AWS Lambda

Cognito iQ’s Cloud Engineering team has an ongoing mission of attending tech events to raise the company’s technical profile, learn more about emerging technologies, and make connections with other industry professionals.

In that spirit, the whole Cloud Engineering team took a field day out to London yesterday to visit the Devops Exchange London Meetup (or #doxlon for short).

#doxlon bills itself as one the largest DevOps community meetups in London and it’s easy to see why when there were around 450 people registered to attend and the talks were packed out!

The event was hosted and sponsored by Sainsburys in Holburn and the topic was AWS Lambda or “serverless” microservices.

From AWS themselves:

AWS Lambda is a compute service where you can upload your code to AWS Lambda and the service can run the code on your behalf using AWS infrastructure. After you upload your code and create what we call a Lambda function, AWS Lambda takes care of provisioning and managing the servers that you use to run the code. You can use AWS Lambda as follows:
As an event-driven compute service where AWS Lambda runs your code in response to events, such as changes to data in an Amazon S3 bucket or an Amazon DynamoDB table.
As a compute service to run your code in response to HTTP requests using Amazon API Gateway or API calls made using AWS SDKs.
AWS Lambda runs your code on a high-availability compute infrastructure and performs all of the administration of the compute resources, including server and operating system maintenance, capacity provisioning and automatic scaling, code monitoring and logging. All you need to do is supply your code in one of the languages that AWS Lambda supports (currently Node.js, Java, and Python). For more information about the AWS Lambda execution environment, see Lambda Execution Environment and Available Libraries. For information about how AWS Lambda determines compute resources required to execute your code, see Compute Requirements — Lambda Function Configuration.
AWS Lambda executes your code only when needed and scales automatically, from a few requests per day to thousands per second. With these capabilities, you can use Lambda to easily build data processing triggers for AWS services like Amazon S3 and Amazon DynamoDB, process streaming data stored in Amazon Kinesis, or create your own back end that operates at AWS scale, performance, and security.

Cognito iQ is using currently using Lambda functions for enforcing Github 2 Factor Authentication, but we’re building a tool to backup every single Github repository we have to S3 and these tools will soon be open sourced! In future we hope to expand Lambda even further into the CI/CD realms if possible.

The first talk of the night was from Andrew Brown, a Senior Platform Engineer at Just Eat. He explained why they chose Lambda firstly to make their deployments smoother, to reduce costs, and also to introduce new features quicker. He then went on to talk about the challenges they faced and the languages they chose to use in Lambda. (You have a choice of Java, NodeJS, or Python, but can shim literally anything in like shell script or C or Javascript, etc.) Comically, he mentioned that their peak hours are “dinnertime”. My attention was particularly peaked when he mentioned using AWS SNS to send messages to Slack. This is a powerful tool we could leverage here at Cognito iQ!

The next talk was Alan Turner, Principle Engineer at the Financial Times. He talked about the FT’s experience of improving code delivery by moving services to AWS Lambda and overcoming some of it challenges like configuration, permissions and health check support.

The final talk was from Dave Walker, Solutions Architect at AWS, and his talk about Lambda used in the realms of security and included but configuration rules, crypto offload for messaging services, call-out to additional external services, and cross-account logging. Dave talked quite a bit about the ways of triggering Lambda which currently include API Gateway, Cloudwatch Events and Logs, DynamoDB, Kinesis, S3, and SNS.

We finished the evening with free pizza and beer and a bit of shop talk with some of the other attendees before the long and cumbersome tube, train, and bus rides back began. We all agreed it was an excellent night and we came away with a lot of idea for future projects.

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