By: Jayati
July 8 2019

Addressing Top 9 Challenges of Serverless 

Amid the tangles of innumerable codes, serverless dawned upon the IT cultures like a boon. The serverless based operations brought together agility and performance improvements in the software development processes. It allowed developers to work on the code and take care of other functionalities. However, in the process of making things easier, challenges were inevitable and quite expected.

This blog will highlight the key challenges that you might encounter while dealing with Serverless computing and its components. It will give you a heads up in case you are about to undertake serverless endeavors or are already on the path.  

For a comprehensive guide on serverless computing, check this out.

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#1 Performance Versus Latency - Cold or Warm

The serverless systems don’t run on standby when not in use, i.e., they always start functioning as a cold-hit where the codes rerun from the start. In order to minimize users’ cold-starts, the environment can be kept alive for a set amount of time and the warm-hit can function on the already running codes. This solution did help in keeping the latency in check but turned out to be causing other problems in serverless functions. For instance, only a select range of functions can be warmed up by the serverless providers that help in maintaining a low-latency response. 

Also, putting the containers at hold for a longer period of time than in use or reusing them can expose them to hackers with risks of being penetrated. Thirdly, the act of keeping the functions warm increased the cost exponentially. 

#2 Security is a Myth

We often assume that security is a built-in feature in serverless environments. Much to our surprise, even major service providers like AWS Lambda and GCF do not gauge for a secure system. This gets further complicated as developers cannot add security from their own end in case they are aware of any deficiencies from the providers’ end. This debunks the monotony of serverless providers as more organizations are seeking fully secured serverless operations without any flaws in the platform. 

#3 Control Over Visibility

The key aspect of serverless is the independent infrastructure that is divorced from the code. 

As the BaaS (Backend as a service) and FaaS (Frontend as a Service) are both operated by third parties, it gets difficult to balance the control when compared to the non-serverless operations where the ownership of the whole stack can be maintained. 

This gives rise to the need for risk assessment. Organizations now have to evaluate how losing control will affect their business operations, especially in terms of security and visibility. A probable solution is to have overall real-time visibility that can help eliminate unexpected attacks and undiscovered errors.  

Before Serverless, local tests were conducted with ease.

#4 Complex Architectures 

The primary feature of serverless computing is the code that runs for each function separately. With an already complex architecture, the code adds one task at a time which makes the infrastructure more complicated. It becomes perplexing for developers to work with such impediments.

Developers can educate themselves on architectural patterns to become familiar with asynchronous messaging, a more efficient way of communication. Another way of managing the complexities of the architecture is to study the services in detail and find a middle path of fixing it, if possible. 

#5 Vendor Lock-In Dilemmas

Another challenge with the serverless providers is the rising vendor lock-in situations. When the serverless computing is bought from a particular vendor, the organizations can get locked in with a contract that includes limited services and support. Only when they realize the gravity of it, possible solutions to getting out are either costly or full of risks. In such cases, enterprises have to seek answers to the following questions:

  • Where all does the lock-in apply? 
  • What is the estimated cost of switching vendors?
  • What are the missed opportunities if you choose the non-serverless approach? (This question applies if you haven’t taken the plunge) 

#6 Tooling Requirements

The robustness of the software building process is of critical importance which requires tooling for both, development and running the platform. Activities like deploying, monitoring, troubleshooting and securing demand specific tools on a regular basis. On the development end, there are multiple vendors who offer tooling services that improve local development. As the serverless frameworks are still evolving, the process of tooling becomes more critical before deploying any production.

#7 Testing Troubles

Without making much difference in the degree of risk, moving from non-serverless to serverless applications only changes how the testing is performed. Before the serverless, local tests were conducted with ease. However, now the testing gets extended to mocking the cloud services on the local machine. Moreover, the risks travel into the configuration and integrations departments too. 

Thus, serverless operations require a huge amount of investments and efforts in the testing of the architect for the business to have a swift run during the integration processes.  

#8 Hiccups in Monitoring

Similar to the testing, the monitoring of the system also changes in the serverless environment. 

This gives rise to an efficient monitoring tool becoming the need of the hour. But a good tool would be the one that possesses features for visualizing the logs and metrics and supports distributed tracing along with monitoring between different services. For instance, native Kubernetes monitoring gives visibility for the serverless frameworks with an in-built higher level technology in the architecture.

#9 The Debugging Issues

Testing and debugging Lambdas locally is not simple. An essential functioning for the understanding of codes, how they perform and run in the actual system, the act of debugging is often sidelined. For serverless vendors, it is a necessity to offer log-based performance metrics. However, when it comes to debugging, they have limited capabilities. Developers encounter errors generated by serverless. A probable solution can be bundling only the functions needed for a certain test. 

Serverless community offers great help and support in sharing the struggles of solving the issues. 

Results

It doesn’t take much time to go serverless. But organizations should always weigh the pros and cons of entering the world of serverless for it’s not all easy in there. It is only after giving much thought, considering the above challenges and learning from other’s experiences, one should make the big leap. Even though the benefits outweigh the challenges, a serverless community offers great help and support in sharing the struggles of solving the issues. 

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