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What is AWS Lambda Serverless Architecture—and Does Your Business Need It?

With any new technology or business model, there are early adopters who thrive on learning, implementing, and mastering its functionality or technique. We’re well past the early adopter stage for cloud computing, but advancements in cloud technologies, such as serverless architectures, are gaining interest and offer performance advantages to organizations willing to investigate and adopt the technology.

AWS Lambda Serverless Architecture

With the continued innovation from cloud service providers like Amazon, some of the more recent (and frequent) questions I’m asked by AWS clients concern AWS Lambda and serverless architecture. What is it? Why should I make the change? How can I benefit? Let’s begin by comparing Lambda to traditional cloud server architecture and usage.

Typical usage models for cloud architectures are based on provisioning servers and their operating systems, managing software updates and failsafe resources, and scaling server instances up or down as processing demands change. For this arrangement, you’re typically charged on a per instance or per hour metric, usually calculated to the nearest second. Regardless of how you’re utilizing the provisioned resources—whether the running server sits idle or is heavily taxed—you pay for running instances. With this server-based model, it is often difficult to obtain detailed insight into application-level optimization that would improve overall efficiency.

AWS Lambda serverless architectures offer a better economic model to efficiently manage cloud computing applications and their required resources. With AWS Lambda, organizations can develop small, event-driven functions using Node.js, Python, Java, C#, PowerShell, Ruby and Go. AWS Lambda functions execute code in response to events and automatically manage any computing resources the code requires. As a result, the Lambda model allows developers to focus their skills on creating concise, on-demand applications, and not spend time writing code to manage server infrastructure.

A Granular Focus on Compute Time and Cost

AWS Lambda-based architectures also transform the usage model from charging for server infrastructure management to charging for application compute time and does so using more granular metrics. In contrast to Amazon EC2 that is priced per hour and metered to the second, AWS Lambda is metered in 100-millisecond increments, and there’s no charge when your code is not running.

Two distinct benefits of the AWS Lambda model are granular control of code and detailed information regarding execution costs. AWS Lambda gives enterprises greater control in architecting and optimizing workloads. Small event-driven Lambda functions execute more efficiently in comparison to monolithic applications that aren’t as responsive and consume greater computing resources. By metering at the 100-millisecond level, developers can determine the exact cost for functions. Billing is based on the function execution—how long did the function run and how frequently was it invoked?

When computing costs are tied directly to application code, developers gain a detailed understanding of function usage and efficiency and can use this information to continually optimize code. Lambda-based applications can take advantage of this granularity to help justify refactoring and optimization efforts with clear financial benefits.

Determine Your Need for AWS Lambda

With precise control and greater efficiency, AWS Lambda functions can offer enterprises the ability to achieve better performance at a lower cost. Are there use cases in your organization for AWS Lambda? When working with clients who are evaluating AWS Lambda and serverless architectures, I pose the following questions:

  • Are you looking for opportunities to further reduce AWS operational costs?
  • Do developers in your organization expend too much time dealing with resource provisioning and administration?
  • Do you want to optimize workloads without the need to provision and maintain servers and supporting resources.
  • Is there a need for performance improvements in key applications that use S3, DynamoDB, SNS, Kinesis, Backup, CloudWatch, or other Amazon services?

Individually, any one of these needs is ample reason for AWS clients to explore the benefits of AWS Lambda more closely. Collectively, they are compelling reasons to aggressively adopt AWS Lambda functionality.

Better Code, Lower Costs, Greater Efficiency

Serverless architectures help enterprises to better align their cloud spend with application demand, avoiding the cost of underutilized cloud resources. They encourage the development of more efficient code and relieve developers of the concern for server infrastructure management. AWS provides the tools and services for developers to create event-driven microservices optimized to run in concert with a wide range of AWS services.

AWS Lambda serverless architecture was introduced in 2014, and in the last few years, I’ve worked with many early adopters, as well as the early majority, to help them take advantage of serverless architectures. AWS clients wanting to further reduce their cloud operating costs and optimize workloads can benefit from serverless computing platforms like Lambda. At Mission, we’d welcome the opportunity to assist you in determining if AWS Lambda is right for your business.

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