Azure, a cloud computing ecosystem, enables users to create websites and mobile applications, access databases, launch virtual servers, and more. Azure’s serverless functions also help you build in the cloud with dedicated and on-demand resources. It is a cloud-based platform that automatically adds instances when there is an increase in usage and is capable of handling requests in the millions.

Simply put, Azure Functions is a unit of work that runs in the cloud and can be considered a deployable unit. You can also bundle multiple functions into an Azure Functions app. Before discussing the Azure Serverless Functions, an overview of the serverless architecture would help.

What is serverless architecture?

A serverless architecture removes the architecture-related responsibilities from the enterprise’s operations and workload, including scaling, provisioning, and maintenance. With serverless architecture, you pay for only what you use. An example of serverless architecture:

Serverless Architecture

Advantages of serverless architecture

  • Product development comes into focus. Developers can leave network configuration, security, etc., as the service provider’s responsibility.
  • Application decomposition drives greater visibility. With smaller units, changes or fixing bugs become easily manageable.
  • The event-based system gains prominence over stream-based. In an event-based architecture, subparts of the application are independent, with one event triggering another. Failures, if any, will impact only one event and not the whole log.
  • Fast deployment and accelerated innovation – Faster-to-market is the watchword in product delivery. So, speed is of the essence. Using a serverless architecture means deploying apps in a few hours, thereby improving scalability.

How do the Azure serverless functions work?

The Azure Functions serverless platform can be used to build event-driven applications that run a code when certain events or system conditions trigger them. It automatically manages all the computing resources and relieves the DevOps teams to focus on developing and delivering new features. It also enables developers to run custom code to connect with various other services in C#, Python, JavaScript, and PHP on a need basis in a containerized environment.

Systems are often built in response to events, including web APIs, changes to databases, or data streams processing. And, each application must run some code as events happen. This is where Azure Functions comes in, with the compute-on-demand capability.

Azure Functions lets you implement your system’s logic into available blocks of code, called functions. Different functions can run based on the need to respond to critical events.

With increasing requests, these functions meet the demand with as many function instances and resources as necessary and when needed. When the requests decrease, those resources and instances also decrease automatically.

Essentially, serverless computing in Azure Functions means computing resources on-demand. It is a Platform as a Service (PaaS) that enables deploying individual code functions without individual virtual machines and offers the below features.

Features of Azure Functions

Flexibility –  You can write your code directly to the portal or set up continuous integration and deploy the code through GitHub, Azure DevOps, or other development tools. Such flexibility has been highly beneficial when responding to changing scenarios caused by the pandemic and meeting emerging demands.

Integrated security – Azure Functions can protect HTTP-triggered function with OAuth providers, such as Azure AD, Microsoft account, or any third-party accounts, such as Google, Facebook, and Twitter.

Selecting the development language – You can write a function in the language of your choice, such as C#, F#, Java, PHP, JavaScript, etc.

Bringing your own dependencies – Azure Functions allows you to download code dependencies from NuGet and NPM and enables the use of libraries to execute your code.

An Azure Function example would be when you wish to send an email to your customer. You only have to write it as an Azure Function, enter your email login and deploy it on Azure cloud. The Azure Functions will connect to the data source, get the customer’s email address, and send the email as scheduled. Other examples of Azure Functions include:

  • Serverless APIs with Node.js or Microsoft .NET
  • Serverless web application for static websites and single-page applications
  • Serverless microservices for event-driven scenarios
  • ML-based workflows with a serverless architecture
  • Serverless data processing pipelines for files and real-time data
  • Serverless cloud automation and hybrid resources management
  • Serverless rapid application development for line-of-business apps

With the many inherent features in Azure Serverless Functions, there are several benefits, too.

Benefits of Azure serverless function

Azure Functions offer several benefits, such as

  • Allow you to write less code
  • Need for less infrastructure,
  • Save costs
  • Save coding time using a trigger-based programming model.
  • Up-to-date resources as needed to run your applications.
  • End-to-end development – building, debugging, and deploying with built-in DevOps capabilities.
  • Develop reliable applications with built-in security

In conclusion

Azure Functions are purely compute-on-demand. And, they are better in small applications with events working independently of other websites, especially when sending emails, starting the backup, processing an order, database cleanup scheduling, sending notifications, alerts, messages, and IoT data stream processing. It is to be noted that, while Azure Functions serve well in smaller applications, they are not a replacement for Web APIS or where complex logic is used in the code.

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