Angel is at a crossroads. Her department cannot afford a server administrator. Still, she must source dedicated servers for the development and deployment of new apps. Her developer knows the hardware and supporting software he needs, but he is not experienced in administration. Scenarios like this one are leading IT managers to familiarize themselves with going “serverless.” There is, in fact, a server, but it is in the cloud and managed by a company that specializes in customized infrastructures.
From Cloud First to Cloud Smart
“The Cloud” refers to servers that perform specialized functions over the internet. So, if you have an email account like Yahoo, Hotmail or Gmail, you are already using the cloud. Or, if you stream movies and TV from Netflix or Hulu you’re there too. Many of us store and share files with Dropbox, Microsoft’s OneDrive or Google Drive. It’s all happening in the cloud.
If your agency’s need for innovation has outstripped budget or space and energy costs are a consideration, you too could benefit from going serverless. Incidentally, federal government offices have been migrating to cloud-based services to facilitate data storage, security and interoperability. And the Department of the Interior’s Cloud First Strategy (2011) is now evolving to Cloud Smart.
Technology has a wonderful way of folding in on itself and yielding new ways to secure data, perform more efficiently and simplify tasks. Serverless is one of these. GovLoop Senior Editor and Project Manager Hannah Moss highlights a function of Serverless as Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS). With IaaS, you pay for space on off-premise servers connected to the network (infrastructure) and customize them to meet your needs.
What’s the biggest selling point of going serverless? For one thing, you’re essentially renting off-premise machines — servers — from a cloud provider. This means vendors are tasked with maintaining the infrastructure and hardware, as well as responding to any failures. In other words, you are free to put your energies into planning and executing exceptional service delivery.
Serverless – A Developer’s Paradise?
Now, with hardware and networking setup out of the way, software developers are able to get right down to testing and launching applications and websites in as soon as a week. With serverless, they no longer worry over fluctuations in web traffic or burgeoning databases. That’s because serverless backends can scale to add capacity or features automatically as they are needed. This intelligent design benefit is a standard of the Amazon Web Services (AWS) Lambda project. So, along with no longer worrying about setting up and configuring servers, you only pay for what you use. With Lambda, pricing is set by compute time used; if your code is not running, there is no charge. This revolution is called Function-as-a-Service (FaaS) by the team at Serverless.com.
Key benefits of going serverless
Remember, serverless does not mean there are no servers in use. But, it does mean that you no longer have to concern yourself with their setup, configuration or maintenance. Therefore, you can focus on making sure your clients, customers and patrons have fast and secure access to the services they need. Serverless.com counts four major benefits:
- No server administration
- Automatically scale to follow demand
- Pay for what you use, not capacity
- Speed of execution
To enhance things, the firm offers the Serverless Framework CLI (command line interface) to craft an application package, which may be hosted via any cloud services provider. Additionally, it’s possible to code exchanges among different clouds to create a standard, programmed infrastructure. Also, the Serverless Framework benefits from an active community of developers and adopters, with many plugins to extend capability. Serverless Framework supports cloud providers Kubernetes, AWS, IBM Cloud, Azure and Google Cloud Platform.
Look before you leap to the cloud and avoid misconceptions, says GovLoop Contributor and Public Sector CTO Jonathan Alboum. According to a study by independent tech market research firm Vanson Bourne, 69 percent of respondents were under the impression that migrating to the cloud released them from the obligations of data management and protection. No, these requirements do not shift to the cloud vendor. And why would you want them to? After all, you’ve worked hard to gain the trust of your clientele.
Truly, your division’s role in the lives of citizens and their privacy protection is a major one. To that end, Alboum suggests that administrators analyze, categorize and secure all client data to avoid exposing personally identifiable information (PII). Also critical, you should confirm data availability and ownership at all times for records retention, inquiry or subpoena. Prepare for outages on either side with full backups that are verified periodically.
Indeed, cloud-based services are a boon to the budget-conscious and offer a multitude of ways for developers to work with confidence. In these ways, cloud computing seems born for modern imperatives for fast, efficient collaboration, deployment and self-service. Ultimately, take special care and don’t relinquish stewardship of data, your precious cargo.