Functions as a Service Use Cases
We started building serverless applications a couple of years ago. As part of that we’ve become quite familiar with the concept of Functions as a Service (FaaS) — our CloudSee Drive product uses them extensively. FaaS allow developers to run individual code functions in response to events, without managing any underlying infrastructure. We wanted to provide a look at Functions as a Service use cases, including useful examples, business reasons, and potential drawbacks.
Functions as a Service Use Cases
Web Application Backend
FaaS can handle backend tasks for web and mobile applications, such as user authentication, processing user requests, generating thumbnails for uploaded images, or handling user registrations. Organizations gain scalability, cost-efficiency, and the ability to focus on code development without worrying about server provisioning and management.
Example: Handling HTTP requests to perform specific tasks like user authentication, data validation, or processing form submissions.
Real-Time Data Processing
FaaS supports real-time processing of data streams. It can read streaming data, analyze it, and take action based on the data. Use cases include real-time analytics, fraud detection, or triggering alerts based on specific data patterns. It enables rapid response to changing data volumes, reduced latency, and cost savings by paying only for the compute time used.
Example: Processing incoming streams of data (IoT sensor data, logs, clickstreams) for analytics, transformation, or aggregation.
Asynchronous Task Processing
Functions as a Service can orchestrate complex workflows by connecting multiple functions to perform a series of tasks in response to different events. This could involve coordinating different services, sending notifications, or handling multi-step processes. It helps offload resource-intensive tasks from primary application servers, provides better scalability, and improves overall application performance.
Example: Handling background tasks such as image resizing, file processing, or sending notifications.
FaaS works well for event-driven architectures. It can respond to events from a varriety of sources (e.g., file uploads, messages, databases. This results in efficient handling of event-driven workflows, reduced operational overhead, and improved agility in responding to events.
Example: Automating responses to specific events, such as triggering a notification when a file is uploaded to a storage bucket.
FaaS can handle IoT device data processing and management. It can process sensor data, validate it, trigger alerts for anomalies, or execute commands based on business rules. FaaS enables handling variable workloads, managing sporadic bursts of data, and scaling based on demand without provisioning additional infrastructure.
Example: Handling sensor data from IoT devices for real-time analysis, alerting, or data processing.
Chatbots and Voice Assistants
FaaS can power chatbot applications by processing and responding to user queries in real-time. It can integrate with natural language processing services to understand and generate responses. The benefit is scalability for handling fluctuating user interactions, cost-effectiveness, and ease of updating and iterating on chatbot functionality.
Example: Building conversational interfaces that respond to user queries, process natural language, and trigger appropriate actions.
Compelling Business Reasons for Functions as a Service
FaaS services charge based on usage of resources, reducing costs compared to maintaining continuously running servers.
FaaS platforms automatically scale up or down in response to demand, ensuring optimal performance without over-provisioning.
Developers can focus on writing applications without the hassles of server management, provisioning, and scaling.
Drawbacks of Functions as a Service
Cold Start Latency
Functions may experience latency during initial spin-up as the platform initializes resources.
Limited Execution Time
FaaS platforms impose execution time limits for functions, which restricts long-running tasks.
Adopting a FaaS platform may lead to vendor lock-in when using proprietary APIs and services.
Considerations of Functions as a Service
Evaluate the performance impact of short-lived functions and latency for time-sensitive applications.
Coordinating complex workflows and integrating a variety of disparate FaaS functions may introduce additional complexity.
Verify secure authentication, authorization, and handling of sensitive data within FaaS functions.
Putting Functions as a Service to Work
For organizations seeking agile, efficient handling of event-driven workloads, Functions as a Service presents a compelling option. FaaS offers a scalable and cost-effective approach for various use cases where quick execution, event-driven processing, and scalability are key requirements. It allows developers to focus on writing code without worrying about managing infrastructure, making it suitable for many modern application scenarios. Assessing specific use cases and weighing the advantages against potential limitations is crucial before adopting FaaS extensively within any organization.