Serverless is an innovative approach to application development that enables developers to build and run applications without having to manage the underlying infrastructure. In a serverless environment, the cloud provider takes care of provisioning, scaling, and managing the servers required to run the application, allowing developers to focus on writing code.
Key benefits of serverless include:
This is part of a series of articles about serverless monitoring
Microservices is an architectural style that structures an application as a collection of small, loosely coupled services. Each service is responsible for a specific piece of functionality and can be developed, deployed, and scaled independently. This approach enables organizations to build and maintain large-scale applications more efficiently by breaking them down into smaller, manageable components.
Key benefits of microservices include:
Easier scaling: Microservices make it easier to scale your application, as you can independently scale each service based on its specific needs. This is particularly useful for applications with varying workloads and usage patterns, as it allows you to optimize resource allocation for each service.
In this article
Before we explore the differences between serverless and microservices, it’s important to understand that they are not mutually exclusive. It is quite common to run some microservices as serverless functions. However, in this comparison, we’ll compare a full microservices application with a minimal approach based only on serverless functions.
The serverless and microservices model have different strategies at their core. Microservices are designed for applications that need to run in the long term. They provide persistence and high scalability for complex applications.
The serverless model is designed for efficiency. Unlike microservices that run continuously, serverless functions only run in response to specific triggers or inputs. The serverless architecture is event-induced, meaning in the absence of a trigger, no function is performed. This eliminates unnecessary CPU usage, saving costs and reducing overheads.
Microservices are dependent on the capabilities of the development team, whether in-house or outsourced. This team manages monitoring, deployment, support, and maintenance. All aspects regarding the architecture’s support, computing, and security are the team’s responsibility.
Serverless, on the other hand, relies on a third-party provider. The development team does not need to deploy and maintain server infrastructure. All internal procedures are managed by the cloud vendor. This strategy helps cut project costs, avoid recruitment and training expenses, as well as hardware investments and storage costs.
The initial stages of developing microservices are costly. The project requires several teams to develop each component and merge them via APIs. Since microservices leverage in-house resources and support, their development and upkeep tend to be pricey. However, there are benefits to this approach such as independence from third-party plans and avoiding potential vendor lock-in.
Conversely, a serverless architecture generally enables lower costs. Developers only need to write specific code elements, which are automatically deployed by the serverless runtime. There is no need for server and hardware specialists and overall development complexity is reduced.
Serverless functions have a restricted runtime. Each provider sets its own limit on the duration a function can run. For instance, on AWS Lambda, a function is limited to run for 15 minutes. This is because by design, functions are short-term processes intended to minimize RAM usage.
Microservices are not bound by vendor restrictions on runtime, storage capacity, and RAM. This makes them ideal for intricate long-term tasks that necessitate handling and manipulation of immense data amounts.
Related content: Read our guide to serverless logging
In reality, most development teams don’t need to choose between serverless and microservice architectures. Major Cloud providers (Google, Amazon, Microsoft) have recognized the rising demand for these methodologies and can support both full-fledged microservices applications and lightweight serverless applications. Microservices can be engineered as a combination of containers, event-driven serverless functions, or using other deployment models.
Here are key considerations for development teams aiming to integrate serverless more deeply into their microservices applications:
Related content: Read our guide to serverless observability
Lumigo is a troubleshooting platform, purpose-built for microservice-based applications. Developers using container technologies like Kubernetes or serverless services like AWS Lambda, to orchestrate their applications can use Lumigo to monitor, trace and troubleshoot issues fast. Deployed with zero-code changes and automated in one-click, Lumigo stitches together every interaction between micro and managed service into end-to-end stack traces. These traces, served alongside request payload data, give developers complete visibility into their container environments. Using Lumigo, developers get:
Get started with a free trial of Lumigo for your microservice applications.