What is a Serverless Backend?

What is a Serverless Backend?

Posted on May 24, 2018 0 Comments
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There’s a new approach that’s eliminating previously onerous development tasks. A serverless backend, also known as backend as a service and function as a service, shifts backend functions like data and authentication to the cloud. Using a service provider, developers pick the functions they need and integrate them into their apps. No longer burdened by time-consuming and expensive server provisioning and maintenance, dev teams can do what they do best—develop apps with a laser focus on the frontend user experience.

A Dream Come True

Developing cloud-based products is a race without a finish line. As soon as you get a release out the door, you’ll need to fix bugs, triage new ideas and get out a new release. But you’re not done yet—you still need to provision and maintain the new servers. But what if you could focus on doing what you and your team do best? What if you could just develop great apps, focus on enhancing them with features your customers want and leave worrying about backend functions to others? What if you could be serverless?

The servers, functions and backend all still exist—they’re just in the cloud, all configured and ready to run when you need them. But you don’t need to worry about provisioning and maintaining this complex array of technologies. That’s the essence of being serverless.

Sounds like a dream come true, doesn’t it? Unlike most dreams, this one is real.

How a Serverless Backend Works

This new approach goes by a few names. We call it serverless, but you may hear it called backend as a service (BaaS) or function as a service (FaaS) as well. BaaS and FaaS are essentially just different levels of providing serverless backend integration. In pushing backend functions to the cloud, which seems like a logical step, serverless does something pretty revolutionary.

The way it works is simple. Similar to cloud-based applications, providers offer a variety of backend functions like data and authentication as services. Developers can subscribe and then pick the functions they need based on their app requirements. And just like that they can integrate them into their work.

The serverless approach eliminates or reduces the need for developers to manage complex and time-consuming backend server functions, which means they can focus on the application’s frontend functionality and user experience. This shortens the window for delivering minimal viable products (MVPs) and accelerates the release of new features.

Just about every industry is turning to a serverless backend. Let’s say a healthcare provider wants to build a HIPAA-compliant mobile application so that patients can book appointments, check lab results and find physicians by location, availability and specialty. Backend functions like access to patient data, calendars and scheduling, HIPAA-compliance and patient authentication can all take advantage of a serverless architecture. When a developer buys those functions as hosted services, server functions are taken care of by the providers, which saves time and money. Every industry has unique backend requirements, but the healthcare example shows that complex functions can become quick work when moved to the cloud in a serverless environment.          

The Essential Elements of a Cloud-Based Serverless Backend Platform

To build a great application experience, you need a rich set of analytics so that you can understand things like application crashes, performance and usage. To get that info, an app needs access to backend systems, so a serverless platform should provide the ability to abstract and connect to information within legacy systems of record and systems of engagement such as ERP, corporate identity and CRM, using reusable services. Plus, a serverless platform should incorporate data synchronization for offline access. You should also be able to choose the IaaS cloud provider you want, so the platform should work on multiple clouds.

A cloud-native and serverless approach that utilizes microservices can deliver the kind of results you need to build your apps fast and compete—without worrying at all about the backend. Major players like Amazon’s AWS, Microsoft’s Azure, Google’s GCP or IBM Cloud offer these kinds of services. But most organizations are overwhelmed by those options. Plus, they tie you down to a single cloud, which can be a big problem for an organization with international operations in areas with varying regulations.

Progress Makes It All Easier

At Progress, our goal is to make all of this easier—for everyone. Modern cognitive-first mobility should be attainable for even an average-sized organization, and should be much simpler and quicker for advanced organizations to implement than a typical solution is today. Here are some of the ways Progress makes delivering digital experiences and the next generation of business apps easier for you:

We see these as the key components in the cognitive apps of the future (and today). You can learn more about how you can build cognitive-first business applications here.

Find out more about our Progress Kinvey serverless backend offering at the link below.

Learn More about Kinvey


Mark Troester

Mark Troester is the Vice President of Strategy at Progress. He guides the strategic go-to-market efforts for the Progress cognitive-first strategy. Mark has extensive experience in bringing application development and big data products to market. Previously, he led product marketing efforts at Sonatype, SAS and Progress DataDirect. Before these positions, Mark worked as a developer and developer manager for start-ups and enterprises alike. You can find him on LinkedIn or @mtroester on Twitter.


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