Off-by-none: Issue #119

December 8, 2020

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Containers are coming for your Lambda functions! 🤯

Welcome to Issue #119 of Off-by-none. There’s a whole bunch of serverless coming your way!

Last week, we wrapped up the pre:Invent announcements, put the recent AWS outage in perspective, and looked for some new #serverless writers. This week, we’ve got lots of re:Invent week 1 recaps, a new twist in the serverless versus containers debate, and several new tools that’ll up your serverless game. Plus, we have a plenty of content from the serverless community.

Speaking of first-time #serverless writers, we’re still looking for you! Write a blog post about serverless, post to Twitter with the hashtag #offbynone, and we’ll pick FOUR NEW WRITERS and give away a digital copy of The Developer’s Guide to Content Creation by Stephanie Morillo. Official rules.

Serverless News & Announcements 📣

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If three weeks of re:Invent wasn’t enough for you, Ken Robbins confirmed that 678 new, unique sessions have been added for the week of January 12-15. You might need to watch these videos on 10x speed if you hope to consume even a small portion of the content that is coming out of re:Invent this time around.

And, if you want more control over your re:Invent video playback speeds, I published the re:Invent Video Speed Controls extension for Google Chrome.

Microsoft decided to take on Amazon and Snowflake by releasing the Azure Synapse Analytics tool. It looks really interesting.

In other serverless database news, Dgraph Labs launched Slash Enterprise, a fully hosted, serverless version of world’s most advanced Graph database. 48 billion ordered triple datasets sounds like a lot.

Lightstep created a new AWS Lambda Extension for monitoring serverless and contributed it to the OpenTelemetry Community. I’m not sure they’re actually the leading observability tool for understanding microservices and serverless architectures, but it’s a nice gesture.

Cloudflare launched the Data Localization Suite, which lets you control where data is stored and accessible. Big step that other edge providers need to take quickly.

And AWS Serverless Express found a loving home at Vendia. Lots of people run Express, and since Brett Andrews (the original author) has joined Vendia, it looks like this popular package will be getting some attention.

The Serverless vs. Containers debate just got really confusing. 🤷‍♂️

Last Tuesday during Andy Jassy’s keynote, AWS announced that Lambda now supports container images as a packaging format. As someone who has been a die hard serverless fan for the last 5 years, I initially had mixed feelings. But after experimenting with it a bit more, reading articles from fellow serverless advocates, and having some time to think about it, I might just be in the “this is my preferred packaging format” camp.

Don’t worry, I still haven’t gone over to the dark side, but I do believe that there are a lot of advantages to using Docker to package your functions. James Beswick has a great post that outlines some of the benefits of packaging AWS Lambda functions as container images, so I won’t repeat all of them here. But I will say that it seems a lot cleaner than needing to worry about Lambda Layers to package dependencies, plus the integration into existing workflows and CI/CD processes is a big plus.

I’d really like for there to be a way that AWS could patch the base image for you, but even without that, it enables lots of powerful use cases and could remove the bar for some organizations that are looking to adopt serverless.

There are a lot of write ups on Lambda Container support, including some from Michael Hart, Myung Kim, Yan Cui, Gareth McCumskey, and Philipp Schmid. Plus, it looks like Thundra, Epsagon, Lumigo, and other observability platforms are already supporting it.

Luca Bianchi wrote up a great piece about machine learning with container image support in AWS Lambda, Matt Coulter already has an ML CDK Pattern, and Sebastian Müller has some more CDK goodness using Lambda Fleet for Dockerfiles.

For Rails enthusiasts, Ken Collins explains why Lambda Containers with Rails are a perfect match!

Other re:Invent Recaps 🚀

There weren’t a ton of announcements after the opening keynote last week, but there were a lot of really interesting serverless ones in there. Chase Douglas wrote a recap of Andy Jassy’s 2020 Keynote that highlights a few of these and why they’re important, Mike Roberts has a Twitter thread that explains why the combination of 10GB of memory, container packaging, and 1ms billing is a big deal, and Yan Cui has some serverless at re:Invent 2020 hot takes that you should check out.

I wrote up a post on Aurora Serverless v2: The Good, the Better, and the Possibly Amazing, and Yan followed it up with what you need to know about Aurora Serverless v2, so far.

Serverless Use Cases 🗺

I never thought of serverless being the ultimate place to experiment as a use case, but Gareth opened me to it.

Mauricio Klein has a few clever ways of setting up recurring CloudWatch alarms, all done serverlessly, of course.

And Samuel Perez has a great story about the challenges LeaseLock faced with AWS Serverless, KnexTimeoutErrors, and RDS Proxy. If you have a relational data use case, this might save you (or add some) frustration.

Serverless Concepts 🏗

There were way too many excellent posts this week, including this one on managing serverless flows with AWS Step Functions from Saar Tochner and Jente Peeraer. Plus, Dmytro Danylov explains how concurrency works in AWS Lambda, Ismail Egilmez explains the difference between monitoring and observability, and the incredibly prolific Yan Cui outlines the top 10 Serverless best practices.

Michael Bahr has a great post on how to defend against AWS surprise bills. If this has never happened to you, congratulations. But when it does, you’ll wish you had read it.

We mentioned that serverless-express for Lambda has a new home, but Maxim Vynohradov gives you six reasons why you shouldn’t run Express.js inside AWS Lambda. If I seem suspiciously unopinionated on this, it might be because I have some big news that will be announced in the next few weeks that relates to this.

Filip Pýrek started a new series, beginning with an intro to serverless. And if you are a data geek like me, you might want to know what is Serverless SQL and how to use it for data exploration.

Serverless Tutorials 👷‍♀️

Webinar: Build Serverless Flows with AWS Step Functions
Join experts from Lumigo and Cloudway as we go through a complex workflow example in a hands-on AWS Step Functions tutorial. We’ll cover use-cases, challenges, and solutions. Save your spot for the webinar this Thursday, Dec 10 at 10:00 AM PST. Sponsored

If you’re not ready to make the Lambda container image leap, Peter Cooper will show you how to create an AWS Lambda Layer of your Gemfile and Ruby Gem dependencies.

Aseka Warnakulasooriya will help you get started with the Serverless Framework, Paul Chin Jr. will show you how to use Serverless GitHub OAuth with OpenJS Architect and Begin, and Nick Van Hoof will teach you how to use Lambda resolvers in your GraphQL API with AWS Amplify.

Serverless Reads 🤓

Michael Yuan talks about Server-Side Wasm in this Q&A. It’s probably the future of serverless, so it’s worth giving it a quick read.

Deepak Singh opines on why the latest container moves by AWS signal customer preference for a hybrid and serverless world, Matt Asay explains why multicloud is bad strategy, but open source can help, and Stephen Michael Grable shares 5 key takeaways from Create Serverless Day 2020.

Podcasts, Videos, and more 🎧

On Serverless Chats Episode #78: Statefulness and Serverless, I chat with Rodric Rabbah about the origins of OpenWhisk, why having access to state is important for building the next generation of serverless applications, and how his team at Nimbella is trying to make serverless more accessible.

Ric Harvey sings the 12 Days of re:Invent. I thought it was funny. 😂

And if writing an article wasn’t enough, Matt Coulter has a great video on deconstructing “The Predictive Lambda” Serverless Architecture Pattern. Not only is it super interesting, it’s also a great Lambda containers tutorial.

New from AWS 🆕

I know I said there weren’t a ton of announcements after last week’s keynote, but that term is relative. Not too many on the “serverless” front, but here are several announcements that I found interesting, plus some I didn’t include last week.


Tooling & Workflows

Database & Storage

Machine Learning


Serverless Tools 🛠

Frédéric Barthelet has a list of the 6 top libraries for AWS Serverless TypeScript developers. The DynamoDB Toolbox mention is much appreciated! 😊

Ken Winner created a Cube.js Aurora Serverless MySQL Driver. This one uses my Data API Client. 😃

Maciej Winnicki just released Cloudash, a monitoring and troubleshooting app for serverless architectures. It’s currently free for anyone to try out.

And if you’re into Cloudflare Workers, you might be interested in Guido Zuidhof’s new Sunder framework.

Serverless Jobs 👩‍💻 Sponsored

Serverless Engineer –
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Serverless Architect – Theodo
We build massively scalable, resilient, low cost and high quality systems for our clients in record time using our expertise, technology and methodology. This role is client facing, hands on architecting and building the end solution within a team. Work alongside thought leaders with constant experimentation and innovation, plus dedicated time to work on open-source and content and encouraged to speak at world conferences.

Have a job listing you’d like to share? Please contact me for more information.

Upcoming Serverless Events 🗓

There are a lot of upcoming serverless events, webinars, livestreams, and more. If you have an event you’d like me to mention, please email me.

November 30 – December 18, 2020 & January 12-14, 2021 – AWS re:Invent (Keynotes)

Serverless Star of the Week ⭐️

There is a very long list of people who are doing #ServerlessGood and contributing to the Serverless community. These people deserve recognition for their efforts. So each week, I will mention someone whose recent contribution really stood out to me. I love meeting new people, so if you know someone who deserves recognition, please nominate them.

This week’s star is Lynn Langit (@lynnlangit). Lynn is an Independent Cloud Architect, Developer, and Educator. She’s also a Cloud and Big Data Architect, AWS Community Hero, Google Cloud Developer Expert, and Microsoft Azure Insider. Lynn boasts an impressive number of courses on cloud and data topics for LinkedIn Learning, and also acts as an advisor and board member for Carbon Down, which seeks to restore forests in the American West. She has spoken at serverless events like Serverless Computing London, and is currently working on Cloud-based bioinformatics projects. Your dedication to educating others and making the world a better place is amazing. Thank you, Lynn! 🙌

Final Thoughts 🤔

Wow, that was a lot. If your brain is fried just skimming this thing, don’t feel bad, I can barely remember my name at this point. We’re only on week #2 of re:Invent, so stay tuned for more announcements, more sessions, and more information overload. I just ordered a case of Red Bull, so assuming my heart doesn’t explode, I’ll see you all next week. 😉

I hope you enjoyed this newsletter. We’re always looking for ideas and feedback to make it better and more inclusive, so please feel free to reach out to me via Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, or email.

Take care,

Previous Issue

Issue #118December 1, 2020

Next Issue

Issue #120December 15, 2020

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About the Author

Jeremy is the GM of Serverless Cloud at Serverless, Inc. and an AWS Serverless Hero that has a soft spot for helping people solve problems using serverless. He frequently consults with companies and developers transitioning away from the traditional “server-full” approach. You can find him ranting about serverless on Twitter, in several forums and Slack groups, hosting the Serverless Chats podcast, and at (virtual) conferences around the world.


Nominate a Serverless Star

Off-by-none is committed to celebrating the diversity of the serverless community and recognizing the people who make it awesome. If you know of someone doing amazing things with serverless, please nominate them to be a Serverless Star ⭐️!