Lambda permits you to run code, also known as functions, without owning or managing servers. Users only pay for the compute time consumed.

As part of its effort to become the enterprise cloud of choice for innovative developers and innovators, Amazon Web Services introduced Lambda in 2014. The first developer preview version was released in 2015, and the general availability version was announced in February 2016.

Developers who want to use Lambda can use a widely adopted programming language such as Java or write their code in C++ or C#. The minimum instance of a Lambda function has to be a virtual machine. You can scale it up and down, but you can't use it as an EC2 instance.

Lambda is meant to make the job of development more accessible.

Here's the scenario you must explain to new developers about Lambda:

You write a function that schedules a job for the next 5 minutes. The code waits until 5 minutes have passed and then repeats the process.

By using Lambda, you can avoid running the job server, and you don't have to maintain the overhead associated with managing a server.

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Advantages of AWS Lambda

There are other advantages, such as ease of testing, better scalability, and lower costs.

Lambda functions have the signature method EchoRequest (string argc, argv); where EchoRequest returns an event that Echo can broadcast to its event senders.

  • The first parameter of EchoRequest is an event source to which Lambda will listen.
  • The second parameter is the function to be called to start a new Lambda function execution.
  • The third parameter is the function itself, which has the same signature as the Lambda function and is meant to describe the code you intend to run.
  • The fourth parameter is a list of event senders.

Lambda lets you write the code on a development server and then send an HTTP request to Lambda, which executes the code.

You create an Amazon Web Services (AWS) dashboard and add a Lambda function to create a Lambda function. The Lambda dashboard links to the Lambda console, and in the Lambda console, you enable the function, set the function's name, and link to the Amazon EC2 API with your access credentials.

Lambda can invoke the function and control the execution of the code by changing the URL of the Lambda function and sending and receiving the message Echo for any message Echo receives or when it receives a lambda function invocation.

By setting the headers of an HTTP request to Echo, Lambda can process the request. You can also send Lambda function responses with a JSON body and specify a single JSON response for all requests.

To do this, add a few lines of code to your function that you can send to Lambda to respond to any received request.

Here are some sample functions that you can use to create a function that waits 5 minutes for a text message to be delivered:

void wait5minutes(string eventName, string token){

Amazon.Message.Receive(eventName, token, 5);

}

void postMessage(string message, string body){

Amazon.Message.Send(message, body);

}

And here are some sample functions that you can use to create a function that listens for an email message:

void postEmail(string body){

Amazon.Message.Receive(message, body, 5);

}

Here are some sample functions that you can use to create a function that sends an email message to any email address in the recipient address book:

void sendEmail(string message){

Amazon.Email.Send(message, toAddressList, fromAddressList, subject, fromBody, body);

}

Many AWS services use Lambda, but the following are the main ones.

  • AWS API Gateway: AWS Lambda uses AWS API Gateway to send messages and perform requests.
  • AWS lambda_external interface: An external interface allows Lambda to send messages to external services.
  • AWS Lambda groups: Your Lambda function is grouped with other Lambda functions, making it easier to handle a more significant number of requests.
  • AWS Lambda functions: AWS Lambda functions have the signature EchoRequest(string eventName, string token, list<AWS.LambdaEvents> events) where eventName is the name of the AWS Lambda event that you are requesting to be executed, a token is the request header, and list<AWS.LambdaEvents> is the list of AWS Lambda events you request to be completed.

Lambda functions are meant to respond with a message Echo; in other words, they respond with an email message or with JSON-formatted JSON data.

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Getting Started With Amazon EC2

An EC2 instance is needed to execute your Lambda functions. If you want to test a Lambda function, you can use the Lambda function test case.

For a production-ready Lambda application, you will need an Amazon EC2 instance using the AWS Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) that you deploy your Lambda function to, which is on the same availability zone as the EC2 instance you are testing.

We recommend testing your application on a Virtual Private Cloud (VPC) with a load balancer in front of your Lambda function.

Your Lambda function is launched in a Docker container. You create a container instance, configure the containers you want to launch, and then find a container instance that you configure with your Lambda function.

  • AWS Storage Gateway
  • AWS AWS CloudFront
  • AWS Route53

These AWS services come with a free tier that allows you to host a single Amazon S3 endpoint. You can create a server with a single S3 endpoint and point your Lambda function to the Amazon S3 endpoint.

AWS supports three kinds of AMIs: Standard, High, and Enterprise. You can view and change the AMI type in the AWS Management Console or the AWS Console. Please refer to this documentation for more information on setting up and using an AMI.

What Is Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2)?

Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) is an on-demand, hyperscale compute service built on the .NET virtual machine. You can run your Lambda functions on a single server, a cluster of servers, or an aggregate of server instances.

What Is AWS CloudFront?

AWS CloudFront is a Content Distribution Network (CDN) that helps you extend your web services, like your Lambda functions, to users on-demand across any device. You can use the AWS CloudFront to enable CDN-like caching of your services, such as uploading and serving assets from a remote location to users on-demand across any device.

What Is Amazon Route 53?

Amazon Route 53 is a DNS service that lets you extend the reach of your AWS services to the end-user. Amazon Route 53 supports static and dynamic DNS, provides a Web Service Protocol routing capability, and supports a range of route rules that define the content delivery policies of your web services.

What Is Amazon CloudWatch?

Amazon CloudWatch is an AWS service that provides data aggregation and visualization tools. CloudWatch is also a monitoring service. For a detailed description of the CloudWatch service, please refer to the AWS documentation. CloudWatch provides several metrics that you can use to monitor your Lambda function's health and troubleshoot any issues:

  • A metric indicating region. If your Lambda function is running fine, you probably won't need a metric like this. If your Lambda function is not working correctly, you might want to try different regions. The metric will tell you what region your Lambda function is running on. 
  • A metric that tells you how many users are accessing your Lambda function. If your Lambda function is not performing well, you will want to track the number of requests per second made to your Lambda function, not just when your Lambda function starts to perform poorly. The most important thing to remember is that the number of requests per second is more important than the total number.
  • A metric that tells you how much memory your Lambda function is consuming. You can keep track of the memory your Lambda function is using to give you an idea of the bottlenecks and resources that might be available. 
  • The other metric you will want to look at is the response time. The most important thing to keep in mind is that you want to understand where the bottlenecks are to eliminate them as soon as possible.
  • A metric tells you how often the Lambda function is asked for resources. The Lambda function will not be asking for resources continuously, so you want to track the amount of time the Lambda function is not being requested for resources.

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Getting Started With Lambda Functions

I recommend that you look at the AWS Lambda Service Brief that explains how to create and configure a Lambda function. If you're unsure which AWS services to use for the Lambda function, I recommend you first create a list of AWS services that you want to use (https://docs.aws.amazon.com/lambda/latest/dg/welcome.html).

AWS Lambda functions are based on Node.js, so it's essential to create an environment to run your Node.js application. I recommend creating a Node.js environment that runs on Linux and configuring it to run on AWS Linux VMs. That is a suitable environment in which to set up the Lambda function. Consult the official Node.js documentation or consider using a template service like Jenkins.

Next, you need to create your Lambda function. The Lambda API is available as an S3 bucket, accessible through an API gateway. The S3 bucket is straightforward to access. Create an account with S3, and you will be able to access the API gateway as a browser.

You will need to set up an environment to run the Lambda function. You can configure an environment with either Ansible or YAML files. YAML has become my go-to tool to set up AWS projects based on Ansible. YAML files are used for AWS Lambda functions that runYAML on an AWS region that you don't control.

Once you have your S3 bucket and environment setup, you are ready to run your Lambda function. You will need to go to the S3 bucket you created and start the Lambda function.

When you have your Lambda function running, you will have a bunch of metrics to work with. You can look at the average number of requests per second, the response time, and the number of connections per second.

Some Lambda functions run asynchronous, which means they can be scheduled using an AWS API Gateway. Other Lambda functions can be run using the AWS Lambda Service with real-time requirements. 

You can also get information on latency in addition to response time. This metric is critical when your Lambda function is serving real-time requirements. You will want to get as close to the millisecond as you can when delivering a response to the user. In the example, the Lambda function responds to requests within half a second. Therefore, you need to be able to respond within half a second.

Lambda functions are one of the most cost-effective solutions for consuming Amazon services, and it is also the easiest solution for starting your apps.

AWS Lambda Function Statistics

To get the most out of your Lambda function, you have to collect information about its use. If you have any feedback or suggestions on what can be managed, please add your comments below.

I looked at the Analytics.io statistics for a sample of 95,232 Lambda functions that run on the AWS Elastic Compute Cloud.

Some of the common metrics you should collect are:

  • Timing
  • Call-Status
  • Success-Rate

On the AWS cloud, you can determine the successful status of each Lambda function by reading the following information from the console:

{ "LambdaFunctionId": "ami-7f2f0b23e," "FunctionID": "f2414c5c-9405-4fb2-ba11-2ad399f65fc6", "TimerCount": [0], "Tasks": [], "RunMetric": [], "Description": "Best Result (0)" }

In this example, the result is success with a failure rate of 0.27.

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Summary

Lambda is really easy to set up and can provide real-time AWS services with minimal effort. We've just covered the basics of setting up your first Lambda function. You can use Lambda for lots of other things, including serving up a page on your website and delivering an email.

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About the Author

Matthew DavidMatthew David

Matt is a Digital Leader at Accenture. His passion is a combination of solving today's problems to run more efficiently, adjusting focus to take advantage of digital tools to improve tomorrow and move organizations to new ways of working that impact the future.

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