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What is AWS Lambda and how can our enterprise use it?

Lambda automatically manages compute resources for its AWS users. But, how can your business take advantage of Lambda's responsive offerings?

Amazon Web Services introduced Lambda to handle a variety of external events and anonymous functions without having...

to package every line of code within the same application.

In traditional software development, every input handler, error handling routine or other feature is coded into the application. By moving some features out of the main application and into functions, the actual application is often smaller and less expensive to run -- and can even run in a smaller instance. When that entire app is mounted on a VM instance, it requires more memory and processing resources. It also might require a larger VM instance, which can quickly translate into higher operational expenses. Worse still, some of that program's functions may be used only rarely or never at all.

AWS Lambda allows developers to code and run various functions in response to specific events on an as-needed basis. For example, Lambda lets you build a function that can respond to customer requests, file transfers, Web clicks, database updates, storage changes, messaging streams, API call logs and so on. The function starts up, runs and then stops, using only the compute resources needed for that particular event. This means the application core is smaller, more efficient and less costly to operate.

Running cloud workloads on-demand is an easy way to mitigate costs. Lambda drills down further by enabling workload functions to be broken up so companies pay only for each function as it runs. AWS Lambda runs the function within a few milliseconds of the event, allocates the computing resource and bills in increments of 100 milliseconds. This makes the Lambda approach extremely scalable because the function can run tens of millions of times per month.

Deciding if AWS Lambda is a good option for your enterprise depends on your application development and cloud service needs. Services like AWS Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) are designed for traditional cloud application instances -- where users have full control over the instance and its environment. EC2 obligates users to provision, monitor and manage each instance themselves. AWS Lambda runs code in response to specific events, which can be triggered from within the AWS environment or from individual applications. When an event occurs, Lambda automatically provisions, executes, monitors and logs associated code.

Next Steps

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This was last published in May 2015

Essential Guide

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