Drop the Cloud Cost with Cloud-Specific Software Elements
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Drop the Cloud Cost with Cloud-Specific Software Elements

Alexander Belokrylov, CEO, BellSoft

The increase of services and businesses operating in cloud infrastructure is reflected in the growth of global cloud revenue, up to $474 billion in 2022 from $408 billion in 2021. As estimated by Gartner in the same source, more than 85% of organizations will embrace a cloud-first principle by 2025 and will not be able to fully execute on their digital strategies without the use of cloud-native architectures and technologies.

This ongoing shift and the growing popularity of cloud-based services and products are accompanied by rising concerns about the continuous increase in cloud costs.

This article explores the reasons behind the high costs of operating in the cloud and discusses some solutions that software development companies have come up with to respond to new business circumstances.

Initially, the move to the cloud was supposed to make things easier and cheaper. With more organizations shifting to cloud operations, we now hear many businesses' complaints about costs.

The rise of cloud cost

According to the Flexera State of the Cloud Report 2022, last year, public cloud spending was above the planned budget by an average of 13 percent, and the expected increase for cloud spending is around 29 percent. Indeed, as cloud adoption accelerates, enterprises are struggling with budgeting.

The growing cost of cloud use is often hidden in the software architecture. The ideal approach is to build digital infrastructure from scratch by implementing appropriate software components designed specifically for the cloud. In reality, companies often move to the cloud with their older architecture. Thus their software architecture is not fit for running in the cloud and needs to be adapted.

Referring to cloud Java applications, such architecture can be built on top of microcontainers in the form of microservices and use specific tools for cloud management and orchestration.

Moreover, with the growth of cloud popularity, there is a parallel increase in tools for this architecture. The smooth running of applications in the cloud requires architecture specifically designed for the cloud. If an application is not adapted or built according to cloud specs, operating costs stay high. A cloud environment requires integrating the correct software for optimal use.

Moving forward, some financials are getting lost in cloud management each year. The Flexera research shows that as much as 32 percent of the cloud budget is wasted.

Cloud waste terminology refers to all unnecessary spending on cloud services. It covers all unused or underused services during one or more billing cycles, which results in "wasted" spending. Some examples include unused apps in the cloud and underused cloud computing services. Among Java-based cloud applications, these are often APM, which no one looks at, and some middleware subscriptions that are never used in practice. Companies may continue to be billed for the use of classical resources such as disc, memory, CPU, and traffic, when in many cases, we buy too much of these resources and never fully use them.

The amount of wasted cloud spending and the overall rising costs only demonstrate the inefficiency of the development approach for these applications. These metrics are the main pain points for business in cloud computing today.

How to optimize the cost of cloud computing?

Optimizing cloud costs is among the highest priorities for enterprises nowadays. Managing cloud costs consists of several layers. There are different cloud providers (public, private, hybrid, etc.) located in different geographical regions, and their locations can also influence prices. New software tools can help overcome the ineffectiveness of cloud computing, but this requires close attention by architects and DevOps. Altogether, cloud strategy and cost reduction involve many participants in the decision-making process. Successful solutions for the cloud are arranged with a good and transparent organizational structure within a company. A working group for cloud cost reduction should at least include DevOps, FinOps, and platform engineers.

FinOps is a new term for a function with the primary goal of maintaining cloud financial hygiene. This involves monitoring, analyzing, and optimizing costs incurred with cloud usage. The FinOps Foundation has identified three phases of the FinOps journey: informing, optimizing, and operating.

FinOps professionals are more concerned with eliminating cloud waste, while DevOps specialists are looking to increase the efficiency of cloud applications and reduce operational costs via better software architecture and components.

Meanwhile DevOps and FinOps are busy with practices of optimization and cost reductions of applications, software development companies are working on new cloud-focused solutions that will be later implemented by them.

Let's explore the major trends for cloud computing and optimization of the coding language in Java software development.

Java remains at the top of the list of enterprises' most popular code languages. When moving to the cloud environment, all those organizations that use Java are faced with a dilemma on how to optimize the applications. Often large enterprises have massive architecture based on Java, and migrating it to the cloud might look very complicated. Rewriting the whole bunch of these applications in a new language is a long and expensive process. Therefore adapting to the cloud settings becomes the only alternative. So all those companies are looking up new solutions the market offers today.

With the rise of cloud computing popularity, many companies initially working on Java solutions expanded their services and today offer their own cloud; among these are Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud Platform (GCP). Cloud use often goes hand in hand with offering Java support for their SDKs, which enhances developers' capacities and simplifies the development process.

The other part of modernization is happening in application architecture changes. Examples include microservices and microcontainers, which are the results of the programming language adaption to the cloud environments. Software development companies involved in OpenJDK are creating new solutions to modernize Java application work in the cloud, often implementing microservices approaches.

One of the ongoing trends is presented by the development of microcontainers and the arrival of various base images. Plenty of them are offered on the market so that you can find distroless and base images of different kinds, and they are getting more and more advanced nowadays.

Can one small component, such as the base image, affect your application's efficiency and startup time? It actually can.

Linux distribution, being at the top of use in the developers' community, certainly attracts lots of attention from software development companies. Many are looking to create their own version of this distro. An extreme example in this race for new Linux distros would be Wolfi. As stated by its creators, it is a Linux (un)distro option. The idea behind the (un)distro is to detach all those components considered extra by the developing company from an existing distro version. However, 'extra' is a misleading term. As a result of such cut-offs, the software supports a minimum set of components for building and running applications. Nevertheless, it allows for building a base image. Un(distro) products have a specific niche; they might be suitable for applications with finite functioning, though not operational for the complex architecture requiring large sets of actions.

Alpine Linux is one of the first open-source-based Linux distributions allowing the creation of small containers with only 5.6 MB. However, despite being lightweight and optimally performant, Alpine carries a few serious shortcomings, including a lack of modern security features, limited cloud and Java support, no LTS releases, and difficulties in migration. These limitations have an impact on its potential use by enterprises and companies.

The market certainly needed a full-fledged Linux distro with much-reduced functionalities while providing an opportunity to build small and secure containers and VMs; this Linux distro was supposed to have quality tech support. The evident disadvantages of Alpine and the absence of the resources needed within this distro allowed space for better alternatives. What matters for the application developers is not only the size of the instruments they use. Your application might have different operational tasks for which smaller software components are suitable. What should be taken into consideration is that often when the size is critically reduced, your application will lack some features, so the choice of microcontainer is not that straightforward. It depends on the application's purpose.

One more newcomer among the open-source Linux distros is Alpaquita Linux. This Linux distro is still a distro, and its main benefits are not only its size (it's about the same size as Alpine Linux). Alpaquita Linux distro enhancements lie in the new security, performance, and Java-focused optimization features. In short, Alpaquita Linux stands out for the qlibc/musl/malloc performance alliance, enhanced security, optimized RAM consumption, and LTS support, which is especially relevant for Java developers as there is no other such small Linux distro with LTS.

All mentioned Linux distros are open-source-based and prove that major software innovations are made by collaboration. Small base images created by the tech community deliver faster startup time of applications and reduce RAM and energy consumption, resulting in lower costs. However, the choice of such components should include not only the metrics of RAM and container size but important aspects of tech support by the vendor, difficulties of implementation, and any other additional requirements.

While Java adaptation to the cloud is the responsibility of the corporate DevOps, FinOps, and team of professional developers, the modernization of Java components is the task of software development companies; these often provide help with migration and cloud support as well. It could be a good choice for the business to ask for assistance with this complicated matter from the software developers themselves. Teamwork of DevOps, FinOps, and software development companies is the best union in adapting your Java application to the classical cloud or serverless environment. Moreover, skilled experts in DevOps and FinOps have all the potential to initiate innovations in Java components in this work process, which is often the case with the origins of new products or new improvements.

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