What Serverless Architecture Actually Means, and Where Servers Enter the Picture

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Serverless architecture is not, despite its name, the elimination of servers from distributed applications. Serverless architecture refers to a kind of illusion, originally made for the sake of developers whose software will be hosted in the public cloud, but which extends to the way people eventually use that software. Its main objective is to make it easier for a software developer to compose code, intended to run on a cloud platform, that performs a clearly-defined job.

If all the jobs on the cloud were, in a sense, “aware” of one another and could leverage each other’s help when they needed it, then the whole business of whose servers are hosting them could become trivial, perhaps irrelevant. And not having to know those details might make these jobs easier for developers to program. Conceivably, much of the work involved in attaining a desired result, might already have been done.

What does serverless mean for us at [Amazon] AWS?” asked Chris Munns, senior developer advocate for serverless at AWS, during a session at the re:Invent 2017 conference. “There’s no servers to manage or provision at all. This includes nothing that would be bare metal, nothing that’s virtual, nothing that’s a container — anything that involves you managing a host, patching a host, or dealing with anything on an operating system level, is not something you should have to do in the serverless world.”

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