Factor #3: Async serverless

Factor #3 is to use serverless backends for business logic. As Factor #2 gives us a reliable eventing system, your business logic will comprise of event handlers (think of them as fine-grained microservices) which receive an event, perform computations and write back to state. This makes your app a composition of several functions and confers all the benefits (and some drawbacks) of event-driven architectures like high feature velocity due to the loose coupling of components. Serverless minimizes backend ops and gives “infinite” scalability while being cost-efficient. The serverless functions should have the following properties:

  • Idempotent: The code should be prepared for duplicate delivery of events.
  • Out-of-order: Events may not be guaranteed to be received in any realtime order. The code should not depend on any expected sequence of events.

Traditional vs 3factor

Traditional 3factor (Factor #3)
Write synchronous procedural business logic Write loosely coupled event handlers
Deploy on VMs or containers Deploy on serverless platforms
Manage the runtime yourself Platform manages the runtime
Requires operational expertise Does not require operational expertise
Implement auto-scale, if possible Auto-scaling by default

Benefits

Writing business logic in an event-driven architecture has many benefits and some challenges. Once you have developed your application locally, using say HTTP event handlers, it is quite seamless to deploy the same on serverless platforms. Serverless, although still maturing, promises many capabilities:

  1. No ops: Serverless manages the runtime of the application and reduces the operational burden on the team as much as possible.

  2. Free scale: Serverless auto-scales based on utilization without having to setup any additional infrastructure.

  3. Cost: Serverless is priced on a per-request basis. Hence, it is very cost-efficient for bursty workloads which would otherwise be billed on traditional infrastructure even while not being used.

Reference implementation

There are many serverless platforms where you can host your backend:

  1. AWS Lambda
  2. Google Cloud Functions
  3. Azure Functions
  4. Zeit
  5. OpenFaas, Kubeless, Knative (for Kubernetes)
  6. Netlify