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Embracing Serverless:
Popular Services, Use Cases & Benefits of Azure Serverless

Monika Stando
Monika Stando
Marketing & Growth Lead
June 05
15 min
Table of Contents

What is serverless computing?

Serverless computing is a revolutionary cloud-based approach to building applications without the need for server management. In this model, the servers are hidden from the developers and maintenance and scaling are handled by the cloud provider. The developer only needs to containerize their code and deploy it. This system automatically adjusts to meet application demand, so costs are only incurred during activity. With serverless, developers can focus on their core business logic and scaling. Azure Serverless is Microsoft’s offering in this space, providing a range of serverless services and capabilities.

In this piece, we take a closer look at the use cases, benefits, and real-life scenarios where Serverless and Azure Serverless have become great options for modern businesses.

What are the benefits of Serverless computing for modern business?

Serverless is an approach to building and deploying applications without worrying about underlying infrastructure management. It allows developers to focus on writing code while the cloud provider handles the provisioning, scaling, and maintenance of the required resources.

Serverless computing offers numerous benefits for modern businesses, enabling them to build and deploy applications more efficiently.

Cost efficiency
In a serverless environment, you only pay for the compute resources you use when your functions are running, rather than paying for pre-allocated or reserved instances. This pay-as-you-go model can lead to significant cost savings, especially for workloads with variable or unpredictable demand.

Automatic scaling
Serverless computing platforms automatically scale your applications based on the number of incoming requests or events. This eliminates the need for manual provisioning and ensures that your application remains responsive even under heavy load. As a result, serverless computing is well-suited for handling traffic spikes and varying workloads.

Reduced operational overhead
With serverless computing, the cloud provider manages the underlying infrastructure, including provisioning, scaling, and maintenance. This allows developers to focus on writing code and delivering features, rather than managing servers and infrastructure. As a result, businesses can reduce their operational overhead and improve their development velocity.

Flexible, event-driven architecture
Serverless computing supports event-driven architectures, where small, single-purpose functions are triggered in response to specific events. This enables businesses to build highly modular, flexible, and scalable applications that are easy to maintain and update. Additionally, serverless platforms provide a wide range of triggers and integrations with other services, facilitating seamless communication between different components of an application.

Faster time-to-market
By simplifying infrastructure management and enabling rapid development and deployment, serverless computing helps businesses bring new products and features to market faster. This agility can help businesses stay competitive, respond quickly to customer needs, and capitalize on emerging trends and opportunities.

Easier resource management
Since serverless platforms automatically manage resources such as compute, memory, and storage, developers don’t need to worry about capacity planning or resource provisioning. This simplifies the development process and reduces the chances of over- or under-provisioning resources.

Enhanced security
Cloud providers offering serverless computing services invest heavily in securing their platforms, ensuring the underlying infrastructure is protected against threats. Additionally, serverless architectures promote smaller, modular components with a limited attack surface, which can lead to improved security. However, it’s important to note that businesses still need to implement best practices to secure their serverless applications, such as proper access control, data encryption, and secure coding practices.

Support for microservices
Serverless computing is well-suited for implementing microservices architectures, where applications are composed of small, loosely coupled components. This approach enables better separation of concerns, easier maintenance, and faster development cycles, as each component can be developed, tested, and deployed independently.

Environmentally friendly
By using a pay-as-you-go model and automatically scaling resources based on demand, serverless computing promotes efficient resource utilization. This can lead to reduced energy consumption and a smaller carbon footprint, making serverless computing an environmentally friendly option for businesses.

Global reach and low latency
Many serverless platforms, such as AWS Lambda and Azure Functions, offer a global network of data centers, allowing your functions to run close to your users. This can result in lower latency and improved performance for your applications, providing a better user experience.

 

What is Azure Serverless?

Azure Serverless computing provides a cost-effective, scalable, and flexible way to build and deploy applications without worrying about infrastructure management. It allows developers to focus on writing code while Azure automatically handles the underlying infrastructure, scaling, and resource allocation. Some popular Azure Serverless services include Azure Functions, Logic Apps, and Event Grid.

Here are some essential points to know about serverless computing and Azure Serverless:  

  • Automatic scaling
    Azure Serverless automatically scales your applications based on the number of incoming requests or events. This makes it easy to handle sudden spikes in traffic and ensures that your application remains responsive even under heavy load.
  • Event-driven architecture
    Serverless computing is designed to support event-driven architectures, where small, single-purpose functions are triggered in response to specific events. Azure provides various triggers and bindings to integrate your serverless functions with other services and data sources.
  • Popular Azure Serverless services
    • Azure Functions
      A serverless compute service that lets you run your code without provisioning or managing servers. You can write functions in multiple languages, such as C#, JavaScript, Python, and Java.
    • Logic Apps
      A service for building and running serverless workflows that integrate with various services and APIs. Logic Apps enables you to create complex business processes and automate tasks with a visual designer.
    • Event Grid
      An event routing service that enables you to build event-driven applications that react to changes in your environment, such as new files being uploaded, database updates, or external events.
  • Integration with other Azure services
    Azure Serverless integrates seamlessly with other Azure services, such as Azure Storage, Azure Cosmos DB, and Azure Active Directory. This allows you to build end-to-end solutions that leverage the full power of the Azure platform.
  • Security and compliance
    Azure Serverless provides built-in security features, such as role-based access control, network isolation, and encryption at rest and in transit. Additionally, Azure complies with various industry standards and regulations, ensuring that your serverless applications meet your organization’s security and compliance requirements.
  • Development and monitoring tools
    Azure offers a range of tools for developing, debugging, and monitoring serverless applications. You can use the Azure Functions extension for Visual Studio Code or the Azure Functions Core Tools for local development and testing. For monitoring, Azure Application Insights and Azure Monitor provide insights into the performance and health of your serverless applications.

Serverless computing and Azure Serverless offer a cost-effective, scalable, and flexible way to build and deploy modern applications. By leveraging Azure’s serverless services and capabilities, developers can focus on creating innovative solutions without worrying about infrastructure management.

What are the advantages of serverless computing in Azure?

Serverless computing in Azure, primarily through Azure Functions, offers several advantages for developers and businesses looking to build scalable and cost-effective applications. Here are some key benefits:

Cost Efficiency
With serverless computing, you pay only for the compute resources used during function execution, rather than pre-allocating resources. This pay-as-you-go model can result in significant cost savings, especially for applications with variable or unpredictable workloads.

Scalability
Azure Functions automatically scale based on demand, ensuring that your application can handle increases in workload without manual intervention. This allows you to build applications that can handle a large number of users or requests without worrying about infrastructure limitations.

Simplified Infrastructure Management
Serverless computing abstracts away the underlying infrastructure, allowing you to focus on writing code and building features. Azure manages the provisioning, scaling, patching, and maintenance of servers, reducing the operational overhead associated with traditional application hosting.

Event-Driven Architecture
Azure Functions follow an event-driven architecture, allowing you to build applications that respond to specific events or triggers, such as HTTP requests, changes in a database, or messages from a queue. This enables more efficient and responsive applications.

Language Support
Azure Functions support multiple programming languages, including C#, JavaScript, Python, Java, and PowerShell. This allows you to use your preferred language and leverage existing skills when building serverless applications.

Integration with Azure Services
Serverless computing in Azure integrates seamlessly with other Azure services, such as Azure Storage, Event Hubs, and Cosmos DB. This makes it easy to build end-to-end solutions within the Azure ecosystem.

Development Flexibility
Azure Functions provide a flexible development environment, enabling you to develop, test, and deploy functions using the Azure Portal, Visual Studio, or other popular development tools.

Security
Azure Functions offer built-in security features, such as integration with Azure Active Directory for authentication and role-based access control. Additionally, Azure’s compliance certifications and security protocols help ensure the safety of your data and applications.

Use Cases of Azure Serverless

  • Real-time data processing
    Serverless computing can be used to process and analyze real-time data streams from IoT devices, social media platforms, or other sources. For example, Azure Functions can be triggered by an event, such as incoming data, and perform actions like data transformation, aggregation, or storage.
  • APIs and microservices
    Azure Functions can be used to create and deploy APIs and microservices that can be easily integrated with other applications and services. This enables businesses to build modular, scalable applications that can evolve over time.
  • Workflow automation
    Azure Logic Apps allows you to create and run serverless workflows that integrate with various services and APIs. This can help automate business processes, such as data validation, file processing, or approval workflows.
  • Scheduled tasks
    Serverless computing can be used to run scheduled tasks or background jobs, such as data cleanup, report generation, or sending notifications. Azure Functions can be triggered based on a predefined schedule, allowing you to execute tasks periodically or at specific times.
  • Event-driven applications
    Azure Event Grid enables you to build event-driven applications that react to changes in your environment, such as new files being uploaded, database updates, or external events. This can help you create more responsive and dynamic applications that adapt to changing conditions.

Lessons learned from implementing Azure Serverless in real-world scenarios

  1. Choose the right triggers and bindings
    Azure Functions supports a wide range of triggers and bindings that enable seamless integration with other services and data sources. Selecting the appropriate triggers and bindings for your use case can help you build more efficient and responsive serverless applications.
  2. Optimize function execution time
    To reduce costs and improve performance, it’s essential to optimize your function’s execution time. This can involve streamlining your code, using efficient algorithms, and minimizing external dependencies or API calls.
  3. Use Durable Functions for stateful operations
    Azure Durable Functions allow you to manage state across multiple function executions, enabling complex, long-running workflows. Consider using Durable Functions for scenarios where state management is required, such as orchestrating multiple tasks or handling human interactions.
  4. Implement proper error handling and retry policies
    In a serverless environment, it’s crucial to handle errors and exceptions gracefully. Implement proper error handling in your functions and consider using retry policies or dead-letter queues to handle failed messages or events.
  5. Monitor and analyze function performance
    Use Azure Application Insights and Azure Monitor to track your serverless application’s performance, identify bottlenecks, and resolve issues. Regular monitoring and analysis can help you optimize your functions and ensure they meet your performance and reliability requirements.
  6. Secure your serverless applications
    Implement best practices for securing your serverless functions, such as using Azure Active Directory for authentication, applying role-based access control, and encrypting sensitive data at rest and in transit.
  7. Plan for cold starts
    Cold starts occur when a new instance of your function is initialized, which can result in increased latency. To minimize cold start impact, consider using the Premium plan for Azure Functions, which provides better performance and scaling capabilities.
  8. Control costs with proper resource allocation
    Be mindful of the resources allocated to your functions, such as memory and CPU, as they directly impact costs. Make sure to allocate resources according to your function’s requirements without over-provisioning.
  9. Leverage Azure Logic Apps for complex workflows
    For scenarios involving complex workflows or integrations with multiple services, consider using Azure Logic Apps. This service offers a visual designer and a wide range of connectors, making it easier to build and manage serverless workflows.

These lessons, derived from real-world experiences with Azure Serverless, can help you build more efficient, scalable, and cost-effective serverless applications on the Azure platform.

Companies using Azure Serverless Computing

There are several success stories of companies leveraging Azure Serverless to build efficient and scalable solutions. Here are some examples:

#1. ASOS
The online fashion retailer ASOS implemented Azure Functions and Azure Cosmos DB to create a highly scalable and globally distributed serverless architecture for their e-commerce platform. This allowed them to handle millions of events per day, providing a responsive and personalized shopping experience.

Lesson learned: Azure Serverless can efficiently handle high-traffic workloads, enabling businesses to scale their infrastructure to meet customer demand.

#2. Geico
The insurance company Geico used Azure Functions and Logic Apps to automate their claims processing workflows. By adopting serverless computing, they reduced manual intervention, increased efficiency, and improved customer satisfaction.

Lesson learned: Azure Serverless is well-suited for automating complex business processes, streamlining operations, and enhancing customer experiences.

#3. Plexure
Plexure, a customer engagement platform, leveraged Azure Functions to process real-time customer data and create personalized marketing campaigns. By using serverless computing, they scaled their platform to handle large volumes of data and support millions of users.

Lesson learned: Azure Serverless can help organizations manage big data workloads more efficiently, enabling them to extract valuable insights and deliver personalized experiences.

#4. Siemens
Siemens utilized Azure Functions to process IoT data from industrial equipment and generate analytics insights. This enabled them to optimize their operations and provide better services to their customers.

Lesson learned: Azure Serverless is an excellent fit for IoT applications, providing the necessary scalability and flexibility to handle variable workloads and process large volumes of data.

#5. Ecolab
Ecolab, a global provider of water, hygiene, and energy technologies, used Azure Functions and other Azure services to build a scalable IoT platform that collects and analyzes data from connected devices. This serverless approach helped them improve decision-making and deliver innovative solutions to their customers.

Lesson learned: Azure Serverless supports rapid application development and deployment, allowing organizations to build and launch new features and services faster.

#6. ClearSale
ClearSale, an e-commerce fraud protection company, implemented Azure Functions to develop a serverless fraud analysis system. This solution allowed them to scale their infrastructure easily and process thousands of transactions per second, resulting in improved fraud detection capabilities.

Lesson learned: Azure Serverless can be employed to handle large-scale, real-time data processing tasks, helping businesses enhance the performance and efficiency of their critical systems.

Some other examples of successful Azure serverless implementation include:  

Fujitsu
Fujitsu, a global information technology equipment and services company, used Azure Functions to build a serverless image recognition system for their retail customers. The system processes images from in-store cameras to analyze customer behavior and optimize store layouts, resulting in improved customer experiences and increased sales.

Zeiss
Zeiss, a leading technology company specializing in optics and optoelectronics, leveraged Azure Functions and other Azure services to develop a scalable IoT platform for their connected devices. This serverless solution enabled them to collect and analyze large volumes of data from their products, providing valuable insights to drive innovation and improve customer satisfaction.

Coca-Cola
Coca-Cola utilized Azure Functions and Azure Logic Apps to create a serverless system for managing their digital marketing campaigns. By adopting serverless computing, they were able to streamline their processes, increase efficiency, and reduce operational costs.

Domino’s Pizza
Domino’s Pizza adopted Azure Functions and Azure Cosmos DB to create a serverless architecture for their online ordering system. The serverless approach enabled them to handle millions of orders per day and provide a fast, reliable experience for their customers, even during peak times.

Why companies choose Azure Serverless?

Azure is well-known among Fortune 500. Companies choose Azure Serverless for a variety of reasons, including its robust features, seamless integration with other Azure services, and the benefits offered by serverless computing. Here are some key reasons why companies opt for Azure Serverless:

  • Ease of use
    Azure Functions, the primary serverless offering of Azure, provides an easy-to-use platform for developing and deploying serverless applications. Its intuitive interface and support for various programming languages make it accessible to developers with different skill sets and preferences.
  • Integration with Azure services
    Azure Serverless seamlessly integrates with other Azure services, such as Azure Cosmos DB, Azure Event Hubs, and Azure Storage. This enables companies to build end-to-end solutions on the Azure platform and take advantage of the full range of services offered by Microsoft.
  • Enterprise-grade security and compliance
    Azure provides a secure and compliant environment for serverless applications, with built-in features like Azure Active Directory for authentication, role-based access control, and data encryption at rest and in transit. Additionally, Azure meets various global compliance standards, making it suitable for businesses with strict regulatory requirements.
  • Scalability and performance
    Azure Serverless automatically scales your applications based on demand, ensuring that they remain responsive even during traffic spikes. Furthermore, Azure Functions offers a Premium plan with enhanced performance and scaling capabilities, allowing businesses to minimize cold start times and improve user experience.
  • Hybrid and multi-cloud support
    Azure Serverless supports hybrid and multi-cloud scenarios through Azure Arc, which allows companies to deploy and manage serverless functions across on-premises, edge, and multi-cloud environments. This flexibility enables businesses to choose the best deployment model for their specific needs.
  • Support for various programming languages
    Azure Functions supports multiple programming languages, including C#, JavaScript, Python, Java, and PowerShell. This allows developers to use their preferred language and leverage existing skills when building serverless applications.
  • Strong developer ecosystem and support
    Microsoft has a robust developer community and provides extensive documentation, tutorials, and support resources for Azure Serverless. This makes it easier for developers to learn and adopt the platform, ultimately accelerating development and deployment.

Companies choose Azure Serverless due to its ease of use, seamless integration with Azure services, enterprise-grade security and compliance, scalability, hybrid and multi-cloud support, diverse programming language options, cost-effectiveness, and strong developer ecosystem and support.

Monika Stando
Monika Stando
Marketing & Growth Lead
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