When you go to startup communities like r/startups or indie hackers you often see non-technical founders asking for advice about which tech they should use to build their app. Invariably these end up in flame wars about development languages and frameworks. For me, this is totally missing the point. Yes ensure you are using experienced, talented developers. But the language or frameworks they use matters far less than the cloud platform you build your foundations on. That platform should be serverless.
What is serverless?
Serverless1 is the umbrella term for the new breed of cloud services which do not require management of servers by customers. Hence server-less. It was first popularised by Amazon Web Services (AWS) in 2014 with the launch of their Lambda service. Since then AWS and other cloud providers have launched dozens more services, including databases, notifications and many more. The ecosystem has become so mature that large companies are now migrating their stacks wholesale to it.
Why is it such a big deal?
Because provisioning (configuring and installing the correct software) and managing (ensuring they remain active and secure) servers has historically accounted for a large percentage of the overall time it takes to develop and maintain a web application. Apart from the cost savings it brings, serverless also reduces the time to market for new products and features.
Only pay for what you use
Traditionally you would need to have a server running 24/7 to keep your application live. With serverless you are only charged when your application actually receives a request. With this pricing model you can keep your costs down to a minimum whilst you build up your customer base.
Being able to deal with large numbers of users has been one of the hardest aspects of developing apps. With serverless, the cloud providers take on this responsibility and are able to do so on a massive scale, AWS claim that serverless is good for your “first ten million customers”.
The end of the protoype?
Traditionally startups would build a rough and ready first version which would need to be rebuilt from scratch as soon as they gained any traction. With serverless you no longer need to throw away your prototype when it becomes popular. If built correctly, it should scale to millions of users.
Go quicker, use serverless
In 2018, serverless is a mature technology with companies fast adopting it. It has made building an MVP quicker and cheaper than ever before. If you are a founder the first thing you should be telling your developers is “build on top of serverless platforms”.