What is Serverless Database?
Serverless computing has come a long way in the world of software development. Enterprise solutions that need to handle dynamic traffic and performance loads have benefitted tremendously from serverless computing. It helps businesses avoid too much pressure or pumping too much money into their own tech stack. Now, one of the prerequisites of serverless computing is the serverless database. In this post, we will understand everything about serverless databases, including their benefits and limitations.
Table of Contents
- What is Serverless Database?
- Benefits of Serverless Database
- Limitations of serverless database
What is Serverless Database?
As highlighted in the introduction, a serverless database is a database that’s designed to handle dynamic workloads. It is mainly used in those environments that are unpredictable as it has the unique capability to scale up its performance based on demands. The best part about a serverless database is that you pay only for what is used.
Any serverless solution, including a database, works through the FaaS (Function-as-a-service) model. In this, whenever the cloud receives the application code executed by the user, it immediately calculates the number of resources needed to perform that action. It then examines the servers for available capacity and distributes the resources accordingly.
Enterprises from a variety of industries, such as finance, telecommunication, IoT, and eCommerce, use serverless databases for a variety of use cases, including-
- Developing new applications
- Owning applications that are infrequently used
- Managing applications with variable workloads
- Requirement for a test database
Popular examples of serverless databases include DynamoDB, Azure Cosmos DB, Fauna DB, and Google Cloud Datastore.
Benefits of Serverless Database
Here are some advantages of using a Serverless Database in your organization -
When you have a fixed number of servers, there are high chances of underutilization, making traditional databases far more expensive than serverless databases in most cases. In other words, when you use a serverless database, you are always near-optimal resource utilization. You will not be paying for resources you don’t actually need. A serverless database also saves huge operating costs in the form of licensing, installations, and maintenance.
When you have unlimited scalability, your development team will not be under any unwanted pressure related to data storage while building, deploying, and maintaining applications. They can instead focus on building a better application that will be loved by your users. Your application will also be future-proofed by switching to a serverless database, as you or your team need not keep altering the infrastructure based on your customers’ growing demands.
Faster Application Deployments
This is a given because serverless databases eliminate the need for any backend configuration. The developers also don’t have to upload any code manually. All they need to do is upload tiny stacks of code and deploy the application. Thanks to serverless databases, your team can also fix and update code features without having to change the entire application.
Autonomous server management
Handling servers is by no means an easy task. It involves a variety of sub-processes, such as provisioning, capacity planning, scaling, and maintenance. In the traditional setup, all of these activities have to be performed manually, which takes a lot of time and thought. This is completely avoided when you switch to a serverless database, as it is handled by the service provider. Long story short - you enjoy complete autonomous server management.
Limitations of Serverless Database
Here are some of the disadvantages of a serverless database -
Not suitable for all
A serverless database is not suitable for some businesses, especially those dealing with very high workloads. Even though a serverless database is scalable, the service provider imposes certain resource limits, which can hamper your development process. In fact, such businesses will find it more cost-efficient to bulk-provision multiple servers on-premises to handle the load.
Wake up Time
This is probably the biggest issue with a serverless database. When a serverless database is not used, it goes into an idle state to save on resources. And when it needs to be used again, a cold start happens, and the system takes some time to relaunch the underlying processes. There will be prolonged latency, especially if you are the first user to interact with the database after the cold start.
This might come as a surprise, especially since most of us believe that cloud providers are taking care of all the vulnerabilities. But we forget that in such an ecosystem, the volume of attacks is much higher as there are so many components in a serverless architecture that can serve as an entry point to initiate the attack.
More monitoring and debugging effort
Diagnosing performance issues in a serverless architecture is always a daunting task. This is mainly because the environment where the serverless database is running is not open source. It means you cannot replicate its performance characteristics in a local environment. Also, you cannot use tools like a debugger, a profiler, or an APM tool to debug the system. However, this issue can be solved by using other 3rd party serverless monitoring tools.
As you can see from this post, the future of serverless databases looks quite promising, thanks to its scalability and availability. At the same time, it is not possible to completely shun the traditional databases as they are best suited for those applications with very high workloads. So pick a database that matches your exact requirements.