The idea of “serverless” computing came upon the IT scene about nine years ago as an interesting buzzword and potential greenfield for new products for enterprises, developers and IT product makers. And, as is common when new buzzwords start circulating, not a lot of people understood what “serverless” means, and perhaps that’s why the idea kind of stalled in the marketplace for a few years.

Serverless computing–otherwise known as FaaS (function as a service)–doesn’t mean there isn’t a server doing the heavy lifting; it’s about the user not seeing or maintaining the server and not caring where in the world it’s located. It’s all about getting the work processed in a timely manner somewhere where you aren’t watching. 

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This is a cloud-computing execution model in which the cloud provider runs the server and dynamically manages the allocation of machine resources. Pricing is based on the actual amount of resources consumed by an application, rather than on pre-purchased units of capacity. It can be considered a form of  utility computing.

OK, that’s the background–now let’s turn to the news of the day.

Platform-as-a-Service for Serverless Development

Zoho Corp., a 22-year-old, privately held, California-based company with global clientele that has developed an suite of 45 cloud-based business applications and runs its own cloud, announced the release of Catalyst, the company’s new-generation cloud platform-as-a-service. Catalyst is designed to allow developers to create and run microservices and applications for their custom solutions with a serverless option. 

“We call it Operating System for Business, and it comes with three layers: the application layer, the platform layer at the bottom, and the services layer,” Zoho Chief Evangelist Raju Vegesnatold told eWEEK

“Catalyst is designed to offer developers increased efficiency, thanks to Zoho’s unified technology stack as well as our experience building business productivity tools during the past two decades. Developers can now access the same underlying services and frameworks that power Zoho’s 45+ applications used by more than 45 million users around the world,” Vegesnatold said.

As for serverless functions, Zoho’s Catalyst runs code without requiring admins to provision or manage servers, Vegesnatold said. Automation is the name of the game.

As objectives and challenges evolve for businesses, the ability to tailor operating systems, services and apps to meet their unique requirements is critical to IT processing.

Examples of How It Works

For example, Zoho’s Grammar and Diction service, powered by Zia, Zoho’s AI engine, was developed from anonymously parsing and learning from millions of documents in Zoho Writer, Zoho’s online word processor. Now with Catalyst, developers—and by extension businesses—can access a sophisticated microservice that has and will inherit substantial capabilities over time within the Zoho ecosystem, Vegesnatold said.

Catalyst has already empowered developers to build services and applications, including a bug-filing bridge application, an app used to import users into a CRM, a microservice for lead generation, a data-cleansing microservice, and others. 

Here are some of the key features of Catalyst:

Business Oriented Microservices

  • Grammar and Diction: This microservice acts as a personal copy editor or proof reader for anyone writing content. A developer could, for example, create a marketing application that brings the Grammar and Diction capability to email campaign drafts.
  • Data cleansing: This microservice applies user-specified rules to parse large volumes of raw data into cleansed output that is ready to be consumed by other applications or services. Zoho CRM imports data files, such as a list of leads or addresses, and cleanses them using rules that remove duplicates, incomplete data, and other unusable anomalies.
  • Document previews: This microservice is a document viewer that renders files in multiple formats. Zoho WorkDrive uses a preview engine that can display documents in more than 160 formats that include xls, pdf, docx, and others. 
  • Zia: Utilizing Zoho’s AI-powered assistant for business, Catalyst opens up machine-learning services for developers, including OCR, anomaly detection, sentiment analysis, and prediction builder.
  • Mobile App Development: Catalyst provides SDKs, so developers can create fully customizable mobile applications.

Developer Enablement Capabilities

  • Zoho’s Unified Data Model enables developers to easily access data from Zoho applications, as well as hundreds of third-party apps.
  • Using Catalyst, developers can remotely access APIs for every service.
  • Catalyst also offers a robust Command Line Interface (CLI), as well as Integrated Development Environments (IDE).

Security + Privacy

  • Developers using Catalyst gain access to Zoho’s privacy and security standards, which includes GDPR compliance, as well as ISO 27001 and SOC Type II certifications. 
  • Using Catalyst, developers can also take advantage of Zoho’s identity and access-management framework, which secures the accounts of all Zoho users. 
  • Developers can leverage granular, role-based access controls and multi-factor authentication.

Catalyst is available today.



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