Are You Ready for Serverless Computing and NoOps?

How much time does your IT staff spend managing servers? If you’re like most companies, you spend a considerable chunk of your budget and labor every single month maintaining technology systems—patching, backing up, managing data, and handling other essential, but time-consuming, tasks. Serverless computing seeks to change that by automating...


By Dan Rundle

How much time does your IT staff spend managing servers? If you’re like most companies, you spend a considerable chunk of your budget and labor every single month maintaining technology systems—patching, backing up, managing data, and handling other essential, but time-consuming, tasks.

Serverless computing seeks to change that by automating these tasks so you can invest your IT department’s skills and talent in value-add developments. It’s the next step in cloud computing, and companies like Netflix and Coca-Cola are already exploring the possibilities.

Here’s what you should know.

What Is Serverless Computing?

Serverless computing includes a range of automated services that operate in the cloud. Despite the name, it doesn’t really mean there are no servers. Instead, serverless refers to hyper-automation that removes the need for manual maintenance. The infrastructure is still there, but the management has been automated. That’s good news for companies because it means you don’t pay for idle server time. Instead, you only pay for the resources used while the server is performing necessary functions for you. 

Here’s an example. Let’s say you need to run an application three times a day, but it only runs for a few minutes each time. In a traditional SAAS environment, you are charged in blocks of time (by the month or year), even if you don’t use all the available capacity. That means you pay for a lot of idle time when your application isn’t running. With a serverless application, you pay only for the time your code is being executed, which can result in hefty savings: 
 

Graph of potential savings with serverless

Source: Trek10, Serverless Framework for Processes, Projects, and Scale

And that’s not the only reason you should consider serverless. Here are some additional benefits:

Scalability – Since you pay only for what you use, you have the flexibility to scale when you need to based on growth and demand. As traffic and usage needs grow, you can scale your infrastructure without significant costs. If usage needs don’t grow as expected, you’re not out anything. 

Deployment – Serverless applications are simple to deploy and require very little time for implementation. Since you don’t have to build or maintain the infrastructure, you can focus on getting the code right and deploying in days rather than weeks or months. 

Faster Innovation – Because you aren’t bound by the constraints of traditional methodology, serverless frameworks allow you to quickly develop new applications, meet immediate needs, and pivot when things aren’t going as planned.   

On-Demand Job Scheduling – In a serverless environment, you can schedule jobs to run on demand as data comes in. This prevents unnecessary operations and keeps your job functions as lean as possible.

Is Serverless the Same as NoOps?

The short answer is no. NoOps and serverless are not interchangeable; however, they often go hand in hand. NoOps covers a variety of operations including data management, networking, and security. Serverless refers specifically to cloud-based options for server administration. In both scenarios, automation eliminates the need for ongoing maintenance, patches, or provisioning on the part of your IT staff. All of these functions are automated so that developers can focus their attention on what they do best: developing code. 

Are You Ready to Make the Switch?

One of the greatest drawing cards for transitioning to NoOps in a serverless environment is that it makes your resources go further and helps you create more value. But it’s not the right fit for every application or every environment.

Here are some important questions to consider as you explore the possibility of a serverless transformation:

What use cases benefit most from NoOps in a serverless environment?

Based on Deloitte’s excellent analysis of the serverless and NoOps trends, the two primary use cases are increased automation for infrastructure and more efficient application development. By automating your infrastructure, you reduce the manpower needed to maintain and update, and you give your application developers more freedom to focus on coding.

Is my company ready for this?

A serverless environment will help you use resources more efficiently, cut waste, and reduce costs. Those are attractive benefits, but not every company is ready to make the cultural and mental shift required to develop an enterprise-wide serverless environment. Moving to a serverless model will require restructuring your IT roles and rethinking processes.

To do that, you’ll need someone who can spearhead the transition, create a roadmap, and keep everyone on course. Where do I start?

Areas that already have a strong digital foundation are typically good starting points for shifting to serverless NoOps environments. These often include customer-facing applications, microservices, and web applications. They make good entry points because in most cases, the cultural mindset required for NoOps has already begun to develop within the team.

What infrastructure do I need?

To benefit the most, you will need the automation potential available through a private cloud environment. While taking a hybrid approach (i.e., implementing some serverless components and keeping others on-premise) can provide some benefits, you will experience the greatest advantage by undertaking an enterprise-wide deployment.

What are the drawbacks?

As with any new endeavor, transitioning to a serverless environment does carry a measure of risk. The most publicized of these is the potential for increased cybersecurity breaches. While it’s true that cloud computing, and by extension serverless computing, can carry a greater cyber risk if handled poorly, it’s also true that serverless computing may significantly reduce your risk. That’s because you have an opportunity to build security protocols into the code itself, enabling your application to automatically detect and address threats.

Other potential drawbacks include vendor lock-in and third-party dependency, inefficiency on long tasks, and more complicated debugging procedures. It’s important to evaluate each of these risks as you decide whether serverless is the right choice for your company. 

There’s still a lot to be learned about the potential offered by a serverless model. In the future, we will undoubtedly see even broader usage and more powerful applications. But for now, some of the greatest benefits you’ll realize are cost savings and scalability.

If you’re ready to stop managing servers and start focusing your efforts where they will deliver the greatest value, serverless computing holds enormous promise. With applications for machine learning, app development, customer service, and custom processes, pursuing a serverless NoOps environment can help you reduce energy and resource output while creating greater efficiency on an enterprise level.

It’s time to take the next step.

Dan Rundle
Dan Rundle is Worthwhile’s CEO and lives in Greenville, S.C. He believes clear values are crucial to the success of a company and its customers.
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