Serverless with Firebase and AWS at Serverless Meetup Rotterdam

This post is written by Charlotte van Oostrum. Thanks to 42Workspace for sponsoring the meetup.

Despite the wind and gushing rain, the second Serverless Meetup Rotterdam on December 7 filled up quickly. New attendees joined the familiar faces from last time. Either experienced or completely new to Serverless development, everyone gathered to listen to tonight’s speakers Jan Hein Hoogstad and Sander van de Graaf.

“I like Serverless Meetup Rotterdam. It’s like being in Silicon Valley.” — Lasse, new to Serverless

Your first Serverless project

At the last meetup, we noticed that most people think Serverless is highly technical. People who have little experience in programming, believe Serverless is not for them. Other people think only of AWS (Amazon Web Services) when they hear the word Serverless. However, Serverless isn’t only for expert developers and AWS is not the only tool you can use, as Jan Hein showed in his introduction to Firebase. Jan Hein is a developer and educator, and founder and lead developer at Offcourse.

Start with Firebase

Firebase is a Google service that helps you, as Google puts it, develop mobile apps quickly. The focus that Google’s marketing puts on mobile is misleading though. Firebase is great, however, for traditional web development too.

Jan Hein’s presentation, which revolved around a simple app that he built in Firebase over the weekend, focused on three aspects of Firebase:

  • Real time database: Firebase stores and syncs data in real-time. If you alter your data in your application, it’s added to your database immediately. And vice versa.
  • Authentication: Firebase offers a compelling, easy and event-driven way to implement authentication.
  • Cloud functions: cloud functions are great for things that you can’t do on the client. Instead of spinning up a backend, Firebase offers ‘functions as a service’ that are very similar to AWS Lambda. A real-time database such as Firebase is a natural fit, with this programming model. This is because it constantly emits events that can serve as function triggers.

These features allow you to build your first Serverless application in a few days. To the contrary, building a real-time database or authentication yourself would take you weeks. And things that you don’t know that much about, such as security, are handled by professionals.

“I’m new to backend development, and I want to learn more about it. The talks were interesting. Actually, I would have loved the talks to be longer. I want to learn more.” — Vasyli, new to Serverless

Going Serverless at a bank

Of course, Serverless can get a lot more complicated quickly. Sander van de Graaf didn’t waste a second to talk about his experience and dove right in with his talk ‘Going Serverless at a bank’. Sander is a freelance cloud solutions architect. He focuses on AWS solutions. Among other sites, he has worked at a bank where an API was redeveloped into a Serverless solution.

The bank wanted to move from monolithic services to micro-services. Before the project, twenty teams would collaborate on the API and deploy once a month. This meant that if you wanted to fix a bug, you had to wait one month. One of the goals of the project was to be able to deploy once an hour. And the only way to do this, was to automate everything. Sander talked about the architecture that achieved this, which “looks simple, but is not.” He explained how different teams worked on different parts of the API, and about different measures they took to increase security.

Today, the development teams at the bank can create new APIs or add new functions within thirty minutes, due to the fact they work Serverless. The automation makes everything so much easier. The new architecture has given the developers control over the process. See a full presentation from Sander on his experience here.

“It’s great to interact with other engineers and talk about how they solve certain problems.” — Ted, experienced in Serverless

What we take from this meetup, is that beginners should not shy away from Serverless development, but embrace it as a framework that helps them advance as a developer.

Are you in the Rotterdam area and curious to learn more about Serverless? Join our meetup group. It’s a group for anyone interested in building web, mobile and Internet-of-Things applications with Serverless architectures. Our group is open to beginners as well as experts. Sign up for our next meetup.