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Serverless is the New PaaS

The growing demand for quicker and flexible software development is pushing companies to explore new platforms and technologies to meet the requirements of users. They are looking at serverless as a go-to solution to enhance and speed up their cloud-native journey.

Software solutions such as PaaS (Platform as a Service) have picked up steam by offering complete software deployment and development platforms in the cloud. Serverless architecture is one of the many technologies that is quickly gaining widespread acceptance from users today.

Let us look into PaaS and Serverless in detail on how different these technologies are, how they can be utilized in modern development processes, can they co-exist and many more such questions.

An Overview of Platform as a Service (PaaS)

PaaS/ Platform as a Service is a cloud platform that offers services related to computing and software resources with or without architecture management requirements. PaaS is the next evolved step of IaaS (Infrastructure as a Service).

In IaaS, users can have any number of servers, storage and network infrastructure. They are also in charge of managing the operating system, software configurations, etc.

In PaaS, cloud service provider manages the OS, underlying servers, network architecture and software configurations. This allows users to develop and deploy applications quickly and efficiently.

Benefits of PaaS

  • Resource management is streamlined and economical
  • Can create highly scalable and ready-to-use environments quickly
  • Saves time with lesser infrastructure management and monitoring requirements
  • Support for automation reduces workloads in the software development lifecycle
  • Enhanced security and compliance
  • Flexible development and deployment pipeline

Popular PaaS Offerings

  • Azure Cognitive Search
  • BitNami by VMWare
  • Google App Engine
  • IBM Cloud Pak for Applications
  • Azure App Service
  • RedHat OpenShift
  • AWS Elastic Beanstalk

An Overview of Serverless

Serverless is a cloud execution model where computing resources that are required to run application code on demand (or as a response to any specific event) are automatically facilitated. With serverless, resources can be spontaneously scaled up or down depending on the demand. It switches to zero scalability when the application stops running which means you pay only for what you use.

Serverless disburdens all maintenance responsibility for backend infrastructure and operational tasks of cloud such as supplying, scheduling, scaling, patching, and more to the provider.

Does serverless mean no servers?

Of course, there will be servers in serverless computing. Here “serverless” means servers are invisible to customers and they do not need to manage or interact with them. Serverless, microservices and containers form the core of any cloud-native app development.

Benefits of Serverless:

  • Developers get ample time to optimize front-end application code and business logic and hence increases productivity.
  • Serverless is cost-effective as you pay only for the resources used while running the application.
  • Serverless is essentially a polyglot environment meaning developers can code in any language or framework that they are comfortable with.
  • Serverless simplifies DevOps cycles and enables for smooth workflows and integration within the framework.
  • Parallel processing is efficient, quick and effortless with serverless.
  • Users get required visibility into system and time utilized and this information can be collected systematically in serverless.

Popular serverless offerings

  • AWS Lambda
  • AWS Fargate
  • Azure Functions
  • IBM cloud functions
  • Google Cloud Functions
  • Apache OpenWhisk

Serverless vs. FaaS (Function as a Service)

Serverless and FaaS (Function as a Service) is often confused. The fact is that FaaS is a subdivision of serverless. Serverless includes FaaS and other associated resources and cloud related services which are not visible to the user.

What is serverless stack?

Serverless is a set of attributes and makes it easier for user to understand and manifest in other core areas of the stack.

  • Functions as a Service (FaaS): FaaS forms the core of the serverless architecture. It is responsible for processing workflows across the framework.
  • Serverless databases and storage: SQL and NoSQL databases and storage (especially object storage) form the base of the data layer. Here going “serverless” means transitioning from giving instances under defined capacity, query limits and then scaling accordingly with the infrastructure. This is an intricate process but done seamlessly.
  • Event streaming and messaging: The architecture of Serverless works best for event-driven and stream-processing workloads.
  • API gateways: They act as proxies to web actions. They offer HTTP method routing, client ID and secrets, rate limits, CORS, viewing API usage, viewing response logs, and API sharing policies.

Use Cases for Serverless

  • Serverless and microservices
  • The most popular use case of serverless is assisting microservices framework. The focus of microservices is to create small services that perform a particular task and communicate with other smaller tasks through APIs.

    Microservices can be built and operated using PaaS or containers but serverless is widely used for its features that facilitate small code bits, flexibility, and quick provisioning. As mentioned earlier, there will be no charges when the infrastructure is idle.

  • API backends
  • Any function or action in a serverless platform can be developed into a HTTP endpoint which will be ready to be used by web users. When functions are enabled for web, they are called web actions. Post the development of web actions, they are assembled into a full-featured API with an API gateway which aids additional security, OAuth, rate limiting and custom domain.

  • Data processing
  • Serverless works perfectly well with structured text, audio, image, and video data. It enriches tasks like data enrichment, transformation, validation, cleansing along with PDF processing, audio normalization, image processing, optical character recognition (OCR), and video transcoding.

  • Massively parallel compute/ “Map” operations
  • Serverless runtime supports any kind of parallel task where each parallelizable task results in one action command. Sample tasks involve everything from data search and processing (specifically Cloud Object Storage), Map(-Reduce) operations and web scraping to business process automation and hyperparameter tuning.

  • Stream processing workloads
  • Serverless architecture is best suited for operating with all kinds of data stream ingestions (for validation, cleansing, enrichment, transformation), along with IoT sensor data, application log data, financial market data and business data streams (from other data sources).

    Difference Between PaaS and Serverless

    1. Scalability
    2. With serverless applications, scaling up and down is effortless and depends on the demand without any requirement of configuration or interference from the developer.

      A PaaS solution offers scalability as well, but the users must configure the scaling parameters. Here scaling does not happen automatically depending on the demand.

    3. Pricing structure
    4. Users pay only for what they have used and pay for the number of requests or execution time with serverless.

      In PaaS, Users must follow the pay-as-you-go model I.e., a flat fee is charged for the service irrespective of how you use the services. However, users do have an option to customize the resource requirements and manage costs.

    5. Control
    6. With PaaS you have control over the underlying application and framework configurations. It becomes easier to test and debug the apps and know more about application logic. However, more control means increased complexity in the development and deployment process. This can be fixed through serverless solutions.

      Serverless provides no control over apps or infrastructure.

    7. Application architecture
    8. Serverless applications are faster, but they cannot really support long-running processes and applications. It is well suited for event-driven architectures or microservices-based applications.

    9. Vendor lock-in
    10. It is not easy for most companies with PaaS services to migrate to a different service provider.

      It is much easier to migrate a serverless function between different service providers. Here, the function is loaded with dependencies that are required and does not rely on any vendor-specific technologies.

    Is serverless the new PaaS?

    We now have a clear understanding of serverless and PaaS. It is obvious to know whether serverless is the new PaaS? There is an evident overlap between the functionality and use cases of each technology. And the fact that people are appreciating and accepting serverless as a platform proves that this is the future. So, it is safe to say that serverless is the future and serverless is the new PaaS.


    IT teams want to make the best of the options they have. They want a multi-platform approach that facilitates scalability and meets their requirements at the same time. It doesn’t matter whether it is PaaS, containers, or serverless, companies want a mix of technologies that offer newer cloud-native applications, refactoring existing apps, and getting rid of apps that no longer serve the purpose.

    Which technology or solution to go with is dependent on customer requirements, application infrastructure, and developer preferences. With all the leading cloud providers offering both options, it’s advisable for organizations and users to go with an option that best suits their needs. We at Embitel have a track record of successful associations with many enterprises and businesses with cloud-based requirements. Our expert team will provide end-to-end assistance on all cloud-native and cloud-based applications and deployment.


    About the Author

    Vaibhav is a digital-marketing professional with a deep-rooted interest in everything automotive. Regular collaborations with automotive tech guys keep him apprised of all new trends in the automotive industry. Besides digital marketing, Vaibhav is fond of writing and music.

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