Serverless Computing: Breaking Up With Backend

Serverless-Computing

Serverless computing offers a shortcut to better, more enterprise-friendly software – with a few drawbacks.

For a long time servers were a limiting factor in app development. Building, configuring, and maintaining them took time and money, and getting apps out quickly was nearly impossible. Cloud computing started to change all that.

The rising trend of “serverless” architecture is pushing the envelope even further further. Services like AWS Lambda offer companies a shortcut to release day, and some of the biggest names in the game are jumping on board.

What is Serverless Computing?

Serverless computing takes the work of building, maintaining, and configuring servers off developers’ hands. The term “serverless” is a little misleading since there are servers involved, but they’re functionally invisible from the client side since the vendor takes care of them.

The serverless model is a few steps past the better-known cloud architecture model. Under cloud architecture companies build on cloud storage, but there are still servers that have to be accessed and monitored. Serverless removes that requirement.

Developers simply choose an environment, upload a codefile, and the system automatically deploys. The provider manages everything related to server function.

Sometimes serverless computing, which is also called “function as a service” (FaaS) gets confused for “platform as a service” (PaaS). The two concepts have a lot in common with one important distinction.

  • PaaS is always running to be prepared for incoming requests.
  • FaaS is event-driven. It breaks applications down into individual functions and only runs them as they’re needed.

Benefits of FaaS

The obvious advantage of going serverless is scaling. FaaS offers highly responsive horizontal scaling that handles fluctuating demand with ease. User experience remains high even during the surges in traffic that follow viral posts or product releases.

Serverless computing is budget-friendly, too. Because functions are “dormant” in between function calls, clients are only billed for what they actually use. They don’t have to pay for idle resources.

Development, deployment, and maintenance costs are also lower for many of the same reasons as other BaaS and PaaS solutions. Better yet, developers can work in smaller teams since they don’t need to set up or maintain servers.

All of this adds up to the most important benefit of FaaS solutions. They’re enterprise-oriented by design. The list of advantages reads like a checklist of business priorities:

  • Budget: Initial investments are smaller (with lower ongoing operating costs when labor is taken into account).
  • User experience: FaaS offers high availability and low latency. Plus, developers can focus on making a high-quality app rather than worrying about servers.
  • Scalability: Serverless computing is easy to expand and upgrade as needed, meaning it fits well into microservice architectures.
  • Fast development: Using FaaS shortens the time to market by cutting down on the developer’s workload.

Cautions and Limitations of FaaS

Of course, the nature of serverless computing gives it some less appealing traits as well. FaaS is geared towards providing smaller services at scale.

There are hard limits on temporary local storage, hard execution timeouts, and limits to memory and CPU usage per execution. In simpler terms, it’s perfect for updating a web form but less practical for uploading a video.

Trying to test or debug FaaS applications gets complicated. There are some solutions being developed, but the technology is too new for any to be considered mature yet.

There’s also the unavoidable reality of vendor lock-in. When a third party is in charge of server management, migration is both hard and expensive.

Developers should be careful to choose reputable, stable companies like AWS Lambda or Microsoft Azure to reduce the possibility of vendor-related disruptions.

Making the Call

When is serverless computing the right choice?

Serverless computing has some great use cases that dovetail with modern business priorities.

  • Chatbots and virtual assistants
  • Internet of Thing (IoT) applications
  • Sharing static content (especially image-rich content)
  • Extending monolithic architecture by pulling out high-demand functions

For CPU or memory intensive applications, it’s not the best choice. Latency issues when handling those kinds of tasks damages user experience, leading to lower retention rates.

There may also be legal concerns that make serverless computing risky for companies bound by HIPAA guidelines and other strict regulations.

These are issues that need to be worked out with an experienced developer before choosing FaaS.

Like any technology, serverless computing delivers the best results when used within its design scope. Sit down with our highly-trained team of developers to find out whether FaaS is right for your next enterprise application.

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5 Best Platforms to Build a Chatbot

Do you have time for a chat? Chatbots always do. That’s why customer-centric businesses
need chatbots.

That’s also why Microsoft is betting its future on “conversation as a service.” Meanwhile, Facebook has said that chatbots are the key to monetizing Messenger, announcing, “We’re going to build AI to help automate responses (for businesses).” There’s no reason why Facebook can’t share some of that chatbot revenue with you.

It would be a smart move to put your money on the future of chatbots, but you don’t have pay a lot of money to build one. Here are five of the best chatbot platforms that let you get started without a big investment. A few require development experience, while others are built for non-techies.

Get out ahead of the curve and immortalize yourself (or any other personality) inside a practical, profitable AI.

1. ChatScript

This is the platform that produced Chatbot Rose, the winner of the 2015 Loebner Prize. This prize is awarded to the AI program best able to pass a simplified Turing Test and convince judges that there is a human intelligence behind the scenes.

One of the judges said that Chatbot Rose kept them guessing for three months. They also have a support forum at chatbots.org as well as a debugger and foreign language dictionaries.

2. Personality Forge

If you need to do a bit of benchmarking before you launch your chatbot project, start here. Interact with a host of chatbots recently built on the platform by other users.

You can also search through more than 17,000 examples broken down into categories such as Award Winners and Advanced. This is really entry-level bot building, so it makes a great experimentation space. Don’t be put off by the user interface.

3. Pandorabots

This is where you should go if you want to bring in developers with serious practical experience. The developers on this platform have built more than 285,000 chatbots so far.

With a massive library of APIs, they can integrate your new chatbot into all kinds of online systems. The platform is best known for Alicebot, another Loebner Prize winner. Alicebot was also the inspiration for the emotional operating system named Samantha in the film “Her.”

4. Api.ai

If your goal is for users to speak to the bot using natural language, this platform is the leader in the field. It’s the one behind Speaktoit, the Android phone version of Siri.

Developers can access ready-built modules with semantic learning. You will also find support for 13 languages when you are ready to expand.

5. Rebot.me

This is your platform when time to market and simplicity are your top concerns. Anyone can put together a serviceable chatbot in minutes and have it embedded on a website immediately. On top of the functional framework, just add questions, answers and what it should say when it gets confused. You can make it as intelligent as you want it to be by continuing to improve it after it goes live.

Want more options? Take the time to research BotLibre!, Chatbot4U, Howdy botkit, Second Ego and Zabaware.

Remember, your goal is not to beat Siri or Cortana. Start with a chatbot that can make relevant suggestions or direct customers to more information. Expand your chatbot’s capabilities based on customer expectations. Soon, real-time translation will catch up with AI development, and your next chatbot could go global.

For more information contact us today, or visit our website.

How to Tell If You’re Talking to a Bot

You get home from work, pull up your smartphone dating app and smile. Three solid responses from attractive prospects! Things are looking good. Except one question: Are they human? Your new love interest might be a bot.

There have been stories of people who have carried on conversations with chatbots for days on end, only to slowly realize they are not talking with a real person. How is this possible?

Chatbots, which are text-based robots that use artificial intelligence or specific programming rules to operate, are proliferating through dating, social media and messaging sites. They simulate conversation based on the queries they are presented with.

The Rise of Bots

Chatbots are only one form on online bots. A recent Incapsula study reported that over 61 percent of all traffic on the internet is now generated by bots. This number is way over the 21 percent reported in 2012.

So-called “good bots” include search engines and other online tools; however, almost 30 percent of bot activity comes from “bad bots” made up of spammers, impersonators, hackers and site scrapers.

The biggest increase among bad bots are impersonators, bots that try to take on a fake identity in some form. Their goal is to penetrate website security and wreak havoc once inside.

There’s a good chance you have interacted with a bot if you have enlisted the help of online chat when seeking the answer to a technical question about a product or service. Many service departments provide a chat function that allows you to type in your question or complaint.

You may have believed you were talking with Ted, a friendly and qualified service technician, but the reality is you were likely speaking to a bot.

Looking for Love

Bots are extremely common on dating sites.

You are more likely to encounter them if you are a man looking for a woman. This is because the sites need to give the appearance that the balance of men and women is more equal than it actually is to help keep members engaged and involved.

In fact, some bot creators intentionally target sites like Tinder because of their huge traffic numbers. Bots fit into that environment naturally because they can interact with many profiles at once, generating lots of matches quickly.

Pattern Matching

Chatbots work with a system called “pattern matching” to determine which response they select. With a little detective work, you can find out if you are talking to a bot. Look for these chatbot quirks:

  • They want you to click a questionable link. Adult entertainment and gaming sites are most common.
  • They answer in full sentences. Most people don’t type complete sentences online. Humans tend to type short phrases full of filler words and weird spelling.
  • They can’t follow random conversation changes. Humans have short attention spans, and conversations tend to wander all over the place.
  • They can’t express coherent ideas. Many times bots will pretend they are from a foreign country to cover problems they have with grammar, cultural context, in-depth ideas or other conversational difficulties.
  • They answer very quickly. Humans tend to react slowly, or they are simply not online when a message is sent. Bots answer very quickly without a long delay. If you get a long, involved message the first time you interact with someone online, it’s a red flag.

Chatbots are here to stay and are expected to increase in the next few years. Facebook, for example, has committed to deploying a variety of chatbots on Facebook Messenger. They include weather bots, prayer request bots, physical training bots, joke bots and book recommendation bots.

You may not be talking to a human, but if it gives you an accurate weather forecast, you may welcome a chatbot over the inaccurate prognostications of your local TV weatherman.

For more information, contact us today or visit our website.

Chatbots Will Be the Virtual Assistant You’re Looking For

While it may seem like the mobile app craze is just getting off the ground, there is a new and even more advanced trend hovering just around the corner — bots. Chatbots utilize artificial intelligence, allowing users to communicate through their devices to access news, weather, entertainment, shopping and more.

What makes bots superior to apps is that bots are interactive — they can carry out commands much like Apple’s Siri.

Essentially, different bots provide different services to the user, acting as a specialized and convenient personal assistant. With one bot to manage your finances, another to order dinner and yet another for scheduling work meetings, mobile users can reach new heights in personalized digital assistance.

All Aboard the Bot Revolution

Bots are not the center of attention in tech news like apps often are. However, hints of a bot revolution are lurking just about everywhere you look, while app downloads have taken a serious dip.

Juggling apps for each area of your life can become exhausting — learning to use, update and regularly check each app can create even more work than it eliminates. Meanwhile, interacting with bots is more immediate and only requires you to know a language and speak or type.

Basically, bots are the closest you’ll get to face-to-face conversation in the digital sphere.

Many brands have already begun utilizing bots for customer service and a variety of other functions.

In April 2016, Facebook launched a platform for developers to begin building chatbots through their messaging system. While heavily focused on e-commerce, the Facebook platform also gave a CNN bot as an example of how news can be delivered even faster than through traditional social media outlets.

Kik Messenger launched its first bot store in April of 2016 as well, offering 16 new bots, including one for Vine, The Weather Channel, and Funny or Die. Amazon’s launch of Alexa, along with Microsoft’s Cortana provide further evidence that big companies are joining the bot revolution to streamline tasks for their users.

Creating a Case for Chatbots and Your Brand

Small businesses and marketers would be wise to jump on the bot development trend before industries become over-saturated with bots. Just as social media has become a necessity for modern businesses to stay relevant, chatbots will soon be a necessity instead of just an additional option.

The paradigm shift from print to digital marketing revolutionized the way businesses communicate with their audiences. Now, bots will change the business-to-consumer relationship even further, removing common barriers to conversation.

A Business Insider study showed that it takes companies an average of 10 hours to respond to customers. With automatic responses from bots, you can increase customer satisfaction while maintaining a positive brand reputation and freeing up staff for more important and complex tasks.

For brands without bots, customer care is delegated to employees that already have a lot on their plates, such as marketing teams, PR professionals and social media managers. Bots can not only reduce customer waiting time, but also mimic human customer service reps in a natural way.

Despite the common belief that bots are too impersonal and automated, brands can carefully craft a chatbot personality that actually represents their brand values.

The key to success is for brands to determine the kind of bot that will provide the most value before development even begins. Is your main priority increasing sales, retention rates or new customer acquisition? These factors will help you narrow down your options for building the most appropriate bot.

For more information, contact us today or visit our website.