Off-by-none: Issue #10

Do you hear what I hear? 👂

Welcome to Issue #10 of Off-by-none. Thanks for joining us! 👍

Last week we talked about how serverless was starting to gain quite a bit of momentum with things like the announcement of more tools and conferences. However, my attendance at the ServerlessNYC conference was a bit of an eye-opener for me. I spoke with a lot of people about a “serverless bubble” (although echo chamber is probably a better way to describe it). I knew that the serverless community was still relatively small, but have we gotten to the point where we’re just feeding the community and not doing enough to expand it?

This week we’re going to explore the topic of serverless adoption and offer up some resources to help companies and developers get started with this amazing technology. Let’s go! 🏎

When you realize you might be in a serverless echo chamber… 🙉

I posted this tweet a couple of days after the ServerlessNYC conference and I got quite a bit of feedback. There were several people pushing back on the idea, but I think many of those who did are in the “serverless echo chamber” themselves. There was a lot of discussion here that needs to be boiled down and researched a bit more, but I think it is clear that there are a number of factors that are hampering serverless adoption. I’d love to know your thoughts on this, so please weigh-in on the Twitter thread, or send me a note.

When you’re sad that you missed ServerlessNYC… 🗽

It really was a great event. But cheer up, my friend, there’s no need for #FOMO. I’ve put together a recap of the event with all the key takeaways and lessons learned.

TLDR; Kelsey Hightower made you rethink the barriers to serverless adoption, Jason Katzer told us that unlimited still has limits, Gwen Shapira gave us new ways to think about serverless data flow, Ben Kehoe made us adopt a new serverless native mindset, Tyler Love showed us that serverless can easily handle billions of requests, Chase Douglas filled some gaps for us in the serverless development lifecycle, and an open source serverless panel told us we need to work on standardization.

When you realize that serverless is more than functions… 🎉

Epsagon recently launched their distributed tracing product for serverless applications, and decided to kick it off with a star-studded webinar (plus me 🤣). But seriously, Shannon, Nitzan and Ran are doing some great things around serverless observability. This discussion, with insights from Yan Cui and Corey Quinn, was really interesting. You can watch, listen, or read it here.

Speaking of webinars, Forrest Brazeal is hosting an AWS Online Tech Talk called Serverless Workflows for the Enterpise on November 14, 2018 at 12pm ET. This will focus on how to seamlessly build and deploy serverless applications across multiple teams in large organizations. Should be a great intro for enterprises looking to adopt serverless.

When you’re still on the fence about adopting serverless… 🎓

7 tools that ease serverless adoption outlines a few of the tools we’ve been talking about for a while. While this isn’t an exhaustive list, the article does give recommendations for the three major areas of serverless applications: development, monitoring and security. There are a lot of other tools out there (like the Serverless Framework) that can help you jump into the serverless waters, but this is a good list to get you started. ⚡️

Ben Kehoe was interviewed by the Wall Street Journal about serverless computing requiring a shift in mindset. I like the way Ben thinks about serverless, especially when he says things like, “Your developers should care about solving business problems and not solving technology problems, but we’ve been solving technology problems for so long that that’s what we tend to care about first.” (🎤 drop)

Another key component to adopting a tech like serverless, is to make sure that developers can leverage their existing skills. Programming language options are a big piece of that. Yan Cui’s new AWS Lambda Programming Language Comparison post gives us a great overview of supported languages and the pros/cons to think about when choosing a serverless runtime. ⚖️

Finally, security tends to be a sticking point (especially with SysAdmins) when it comes to adopting serverless (and the cloud in general). Luckily for us, Ory Segal at PureSec has put together some AWS Security Best Practices for AWS Lambda. Serverless gives us the ability to develop applications that are more secure and more resilient if designed properly. Also check out my Securing Serverless: A Newbie’s Guide for an overview of serverless security in general.

When you discover the meaning of Occam’s razor

“The simplest solution tends to be the correct one.” I’ve talked to a lot of people this past week about serverless adoption, and it wasn’t surprising to hear what the use case was for most early adopters. According to The New Stack, 73% of people using serverless are using it for HTTP REST APIs and web applications. This was echoed by many of the people I spoke with, and also evident from a number of candidates I recently screened that had listed “serverless” as one of their skills.

It seems that “migrating an Express.js app to Lambda with a [pick your favorite database] backend” is how most people tend to get started. Of course, migrating a monolith to a serverless function might not be the best (or most efficient) use of serverless (read Yan Cui’s: AWS Lambda — should you have few monolithic functions or many single-purposed functions?). However, it is familiar enough to lower the bar for adoption. But once we’ve taken that step, how do we start optimizing our applications?

There are a ton of options, and I know that many people (including myself) love GraphQL. AWS even has their AppSync service that can make building GraphQL endpoints much easier, but like everything managed, it comes with a cost. Plus, sometimes our APIs go beyond simple CRUD operations and we need something more expressive, powerful, and familiar. If you’re looking for an alternative, check out the open source Lambda API project.

It’s an alternative to Express.js, Koa, Restify and other Node.js web frameworks, and is built specifically for serverless applications. There are a lot of built-in features to get you up and running fast, plus support for things like middleware, logging, and much more. We’re always looking for contributors, so please give it a try and help us make adopting this type of serverless use case even easier.

When you finally have a reason to try serverless… 👩‍💻

Serverless, Inc. (creators of the fabulous Serverless Framework) are hosting the #NoServerNovember Challenge this month. Every week they will be releasing a series of serverless challenges that will help experienced users level up, and brand new users get started. If you’ve been wanting to try serverless, these challenges will give you something a little more interesting to do than following a “hello world” tutorial. Plus there’s some swag in it for the winners.

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 Soenke Ruempler (@s0enke). Soenke is the co-founder of , a cloud and serverless consulting firm in Hamburg, Germany. He’s also an organizer for  as well as the . He recently shared his slides from his talk at code.talks last month. Serverless vs. (Backend) Developers is a really interesting look at the state of serverless adoption and provides some great insights for serverless 🥑s to change the way they are advocating.

Final Thoughts 🤔

As much traction as serverless has gained, there is a loooooong way to go. Information Technology is a multi-trillion dollar market and public cloud computing is only a tiny fraction of that. According to Chris Munns, “MOST cloud is still VM. On prem most compute is still bare metal. Containers adoption at scale is still so so so tiny.” So where is serverless in all this?

Lots of people are experimenting with containers, but the vast majority of companies and developers are still using traditional architectures (on-prem or cloud-based VMs) to build their applications. It’s very possible that serverless could completely leapfrog containers in terms of adoption if it evolves to support both startup and enterprise use cases. Is the echo chamber that is the serverless community making the case to help expand serverless adoption, or are we simply feeding on our own hype? I’d love to know your thoughts.

I hope you enjoyed this issue of Off-by-none. Feedback and suggestions are always appreciated and help to make this newsletter better each week. Please feel free to contact me via Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, or email and let me know your thoughts, criticisms, and if you’d like to contribute to Off-by-none.

Now go spread the word by telling your friends about serverless. See you next week! 👋

Thanks again,

Off-by-none: Issue #9

Live from ServerlessDays NYC!

Welcome to Issue #9 of Off-by-none. Thanks again for being a part of this! 🙌

Last week we discussed the role of DevOps with serverless teams and how #NoOps is definitely not a thing. This week we’re live from ServerlessDays NYC, so if you’d like to follow along, register for the Live Stream. There are amazing speakers all day long starting at 9am ET. I’ll be doing some live tweeting as well. 😉

The awesome serverless news continues to roll in, including the recent general availability announcements of two new serverless observability platforms, Epsagon and Thundra. Plus, I heard a rumor about a new AWS Lambda feature being announced at re:Invent that is blowing my mind. 🤯 Unfortunately, I can’t tell you about it, because, you know, NDAs. 🤐

Lots of great serverless content this week, so let’s jump in!

When there ain’t no party like a JS Party… 🎉

If you want to listen to me talk a lot (and I mean a lot) about serverless, check out last week’s episode of the JS Party podcast! Kevin Ball, Nick Nisi, Christopher Hiller and me chat for over an hour about all things serverless. We go deep into the role of microservices and how serverless nanoservices are changing the way we build and deploy distributed software. We also talk about the business case for serverless, including the effect on developer efficiency and total cost of ownership. Give it a listen.

When you feel like trading Stephen King for the latest serverless novella… 🤓

The team over at The New Stack has put together an incredibly comprehensive Guide to Serverless Technologies ebook. The New Stack is no stranger to producing some really great serverless content, but this compendium goes above and beyond your typical post. Like all things nowadays, there’s some sponsorship in there, but it’s also loaded with insights and case studies from industry experts. Covering everything from how serverless changes our approach to software development, to how companies can adopt and manage it, this book is worth the read.

When you’re looking for some light serverless reading… 📚

PureSec published an AWS Lambda Security Quick-Start Guide that helps you map the new OWASP Cloud-Native Top 10 Project risks and challenges to an AWS Lambda Security Model. I’m happy to see security practices starting to mature around serverless applications, and the work PureSec has done (including Ory Segal’s recent account of hacking a Lambda function) is making all of us safer. 🔒

Also, you know serverless is going mainstream when there’s an article about it in the Wall Street Journal that’s almost gets the specifics right. Serverless Computing’s Innovative Approach to Software Development is the WSJ’s attempt to explain serverless and its benefits to a wider audience. The problem comes with a few statements such as this: “Such a cold start latency might not be acceptable for certain applications. However, if the function is frequently invoked, there’s a good chance that a previous invocation is still around and the delays will be significantly shorter.” There’s also a good chance that when this type of inaccurate information gets broad distribution, it hurts adoption. FYI, this isn’t how cold starts work. 🤦🏻‍♂️

Still not sure about cold start latency? The New Stack recently reported that Business Logic Is a Leading Technical Use Case for Serverless. But that actually ranks third on their list with HTTP REST APIs and web applications coming in first with an overwhelming 73% of respondents utilizing this use case. I’m not a fan of cold starts either, but they have such a tiny impact that they are mostly unnoticeable.

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 Ben Kehoe (@ben11kehoe). Ben is a Cloud Robotics Research Scientist at  who is using serverless technology to presumably make Roombas self-aware 🤖. He’s an AWS Serverless Hero, a regular conference speaker (including today at ServerlessDays NYC), and an occasional blogger. Ben is also a frequent podcast guest (like here and here). I chose Ben this week because he’s actually started a new podcast with Kas Perch (aka @nodebotanist) that’s all about serverless. It’s called ServerlessTalk and is available via Spotify. Looking forward to the next episode!

Final Thoughts 🤔

Serverless is exploding! More content, more tools, more use cases and more adoption. I’m excited to be at today’s ServerlessDays NYC event to hear “case studies and lessons learned from actual serverless implementations.” The more this type of information is shared, the more serverless is demystified. If you’re interested in attending a conference like this, check out the ServerlessDays website for an event near you. If you’re in the Boston area, follow @ServerlessBOS on Twitter, or join our new meetup to get announcements regarding ServerlessDays Boston (coming early next year).

I hope you enjoyed this issue of Off-by-none. Your feedback and suggestions help me make this newsletter better each week, so please feel free to contact me via Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, or email and let me know your thoughts, criticisms, and if you’d like to contribute to Off-by-none.

Now go build some amazing serverless apps. See you next time! 👋