3 Challenges of Serverless Architecture and How to Meet Them

Security issues, for instance, can make serverless architecture less efficient.

Written by Kevin Macwan
Published on Jun. 05, 2024
3 Challenges of Serverless Architecture and How to Meet Them
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With serverless architecture, businesses benefit from reduced operational costs, paying only for actual usage rather than idle capacity. Plus, rapid deployment and auto-scaling capabilities enhance agility and enable faster time-to-market for innovative ideas

Three Major Benefits of Serverless Architecture

  1. Reduced costs. Companies pay only for the resources they use and also save the personnel costs for managing, scaling and maintaining physical servers.
  2. Increased scalability. Serverless architecture improves scalability by automatically adjusting to the application load and demand. 
  3. Improved productivity. Developers have more time and energy to write code instead of juggling it with server management.

As more companies turn to serverless architecture, they encounter challenges that prevent them from experiencing all the benefits related to the technology. To ensure the best results, it is critical to address three main challenges associated with serverless architecture: security, latency/performance and vendor lock-in. 

Further ReadingHow to Use AWS for Serverless Computing


Security 

Companies that outsource server management to a third party also entrust that company with the server’s security. If the third party’s security efforts are lax, that could lead to issues for the company. In addition, serverless architecture has many input and event sources that can be attacked. Four main security-related issues commonly arise for companies that adopt serverless architecture. 

Function Isolation

Serverless functions from different applications run on the same infrastructure, which can lead to data leakage and increase the chances of unauthorized access.

First, it’s imperative for companies to follow a microservices design, which ensures each function has a single responsibility and minimal dependencies. Companies can also conduct regular security checks to identify potential issues. In addition, most serverless providers now offer solutions for this issue, such as AWS Lambda VPC, AWS Lambda IAM Roles, and Azure Functions Managed Identities.

Injection Attacks

Serverless functions are susceptible to structured query language (SQL) injection, command injection and cross-site scripting (XSS) attacks.

Organizations can adopt secure coding guidelines and provide developers with more in-depth training on how to mitigate these attacks. Organizations can also integrate security testing tools, like static and dynamic analysis, into their serverless architecture and regularly update tools like Snyk and Dependabot to eliminate vulnerabilities.

Insecure Configuration

Misconfigurations are a frequent cause of unauthorized access and data leaks. 

The key to reducing the risk of experiencing this challenge is to use infrastructure as code (IaC), such as AWS CloudFormation, Terraform, or Azure Resource Manager (ARM), to ensure configurations are consistent and easily repeatable. Organizations may also want to use virtual private clouds (PVC) to control traffic and network access control lists (ACLs) or security groups to restrict access.

Denial of Service (DOS) Attacks

These common attacks overwhelm resources and lead to degraded performance and service outages.

Companies can prevent damaging DOS attacks by using rate-limiting and throttling tools like API Gateway or Google Cloud Endpoints and implementing custom throttling logic into serverless architecture. They can also set concurrency limits and take advantage of distributed denial of service (DDoS) protection services offered by cloud providers, such as AWS Shield and Google Cloud Armor.

 

Latency/Performance 

A second challenge with serverless architecture is latency, which can be caused by several factors, including cold starts, network latency, integration latency, event source latency, infrequently used codes and memory allocation. Here is how to combat cold starts and event source latency.

Cold Starts

Organizations can keep functions warm by periodic pinging through tools like AWS CloudWatch Events and Azure Timer Trigger. They can also implement custom strategies to warm up functions before expected traffic spikes. Additional steps include optimizing function code and leveraging resources like provisioned concurrency within AWS Lambda, the Premium Plan within Azure Functions, or minimum instance configuration within Google Cloud Functions.

Event Source Latency

Companies can use batching to optimize event processing. Additional options include using asynchronous processing and queueing to temporarily store events before processing, which can help smooth out spikes and ensure a steadier processing rate.

Related ReadingCloud Spending Infuriates Executives. Here’s How to Solve It.


Vendor Lock-In

One of the biggest challenges of serverless architecture is vendor lock-in, which is when companies are forced to continue using a specific vendor because switching would be impractical. 

To avoid vendor lock-in, organizations should carefully study the market before making a buying decision to understand precisely what is available and the advantages and disadvantages of each solution. They can also examine the companies behind the solutions to understand their track records regarding innovation. Companies can also consider implementing a hybrid or multi-cloud solution that allows it to diversify the vendors it uses.

When companies understand and address challenges early in the process, they can maximize the benefits they receive from their serverless architecture initiatives. They will introduce a streamlined, cost-saving solution that lets developers improve the quality and popularity of an organization’s software.

As Ben Kehoe, cloud robotics research scientist at iRobot, recently wrote: “Serverless is a way to focus on business value.” In other words, it allows companies to free staff, cut costs and use the extra workforce and financial resources to produce new value for customers. When challenges are met and serverless architecture is correctly implemented, organizations see their costs decrease and profits increase — a dream scenario for any company.

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