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Optimizing DevOps and Cost Management with Serverless Computing   

Optimizing DevOps and Cost Management with Serverless Computing 

When you consider factors such as cost management, monitoring, scaling, performance, and security, how do you think they interact with the transitory nature of many serverless services to achieve the benefits of serverless computing? 

Cost management in cloud computing puts the power into the hands of businesses.  It promotes a granular model to map costs to value and customer experience.  That means your pricing model must be informed by the infrastructure, the code, and the performance expectations of your customers.  A core component is the relationship between your cost and your ability to scale and account for it in your pricing model. This is a change requiring technical teams to work with business units and pricing teams to understand the nuances.  Once you understand them, you can optimize them and differentiate your product from others through the pricing model and your cost optimizations. 

Monitoring serverless services is relatively simple if you understand some basic concepts.  First, you need to integrate your application code with ASW SDKs to expose all cloud-native monitoring capabilities. Next, use tagging to create service monitors that help you see precisely which microservice and component may be having an issue, allowing you to triage and remediate quickly. Cloud providers offer many tools for full visibility, and it may be surprising how much you can do for the cost, relative to some of the available packaged solutions. 

Scaling serverless services can be straightforward, but it is important to be aware of the connection of scaling to improve customer experience with the potential cost spikes that result from targeting the customer experience, relative to your product’s performance.   Let’s look at the Amazon Aurora serverless DB as an example.  You can define your environment’s performance expectations by setting a minimum and maximum ACU setting. The ACU is the compute capacity the provider will provide to the DB as conditions change.  Setting a min and max is both a technical engineering exercise and a cost management exercise to protect the business from unexpected costs that may exceed the pricing model. 

Performance is closely related to scaling and can cover a number of services, but in the serverless model, it typically relates to the time it takes your cloud providers’ “functions as a service” offering to bootstrap and handle requests.  This is known as the cold start issue that can add delay to your application and negatively impact customer experience.  The good news is that when done right, these issues can be mitigated.   

There are many options to mitigate potential performance issues with serverless computing, such as designing the code that handles initial connections properly, using warming, asynchronous invocations, and provisioned concurrency.  For example, you don’t need to load all packages into all functions, because these are not needed for every function. In this way, you can optimize your functions for the serverless design, and this alone can reduce hundreds of milliseconds of load time with no additional costs.  Regarding “warming,” there are many open-source libraries to warm Lambda functions through a pinging mechanism that can help reduce latency with a minimal cost impact. Lastly, provisioned concurrency provides a predictable start time while ensuring the lowest possible latency. 

Security becomes a major value of serverless because of the shared responsibility model.  The duration that your function executes and the price you pay include a lot of security mechanisms.  In this model, developers are responsible for the security of their code, so an emphasis on secure coding practices, input validation, and managing vulnerabilities (code, packages, and dependencies) greatly reduces costs and risks. 

As Gilad David Maayan highlights in his article, “5 Serverless Challenges of DevOps Teams and How to Overcome Them,” DevOps alone is a challenging endeavor, requiring time and effort simply to synchronize the front and back ends of an application. But beyond that is the complexity of identifying and integrating all the trusted packages and dependencies needed to create and deploy a great app.  These apps must be deployed into infrastructure that is properly configured for functionality, availability, and performance.   

But in DevSecOps, not only do you have the DevOps challenges, but you also must work with external teams to identify risky coding practices that increase development time and can often increase code complexity.  It’s also critical to consider identity and permissions in the app – how they flow down to the infrastructure, and how they are reflected to end users and the Ops teams supporting the apps (because we know that adversaries target the Ops teams due to their broad systems permissions).  

As Mayaan points out, “Serverless doesn’t solve all these problems out of the box, but when done right, it can quickly reduce or mitigate many of them.  Serverless computing brings a paradigm shift in how applications are built, deployed, and managed, directly impacting DevOps teams. The core advantage of serverless for these teams is the significant reduction in operational overhead.” 

Taking full advantage of the shared responsibility model should be a core strategic business value for anyone developing products or solutions in the cloud. It can be an effective model for shifting cost and risk to the cloud provider, who has optimized their processes and pricing to be competitive and has contracted third-party auditors to validate the security and compliance of the cloud platform and the individual services running in it. 

Regarding costs, following a serverless model increases the incremental price for any one unit of measure when compared directly with the price of that same measure done on-premises. However, this comparison is misleading, because it eliminates the additional value that is bundled into the serverless per compute hour or per capacity unit price. 

With serverless computing, the cloud provider is responsible for purchasing, installing, managing, operating, securing, patching, and ensuring the high availability, redundancy, and scaling of the servers that power each serverless service. This is achieved across multiple data centers with low latency and highly redundant connections, organized into regions that communicate globally. The per-unit price of the service includes a significant amount of capital expenditures (CAPEX) and operational expenditures (OPEX), covering the costs of obtaining or manufacturing hardware, engineering, deployment, maintenance, security, and continuous compliance audits for various frameworks. There is a considerable investment that developers can leverage to offload their work, impacting overall business thinking in terms of sharing risk, offsetting costs, and reorganizing processes. This enables more focus on roadmap development and less on routine operations, planning, and patching, which are typically commodity activities that do not contribute to competitiveness or market differentiation.  

From a business perspective would you prefer to invest hard-earned profits into operating expenses or into improving features, customer experience, and trust? 

As Gilad David Maayan highlights in his article, “DevOps teams must adapt to a more granular, event-driven architecture that serverless promotes. They need to design systems thinking about individual functions and how they interact, instead of traditional monolithic applications or even microservices. This requires a deeper understanding of the cloud environment and its services, as serverless functions are often tightly integrated with other cloud services like databases, message queues, and API gateways. 

With change comes…. Change.  There is a change of mindset when going to serverless, which is why the common refrain is “serverless when done right, can quickly reduce or mitigate many issues.”   

Serverless does bring a learning curve.  It requires rethinking concepts of cost management, monitoring, scaling, performance, and security.    

Pretty much everything in technology eventually boils down to business optimization or transformation.  Cloud in general and serverless specifically are no different.  Doing serverless right means taking full advantage of the shared responsibility model and prioritizing it as a core strategic business value.  It means changing how you think about cost management, monitoring, scaling, performance, and security and how these flow through your business processes, cost models, and pricing strategies.   

Serverless computing presents a transformative opportunity for businesses and developers alike. By embracing this model, organizations can not only optimize their DevOps processes but also achieve significant cost management benefits. The ability to scale effortlessly, monitor effectively, and ensure security without the traditional overheads of server management allows for a more agile and responsive approach to software development and deployment.  

As we move forward, it’s clear that the adoption of serverless architectures will continue to grow, driven by the need for efficiency, scalability, and cost-effectiveness in today’s fast-paced digital landscape. The journey towards serverless may require a shift in mindset and a deep understanding of the cloud environment, but the rewards in terms of operational simplicity and cost savings are undeniable. By leveraging platforms like NXT1 LaunchIT, developers can further streamline the process, ensuring a secure, scalable, and cost-effective SaaS delivery. In the end, the success of serverless computing lies in its ability to enable businesses to focus more on innovation and less on infrastructure, paving the way for a new era of cloud computing. 

NXT1 LaunchIT is the developer’s platform to build and operate secure SaaS, enabling instant availability by automating cloud infrastructure management – simply code and deploy. With government-level security, comprehensive operational controls, and integrated ecommerce, LaunchIT accelerates time to revenue and reduces costs for technology startups, legacy application migrations, and more. Join the Beta program today, at nxt1.cloud/go.