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AWS Lambda: The Honcho of the Serverless World


AWS Lambda Serverless Computing

The Amazon Web Services have remained as the undisputed king of the cloud for some time now. Having established as a household name, their various offerings are synonymous with efficiency and quality. One such service is their serverless computing service, AWS Lambda. For the uninitiated, Lambda is an event-driven serverless computing platform that lets you run code without managing or provisioning servers and involves zero administration. It enables one to run the code in high availability compute infrastructure, execute the code only when required and scale automatically. Another added advantage is that one needs to pay only for the compute time consumed and not for when the code is not running. While these are valuable add-ons, what is the X factor that qualifies Lambda to be the best in business? Read on to know.

How does AWS Lambda Work

Before delving into the stand-alone qualities of Lambda, it is essential to understand its functionalities and how it works. Let us breakdown the Lambda function steps into four steps:

  1. Create the function in any of the supported languages. Writing the function changes from language to language. For example, for Java, it involves implementing standard interfaces.
  2. Logs will be written to CloudWatch.
  3. Create the deployment package i.e zip or jar.
  4. Create the AWS Lambda function in AWS using command line or console. If the AWS Lambda function is event-driven, there is a provision to select the lambda function that needs to be triggered for particular events in the corresponding service console.

How Lambda works could be called as synchronous or asynchronous. When a request comes, AWS will spin up a container in which the function code runs. As the request increases, Lambda scales up by running additional instances. When the request decreases, the inactive instances are terminated. 

Why use AWS Lambda?

What makes AWS Lambda, the most sought after serverless framework? You may ask. Let me spell it out for you.

  • Increased Flexibility: Lambda supports most of the major languages. The cherry on top is the fact that it enables one to use a mix of languages with much ease. For example, one lambda function can be created in JAVA and another can be in Node.js. This might not be possible with the traditional development and would end up being chaotic.
  • Hassle-Free: With Lambda being a serverless computing service, one does not need to worry about the infrastructure needed to run the functions. It does not involve the management of servers, instances and the like.
  • Better Scalability: Lambda enables auto-scaling of individual functions. This allows the developers to concentrate on the business logic rather than spending more time figuring out how to handle the load.
  • Cost-Effective: As stated earlier, one needs to pay only for the time the function runs. If there is a day wherein the function is not called at all, the cost will be 0 for that day. 

The Highlights and Challenges of AWS Lambda

Lambda helps in cutting down the operational cost and aids in enhanced development. The automatic scaling and lack of need to set up servers make life easier for developers from all over the world. With reduced time spent on operational issues, developers find themselves with more time that could be spent on innovation. The FaaS infrastructure ensures that the scaling is completely undertaken by the vendor as the request increases.

While much has been said about the advantages of Lambda, it is undeniable that it comes with its own set of drawbacks as well. Firstly, the architecture is only fit for stateless applications. It limits the amount of compute and storage resources that you can use to run and store functions. Also, there are hard and soft limits for concurrent executions, deployment package size, memory allocation, function timeout, etc. Another challenge is its startup latency and difficult integration testing. Monitoring and debugging an application is also difficult with this architecture.

That said, it has to be understood that the drawbacks of Lambda do not overshadow its advantages. With lesser time to market, reduced costs, and better operational management, AWS Lambda gives the other serverless computing services, a run for their money.

AWS Lambda in the Real World: AWS Lambda Use Case

A leading daily newspaper in the United States was facing it difficult to meet their customer demands and scale up accordingly. The company decided to employ AWS Lambda and other AWS services to address the scalability issues. With the help of Lambda, they were able to scale up during increased website traffic and also scale down during slower traffic periods and cut down costs subsequently. In addition to this, they were also able to resize news images to suit different viewing environments which resulted in a wider and faster reach of the news. The process of resizing images to different sizes was replaced with creating the images at the same time with the help of AWS Lambda. This helped in speeding up the process without any server maintenance.

While serverless architecture might not be a one-stop destination for all the problems that developers face, it is definitely a step in the right direction. From reduced costs to increased efficiency, the serverless framework lightens the many burdens on developers, giving them enough time to innovate and code. Amazon Web Services bring the best of this computing service through AWS Lambda. Even with its pitfalls, it has proved to be highly beneficial and has been leading the market owing to its exceptional features.

Want to learn more on Serverless Computing, check out out latest Whitepaper- A Technology Backgrounder to Serverless Architecture

Tintu Thilak
Associate Architect, RapidValue

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