What Is AWS Serverless Development?
Thu, Jan 19, 2023 •6 min read
A serverless architecture opens the door for IT teams to build and run applications and services without having to manage any of the underlying infrastructure. Sounds like a dream, doesn’t it?
Serverless computing lets developers focus on the core product instead of worrying about managing and operating servers or runtimes, either in the cloud or on-premises. This reduced overhead allows them to reclaim time and energy they can invest in developing great products that scale in a reliable way.
Naturally, the largest public cloud provider Amazon Web Services (AWS) has a bunch of offerings addressing the serverless computing demands. What are they and how to use them? Here’s an in-depth guide to AWS serverless development.
Before we get started: what does “serverless architecture” mean?
Serverless refers to a broad range of technologies that prioritize scalability. Serverless applications can be developed with cloud-based services that scale automatically and are maintained by third-party vendors.
While serverless architectures seem like a significant change for some developers, they don’t have to become a binary choice. Serverless technologies can easily complement traditional application models. For many developers, their first serverless application augments or integrates with a traditional application.
Why is serverless development on the rise?
Many engineers face the challenge of producing valuable output from data. The process of creating this output, which involves processing data, is called business logic. Traditional (non-serverless) applications require that developers prepare several generic, tedious tasks before they can start creating business logic: provisioning databases and servers, setting up backup and restore systems, and so on. Serverless technologies, on the other hand, help to solve these challenges by abstracting away many such repetitive tasks related to setting up infrastructure.
As applications grow, increasing levels of traffic may cause scalability challenges. Solving these challenges can be costly because of additional architecture or personnel needs. Serverless technologies address this challenge by scaling automatically as needed to meet increasing demand. They often do so horizontally rather than vertically.
Applications that rely on traditional infrastructure often required developers to overprovision them - leaving additional capacity sitting idle. With serverless technologies, teams pay only for the resources their application consumes. The horizontal scaling model means that applications can scale up and down with demand, making serverless a cost-effective model for applications that experience variable levels of traffic.
A serverless use case
A common use of serverless technologies is connecting features of two or more applications together. For instance, a team can quickly develop endpoints to operate inbound webhooks, run business logic on the webhook payload, and output the result to a different service.
A good example of this is an application that uses GitHub’s webhook integration capability to notify people about changes via Slack - for example, when a repository gets a new star.
If developers decide to build this application using a traditional technology stack, they must provision a server to receive the inbound webhook. To do that, they need to raise a ticket with operations and justify its existence. The team needs to configure the server with enough spare capacity to handle traffic spikes or get replicated using a load balancer. Also, it needs access to the public internet with additional authorization for the inbound GitHub webhook.
But that’s not the end of it. The operating system, runtime, and security updates also need to be maintained with regular patching, and security updates.
A serverless implementation of such an application means that you no longer have to worry about as many of these traditional stack operations. You can start directly with the business logic, and deploy it into your public cloud account with a single command.
Every major public cloud provider offers many tools to streamline the process - such as AWS Lambda functions, Azure Functions, and Google Cloud Functions.
What is AWS serverless development?
The biggest public cloud provider AWS provides several solutions for running code, managing data, and integrating applications without forcing developers to manage the underlying server infrastructure. Such serverless technologies eliminate infrastructure management tasks like capacity provisioning, patching, or updating.
AWS offers a variety of serverless computing frameworks, solutions, and serverless functions to simplify the development and deployment of serverless apps:
AWS Lambda - this event-driven compute service is natively integrated with over 200 AWS services and SaaS applications. A serverless application includes one or more AWS Lambda functions, one or more event sources, and other resources such as APIs, databases, and event source mappings.
AWS Serverless Application Model (AWS SAM) - an open-source serverless framework for building serverless apps. It offers simple syntax to express functions, APIs, databases, and event source mappings.
AWS Cloud Development Kit (AWS CDK) - an open-source software development framework that lets you define your cloud application resources using familiar programming languages.
Serverless Framework - it consists of an open-source CLI and a hosted dashboard. Together, they deliver full lifecycle management capabilities.
Chalice - a framework for writing serverless apps in Python that allows you to quickly create and deploy applications that use AWS Lambda functions.
Arc.codes - a serverless platform that lets devs build massively scalable applications with low code, clear and terse configuration, and zero ceremonies.
Claudia.js - this handy tool lets you deploy Node.js projects to AWS Lambda and API Gateway.
What is the AWS Serverless Application Model (AWS SAM)?
AWS Serverless Application Model (AWS SAM) is open-source serverless framework development teams use to build serverless applications on AWS. It consists of the following components:
AWS SAM template specification - devs use this specification to define the serverless application. It offers developers a simple syntax to describe the functions, APIs, permissions, configurations, and events that all make up a serverless application.
AWS SAM command line interface (AWS SAM CLI) - it allows developers to quickly create and deploy applications defined by AWS SAM templates.
Here are some of the things you can do with it:
Verify that AWS SAM template files are written in line with the specification,
Invoke Lambda functions locally,
Go through debug Lambda functions,
Package and deploy serverless applications to the AWS cloud,
Benefits of using AWS SAM
AWS SAM is a serverless application model that integrates really well with other AWS services. You can easily organize related components and resources and operate on a single stack.
Another benefit is that AWS SAM lets you share configurations such as memory and timeouts among resources, and deploy all related resources together as a single, versioned entity.
AWS SAM is an extension of AWS CloudFormation, so you get the reliable deployment capabilities of AWS CloudFormation. You can define your resources by using AWS CloudFormation in your template, which allows you to use the full suite of resources, intrinsic functions, and other features that are available in AWS CloudFormation.
The solution accelerates the software development process by allowing you to define your architecture as code. It also provides a configuration file that allows you to use and enforce best practices, such as code reviews. In addition, you can enable safe deployments through CodeDeploy and enable tracing by using AWS X-Ray by writing a few lines of code.
Local debugging and testing are easy with the AWS SAM CLI, which lets you build, test, and debug serverless applications locally. The CLI provides a Lambda-like execution environment locally so you can catch issues upfront by providing parity with what happens in the cloud.
With toolkits from AWS like the AWS Toolkit for JetBrains, AWS Toolkit for PyCharm, AWS Toolkit for IntelliJ, or AWS Toolkit for Visual Studio Code it is possible to further tighten the feedback loop.
AWS SAM is deeply integrated with a suite of development tools coming from the cloud provider. The AWS Serverless Application Repository is an online catalog of applications that run on serverless architectures.
Cloud9 IDE provides authoring, testing, and debugging capabilities to use with AWS SAM–based projects. CodeBuild and CodeDeploy help deploy your code changes, while CodePipeline automates the process of building, testing, and releasing your code into production. You can also use AWS CodeStar to get started with a project structure and deployment pipeline automatically configured for you.
Serverless architecture offers a new way to design and run applications. With serverless architectures, you don't have to manage infrastructure, provision, scale, and maintain servers to run your applications.
When you use serverless computing, you can concentrate on building your core product rather than worrying about the overhead involved in operating servers or runtimes - either in the cloud or on-premises.