Off-by-none: Issue #17

WebSockets are so hot right now…

Welcome to Issue #17 of Off-by-none. Thanks for being here! 👋

Last week we talked about when to optimize our apps and discussed what the term “serverless” actually means. This week I’ll share some more thoughts on that, plus we’ll explore the new API Gateway WebSocket support, share some great serverless articles, and look at a few more announcements from the world of serverless.

Let’s get to it. 😀

What to do when you want to call every managed service and SaaS app “serverless”… 😳

Maybe let’s not. Last week there was a bit of Twitter chatter about what “serverless” actually meant. Is it a technology, a compute model, an architectural pattern, a spectrum, an operational construct? I contend that it can’t be all of these things. I went into rant mode and wrote a post called Stop Calling Everything Serverless! It’s quite a long post, but I think it’s important that we don’t overload the term to the point that it no longer has any meaning.

In my opinion, serverless is a methodology for planning, building, and deploying software in a way that maximizes value by minimizing undifferentiated heavy lifting. It touches everything up and down the value chain, not only affecting how engineers approach development, but also influencing product strategy, design, budgeting, resource planning and much more.

I got a lot of feedback on this post. Several people disagreed with me, but I think it is a healthy debate. I’d love to hear your feedback as well.

When you’re looking for a reason to use serverless WebSockets just because you can…

AWS finally released support for WebSocket APIs in Amazon API Gateway. Which is very cool. I spent some time playing around with them and the implementation is really good. I can see lots of great use cases for this.

If you want to get a thorough walk-through of how they work, George Mao from AWS has a webinar that covers Building Real Time Applications using WebSocket APIs Supported by Amazon API Gateway.

There is also a simple-websockets-chat-app available on GitHub that you can launch using SAM. Or if you prefer, you can start Using API Gateway WebSockets with the Serverless Framework. Jared Short shows you how to use the new serverless-websockets-plugin, plus gives us a really cool DynamoDB streams pattern that we can use in all sorts of scenarios. 🤘🏻

When you realize that serverless and startups are a perfect match… 💖

Serverless and startups, the beginning of a beautiful friendship by Slobodan Stojanović, takes us through how he and his team built Vacation Tracker using serverless and a hexagonal architecture. He’s not the first to say it, but it’s certainly worth repeating: serverless give startups a huge advantage.

Speaking of Slobodan, he and Aleksandar Simović have finished their book: Serverless Applications with Node.js. Definitely worth taking a look if you’re building your serverless apps with Node.js.

If you’re looking for other startups that bet big on serverless, check out SQQUID: a 100% serverless startup. It seems like there are more and more stories like this every day.

When you can’t get enough serverless input… 🤖

Michael Vargas wrote a great piece about Using Design Patterns with AWS Lambda. Some good lessons in there about separating our business logic from the cloud provider’s interface.

Yan Cui shares his Thoughts on the Serverless Announcements at re:Invent 2018. He also lays out some Considerations for the Beginner Serverless Developer. Good place to start for those of you just getting into serverless.

I’ve spent some time working with the new Lambda support for Application Load Balancers, and there are plenty of pitfalls in there. If you’re interested in finding out more, Jeremy Thomerson has got you covered with his post API Gateway vs Application Load Balancer—Technical Details.

Serverless & SaaS — Part 1: The New Build Versus Buy by Tom McLaughlin is an interesting piece that advocates the use of SaaS products over AWS building blocks whenever possible. It might be easy to glue services together, but that doesn’t mean that your team has the right domain expertise.

Building sandcastles and securing WordPress by James Beswick is a great piece that talks about the state of content management and how it is starting to evolve to serverless backends. WordPress may be the 800 pound guerrilla, but James contends that its days may be numbered.

When you’re looking beyond relational database patterns… 🤓

How to use Amazon DynamoDB global tables to power multi-region architectures by Adrian Hornsby is a pretty cool look at how to geographically disperse your applications for lower latency and disaster recovery.

And if you’re looking for more DynamoDB goodies, Faux-SQL or NoSQL? Examining four DynamoDB Patterns in Serverless Applications by Alex DeBrie is great way to expand your mind and start drinking the NoSQL Kool-Aid.

“Serverless” CQRS using Azure Event Grid and Durable Functions by Duncan Edwards Jones, is great primer on the CQRS pattern and how you could apply that to your serverless applications. Decoupling commands and queries makes for a tremendously scalable approach.

When you’re looking for some more hands-on serverless tutorials…

Angela Wang put together A curated collection of hands-on workshops for learning AWS. There’s a few great serverless ones in there, but plenty of other AWS services are covered too.

Authentication & Authorization in GraphQL with AWS AppSync (MOB402) with Karthik Saligrama is another awesome re:Invent talk. If you’re using AppSync, I really hope you’ve got your authentication locked down. You might want to double check after you watch this video.

Eric Hammond has some ideas on Using AWS SSM Parameter Store With Git SSH Keys. Interesting approach that you might find useful.

And Marcia Villalba released a new video: Lambda layers with Serverless Framework and good practices.

When AWS keeps pumping out new features… 🏭

I was all excited when they introduced AWS Client VPN to Securely Access AWS and On-Premises Resources. Too bad the pricing is quite ridiculous.

Amazon Route 53 Adds Alias Record Support For API Gateway and VPC Endpoints, so no more additional Route 53 charges when mapping your domains to your regional or edge-optimized endpoints.

Amazon DynamoDB Accelerator (DAX) Adds Support for DynamoDB Transactions, which closes the open loop with the new DynamoDB transactions.

Amazon DynamoDB Increases the Number of Global Secondary Indexes and Projected Index Attributes You Can Create Per Table. For those of you that found five global secondary indexes to be too few, now you automatically get 20. Plus you can always ask for more if you need them.

Plus, a New SAM PUBLISH Command Simplifies Publishing Applications to the AWS Serverless Application Repository. This is a nice little addition. Hopefully we’ll see more apps in the repository soon.

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 Alex DeBrie (@alexbdebrie). Alex is a big part of the team over at Serverless, Inc., you know, the ones that brought us the amazing Serverless Framework ⚡️. Alex is constantly working to bring us new features to make our lives easier as serverless developers. He is a regular contributor to the Serverless blog, but has also started posting some great stuff to his personal blog as well. I’m looking forward to keeping up with his content and his continued work on the Serverless Framework.

Final Thoughts 🤔

WebSockets are awesome, I just need to find a reason to use them with some of my apps 😂. But seriously, there are a few use cases that are still beyond the scope of serverless. All the recent additions to DynamoDB, plus now with WebSockets, that list is getting smaller every single day. I’m really excited about what the future of serverless holds, just so long as we don’t keep misappropriating the term. 😉

🎄 Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all of you! I wish you all a happy, healthy and prosperous new year!

I hope you’ve enjoyed this issue of Off-by-none. Your feedback and suggestions are always incredibly helpful, so please feel free to reach out to me via Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, or email and let me know your thoughts, criticisms, and ideas for making Off-by-none better.

See you next year,
Jeremy