An introduction to FaaS—a cloud computing service that makes it easier for cloud application developers to run and manage microservices applications.
FaaS (Function-as-a-Service) is a type of cloud-computing service that allows you to execute code in response to events without the complex infrastructure typically associated with building and launching microservices applications.
Hosting a software application on the internet typically requires provisioning and managing a virtual or physical server and managing an operating system and web server hosting processes. With FaaS, the physical hardware, virtual machine operating system, and web server software management are all handled automatically by your cloud service provider. This allows you to focus solely on individual functions in your application code.
IBM Cloud Functions
Serverless and Functions-as-a-Service (FaaS) are often conflated with one another but the truth is that FaaS is actually a subset of serverless. Serverless is focused on any service category, be it compute, storage, database, messaging, api gateways, etc. where configuration, management, and billing of servers are invisible to the end user. FaaS, on the other hand, while perhaps the most central technology in serverless architectures, is focused on the event-driven computing paradigm wherein application code, or containers, only run in response to events or requests.
FaaS is a valuable tool if you’re looking to efficiently and cost-effectively migrate applications to the cloud. The following are some benefits you will enjoy:
There are several best practices you can follow to make using FaaS easier to deploy and more effective:
Because it enables transactions to be isolated and scaled easily, FaaS is good for high-volume and embarrassingly parallel workloads. It can also be used to create backend systems or for activities such as data processing, format conversion, encoding, or data aggregation.
FaaS is also a good tool for Web apps, backends, data/stream processing, or to create online chatbots or back ends for IoT devices. FaaS can help you manage and use third-party services. If you’re considering Android app development, for example, you can adopt a FaaS approach to keep your costs in check. Because you’re only charged when your app connects to the cloud for a specific function like batch processing, costs can be considerably lower than they would using a traditional approach.
FaaS can also dramatically boost computing performance. For example, two students recently worked with IBM engineers to explore how to leverage IBM Cloud Functions for Monte Carlo simulations (mathematical methods used to estimate the future outcomes of certain hard-to-predict events) to estimate stock prices. Monte Carlo simulations are considered an important high-performance computing workload. The combination of Monte Carlo and IBM Cloud Functions enabled the team to run computations on a massive scale and allowed them to focus on the business logic. Using FaaS, the team completed an entire Monte Carlo simulation in about 90 seconds with 1,000 concurrent invocations. Comparatively, running the same flow over a laptop with four CPU cores took 247 minutes and almost 100% CPU utilization.
To see more examples of FaaS use cases, check out “A Recap of the Key Advantages Offered by IBM Cloud Functions.”
FaaS, PaaS (Platform-as-a-Service), containers, and virtual machines (VMs) all play a critical role in the serverless ecosystem. Because FaaS is the most central and most definitional element of the serverless stack, it’s worth exploring how FaaS differs from other common models of compute on the market today across key attributes:
Kubernetes and Knative are one implementation of “plumbing” behind FaaS. Kubernetes is an open source, container orchestration tool that is critical to the managing of cloud applications. Knative lets you run serverless within a Kubernetes cluster.
The combination of Knative and Kubernetes means you can take advantage of Kubernetes functions like monitoring, security, logging, and authentication and combine them with Knative benefits such as automated container build, full portability, and working across hybrid environments.
Creators of this technology believed developers should not have to choose between serverless and containers when building cloud apps. The goal was to augment the availability and consistency of containers with the powerful scaling and on-demand access of serverless.
The video "What is Knative?" provides more information.
IBM Cloud Functions is IBM’s FaaS offering. IBM has been working with customers across various industries—including finance, automotive, insurances, manufacturing, etc.—to run production workloads on IBM Cloud Functions. ESPN Fantasy Football, which has more than 10 million daily active users, is adopting IBM Cloud Functions for their statistics dashboard, and The Weather Underground (part of The Weather Channel) renders all their radar maps using Cloud Functions. These and other use cases are described in the blog post “A Recap of the Key Advantages Offered by IBM Cloud Functions.”
IBM Cloud Functions is based on Apache OpenWhisk. OpenWhisk’s core is an open source project under the guidance of the Apache Foundation, so anyone can contribute their action code as building blocks to the repository. This means OpenWhisk is constantly growing and improving. OpenWhisk accelerates application development, which enables you to quickly build apps with action sequences. FaaS offerings also provide greater visibility into performance details for cloud functions.
IBM Cloud Functions also includes access to cognitive services like IBM Watson APIs within the event-trigger-action workflow. And, you pay only for what you actually use. Costs increase only as you run more load on Cloud Functions – billing is based on the time and memory required to execute functions.
Build skills through IBM Cloud Options courses, such as “Deploying Function as a Service and IBM Cloud Functions”, and a variety of other courses contained within the IBM Cloud Professional Developer role-based training and certification.
Watch this video to learn more about how IBM Cloud Functions work :