Getting Started With Azure Serverless

By: HitSubscribe
  |  March 11, 2024
Getting Started With Azure Serverless

Serverless computing represents a paradigm shift in how we build, deploy and scale cloud applications. By decoupling infrastructure and server management from code development, developers are free to put a single focus on fine-tuning code in app development. The era of serverless computing puts innovation at center stage and removes the traditional constraints of server management. In this post, we’ll see how developers can leverage Azure serverless to simplify deployment of individual functions or units of code without worrying about the underlying infrastructure.

Overview of Azure Serverless

Serverless computing is a cloud computing model where the management and provisioning of servers are abstracted away from developers. Thus, developers can focus on writing code and defining functions. Popular serverless computing platforms include AWS Lambda, Azure serverless and Google Cloud Functions, among others.

Azure serverless from Microsoft Azure offers various serverless computing services and features that enable developers to build applications without managing the underlying infrastructure. The serverless services that Azure provides are flexible, scalable and cost effective, an ideal combination for a variety of applications ranging from small-scale projects to large-scale enterprise solutions.

Key Components of Azure Serverless Architecture

  • Azure Functions: A serverless compute resource that allows developers to execute event-triggered functions without the need to explicitly provision or manage servers. Azure Functions supports multiple programming languages that developers can use to build microservices, APIs and event-driven applications.
  • Azure Logic Apps: Enable the creation of workflows that automate and orchestrate tasks, integrating with various Azure services and external systems. Logic Apps are useful in business process automation and connecting applications, services and data across cloud and on-premises environments.
  • Azure Event Grid: A fully managed event routing service that simplifies the development of event-driven applications. Azure Event Grid allows you to react to events from Azure services or custom sources and route events to different subscribers, such as Azure Functions and Logic Apps.
  • Azure Cosmos DB Serverless: A globally distributed, multi-model database service offering a serverless option for developers to pay for the resources consumed by each request. Azure Cosmos DB Serverless is suitable for scenarios with intermittent or unpredictable workloads.

Benefits of Using Azure Serverless

Using Azure serverless offers several benefits for developers and organizations, facilitating the development of scalable, cost-effective and efficient applications.

  • Cost efficiency: Azure serverless has a pay-as-you-go pricing model, which means you only pay for what you consume. The model is cost effective compared with provisioning and maintaining dedicated servers.
  • Automatic scaling: Serverless architectures automatically scale as demand grows. As the number of incoming requests/events increases, the platform dynamically allocates resources to ensure optimal performance.
  • Reduced management overhead: Azure serverless abstracts away the complexities of infrastructure management. Developers can therefore focus on writing code and defining functions without the need to worry about server provisioning, maintenance or scaling.
  • Flexibility in language and frameworks: Azure Functions supports multiple programming languages, such as C#, JavaScript, Python and PowerShell. This flexibility allows developers to choose the language they’re most comfortable with or that best fits application requirements.

Challenges of Using Azure Serverless & Possible Solutions

While Azure serverless offers numerous benefits, use also comes with challenges. Understanding these challenges and how to overcome them is essential for any successful implementation. The following are some of the challenges and possible solutions.

  • State management: Most serverless functions are stateless by design, which poses a challenge when dealing with applications that require stateful operations. To curb this challenge, consider using Azure Durable Functions, which provides a way to create stateful, long-running workflows.
  • Limited execution time: Serverless functions often have a maximum execution time limit, meaning long-running workflows get terminated. To solve this issue, break down larger tasks into smaller, more manageable functions.
  • Cold start latency: When a serverless function needs to be initialized before responding to a request, first requests experiences slower response times. To mitigate cold start latency, use warm-up strategies, such as periodic pinging, to keep functions warm.

How to Set up Azure Serverless

Setting up an Azure Functions involves creating a Function App, defining a function within the app and configuring the necessary settings.

First, we’ll set up Azure serverless.

Sign in to Azure Portal

  1. Visit the Azure Portal.
  2. Sign in with your Azure account or create a new one.

Create a New Function App

  1. Click on Create a resource in the Azure Portal.
  1. In the Search the Marketplace box, type Function and select Function App from the results.
  1. Click on the Create button.

Configure the Function App

  1. Choose your Azure subscription.
  2. Create a new Resource Group or select an existing resource group.
  3. Choose a unique name for your Function App.
  4. Select the appropriate runtime stack (e.g., Node.js, Python, C#).
  5. Choose either Windows or Linux for the operating system.
  6. Select the region closest to your target audience.
  7. Choose the hosting plan. (Consumption Plan is suitable for most scenarios.)
  1. Enable Application Insights or disable it per your preference.

  1. Click on the Review + create button and then Create to provision the Function App.
  1. Once created, navigate to the Function App in the Azure portal.

Create a New Function

  1. In the Function App menu, click on Functions.
  2. Click on the + Create button to add a new function.
  1. Choose a template (e.g., HTTP trigger, Timer trigger) or start from scratch.
  2. Configure the function settings, such as the name, authentication and trigger details.
  3. Click on the Create button.

Write Your Function Code

  1. In the Azure portal, go to the Functions section within your Function App.
  2. Click on the function you created to open the code editor.
  1. Write your function code in the editor. For example, in a JavaScript HTTP trigger, you might handle the HTTP request.

Test Your Function

  1. In the function editor, provide any required input parameters and run the test.

  1. Next, click on the Test/Run button to test your function.

Monitor & Debug Your Function

  1. Use the Monitor tab in the Azure Portal to view logs and diagnose issues.

Deploy Your Function

  1. Set up deployment options, such as continuous integration (CI) using Azure DevOps or GitHub Actions.
  2. Deploy your function code to the Azure Function App.

How to Choose the Right Azure Serverless Services

Choosing the right Azure serverless service depends on your specific requirements, application architecture and business goals. The following are some of the guidelines to help you make proper decisions.

  • Understand your requirements: Clearly define your application requirements, such as scalability, performance, latency and integration needs.
  • Integration and connectivity: Evaluate the integration capabilities of the serverless services. For instance, Azure Logic Apps provides a visual designer for building workflows and supports a wide range of connectors for different services.
  • Event trigger options: Consider the event triggers that your application requires. Azure Functions can be triggered by various events such as HTTP requests, timers, queues and blobs, among others.
  • Scalability and performance: Assess the scalability requirements of your application. Azure Functions automatically scale on demand, making them suitable for highly variable workloads. Also, understand the performance characteristics of your chosen services, especially in terms of response time and execution duration.
  • Cost consideration: Understand the pricing model for the selected Azure serverless services. Consider factors such as memory usage, execution duration and the number of executions.

Best Practices When Using Azure Serverless Services

When using Azure serverless services, it’s important to follow best practices to ensure optimal performance, reliability, security and cost-effectiveness. Below are some of the best practices you should adopt.

  • Adhere to the principles of the Azure Well-Architected Framework, which includes the pillars of operational excellence, security, reliability, performance efficiency, cost optimization, etc.
  • Leverage Managed Identities to securely access other Azure resources without the need for explicit credentials.
  • Use Azure Key Vault to securely store and manage sensitive information, such as connection strings, API keys and other secrets.
  • Use Azure Monitor, Azure Application Insights or other logging solutions to collect and analyze logs for serverless functions.
  • Mitigate cold start latency by using the Premium plan for Azure Functions, which reduces cold start latency by enabling functions to run on a more powerful and less crowded infrastructure.

Wrapping Up

In conclusion, you’ve embarked on a journey to build scalable, efficient and cost-effective applications using Azure’s serverless services. As a recap, in this post, you have seen what’s meant by serverless and understood different Azure serverless services, guidelines to follow when choosing the right serverless services, as well as some of the best practices of using Azure serverless services.

Your journey with Azure serverless is just the beginning. As you continue to refine and expand your serverless applications, the knowledge and experience gained will contribute to the success of your projects in the ever-evolving world of cloud computing.

Best of luck!

Read on to learn how Retrace helps fulfill your needs when compared to Azure Monitor.

This post was written by Verah Ombuiis, a passionate technical content writer and DevOps practitioner who believes in sharing her insights on IT technologies with the world. Verah believes in learning new technologies through deep, hands-on experience, so she can teach others in the easiest possible way. She has extensive experience and expose to popular DevOps technologies, such as Terraform, AWS Cloud, Microsoft Azure, Ansible, Kubernetes, Docker, Jenkins, Linux and more.

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