When you’re hosting a software application on the internet, there has to be a means of managing some type of server infrastructure. This leaves you with two choices—using a physical server which you would have to physically manage, or using a cloud-hosted server from providers such as Amazon and Google.
Cloud-hosted servers are becoming increasingly popular for several reasons, including the fact that they’re offsite and low maintenance for the user. They’re especially popular among start-ups and small businesses that can’t afford an onsite IT team or an on-premises setup.
So, the question here isn’t whether or not to go serverless—it’s which serverless architecture will you choose? More specifically, how does Google’s younger Firebase compare to Amazon’s AWS in terms of functionality and ease of use in your application codes?
We’re here to discuss the very definition of a serverless architecture and what it could mean for you. We’re also going to compare and contrast Firebase vs AWS, which is essentially a comparison of maturity, function, and style. This is something that SF AppWorks, with a decade of experience setting up cloud servers, is well positioned to advice upon.
First, let’s get a better understanding of what a serverless architecture is.
What is a Serverless Architecture?
Traditionally speaking, a single server handles a variety of code-based responsibilities. When you, the user, input a request, the server computes that request using several specific processes and outputs a response. Essentially, it’s how the user communicates commands to the computer.
One single server can be responsible for a multitude of different coding functions. These functions include file writing, user watching, authentication, file transferring, and so on. With all of the possible functions that can be put into action at one time, it becomes very easy to overload a single server, resulting in computer errors and lost data.
A serverless architecture focuses solely on the applications rather than the infrastructure of a traditional single server. In other words, the term “serverless” refers to a means of cloud computing execution in which it is the cloud provider’s responsibility to manage your applications. This is also known as Backend as a Service (BaaS). If your applications are run on custom codes, then it’s referred to as Function as a Service (FaaS). The concepts behind the two, however, are the same.
Serverless architecture is also unique in the way it works. It’s defined by its microservices which break down monolithic applications into smaller services. Whenever a code or function is executed, the server “wakes” up to complete the given request. Part of the appeal is the fact that function responsibilities won’t overlap, meaning no more server overload and computational errors.
Related: Heroku vs Aws Which is Right For You
Pros and Cons of AWS
AWS Lambda, or Amazon Web Services, is a serverless architecture that is actually stacked with a whole bunch of different services. This basically offers users a one-stop-shop in terms of functionality. AWS is most commonly defined as a FaaS, as it allows users to build and run their applications without having to manage infrastructure.
When comparing AWS vs Firebase, you have to look at the benefits and disadvantages of each one. Of course, with AWS, you also must take into consideration the fact that it is a much more mature serverless architecture. Let’s get into the pros and cons:
AWS Lambda is known for its strong performance, easy set-up, ease of use (it’s very beginner-friendly), and reliability. Amazon, in general, is also well known for having terrific customer service.
It’s an all-inclusive service, meaning you get a wide variety of tools to play with. This even includes database, software, mobile, analytics, and networking. It also comes with an unlimited server capacity, which means it can handle highly trafficked websites as well as secure email hosting.
In terms of reliability and security, AWS has more than twelve data centers across the globe equipped with top-level encrypted security. So, not only is there redundancy to keep you up and running, but your IT and personal information will be well protected.
The AWS serverless architecture does have some limitations. For example, it is a pay-per-use service, meaning that your cost will be directly related to the quantity of traffic you receive. This means that AWS is more geared towards larger businesses and could end up costing the little guy a lot more than expected.
Additionally, your resource may be limited by region. So, depending on where your business is physically located, you may not have the advantage of all the tools and resources offered by AWS. Of course, this measure was put into place for added security, and you can also put in a request for additional resources if needed.
Pros and Cons of Firebase
Google Firebase vs AWS isn’t exactly a black and white argument. While Firebase is much younger than AWS, it has the advantage of being a bit more advanced. It’s more recognized as a BaaS rather than a FaaS, and it works for both mobile and web-based applications. It also includes services for building, testing, and managing apps.
Being a BaaS solution, Firebase allows its users to eliminate the necessity of managing their backend databases along with the corresponding hardware. All that’s needed is an app that’s dedicated to API for each separate service. Firebase has seven of these services to cover the full spectrum of backend technology.
Here are some more pros and some cons:
Firebase, as mentioned above, is a little more advanced than AWS. Its technology is robust between images, text, voice APIs, and other services. It’s compatible with both iOS and Android, and comes with several frameworks like Angular, for example. It also comes with built-in support for authentication services such as Google, Facebook, and Twitter.
It also runs on a real-time database. This ensures that all user data is stored and synchronized in real-time. It enables your app data to remain available, even when you’re offline.
Another benefit of Firebase is that users can technically sign up for free. Payment doesn’t begin until 50 connections are achieved, which gives users a sort of trial period to see if they like it. Additionally, the serverless architecture has an auto-scaling feature built-in, making it easier to scale up or down for growing businesses.
In terms of security, they have a Declarative Security Rules model which allows the users to reinforce data validation and read/write privileges.
Firebase has its limitations as well, despite its advanced technology. For example, users have to build their indexes manually, making it a bit more difficult to query larger datasets. Their database doesn’t offer rational data either, which means that “event logs” may need to be built manually as well.
If users are working with embedded platforms, they may also run into issues with Firebase’s APIs. Additionally, Data Validation rules don’t support complex objects directly, which means that users will have to validate their separate child nodes individually.
Another concern is what is referred to as vendor lock-in. Users may experience this when attempting to transfer all of their data to a different platform.
Which is Right for You?
AWS vs Firebase—which one is right for you and your business?
As we’ve said, it’s not exactly a black and white comparison. When choosing between AWS and Firebase, it all comes down to user preference and business needs.
If you’re a smaller business or a startup, Google Firebase may be a better—and more cost effective—setup for you and your business. If you’re looking to write applications from scratch or rewrite existing applications, Firebase proves to be a great choice. This is especially true if you don’t need to perform any custom coding on the backend.
AWS comes with much heavier artillery that would better suit larger businesses that need an entire suite of services daily. In other words, if your applications require heavy data processing and/or complex user authentication functions, AWS is better equipped to handle those responsibilities.
Either serverless architecture is a good choice as long as it fits your overall needs. Before making the choice, it’s important that you have a complete understanding of your applications as well as the functionalities required to run those applications.
As you analyze these things, take note of how much is needed in terms of scalability, the types of queries your applications will require, as well as the number and frequency of update operations that will need to be performed daily. Once you’ve taken all of these things into consideration, your choice between AWS and Firebase will be a no-brainer.
Contact SF AppWorks today if you plan on bringing some outside help to your company’s technology development. We know it can be costly and time-consuming. Talk to some team members today to get a consensus of timeline, budget, and scope. Advice is free!