Off-by-none: Issue #73

January 21, 2020

Wait, there are servers in serverless? 🤦‍♂️

Welcome to Issue #73 of Off-by-none. I’m glad you’re here! 🙌

Last week, we shared a bunch of great DynamoDB resources and several serverless concept deep-dives. This week, we’ve got more great pieces to expand your serverless knowledge, lots of awesome posts from the community, and perhaps one of the best articles I’ve ever read that makes the case for serverless.

Let’s get right to it!

Serverless News & Announcements 📣

Epsagon secures $16 million in Series A to provide automate monitoring for cloud microservices
Congrats to the team at Epsagon. Even though they now support Kubernetes 😜, I’m still a big fan of the work that Nitzan Shapira and Ran Ribenzaft have done. Good luck!

Nasdaq CIO Sees Serverless Computing as a 2020 Tech Trend
The Nasdaq CIO gets it, and so do many others. This is my favorite quote from the article: “A better client experience for a lower price point is on offer for those willing to understand the technology.” Couldn’t agree more. You just need to be willing to understand the technology.

Developer-first security firm Snyk raises $150M funding round
It’ll be interesting to see where Snyk goes from here. Third-party vulnerabilities are probably the biggest security issue facing serverless, so having a powerful solution to detect and fix those issues should be in high demand.

Serverless Stories 📖 – Building a Serverless Comment System in Rust
Wojciech Olejnik and his team weren’t satisfied by the current Comment System solutions out there, so they decided to build their own using Rust and Lambda.

5 Things to consider before using AWS SAM and Lambdas
I like reading posts that give some insights into the decisions teams make when going serverless. This post is mostly about the challenges they faced, but there’s another argument for the Lambdalith in here.

Publishing an App to AWS Serverless Application Repo
Chris Plankey built his first app with SAM and published it to SAR. He gives some thoughts on the process, and offers up the resources that helped him get started.

Serverless Use Cases 🗺

Serverless Data Driven Testing With DynamoDb
Travis White shares an interesting use case that combines DynamoDB, Lambda, and TestRail to create automated tests that can run through hundreds of data permutations and store the results for easy debugging.

Using artificial intelligence to detect product defects with AWS Step Functions
Here’s a use case that uses SageMaker and a few serverless components to stitch together a really powerful utility for monitoring product quality. The future is now. 🤖

Serverless Concepts 🏗

When to use (and when not to use) DynamoDB Filter Expressions
Alex DeBrie hits us with another great article that explains the power (and penalties) of DynamoDB Filter Expressions. Frequency of access patterns are important here.

Ten Commandments for Cloud Decision-Makers
As Forrest Brazeal steps away from Trek10 to join the A Cloud Guru/Linux Academy team, he leaves us with this excellent post that outlines ten important considerations for anyone building in the cloud.

7 Tips for Rock-Solid Serverless CICD
Excellent overview by Erez Berkner on maintaining sanity with your CI/CD processes. I will say, there are products (e.g. and Serverless Framework Pro) that make the monorepo with multiple services much easier to deal with.

5 Serverless Architecture Best Practices with AWS Lambda
Austin Loveless gives a high-level overview of serverless and the AWS Well-Architected Framework, then digs into some best practices when architecting serverless applications.

Amazon Builders’ Library in focus #4: Avoiding insurmountable queue backlogs
Yan Cui’s fourth article in his series on the Amazon Builders’ Library. This one focuses on a number of strategies to deal with queue backlogs in multi-tenant systems. There’s some really good stuff in here.

Fargate vs Lambda
This post by Jeff Carter should give you some insight into what may be the inevitable intersection of Fargate and Lambda. He explains where they differ, where they overlap, and what the cost implications of each are when applied to consistent workloads.

Production-ready: Microservices Composition and Orchestration
This post from Renato Byrro will give you a lesson on different ways to compose Lambda functions to accomplish complex tasks.

Serverless Tutorials 👷‍♀️

Real World Serverless Part 3: CloudFront Reverse Proxy === no CORS!
Part 3 of an in-depth tutorial that uses Serverless Framework Components to launch a static website and backend API. I’ve always been a fan of the CloudFront proxy approach with API Gateway, just be sure to use a Regional API so you’re not deploying two CloudFront distributions.

Serverless Contact form sending for a static site.
Casey van Roose shows you a simple way to set up a contact form on a static site using a simple Lambda function and SES. This is one of those super simple use cases for serverless that make any other solution seem crazy. Imagine needing to spin up a server for this?

AWS Serverless Application Repository: Lambda and Beyond
Kartikey Pandey gives a detailed tutorial for creating SAR applications, plus some thoughts on the serverless ecosystem.

All AWS Serverless developers should know (Fn::Transform + AWS::Include)
George Mao gives you some quick tips on how to insert dynamic values from your CloudFormation or SAM templates into your Swagger or OpenAPI specs.

Serverless Security 🔒

How to Secure Serverless Applications – Part One & Part Two
Thundra is creeping into the serverless security space. Serkan Özal shares his thoughts on securing serverless applications with existing AWS features, and then explains how Thundra can help extend control even further.

Serverless Reads 🤓

To Serverless or Not To Serverless
This is an extremely thoughtful piece that weighs the pros and cons of adopting serverless. There are a lot of really good points in here, and I think many organizations are making these considerations as well, which ultimately could be slowing down the adoption of serverless.

Serverless computing: Ready or not?
Wow, this might be the most coherent, well-written, properly researched, honest article about the benefits and drawbacks of serverless that I’ve ever read. Of course, someone had to mention that there “are still servers in serverless”, but since it was buried amongst a ton of other great information, I’ll allow it. 😉This article is worth sharing.

ICYMI: Serverless Q4 2019
If you’re looking for a consolidated list of every feature release, blog post, and video produced by the serverless teams at AWS in the last few months, your search is over.

Give developers their own AWS account
I’m a big fan of setting up developer sandboxes with serverless, and as Paul Swail explains, it’s often a prerequisite for serverless development. I’m not sure individual accounts are always necessary, but devs definitely need a place to kick the tires and try things out.

Trends and Benefits of Serverless Computing
(heavy sigh) So, I read articles like this and I don’t know how to feel about them. On the one hand, the article is pro-serverless and makes plenty of compelling (though slightly wandering) arguments in support of it. On the other hand, it makes wild assumptions about Kubernetes ultimately powering the underlying infrastructure, but then argues that containers are inefficient. I appreciate the effort here, but misinformation is misinformation. Thoughts?

5 Tips for Small Business Entrepreneurs in 2020
I was excited that this post mentioned serverless, until I read this: “But serverless doesn’t mean there is no Docker – in fact, Docker is serverless. Serverless is actually a technique for building distributed apps, while Docker is the ideal platform to build them on.” 😢See my previous comment on misinformation.

A serverless journey begins with several first steps, actually
This post recaps some thoughts given by Matt Brayley-Berger, global business development manager for Serverless Compute at Amazon Web Services, on how to start using serverless in your organization. Good advice.

For those that prefer Prime Video… 📺

Serverless Chats – Episode #32: Customizing Serverless for Custom Ink with Ken Collins
In this episode, I chat with Ken Collins about Custom Ink’s approach to adopting serverless, why they built Lamby to enable Ruby on Rails on Lambda, and why best practices don’t always equal customer value.

Deep Dive on Amazon EventBridge – AWS Online Tech Talks
This is from late last year, but I realized I never shared it. Nick Smit from the EventBridge team gives an excellent presentation that shows how powerful EventBridge is for building serverless microservices. My advice, watch this.

4 STEPS TO MODEL DATA FOR DYNAMODB – Find your access patterns and get the most efficient data model
Marcia Villalba teaches you the four steps that are recommended by DynamoDB Principal Engineer, Rick Houlihan. These steps will help you find your access patterns and get the most efficient data model.

Marcia Villalba shows you how to code a simple serverless application with a DynamoDB backend. You’ll learn all the basics using infrastructure as code, AWS SDK and AWS SAM.

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 🗣

January 27, 2020 – Device Hacking 101: Build a Serverless Application for an IoT Device

January 31, 2020 – AWS Community Nordics

February 12, 2020 – Remote debugging of live AWS Lambda functions (Workshop at ServerlessDays Cardiff)

February 13, 2020 – ServerlessDays Cardiff 🗣

February 20, 2020 – The Complete Guide to Observability (webinar)

February 21, 2020 – ServerlessDays Rome

February 27, 2020 – ServerlessDays Nashville 🗣

March 19, 2020 – ServerlessDays Zürich

March 24, 2020 – ServerlessDays Helsinki 🗣

March 27, 2020 – ServerlessDays Hamburg 🗣

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 Linda Nichols (@lynnaloo). Linda is a Cloud Solution Architect at Microsoft, a serverless advocate, a regular conference speaker, and one of the only people to have ever seen Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey. But she’s also done some amazing things for her local community in Virginia. She’s an organizer and co-founder of Norfolk.js, Norfolk, Virginia’s Javascript user group, and a board member and co-founder of RevolutionVA, a local non-profit that unites developers and runs conferences such as RevolutionConf. As part of these organizations, she has organized workshops, events, and other community engagement activities that bring developers together and allow people to learn from each other. Thank you, Linda, for your passion in bringing together the community and sharing your knowledge of serverless! 🙌

Final Thoughts 🤔

As per usual, I read through a lot of “what is serverless?” and “is serverless the next big thing?” articles this week. While most are rather pedestrian (and I try to save you from them), I was pleasantly surprised by a few that make me think people are really starting to get it. Serverless computing: Ready or not? stood out the most, and while other articles point out that there are still plenty of hurdles to serverless adoption, lots of forward thinkers are realizing that this is the future of cloud computing. I find this incredibly encouraging.

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.

Take Care,

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Issue #72January 14, 2020

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Issue #74January 28, 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 ⭐️!