What is AWS Lambda?
Who uses AWS Lambda?
AWS Lambda Integrations
Why developers like AWS Lambda?
Here are some stack decisions, common use cases and reviews by companies and developers who chose AWS Lambda in their tech stack.
Recently we were looking at a few robust and cost-effective ways of replicating the data that resides in our production MongoDB to a PostgreSQL database for data warehousing and business intelligence.
We set ourselves the following criteria for the optimal tool that would do this job: - The data replication must be near real-time, yet it should NOT impact the production database - The data replication must be horizontally scalable (based on the load), asynchronous & crash-resilient
Based on the above criteria, we selected the following tools to perform the end to end data replication:
We chose MongoDB Stitch for picking up the changes in the source database. It is the serverless platform from MongoDB. One of the services offered by MongoDB Stitch is Stitch Triggers. Using stitch triggers, you can execute a serverless function (in Node.js) in real time in response to changes in the database. When there are a lot of database changes, Stitch automatically "feeds forward" these changes through an asynchronous queue.
We chose Amazon SQS as the pipe / message backbone for communicating the changes from MongoDB to our own replication service. Interestingly enough, MongoDB stitch offers integration with AWS services.
In the Node.js function, we wrote minimal functionality to communicate the database changes (insert / update / delete / replace) to Amazon SQS.
Next we wrote a minimal micro-service in Python to listen to the message events on SQS, pickup the data payload & mirror the DB changes on to the target Data warehouse. We implemented source data to target data translation by modelling target table structures through SQLAlchemy . We deployed this micro-service as AWS Lambda with Zappa. With Zappa, deploying your services as event-driven & horizontally scalable Lambda service is dumb-easy.
In the end, we got to implement a highly scalable near realtime Change Data Replication service that "works" and deployed to production in a matter of few days!
Heroku Docker GitHub Node.js hapi Vue.js AWS Lambda Amazon S3 PostgreSQL Knex.js Checkly is a fairly young company and we're still working hard to find the correct mix of product features, price and audience.
We are focussed on tech B2B, but I always wanted to serve solo developers too. So I decided to make a $7 plan.
Why $7? Simply put, it seems to be a sweet spot for tech companies: Heroku, Docker, Github, Appoptics (Librato) all offer $7 plans. They must have done a ton of research into this, so why not piggy back that and try it out.
Enough biz talk, onto tech. The challenges were:
- Slice of a portion of the functionality so a $7 plan is still profitable. We call this the "plan limits"
- Update API and back end services to handle and enforce plan limits.
- Update the UI to kindly state plan limits are in effect on some part of the UI.
- Update the pricing page to reflect all changes.
- Keep the actual processing backend, storage and API's as untouched as possible.
In essence, we went from strictly volume based pricing to value based pricing. Here come the technical steps & decisions we made to get there.
- We updated our PostgreSQL schema so plans now have an array of "features". These are string constants that represent feature toggles.
- The Vue.js frontend reads these from the vuex store on login.
- Based on these values, the UI has simple
v-ifstatements to either just show the feature or show a friendly "please upgrade" button.
- The hapi API has a hook on each relevant API endpoint that checks whether a user's plan has the feature enabled, or not.
Side note: We offer 10 SMS messages per month on the developer plan. However, we were not actually counting how many people were sending. We had to update our alerting daemon (that runs on Heroku and triggers SMS messages via AWS SNS) to actually bump a counter.
What we build is basically feature-toggling based on plan features. It is very extensible for future additions. Our scheduling and storage backend that actually runs users' monitoring requests (AWS Lambda) and stores the results (S3 and Postgres) has no knowledge of all of this and remained unchanged.
Hope this helps anyone building out their SaaS and is in a similar situation.
Back in 2014, I was given an opportunity to re-architect SmartZip Analytics platform, and flagship product: SmartTargeting. This is a SaaS software helping real estate professionals keeping up with their prospects and leads in a given neighborhood/territory, finding out (thanks to predictive analytics) who's the most likely to list/sell their home, and running cross-channel marketing automation against them: direct mail, online ads, email... The company also does provide Data APIs to Enterprise customers.
I had inherited years and years of technical debt and I knew things had to change radically. The first enabler to this was to make use of the cloud and go with AWS, so we would stop re-inventing the wheel, and build around managed/scalable services.
For the SaaS product, we kept on working with Rails as this was what my team had the most knowledge in. We've however broken up the monolith and decoupled the front-end application from the backend thanks to the use of Rails API so we'd get independently scalable micro-services from now on.
Our various applications could now be deployed using AWS Elastic Beanstalk so we wouldn't waste any more efforts writing time-consuming Capistrano deployment scripts for instance. Combined with Docker so our application would run within its own container, independently from the underlying host configuration.
Storage-wise, we went with Amazon S3 and ditched any pre-existing local or network storage people used to deal with in our legacy systems. On the database side: Amazon RDS / MySQL initially. Ultimately migrated to Amazon RDS for Aurora / MySQL when it got released. Once again, here you need a managed service your cloud provider handles for you.
Future improvements / technology decisions included:
Caching: Amazon ElastiCache / Memcached CDN: Amazon CloudFront Systems Integration: Segment / Zapier Data-warehousing: Amazon Redshift BI: Amazon Quicksight / Superset Search: Elasticsearch / Amazon Elasticsearch Service / Algolia Monitoring: New Relic
As our usage grows, patterns changed, and/or our business needs evolved, my role as Engineering Manager then Director of Engineering was also to ensure my team kept on learning and innovating, while delivering on business value.
One of these innovations was to get ourselves into Serverless : Adopting AWS Lambda was a big step forward. At the time, only available for Node.js (Not Ruby ) but a great way to handle cost efficiency, unpredictable traffic, sudden bursts of traffic... Ultimately you want the whole chain of services involved in a call to be serverless, and that's when we've started leveraging Amazon DynamoDB on these projects so they'd be fully scalable.
At FundsCorner, we are on a mission to enable fast accessible credit to India’s Kirana Stores. We are an early stage startup with an ultra small Engineering team. All the tech decisions we have made until now are based on our core philosophy: "Build usable products fast".
Based on the above fundamentals, we chose Python as our base language for all our APIs and micro-services. It is ultra easy to start with, yet provides great libraries even for the most complex of use cases. Our entire backend stack runs on Python and we cannot be more happy with it! If you are looking to deploy your API as server-less, Python provides one of the least cold start times.
We build our APIs with Flask. For backend database, our natural choice was MongoDB. It frees up our time from complex database specifications - we instead use our time in doing sensible data modelling & once we finalize the data model, we integrate it into Flask using Swagger UI. Mongo supports complex queries to cull out difficult data through aggregation framework & we have even built an internal framework called "Poetry", for aggregation queries.
Our web apps are built on Vue.js , Vuetify and vuex. Initially we debated a lot around choosing Vue.js or React , but finally settled with Vue.js, mainly because of the ease of use, fast development cycles & awesome set of libraries and utilities backing Vue.
You simply cannot go wrong with Vue.js . Great documentation, the library is ultra compact & is blazing fast. Choosing Vue.js was one of the critical decisions made, which enabled us to launch our web app in under a month (which otherwise would have taken 3 months easily). For those folks who are looking for big names, Adobe, and Alibaba and Gitlab are using Vue.
By choosing Vuetify, we saved thousands of person hours in designing the CSS files. Vuetify contains all key material components for designing a smooth User experience & it just works! It's an awesome framework. All of us at FundsCorner are now lifelong fanboys of Vue.js and Vuetify.
On the infrastructure side, all our API services and backend services are deployed as server less micro-services through Zappa. Zappa makes your life super easy by packaging everything that is required to deploy your code as AWS Lambda. We are now addicted to the single - click deploys / updates through Zappa. Try it out & you will convert!
Also, if you are using Zappa, you can greatly simplify your CI / CD pipelines. Do try it! It's just awesome! and... you will be astonished by the savings you have made on AWS bills at end of the month.
Our CI / CD pipelines are built using GitLab CI. The documentation is very good & it enables you to go from from concept to production in minimal time frame.
We use Sentry for all crash reporting and resolution. Pro tip, they do have handlers for AWS Lambda , which made our integration super easy.
All our micro-services including APIs are event-driven. Our background micro-services are message oriented & we use Amazon SQS as our message pipe. We have our own in-house workflow manager to orchestrate across micro - services.
We host our static websites on Netlify. One of the cool things about Netlify is the automated CI / CD on git push. You just do a git push to deploy! Again, it is super simple to use and it just works. We were dogmatic about going server less even on static web sites & you can go server less on Netlify in a few minutes. It's just a few clicks away.
We use Google Compute Engine, especially Google Vision for our AI experiments.
For Ops automation, we use Slack. Slack provides a super-rich API (through Slack App) through which you can weave magical automation on boring ops tasks.
At Epsagon, we use hundreds of AWS Lambda functions, most of them are written in Python, and the Serverless Framework to pack and deploy them. One of the issues we've encountered is the difficulty to package external libraries into the Lambda environment using the Serverless Framework. This limitation is probably by design since the external code your Lambda needs can be usually included with a package manager.
In order to overcome this issue, we've developed a tool, which we also published as open-source (see link below), which automatically packs these libraries using a simple npm package and a YAML configuration file. Support for Node.js, Go, and Java will be available soon.
The GitHub respoitory: https://github.com/epsagon/serverless-package-external
CodeFactor being a #SAAS product, our goal was to run on a cloud-native infrastructure since day one. We wanted to stay product focused, rather than having to work on the infrastructure that supports the application. We needed a cloud-hosting provider that would be reliable, economical and most efficient for our product.
CodeFactor.io aims to provide an automated and frictionless code review service for software developers. That requires agility, instant provisioning, autoscaling, security, availability and compliance management features. We looked at the top three #IAAS providers that take up the majority of market share: Amazon's Amazon EC2 , Microsoft's Microsoft Azure, and Google Compute Engine.
AWS has been available since 2006 and has developed the most extensive services ant tools variety at a massive scale. Azure and GCP are about half the AWS age, but also satisfied our technical requirements.
It is worth noting that even though all three providers support Docker containerization services, GCP has the most robust offering due to their investments in Kubernetes. Also, if you are a Microsoft shop, and develop in .NET - Visual Studio Azure shines at integration there and all your existing .NET code works seamlessly on Azure. All three providers have serverless computing offerings (AWS Lambda, Azure Functions, and Google Cloud Functions). Additionally, all three providers have machine learning tools, but GCP appears to be the most developer-friendly, intuitive and complete when it comes to #Machinelearning and #AI.
The prices between providers are competitive across the board. For our requirements, AWS would have been the most expensive, GCP the least expensive and Azure was in the middle. Plus, if you #Autoscale frequently with large deltas, note that Azure and GCP have per minute billing, where AWS bills you per hour. We also applied for the #Startup programs with all three providers, and this is where Azure shined. While AWS and GCP for startups would have covered us for about one year of infrastructure costs, Azure Sponsorship would cover about two years of CodeFactor's hosting costs. Moreover, Azure Team was terrific - I felt that they wanted to work with us where for AWS and GCP we were just another startup.
In summary, we were leaning towards GCP. GCP's advantages in containerization, automation toolset, #Devops mindset, and pricing were the driving factors there. Nevertheless, we could not say no to Azure's financial incentives and a strong sense of partnership and support throughout the process.
Bottom line is, IAAS offerings with AWS, Azure, and GCP are evolving fast. At CodeFactor, we aim to be platform agnostic where it is practical and retain the flexibility to cherry-pick the best products across providers.
AWS Lambda's Features
- Extend other AWS services with custom logic
- Build custom back-end services
- Completely Automated Administration
- Built-in Fault Tolerance
- Automatic Scaling
- Integrated Security Model
- Bring Your Own Code
- Pay Per Use
- Flexible Resource Model