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By Eleanor Bennett

Resources

4 min read

There are numerous types of services and processes in place to make software development more accessible and efficient for programmers. One ready-for-launch service developers can access remotely is Function as a Service, abbreviated as (FaaS).

What Is a Function?

A function, in a software development context, is a line or more of code that occurs repeatedly in the program’s code. Instead of having to rewrite the same collection of code whenever a specific action is needed, functions are blocks or chunks of code that can be used and reused whenever and wherever needed.

Functions are ready-to-use blocks of code available in specific libraries, either user or community generated. They can also be created by the developer themselves, controlling the exact steps the function executes. They can also be named anything, as long as it’s not a reserved word in the programming language of choice.

What Is Function as a Service?

FaaS platforms are cloud computing models that software engineers and developers can access to execute their code as they’re writing it. With it being a third-party offering, the developers aren’t required to maintain or manage any part of the cloud platform’s architecture and infrastructure. Still a relatively novel solution, with start-up companies first offering it on a commercial scale in the early 2010s. The FaaS serverless architecture is designed to execute individual blocks of code individually as they’re written by programmers, providing all the needed storage and programming power.

The main selling point of most FaaS offerings is for software developers to outsource work outside of their immediate sphere of expertise. It allows an individual or a team of software developers, engineers, and programmers to focus on coding whilst being cost-effective and efficient.

How Is FaaS Different From PaaS and IaaS?

Platform as a Service (PaaS), Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), as well as FaaS are all cloud computing offerings that can be used by software developers to streamline and simplify their work.

So what makes FaaS different?

Which offering developers end up utilizing depending on the level of control and abstraction they’re after. IaaS only offers the bare minimum levels of services, handling the physical infrastructure and data storage, leaving users to determine operating systems or containerization methods. PaaS takes things a step further, in which the service provider takes care of the operating system, runtime, and baseline components of the system. On the other hand, FaaS ensures software developers have the least amount of work to do outside of programming. This leaves the management of all underlying infrastructure and layers to the service provider.

The benefits of FaaS are especially valuable to software startups and small teams of strictly software developers.

How Does FaaS Work?

FaaS platforms are based on application microservices. Under normal circumstances, a microservice is able to execute a small and limited collection of functions. However, regarding FaaS, software developers are limited to one function per microservice.

When a function is set to be performed, the FaaS provider will gather server resources to execute the function, then disband and shut down the server. This allows for smooth and fast applications where only the requested functions are being executed instead of numerous unnecessary tasks all at once.

With the servers only running when a task is being executed, the application doesn’t take up permanent server space and capacity while it’s running. Using FaaS models, developers must work efficiently, using simple and repeating tasks in a set schedule that, when combined, result in a full-scale app or software.

The Advantages and Disadvantages of Using FaaS

FaaS offerings serve a niche user base of software developers and programmers working on their own, in startups, or as part of a small team. There are advantages and disadvantages to using FaaS as the primary model for software development.

Advantages of FaaS

Cost-Efficiency: The FaaS model enables software developers to start working on projects immediately, without having to worry about setting up a functional infrastructure.

Simplified Logistics: FaaS solutions take anything that isn’t software development work out of the equation. It allows for more agility when creating update packages and simplifies shipping them out to app users.

Built-in Scalability: As a serverless cloud computing mode, FaaS solutions are highly scalable on the user’s end. Individual functions can be scaled according to demand and computing power requirements.

Outsourced Quality: The third-party provider of the FaaS offering is responsible for the platform’s infrastructure physical and cyber integrity and security.

Disadvantages of FaaS

Reduced Control: The higher the level of abstraction of a cloud service is, the less control the user has over the offering. FaaS does not give users any control over the management or security of the service’s infrastructure, operating systems, and virtualization.

Complicated Software Testing: Developing software directly on FaaS makes it challenging to transfer to a local testing environment, especially if the provider offers a limited selection of cloud environments.

Limited Design: Without access to the backend, developers are limited with the designs and flexibility and designing an application or software.

What to Look For in a FaaS Provider

While still relatively new, the FaaS market is rapidly growing. In 2020, the global FaaS market was estimated at $8.9 billion. It’s projected to have a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 27.7% and reach $25.14 billion by 2026.

There are countless vendors on the FaaS market, so how do you choose the right provider for your software development project?

Supported Workloads: It’s crucial to work with a vendor able to keep up with the type of software you’re looking to create.

Third-party Compatibility: Vendor lock-in could hinder the future growth of the software. Agility and flexibility are key qualities when picking a FaaS provider.

Back-end Control: Different FaaS providers offer varying levels of user control over the provided infrastructure and backend. It’s imperative to find a suitable compromise between ready-for-you design and control.

Security: Working on the cloud, the bulk of your application’s security is reliant on the procedures and precautions your service provider takes.

If you found this article helpful than why not check out our blog post on Prometheus tools.

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