Off-by-none: Issue #29

March 19, 2019

You can “serverless” too…

Welcome to Issue #29 of Off-by-none. It’s an honor to have you join us! 😊

Last week we were live at ServerlessDays Boston! This week, we’ll recap some of my favorite things from the Boston event, we’ll address some more #NoOps nonsense, and, of course, we’ve got plenty of great content from the growing serverless community.

There is a ridiculous amount of stuff to get to today, so buckle your seatbelts, and let get going! 🏎

When you’re wondering how ServerlessDays Boston went… 💥

It was “wicked” awesome! Seriously, as one of the organizers, I couldn’t have hoped it had gone any better. We had over 200 people attend, and other than a small snafu with the coffee being a bit late in the morning, the day went really well. The speakers were amazing, and thanks to Ann Guilinger’s live tweets, many were able to follow along even if they weren’t at the event. Ashish Addepalli also wrote a great follow up entitled, Learnings after a day at Serverless Days Boston. It’s loaded with some great takeaways.

And while all of the speakers were amazing, there were two talks in particular that really stood out to me. The first was by Ben Kehoe of iRobot. His talk, Applying the Serverless Mindset to Any Tech Stack, further pushed the idea that serverless is not about the technology you use, but instead about the focus on business value it enables. He wrote a brilliant followup piece, Serverless is a State of Mind, which I suggest you all read. Ben says to adopt the serverless mindset, and continue to move your organization up “the serverless ladder.”

The second talk I really appreciated was James Beswick‘s, Scared Serverless – What we learned after quitting servers for a year. As James told the story of his consulting firm transitioning clients to serverless architectures, and all of the roadblocks, small wins, set backs, and ultimate successes they had, you could tell that it resonated with audience. Whether you were a hardcore serverless veteran, or someone simply looking to get started, his message was refreshing, because it showed how powerful serverless ultimately is, but also that it will take time (and effort) to get there. This is highly reflective of my journey to serverless, and more real world talks like this are what people making the leap need to hear.

The videos of all the talks will be posted soon!

When you keep seeing #NoOps… 🤦🏻‍♂️

I recently came across two articles that continue to push the idea of NoOps. A NoOps state of mind and Make your existing solution tastier with serverless salt: NoOps, are both examples, IMO, of over-hyping that is detrimental to the serverless movement. While I certainly agree that moving to serverless dramatically reduces your operational overhead, there is still a significant amount of work to configure, monitor, and understand your infrastructure. That takes expertise and experience.

Both of the above articles ultimately admit that serverless isn’t actually NoOps, but instead a step towards it. And as Jamie Andrews points out in his piece, Why Serverless needs Ops, operational problems don’t go away in serverless, they become a lot more specialized. As organizations start forming serverless teams, understanding the skills necessary to staff them, is ultimately what we need to be exploring. Setting the right expectations for organizations will go a long way to successfully adopting serverless.

When you hear that serverless websites are the next big thing… 📰

Static Site Revolution: Top Websites Built with Gatsby
Sorry WordPress, but it looks like your days might finally be numbered (well, not really). Static site generators that are hosted on CDNs are becoming extremely popular, and this article outlines a few big sites that are taking advantage of the benefits.

Quickstart: Serve static websites serverless
But static site generation isn’t the only way to create “serverless” sites. Jonas Neustock’s post shows you a very simple way to generate HTML with a Lambda function. Probably not the cleanest (or most efficient) approach, but others are using these combinations to create interesting projects.

Webiny – Serverless CMS
Speaking of interesting projects, Webiny, a new open source “serverless” CMS has been released. There is a lot to unpack with this and from what I’ve seen, it’s packed with features. It appears to be cloud agnostic, but the database is MongoDB, so I think there is more work to be done.

Serverless Product Announcements 📢

Iguazio’s Platform Scales NVIDIA GPU-Accelerated Deployments
If you’re a data scientist that wants to seamlessly convert your research into production-scale ML projects, Iguazio’s recent partnership with Samsung SDS could blow your mind. Yaron Haviv, Igauzio’s CTO, gave me a demo of their platform yesterday and everything from the architecture, to the speed, to the developer experience blew my mind. I’ll be very interested in keeping an eye on their product offerings.

Discovering Issues Visually in your Serverless Architecture with Thundra
Distributed tracing in your serverless applications can be very helpful tool when trying to track down and debug errors. Thundra has added “Architecture” views that lets you visualize all your components along with the connections between them. If you spot an error, you can easily dig deeper.

Serverless Use Cases

Bringing realtime to serverless web applications
Here’s a great use case that is very popular, especially with distributed applications that need to handle some significant backend processing. James Beswick shows us how to handle this with AWS IoT and MQTT. A similar solution with API Gateway WebSockets would also be possible.

Building an Object Detection API with AWS S3, Rekognition and Lambda
Branko Blagojevic gives us a detailed walkthrough for another interesting use case that could process quite a bit of information at scale.

Publish to RabbitMQ from AWS Lambda
Why would you want to publish to RabbitMQ from your serverless application? Unfortunately, I have a use case for this. ☹️ But the good news is that if you are tethered to a RabbitMQ implementation, and you’d like to start migrating parts of it to serverless, you’re in luck.

Route53 Latency Based Routing made easy with Serverless
Sometimes caching at the edge isn’t enough, and we actually need to do more intense compute closer to our users. Route53 has quite a few options to ensure that users are routed to the right region, and this post will show you how to leverage Lambda to build a robust, globally available application.

gRPC to AWS Lambda: Is it Possible?
No, but the team at Coinbase sure gave it one heck of a try. I do like articles like this that try to push the boundaries of serverless. You always learn something new.

If you’re new to Serverless…

“A comparison between client-server and serverless full-stack app architectures”
If you’ve got 30 minutes to kill, this post by Tom Bowden outlines the difference between building a traditional server-based app versus using Amplify to publish something more modern.

How can I turn my Restful API into a Serverless application and deploy it to AWS Lambda Step by Step — Part I and Part II
In this two part series, Fabian Leon Ortega takes you through converting your existing API. This is all done through the console (which you wouldn’t want to do for production), but gives you a good overview nonetheless.

AWS to GCP —Web Applications
A good post by Serverless Guru that shows you how the two cloud providers compare.

My Database: Is it “serverless” An opinionated Checklist
Alexander Magnus Partsch has some opinions on what makes a “serverless” database.

AWS Lambda — Best Practices
It’s always nice to see what others are adopting as best practices. Here’s a list from Sandeepa Hande.

7 things you should know when getting started with Serverless APIs
Simona Cotin has a very detailed post that answers seven important questions when building a serverless API on Microsoft Azure.

Serverless Tutorials 👷‍♂️

How to Build a Member App using Facial Recognition and Serverless
James Beswick walks you through building a highly scalable facial recognition app with just a few lines of code.

How to Test Serverless Apps
Yan Cui has an excellent guest post for Epsagon that outlines the different stages of testing for a serverless application.

Store and Rotate API Keys with AWS Secrets Manager
Zac Charles gives us a detailed post that show you how to use AWS Secrets Manager, and more importantly, how to regularly rotate them.

GraphQL APIs with AWS AppSync: Part one, Part two and Part three
Christopher Bartling has a three part series that shows you how to set up GraphQL with AppSync using a DynamoDB backend with Lambda resolvers.

Accelerate your backend development using AWS Serverless GraphQL
A slightly different approach to using GraphQL on AWS by using just Lambda and the GraphQL Apollo library.

Dynamic image resizing with Node.js and the Serverless Framework
The most iconic use case of serverless. But it’s still a good one.

Serverless Stories 📖

Serverless integration testing at Freetrade
Hugh Grigg from Freetrade explains how they do their serverless testing.

Students create NCAA March Madness predictive analysis via Google Cloud
Google recruited students to produce tournament data analysis to illustrate how organizations can take advantage of its different tools for analytics, machine learning and more. Pretty cool.

Serverless Reads 👓

Visualizing Cold Starts
Mikhail Shilkov has a great post that visualizes FaaS cold starts across the big three cloud providers using Google Maps.

Serverless Benchmark 2.0 
Interesting post by Bernd Strehl that introduces the next version of his site that benchmarks five different FaaS providers.

FinDev and Serverless Microeconomics: Part 2 – Impacts
Aleksandar Simovic’s second piece on the economics of serverless. This time he outlines the impact on Finance and Accounting, Product and Engineering, and Strategy.

Why You Can’t Ignore Changes to Monitoring and Logging for Serverless
Nitzan Shapira says when using modern cloud technologies and distributed systems, the mindset of monitoring versus logging has to change.

4 Simple Features That Would Make a Big Difference to Cognito User Pools
Rich Buggy has a few ideas that would make Cognito User Pools even better.

7 checkboxes to compare serverless orchestration services
Interesting interview with a team of researchers who published Comparison of Production Serverless Function Orchestration Systems.

When you’re curious what AWS has been working on… 🛠

AWS recently released an Open Distro for Elasticsearch. There was a companion article, Keeping Open Source Open, that talks about Amazon’s motivations. Of course, open source and cloud providers have been the subject of some recent controversy, and this was no exception. In On “Open” Distros, Open Source, and Building a Company, Elasticsearch creator, Shay Banon, is less than enthusiastic about AWS’s announcement.

AWS Joins the GraphQL Foundation
Speaking of open source, AWS will now be sharing everything they learned from building and operating AppSync and Amplify with the GraphQL community.

Registration for AWS re:Inforce 2019 now open!
If you thought 5 days in Vegas wasn’t enough, then come spend two more in Boston for the first ever AWS security conference.

How to design Amazon DynamoDB global secondary indexes
This is a great post that gives you a number of best practices for working with DynamoDB indexes.

Announcing Amazon Kinesis SubscribeToShard API Support in the AWS SDK for Ruby
AWS continues to improve their Ruby SDK. So good news for all you Ruby warriors out there.

Stories from AWS Serverless Heroes: Who They Are, How They Started, and What They’re Working on Now
Meet some of the AWS Serverless Heroes in this recently released video.

Upcoming Serverless Events 🗓

ServerlessDays Amsterdam is just 10 days away, and the speaker lineup is amazing. If you can make this event, you definitely should. You can get 50% off ticket prices by using the discount code “Off-by-none-fw89”, or just click here to apply the discount.

James Beswick is giving his Scared Serverless talk at the Southern Maine AWS User Group on Tuesday, April 2, 2019.

The Serverless Architecture Conference is from April 8-10th in The Hague, Netherlands. And don’t forget that I’m speaking.

ServerlessDays Atlanta is on Tuesday, April 9th. This one is combined with DevOps Days and Map Camp.

ServerlessDays Zurich is on Thursday, April 11th.

And don’t miss this AWS Serverless Webinar: Unleash Innovation & Build Modern Applications (Four-Part Session) on March 21st.

Serverless Star of the Week ⭐️

There is a very long list of people that 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 let me know.

This week’s star is Joe Emison (@JoeEmison). Joe is the co-founder and CTO at Branch Insurance and the former co-founder and CTO at @BuildFax. He has a number of great articles, including one of my favorites, the Serverless Sea Change. You can also find several of his talks such as Serverless Patterns and Anti-patterns, Better Application Architecture with Serverless, and How to Fold a Fitted Sheet. Joe’s Twitter feed is filled with plenty of serverless insights and he is a valuable voice in the community. Thanks for all you do, Joe!

Final Thoughts 🤔

Thanks again to all the ServerlessDays Boston speakers, sponsors and attendees. It truly was an amazing event thanks to all the wonderful people that made it happen. If you get a chance, I highly suggest attending one of these. The community is flourishing, and being part of one of these events and meeting others that are facing the same challenges as you, is a very rewarding experience.

I hope you enjoyed this issue of Off-by-none. Please feel free to send feedback and suggestions so I can keep making this newsletter better each week. You can reach me via Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, or email and let me know your thoughts, criticisms, or how you’d like to contribute to Off-by-none.

And please do me the honor of sharing this newsletter with your friends and coworkers who might be interested in serverless. It would be greatly appreciated. 👍

Until next time,

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Issue #28March 12, 2019

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Issue #30March 26, 2019

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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 ⭐️!