices focus on long-term stability — each service can run as a standalone app on its own and work for long periods. While functions are set up as a response to a trigger and are short-lived by their nature.

While it’s still common to believe one must choose one architecture over the other, the truth is, that it depends on your brand’s goals. If you want to build a cost-efficient, short-term product that scales easily, serverless architecture is the way to go. For large platforms with high scaling needs and a long-term solution, microservices are what you need. If you’d like the benefits of both, you can combine microservices and serverless using Cloud infrastructure.

  • microservice architecture
  • microservices
  • serverless
  • serverless architecture
  • software development

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