Off-by-none: Issue #69

December 24, 2019

Serverlessly celebrating the holidays... ❄️

Welcome to Issue #69 of Off-by-none. Thanks for being here, and happy holidays to all of you! ☮️

Last week, we looked at more great content and video recommendations from re:Invent. This week, we’ve got some interesting serverless reads for your holiday reading list, plus plenty of other great content from the serverless community.

Serverless News & Announcements 📣

Cloud and Serverless Computing: Tech’s Unsung Heroes
Not really “news”, but serverless got a nice mention in the Wall Street Journal. “One important technology that is adding business value but hasn’t generated much buzz is serverless computing… Serverless computing can modernize applications while reducing the costs necessary to run and support them.”

ICYMI: Serverless re:Invent re:Cap 2019
If you still have a re:Invent hangover and can’t remember all the amazing serverless announcements, here’s a great recap with links to plenty of serverless-related session videos.

FaunaDB: Announcing UDF in Console
FaunaDB is another product on my list of things to take a deeper look at. If you’ve had experience with it, I love to hear your feedback.

Deno runtime support for Architect
There is now experimental support for Deno in OpenJS Architect by way of a custom runtime for Lambda.

LambCI version 0.11.0 is out – Updated to Node.js 12
Lots of updates in this new version, including upgrades to the Ruby/Python/PHP/Go/gcc versions, and it’s now available via the Serverless Application Repository (SAR).

Serverless Stories 📚

Tech Stack: How I quickly developed and launched a successful product as a solo developer
Thomas Thelliez created Pixelixe using Firebase and a few other managed services, all by himself. I like this story for several reasons, but perhaps the point that stands out the most, is how he leveraged the web browser to do most of the “compute” for him. With the rise of WASM, expect to see much more of this type of “client compute” in the future.

How rewundo minimizes costs by using the Serverless Architecture
The team at Rewundo is a self-funded, early-stage startup that is using serverless to iterate quickly and fail fast. This is a short piece, but captures the “serverless for startups” superpower quite well.

Serverless Use Cases 🗺

Generating PDFs with AWS Lambda NodeJS 10+ Runtimes
Classic use case for generating reports, invoices, etc. Joonas Laitio presents you with the hard way AND the easy way to do this with AWS Lambda.

How to build a serverless e-commerce portal
Want to take down a notch? Build your own serverless ecommerce portal on AWS. 😉

Serverless ML
Phil Massie has a very in-depth post that shows you how to get a simple weather prediction algorithm up and running on AWS Lambda. I’ve been meaning to try one of these Towards Data Science tutorials, but after re:Invent, I think I’m just going to spend more time learning all the new SageMaker stuff.

Serverless Concepts 🏗

Monitoring Serverless Applications Across Multiple AWS environments
There are a number of solutions for log shipping, including rolling your own. Zamira Jaupaj details how to build a flexible system that can ingest logs from multiple accounts and send them to Elasticsearch for analytics.

Couple of Minutes: Serverless Microservices Communication
Loganathan Murugesan has a good post that explains the different types of microservice communications used in serverless applications. Take note of the cascading effect of chaining Lambda functions with synchronous calls.

Distributed Tracing in Asynchronous Applications
Ran Ribenzaft explains the complexity involved with performing distributed tracing in modern async applications. There are a lot of “out-of-the-box” solutions out there, so implementing this yourself creates a lot of undifferentiated heavy lifting.

Serverless Tutorials 👩‍💻

Connect your relational database (MySQL) using Lambda, API Gateway and the Serverless framework.
This tutorial technically works, but I’m including it because it highlights one of my biggest frustrations with serverless. Things are moving really quickly, which is great from an innovation standpoint, but also makes it really difficult to stay current. There is now the Data API, RDS Proxy, Aurora Serverless, Secrets Manager, Parameter Store, Async/Await, and other new features that will make this example more robust, resilient and secure. This tutorial is from YESTERDAY, but (likely unbeknownst to the author) communicates outdated practices that should be avoided if possible. I don’t fault the author for writing this, as I believe sharing information and experience is extremely important. However, I’m not sure how we should address this as a community.

How to OCR Text in PDF and Image Files with Amazon Textract
Here’s a great tutorial by Yi Ai that shows you how to stitch together some services and build a serverless OCR text extractor.

Connecting a Node.js client to the new serverless Cassandra offering by AWS
It would be nice if the AWS SDK handled all this for you, but for now, it looks like you need to jump through a few hoops to get the new Amazon Managed Apache Cassandra Service running with your apps.

Serverless Security 🔒

Securing serverless platforms will be most challenging for network security in 2020
Klaus Gheri predicts that misconfigurations by humans and outdated third-party libraries will continue to cause security headaches with cloud deployments. The solution, he posits, is a shift towards cloud automation and cloud-based compliance posture automation.

Serverless Reads 🤓

IBM CTO Sees Smaller Container Platforms Ahead
This is another “can you see the writing on the wall” piece by Mike Vizard. K8s is a beast, and the future (as seen by Chris Ferris of IBM), is reducing the size of containers and letting them run as close to bare metal as possible (hello Margaret, it’s me, Fargate). And as mentioned, this leads to the eventuality of pushing compute to the edge and then down to the devices connected to it.

AWS Builders’ Library in focus #1: Timeouts, retries, and backoff with jitter
The AWS Builder’s Library is an amazing resource for cloud architects that want to learn directly from the people who have been building massively scalable systems at Amazon for over a decade. Yan Cui has a new series that is helping to summarize the posts for you.

Managing separately stateful and stateless Serverless Stacks
This is a great post by Aaron Osborne that articulates the current trend for building serverless microservices, separating your stateful and stateless components into separate stacks for easier management, better security, and more control over your environments. He also highlights the important point of being able to reuse existing tools as part of your serverless transformation. If you use Terraform to deploy other cloud resources, keep using that, but then use a more purposeful tool to deploy your serverless business logic.

Serverless Engineer, where are you?
Sheen Brisals is convincing the naysayers to think serverless-first. He outlines six traits of a “serverless engineer”, and through a conversation with the status quo, gently argues why these will be the ones that matter most.

New toolkits and platforms will bring maturity to edge and serverless in 2020
This time of year is always filled with prediction pieces, but this one by Kris Beevers resonates with me. Edge computing and its relationship with serverless is definitely something to pay attention to. He casually mentions WebAssembly, but I see this becoming a major piece of serverless edge systems (including browser-based compute). Lots of unanswered questions, but very promising.

Top 20 Azure Serverless Blogs of 2019
Don’t forget that Microsoft has lots of serverless things too. Surya Venkat curated the top 20 Azure Serverless blogs from 2019 for you.

For those who want an audio/visual experience 📽

Episode #28: Amplifying Serverless with Nader Dabit
In this episode, I chat with Nader Dabit about the AWS Amplify team’s philosophy around full-stack development, what the Amplify framework is empowering developers to do, and how new features like the Amplify Datastore are making it even easier to build full-scale serverless applications.

Serverless Stocking Stuffers: The 12 things you missed about serverless at this year’s re:Invent
Adam Johnson and James Beswick discuss all the serverless goodness from re:Invent.

What the teams at AWS have been working on 🚧

NoSQL Workbench for Amazon DynamoDB adds support for AWS Identity and Access Management (IAM) roles and temporary security credentials
This is a nice new feature that should make it easier for teams to work with DynamoDB tables from NoSQL Workbench.

AWS WAF improves request logging for context around matched rules
I can’t believe this feature didn’t exist before, but now you can review the area within a request deemed to be suspicious by SQLi or XSS detection rules. This will make analyzing false-positives and whitelisting a lot easier.

Amazon Textract is now PCI DSS certified and extracts even more data from tables and forms
Probably not an overly exciting announcement for most, but this opens up a lot of use cases for any workflows that include highly sensitive data.

Serverless Tools 🛠

PSM: Serverless Configuration Management
PSM, short for Parameter Store Manager, is a security enabled simple REST service to manage application configuration in AWS SSM Parameter Store.

failure-lambda is a small Node module for injecting failure into AWS Lambda. It offers a simple failure injection wrapper for your Lambda handler where you then can choose to inject failure by setting the failureMode to latency, exception or statuscode.

Thoughts from Twitter 🐦

Here’s a timely reminder why you should use the lumigo-cli if you use AWS and Lambda. Reason #1 – it lets you powertune (i.e. find the best memory setting) functions with a single command #aws #awslambda #serverless ~ Yan Cui
Lots of good reasons to take a look at the lumigo-cli in this thread by Yan Cui.

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.

January 24, 2020 – ServerlessDays Belfast (I’m speaking here!)

February 13, 2020 – ServerlessDays Cardiff (And here!)

February 21, 2020 – ServerlessDays Rome

February 27, 2020 – ServerlessDays Nashville (And also here!)

April 6, 2020 – ServerlessDays Boston

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 Rodric Rabbah (@rabbah). Rodric is the co-founder and CTO of Nimbella, a company that aims to help developers overcome the challenges they face when adopting serverless. Rodric was also a founder and lead technical contributor to Apache OpenWhisk, an open-source, advanced, and production-ready serverless computing platform offered as a hosted service from IBM and Adobe. While he was at IBM, Rodric and his team laid the groundwork for what we know today as IBM Cloud Functions, and even operated the earliest internal offering of serverless within IBM. Thank you for all you’ve done to contribute to the serverless ecosystem, Rodric! 🙌

Final Thoughts 🤔

This week we announced that ServerlessDays Boston will be on Monday, April 6, 2020. Hopefully you can join us, give a talk, or sponsor the event. Tickets go on sale January 1st.

Beside that, I will have more (hopefully exciting) news to share in the upcoming days as well. Until then, here’s wishing all of you safe and happy holidays. Thanks for being part of this amazing community.

I hope you enjoyed this issue of Off-by-none. Please send me your feedback and suggestions as they help to make this newsletter better each week. You can reach me via Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, or email and let me know your thoughts, criticisms, or (perhaps) even how you’d like to contribute to Off-by-none. If you like this newsletter, and think others would too, please do me the honor of sharing it with friends and coworkers who are interested in serverless.

Happy Holidays,

Previous Issue

Issue #68December 17, 2019

Next Issue

Issue #70December 31, 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.


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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 ⭐️!