Why Serverless Stacks Are the Future of App Development
March 02, 2022

Harry Brundage

Imagine starting your morning with a new business idea and building it out into a fully functional website by the evening. Serverless stacks are making this speed of innovation possible by streamlining the most tedious aspects of application development.

Historically, serverless stacks enabled developers to run code without needing to manage their own servers. And some, like AWS Lambda, still do just that. But today, innovative full-service serverless stacks providers are pushing the envelope of what's possible — providing developers with the environment, tools, libraries, APIs and best practices to build apps more efficiently.

By leaning on a full-service serverless stack, software creators can grow their applications faster, scale with ease and have more time to build innovative features that differentiate their business.

Why Use a Serverless Stack?

Most software is built on the same patterns. Yet, developers continue to rebuild the basics for every application from scratch — from setting up the environment, to deploying databases and production infrastructure, to stitching together must-have features from dozens of modules. While having these boilerplate features are essential, configuring them is time-consuming, tedious and repetitive.

Full-service serverless stacks alleviate the burden of starting an app by pre-building basic configurations and bundling must-have tools in a single environment. Depending on the provider, they may apply fundamental application features automatically — like authentication, data storage or full-text search — with zero effort required from the user. With this technology, developers still have the ability to customize the environment and write their own code. The serverless stack just provides the environment and the toolset to make code creation simpler.

While some may be hesitant to yield control to full-service serverless stacks, this automation is a net positive for developers and follows the general trend of technology evolution: streamlining low-value, repetitive tasks so humans can focus on more interesting, value-adding activities.

For instance, take the database. Nearly every application needs a database, but there was a time when that technology didn't exist. Every time an application was built, developers would manually create code that handled data retrieval and storage.

Then in the 1960s, companies like IBM began offering software that handled data retrieval and storage, which evolved into the database we know today. And with several companies working on database technology, its features, scalability and performance quickly exceeded homegrown data retrieval and storage solutions. By outsourcing this function to a database, developers had more time back in their day to focus on unique features that customers cared about.

The Benefits of a Serverless Stack

Like a database, a full-service serverless stack outsources the creation of an application's undifferentiated aspects. But unlike a database, these services do a whole lot more than fulfill one function.

Full-service serverless stacks enable developers to define data models and write code, while providing access to a set of advanced primitives, like built-in state machines, access control, API generation and integrations to other SaaS platforms — all in one environment.

The primary benefits of this technology include:

Scalability: The burden of starting and scaling a software business is only getting bigger as more options for APIs, GUIs and other technologies become available. With these tools bundled in a centralized environment, it's easier to grow your app. Additionally, in the event of an influx of traffic (say your product blows up on TikTok for a few days), serverless stacks will automatically and instantly scale to meet demand so you don't have to turn away customers or buy more equipment.

Cost efficiency: In most cases, it's more cost-efficient to use a serverless stack than not. In addition to the direct costs of maintaining your own servers, there are fewer tedious, manual responsibilities (like configuration tuning) that take up employee time. There are of course exceptions to this rule — like in data analytics where purpose-built databases really shine — but for most applications, the total cost of ownership is lower with a serverless environment.

Innovation: Full-service serverless stacks are especially helpful for individuals pursuing passion projects while working a full-time job or those with multiple businesses. With basic boilerplate features streamlined and tedious tasks eliminated, you can focus time and energy on the good stuff — coding unique business-specific features that catch the attention of customers. This lowers the barrier to entry for app development and entrepreneurship, bringing your unexplored ideas and unfinished projects closer to fruition.

Serverless stacks present a new approach to an old problem of software development and are quickly becoming the default for app creation. Ultimately, full-service serverless stacks alleviate the repetitive parts of application development, so software creators have more time and energy to do the work that interests them.

Harry Brundage is Co-Founder of Gadget
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