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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.

What is the role of Kubernetes and Knative in relation to FaaS?

Kubernetes and Knative play integral roles in the implementation and functionality of Function as a Service (FaaS). Kubernetes, being an open-source container orchestration tool, is crucial for managing cloud applications effectively. It provides features such as monitoring, security, logging, and authentication, which are fundamental to the seamless deployment and operation of applications in the cloud.

Meanwhile, Knative allows developers to run serverless workloads within a Kubernetes cluster. By leveraging the power of Kubernetes, Knative enables developers to combine the benefits of serverless computing with the flexibility and reliability of containers. This combination eliminates the need for developers to choose between serverless architecture and containerization when building cloud applications.

Knative offers advantages such as automated container builds, full portability, and the ability to operate across hybrid environments. It brings forth the scalability and on-demand capabilities of serverless computing while leveraging the availability and consistency provided by containers. The creators of Kubernetes and Knative believe that developers should have access to both serverless and container technology, and their goal is to enhance the availability and reliability of containers with the dynamic scaling and flexible resource allocation.

What are some use cases for FaaS?

Function-as-a-Service (FaaS) offers numerous use cases and benefits for various types of workloads. One prominent use case is for high-volume and parallel tasks. FaaS provides the ability to isolate and scale transactions efficiently, making it an ideal choice for handling such workloads.

Additionally, FaaS can be utilized in the creation of backend systems, enabling developers to build robust and scalable architectures. This proves beneficial for activities such as data processing, format conversion, encoding, and data aggregation, making it a versatile tool for handling complex data operations.

With the rise of web applications and the need for real-time interactions, FaaS can serve as a valuable tool for developing responsive and interactive web apps. It can be used for both the frontend and backend development, allowing developers to leverage its capabilities for tasks like data/stream processing or creating online chatbots.

Moreover, FaaS provides a cost-effective approach for managing and utilizing third-party services. By adopting a FaaS approach, businesses can effectively control costs, particularly in scenarios like Android app development. With FaaS, costs are significantly lower as charges are based on specific functions when the app connects to the cloud, such as batch processing, rather than traditional approaches that may incur constant costs.

Beyond cost benefits, FaaS also offers improved computing performance. By breaking down applications into smaller, more manageable functions, FaaS allows for the parallel execution of tasks, resulting in faster processing times and enhanced overall performance.

What are some best practices for using FaaS?

Best practices for using FaaS include:

1. Design functions to perform a single action: It is crucial to ensure that each FaaS function is designed to execute a single piece of work in response to an event. By keeping the code scope limited, efficient, and lightweight, functions can load and execute quickly, improving overall performance.

2. Avoid calling other functions within a function: FaaS provides the benefit of function isolation, which helps with scalability, cost optimization, and overall maintainability. Therefore, it is recommended to refrain from having functions call other functions excessively. Adhering to this practice enhances the value of the isolation provided by FaaS.

3. Minimize the use of libraries: To optimize the performance and scalability of functions, it is advisable to limit the use of libraries within them. Excessive usage of libraries can slow down function execution and potentially hinder scalability. By keeping the number of libraries to a minimum, functions can remain lightweight and easier to scale.

By following these best practices, users can maximize the benefits of FaaS by ensuring fast execution, cost optimization, and improved scalability.

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

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