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10 Things Serverless Architects Should Know

The word “serverless” is a prominent buzzword in the field of technology in recent times. The various cost and agility related benefits of serverless computing have been the prominent elements driving its popularity. Serverless is the common alternative for every business to change its focus from server maintenance and operations towards software development.

Being serverless allows enterprises to shift the management of their processes, operating systems, and services to a third-party service provider. Serverless architecture leads to reduced liability without any worries of system administration for developers. So, developers should update their capabilities in order to cope with the rising demands for serverless. Most important of all, serverless architects should clarify all misconceptions and myths related to the serverless paradigm.  

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10 Important Things Serverless Architects Should Know

These ten topics are ideal for readers to enrich their knowledge regarding serverless skills.

1. The upward direction of responsibility

The foremost highlight that serverless architects should know about serverless computing is the upward movement of responsibility. AWS ends its responsibility at the hypervisor level. The user has to determine the right instance type and family, followed by loading the app code in it. In addition, users would have to monitor the app’s virtual machines to ensure the smooth functioning of the app. Containers can offer a comparatively lightweight execution environment with a serverless architecture. The use of containers can help in improving the appropriate use of hardware alongside driving faster instantiation. 

On the other hand, serverless architects should know that the basic implementation of the operations processes does not change. Users have to bear the responsibility for checking the seamless operation of the app. Serverless architects can find the functionalities of loading and execution of application code with AWS Lambda. As a result, architects can ensure the availability of relevant computing resources for the execution of the Lambda code. 

2. Fluency in Microservices and API design

The adoption of microservices is also one of the important highlights of serverless computing. The transition to microservice-based architectures is responsible for increasing attention to decoupling dependencies and decomposition of monolithic applications. Therefore, serverless architects should know more about designing and deploying microservices through platforms such as Amazon API Gateway. 

Amazon Web Services (AWS) offers credible guidance on microservices with a whitepaper and extensive documentation. The documentation refers to an overview of microservice design, development of API-driven microservices with API Gateway, and best practices for developing enterprise-grade APIs with API Gateway. Serverless architects should gain practical experience in the building of a serverless API through tools like API Gateway and AWS Lambda. Architects should opt for the Wild Rydes serverless web application workshop to obtain the required hands-on experience.

3. Management of workflow in a distributed environment

The distributed microservice architectures in serverless computing demand the design of coordinated transactions in different ways. Serverless architects have to deviate from the conventional database-centric ACID transactions, that followed a monolithic relational database. On the contrary, serverless architects should deploy a sequence of coordinated invocations throughout all services along with mechanisms for rollback and retry. 

One of the important points about serverless computing on AWS is the use of AWS Step Functions for building complex workflows and distributed transactions. AWS Step Functions provide the capability for integration with different AWS services. Serverless architects should learn about methods for the creation of business workflows and serverless state management and orchestration. In addition, serverless architects should obtain hands-on experience in the development of image processing workflow by leveraging computer vision AI services. 

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4. Asynchronous messaging and integration patterns for event-based architectures

One of the most important things serverless architects should know is asynchronous messaging patterns. Asynchronous messaging patterns are important for the development of event-driven architectures with simple queueing and message buffering. They are also applicable in cases of the requirement for a more detailed event-based orchestration pattern. 

Serverless architects can enable asynchronous messaging and integration by using queues or streams as message buffer and topics. Therefore, serverless architects should clearly know about the unique benefits and features of serverless streams, topics, and queues. Most important of all, they should also learn about identifying the right scenarios for using them. 

Another important thing for serverless architects is comprehensive knowledge of best practices related to serverless queue processing. The advisable course of action is to obtain hands-on experience in the development of a real-time data processing application. 

5. End-to-End Security Techniques

Security is one of the emerging topics with considerable significance in the domain of serverless computing. Other than the concerns of identity and access authorization and authentication, serverless architects have to focus on the security of many other aspects. Serverless architects should ensure input and request validation alongside dependency and vulnerability management. Furthermore, serverless architects should learn about the security of secrets, storage, and retrieval operations. 

The other areas for the attention of serverless architects include regulatory compliance concerns alongside IAM execution roles and invocation policies. In addition, architects should also focus on data encryption at rest as well as in transit and metering and throttling access. 

AWS provides many offerings and integrations in the above-mentioned knowledge areas for serverless architects. Therefore, serverless architects should learn about best practices for security of enterprise-grade serverless applications and the security of serverless and container services. Hands-on experience with end-to-end security techniques mentioned in this discussion is an imperative requirement for today’s serverless architects. 

6. Having a well-architected application

Ensuring the perfect architecture for an application is one of the important points about serverless computing for serverless architects. The architecture of applications should follow holistic precedents for designing applications on a cloud framework. For example, in the case of AWS, architects have to follow the AWS Well-Architected Framework for the architecture of their applications. The key factors in the framework include security, operational excellence, reliability, cost optimization, and performance efficiency. 

The implementation of the AWS Well-Architected Framework principles in crucial serverless scenarios and use cases is an important learning requirement for serverless architects. The serverless scenarios can involve architecture Alexa skills, stream processing, RESTful microservices, web applications, and mobile backends. 

The facility of documentation on AWS for implementing the AWS Well-Architected Framework for serverless applications offers effective learning materials. Serverless architects should focus on this requirement to ensure awareness regarding best practices and rules for serverless application architecture.

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7. Identity management, authentication, and authorization for serverless applications

Identity management, authentication, and authorization are some of the critical concerns in serverless computing. Present-day application developers have to plan for identity management and integrate it into their applications. Serverless architects should ensure strong authorization and authentication functionality for their applications. In the case of AWS, serverless architects can use Amazon Cognito. It helps in the deployment of serverless identity management alongside security for direct sign-up and sign-in for applications. 

Apart from authentication, Amazon API Gateway can also help developers in granular management of authorization logic at the gateway layer. It also helps in the direct authorization of requests without disclosing the various types of native authorization. Serverless architects should obtain in-depth insights regarding serverless authentication and authorization for identity management in serverless applications. 

Serverless architects should also learn more about the authentication of applications, an important aspect of serverless design, using Amazon Cognito. The recommended option for serverless architects to ensure expertise in serverless identity management and authentication is a hands-on experience. Serverless architects should obtain practical experience in Amazon Cognito, Amazon API Gateway, and AWS Identity and Access Management (IAM).

8. Automation of serverless deployments and CI/CD patterns

Serverless architects should also ensure the adoption of serverless deployment automation and CI/CD patterns. The integration of automation and code management in the application in early stages helps in efficient creation, deployment, and versioning of serverless computing architectures. This aspect is important in cases where you have to deal with various microservices or smaller components of an application. The example of such a scenario is evident in the case of AWS Lambda functions working in unison as a part of one large application. 

Serverless architects can find various first-party deployment tools and frameworks for serverless architectures. Some of the notable mentions among them include AWS Serverless Application Model (SAM), AWS Amplify, AWS Chalice, and the AWS Cloud Development Kit (CDK). In addition, serverless architects could also go for third-party deployment tools and frameworks like Zappa, Serverless Framework, or Sparta. 

Serverless architects should also try experiments with serverless design by building their personal custom-built, natively-developed framework. The most important aspect for serverless architects, in this case, refers to ensuring the feasibility of the automation strategy for the concerned use case and the team. In addition, the automation strategy selected by serverless architects should support the planned development workflow and planned data source integrations. 

Serverless architects should learn about fostering serverless development through the use of AWS SAM and the Serverless Application Repository. Most important of all, serverless architects should learn about building a complete CI/CD pipeline along with other DevOps deployment automation alternatives. 

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9. Implementing mechanisms for monitoring

Monitoring and transparency are formidable requirements in the field of serverless computing. Prior to advancing an application to production, it is essential to establish the observability of the application on different levels. First of all, application observability at microservice or component level is mandatory. The next level of observability is a crucial aspect of serverless computing involving in-depth logging and metrics at different granular levels. Furthermore, the use of tracing for obtaining a review of distributed system performance and end-to-end end-user experiences is an important requirement for serverless architects. 

Many new and varied components are a part of modern architectures that can provide centralized visibility into your serverless applications. Serverless architects could review their key logs, end-to-end traces, and metrics. As a result, serverless architects can monitor and understand the experience of end-users easily. 

Therefore, it is important for serverless architects to explore different options of tools and frameworks to monitor serverless applications. For example, AWS provides the AWS X-ray tool for monitoring modern applications. The AWS documentation for the X-ray tool can help serverless architects understand its functionality and use cases in detail. 

10. Continuous learning

The final and most important thing that serverless architects and developers should know about serverless computing is the significance of continuous learning. The continuous evolution of the serverless paradigm presents constant challenges to architects along their journey. 

So, it is important for serverless architects to capitalize on the opportunities to obtain in-depth knowledge regarding serverless architectures. Apart from trusted documentation and reliable training, serverless architects should always rely on continued learning from different sources. As a result, architects could gain expertise in new advancements, patterns, and functionalities in serverless architectures. 

  • Live serverless Twitch workshop series such as Build on Serverless by AWS or the Happy Little APIs can be a start. 
  • AWS Online Tech Talks can be a trusted source for improving your serverless knowledge. The facility of live Q&A alongside introspection into various AWS-related topics and domains gives the opportunity to access comprehensive and reliable information. 
  • Events such as AWS re-Invent and regional summits, as well as sessions and workshops, can help in diving deep into various use cases of serverless computing. 
  • Local AWS Meetup groups are also promising alternatives for staying updated with the happenings in the serverless landscape. 

In addition, serverless architects should look within the community to learn from the use cases by other architects and customers. Stories of serverless architects and customers can help in obtaining credible information about best practices for serverless architectures. 

Some Additional Factors to Consider

Serverless architects should also focus on many other factors before commencing their journey in serverless computing. For instance, exporting legacy applications to serverless systems. The process is highly intensive in terms of time and labor consumption. Therefore, developing new applications is the recommended alternative to ward off risks arising from the export of legacy applications to serverless. In addition, serverless architects should also understand the requirement of modifications in approach to workload management with serverless architectures. 

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Bottom Line

Based on the observations from the above-mentioned discussion, serverless computing is a difficult discipline. However, constant practice and learning about the existing and emerging precedents of serverless can provide considerable flexibility to serverless architects. One of the crucial inferences from the discussion is the importance of continuous learning.

Apart from the basic tenets of efficient serverless architectures such as higher availability and app code functionality, serverless architects should also address the user experience aspects thoroughly. Since AWS is the frontrunner in serverless, serverless architects could find various learning resources and documentation for improving their effectiveness. Furthermore, serverless architects should also focus on monitoring and security aspects in serverless architectures. Follow the best practices and guidelines to make the most of serverless!       

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About Neeru Jain

Technology Scientist by Mind and Passionate Writer by Heart!! With an enthusiasm for technological research and learning, Neeru turned out to be a technology expert. Her Belief: “Words are powerful enough to change Mind, Life, and the World; only the writer should have a real passion for Writing!!”
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