Serverless DevOps: What do we do when the server goes away?

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When we wrote the original Serverless Ops: What do we do when the server goes away? we thought it was a good piece on the future of operations as serverless usage increases. But we didn't expect it to be as popular as it ended up being.

We've expanded the original blog post into an entire series and a free downloadable ebook. We cover a variety of topics including the changing role of operations, organizational change, security, cost and more. We're deeply excited to share this revised and expanded series with you.

Serverless DevOps: What do we do when the server goes away? [Free, ungated book]

What do we do when the server goes away?

When I built my first serverless application using AWS Lambda, I was excited right from the start. It gave me the opportunity to spend more time building my application and less time focusing on the infrastructure that was required to run it. I didn't have to think about how to get the service up and running, or even ask permission for the necessary resources. The result was an application that was running and doing what I needed more quickly than I had ever experienced before.

But that experience also led me to ponder my future. If there were no servers to manage, what would I do? Would I be able to explain my job? Would I be able to explain to an employer (current or prospective) the value I provide? This was why I started ServerlessOps.

The Changing Landscape of Operations

I have seen, and personally been affected by, a shift in the operational needs of an organization due to changes in technology. I once sat in a meeting in which engineering leadership told me there would come a day when my skills would no longer be necessary. When that happened — and they assured me it would be soon — I would not be qualified to be on the engineering team any longer.

Now is the right time for us to begin discussing what operations will be in a serverless world. What happens if we don't? It will be defined for us.

At one end of the spectrum, there are people proposing NoOps, where all operational responsibilities are transferred to software engineers. That view exposes a fundamental misunderstanding of operations and its importance. Fortunately, larger voices are already out there countering that attitude.

At the other end, there are people who believe operations teams will always be necessary and the status quo will remain. That view simply ignores the change that has been occurring over the past several years.

If DevOps and public cloud adoption hasn't affected your job yet, it's only a matter of time. Adopting a they'll-always-need-me-as-I-am-today attitude leaves you unprepared for change.

Somewhere in between those views, an actual answer exists. Production operations, through its growth in complexity, is expanding and changing shape. As traditional problems we deal with today become abstracted away by serverless, we'll see engineering teams and organizations change. (This will be particularly acute in SaaS product companies.) But many of today's problems — system architecture design, deployment, security, observability, and more — will still exist.

The serverless community largely recognizes the value of operations as a vital component of going serverless successfully. Operations never goes away; it simply evolves in practice and meaning. Operations engineers and their expertise still possess tremendous value. But, as a community, we will have to define a new role for ourselves.

Starting the Conversation

In this series, we will discuss

  • Operational concerns and responsibilities when much of the stack has been abstracted away
  • A proposed description of the role of operations when serverless


This series is a start at defining what I see as the role for operations in a serverless environment. I don't believe, however, it's the only way to define the role. I think of operations in the context of SaaS startup companies.

It has been awhile since I worked on traditional internal IT projects or thought of engineering without a more product growth-oriented mindset. My problems and experiences aren't necessarily your problems and experiences. This is the start of a conversation.

Personal Biases

As you read this, keep a few things in mind. What I discuss on a technical level is very Amazon Web Services (AWS) centric. This is just a matter of my own experience and the cloud platform I’m most familiar with. You can apply these same ideas to serverless on Microsoft Azure or Google Cloud.

What I write, however, assumes public cloud provider serverless and not private platforms. The effects of public cloud serverless are more far reaching and disruptive than private cloud serverless.

In addition, I’ve worked primarily in product SaaS companies and startups for the past several years. My work has contributed toward the delivery of a company's primary revenue-generating service. But you can take many of these lessons and reapply them. Your customer doesn’t need to be external to your organization. They can just as easily be your coworker.

With all that in mind, here's what I see as the future serverless operations.

Serverless DevOps The Series

  1. What Is Serverless?
  2. Where Does Ops Belong?
  3. Why Serverless For Operations People
  4. The Need for Ops
  5. The Need To Code
  6. The Work Of Operating Serverless Systems
  7. Build, Testing, Deploy, and Management Tooling
  8. Security
  9. Cost, Revenue, & FinDev

Serverless DevOps: The Book!

But wait, there's more! We've also released the Serverless DevOps series as a free downloadable book, too. This comprehensive 80-page book describes the future of operations as more organizations go serverless.

Whether you're an individual operations engineer or managing an operations team, this book is meant for you. Get a copy, no form required.

[Free, Ungated Book] Serverless DevOps: What do we do when the server goes away?

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