What is Lambda? Serverless Computing in the Cloud

Cloud technology continues to evolve quickly in how information becomes uploaded and in general application architecture. One of the biggest advances comes from AWS (Amazon Web Services). Their Lambda is slowly changing everything in how we do cloud computing thanks to not having to rely on a server.

This is likely to become a standard by the coming decade, so it’s worth taking time to learn about it. Lambda is certainly not alone, though, in a competitive field. Other big tech names have similar cloud services. Interestingly enough, Amazon may also be competing with itself when you include their Elastic Compute Cloud virtual machine service.

Learning More About How Lambda Works

AWS doesn’t hesitate to tout Lambda, something seen in a recent Network World interview with their chief product strategist, Matt Wood.

In the interview, Wood noted how it’s likely to bring a new era in cloud hosting and create a snowball effect. It could also become a better alternative to a service AWS is already noted for: Virtual machines.

The strong point of Lambda is it lets you run code without having to run any servers. Amazon best describes it as an event-driven platform. One reason it’s given such a designation is because it executes code when a specific event occurs. With code preloaded into the system, you can execute a particular command instantly without having to manage anything.

As a result, a startup could run many of their applications off Lambda without having to worry about servers or virtual machines.

You’ll find some interesting examples in how this is already working.

Using Serverless Components

The idea of going serverless still mystifies a few in the developer community. For startups, it’s also been a mystery. However, some in the tech world have become sold on the technology.

More tech startups are starting to delve into serverless technology like Lambda to bring more reliability. When you realize how startups need to scale fast and bring reliable applications to quickly make money, the idea of not dealing with servers sounds more attractive.

Managing a server is already expensive, not including the issue of maintenance and possible server failure. Your new customers obviously expect your applications to stay functional at all times. Having your server go down at the worst possible times is a true liability.

Lambda now stands to bring a new way to look at servers. It’s actually a server used as a service, as well as a cloud model where you pay only when code is executed.

Paying Only for What You Need

Rather than have to pay a flat rate for services you may never use, Lambda only charges you when something requires code.

For instance, if you need to upload a new image to the cloud, Lambda is there to help resize it for you without needing to do it yourself. In the case of making images compatible for mobile devices, this is invaluable so your developers won’t have to spend extra time figuring how to resize them for tablets or smartphones.

This function occurs when you upload a file to the Amazon Simple Storage Service. It’s one way to keep track of what you’re uploading so you only pay for the things you need done.

Many startups are going to find this pay-per-service model a more convenient method. No doubt we’ll see it become a standard payment method for serverless technologies into the 2020s.

Using Lambda for Analytics

With analytics being one of the most important components to understand what’s going on internally, Lambda is perfect for keeping track of things. When business orders take place, an entry goes automatically into Amazon’s DynamoDB NoSQL database. In turn, this triggers Lambda to take all order information and transfer it to Amazon Redshift.

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It’s possible to use your analytics platform and run it off of Redshift, giving you a chance to have real-time analytics without needing server space.

As another great function of Lambda, you’ll only be charged for every 100ms your code executes. At any time your code isn’t running, you’re not charged, making it reliable to avoid mistakes.

Scaling Your Application at Will

What if you need to scale your application to accommodate your recurring users? You can automatically scale your application through the above code triggers. Since the code processes each trigger individually, you won’t have any errors.

No matter the size of your workload, you’ll be able to scale to exactly the size you need for the situation. Being able to do this rather than scale up or down your infrastructure is why developers are preferring Lambda and all serverless technology.

Most of all, they only want costs associated with properly running their applications rather than continually dealing with ballooning costs of infrastructure.

Other Real-Time File Processing

With our mention of what Lambda can do with image resizing, it’s only the beginning of what it can do in real-time for other files. You’ll have few limitations and can do things like transcode videos, do file indexing, process logs, validate your content, plus filter data immediately.

Lambda also processes real-time streaming data when used in connection with Amazon Kinesis. Through this feature, you’re able to track application activity, order processing, data cleansing, generate metrics, and do social media analysis as just some examples.

For IoT, it’s also very useful in data telemetry and metering.

Who Else is Creating Serverless Cloud Platforms?

Amazon has quite a few competitors who’ve created platforms almost identical to Lambda. Nevertheless, Lambda gets the credit for being the first to the marketplace several years ago.

Since then, big names like Google created a similar platform called Functions as part of Google Cloud. They also use serverless technology and provide a lot of the same features as Lambda.

The same goes with IBM’s OpenWhisk as part of IBM’s Cloud Functions. Even Microsoft moved into serverless cloud technology with their Azure Functions.

Obviously, serverless functionality for all apps is quickly become the norm for developers. It’s time you consider the same thing if you’re tired of dealing with maintaining a server year in and year out.

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