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App Development
5 minutes read

Understanding Serverless APIs

By Jose Gomez
By Jose Gomez
App Development
5 minutes read

If you are interested in serverless computing, you will likely want to learn more about serverless APIs. Serverless applications and APIs have gained a lot of popularity, largely thanks to the plethora of services offered by companies like Google, Amazon, and Microsoft. In addition, business leaders see real-world benefits to the serverless approach. 

If you have read about serverless computing and applications, you might be confused about how APIs fit into the serverless picture. This post will help you understand serverless APIs and why they benefit businesses and development teams. 

Serverless APIs: A Brief History 

Before we begin discussing the intricacies of serverless APIs, you need to know what an API is. API stands for application programming interface. APIs are responsible for most of the functionality you enjoy in the applications you use. For example, when you make a payment online for an item you want to purchase, the functionality that powers that payment is made possible through an API. 

It makes no sense for development teams to build functions that already exist. For example, imagine you want to add a map feature to your mobile application. Why spend time and money building this feature when Google Maps already exists and offers better service than your team could develop? So instead of wasting time developing this inferior function, developers just use the Google Maps API to add map functionality to their applications. 

An easy way to picture what an API is is to imagine a mini application. APIs serve a single purpose, such as payment authorization, maps, weather conditions, etc. Like all applications, APIs must have backends or servers that power them. Until 2014 and the introduction of AWS Lambda, developers had to provision physical servers to run APIs. 

While development teams using the Google Maps API, for example, wouldn’t be responsible for the servers running that particular API, they would still be subject to the server conditions like heightened traffic demands, which could affect the performance of their applications. 

Traditional server providers run their client’s software on dedicated servers where data is stored, and functionality is processed. The serverless computing approach is a stark departure from the traditional model. Serverless computing is event-driven without a permanent infrastructure. Instead of using a set amount of server resources, servers are created as needed to meet traffic demands. 

Serverless APIs are the same as traditional APIs, except they utilize a serverless backend. For businesses and developers, serverless computing means they no longer have to worry about server maintenance or scaling server resources to meet user demands.

The Benefits of Serverless Computing 

Whether you want to develop serverless APIs or use them in your applications, there are several benefits to serverless computing that your organization should be aware of. The top benefits of serverless computing include the following:

  • No server management 
  • Scalable 
  • Reduced latency 
  • Cost efficient 
  • Fast updates 

No Server Management 

One of the most significant benefits of serverless APIs is that developers don’t have to manage physical servers. While there are servers, they are maintained by the vendor providing the serverless service. Managing, provisioning, and maintaining servers is a time-consuming task. When developers no longer have to worry about the backend of their applications, they can spend more time innovating and creating new serverless APIs and applications. 

Scalable 

Serverless APIs are nearly infinitely scalable. Scalability is an issue organizations run into when there is a spike in user demand. However, serverless APIs avoid the issue of scaling because they create server resources every time a request is made. Therefore, a serverless API or application will never be overwhelmed by a spike in demand, and it also won’t waste resources when they are not in use since they are only created when requests are made. 

Reduced Latency 

Latency can hurt the User Experience and limit the functionality of your application. Serverless APIs reduce latency because they are hosted on an origin server. Since the code of serverless APIs and applications can be run from anywhere, it is possible to run API and app functions on servers closer to end users. As a result, app and API function latency is reduced because requests don’t have to travel back to an origin server to be processed and executed. 

Cost Efficient 

Serverless computing is far more cost-efficient than the traditional alternative. This is due to the way serverless providers charge for server resources. Serverless computing providers charge organizations for the resources they use. Traditionally, a business would have to pay to provision servers; this cost doesn’t change if the servers get used heavily or lightly. Plus, if demand spikes, businesses must provision additional servers for more money. When you choose serverless computing, you only pay for the server resources actually used, and most providers, including AWS, have a free tier if your requests don’t pass a certain usage threshold. 

Fast Updates 

Serverless APIs and applications can be updated and deployed faster than traditional alternatives. Developers do not have to upload code to servers or configure backend server resources to update or deploy their APIs and apps. As a result, new updates can be made and released to users quickly. Since updates can be completed in far less time, developers no longer have to make big updates to their products and can release new updates in small batches as they are completed. 

Final Thoughts 

Serverless computing is the future of mobile and web app development. This approach to software development significantly reduces the burden placed on developers and enables them to spend more time focusing on the creative aspects of product development. If you want to learn more about serverless APIs and how they can benefit your next app development project, reach out to an experienced AWS partner.

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