Scale with Serverless Application Stacks

AWS provides the Serverless Application Model (SAM) that provides business stakeholders and the technical team with a valuable "center of mass" for application development, deployment and maintenance. Serverless Stacks scale up to meet user demand without incurring heavy "DevOps" costs. Here is a diagram showing some common resources deployed in a AWS serverless application stack.

A serverless stack looks deceptively simple and this is why it is so useful. AWS is doing all the complicated management required behind the scene to keep things simple without giving up any functionality. Each serverless stack is defined by a "SAM Template" and your application code. The SAM Template defines all the resources and their configurations necessary to stand up your stack. The SAM template and application code are sent to a service called AWS Cloud Formation which creates/updates all the resources for your application stack.

Without much technical detail, this is what each of these resources in this stack do:

  • AWS Cognito
    User Sign Up, Sign In, Reset Password, etc.

  • API Gateway
    This service is a "traffic cop", taking calls from client applications, ensuring those calls are properly secured, are within traffic limits, and then sending those calls on to other services.

  • AWS Lambda Function(s)
    These are programs that implement your business logic. These programs are numerous and intentionally small. AWS automatically scales these functions to accommodate application traffic.

  • AWS S3 - file storage
    This is storage for files like images and documents.

  • AWS DynamoDB
    A highly scalable database. Other databases may also be used.

What is the Serverless Application Model (SAM)?

AWS SAM is an open-source framework for building applications using serverless architecture. AWS defines serverless architecture as a way to build and run applications and services without having to manage infrastructure. These applications still run on servers, but all the server management is done by AWS. You no longer have to provision, scale, and maintain servers to run your applications, databases, and storage systems.

Another important advantage of serverless architecture is the "on-demand" nature of many of the services available for use in the serverless architecture. An on-demand service only runs when demand exists and has little or no cost when unused. AWS offers a comprehensive suite of on-demand services you can configure for use in a serverless architecture.

It's hard to understate how important the AWS SAM is to small teams developing, testing, deploying, and managing cloud based applications. In contrast, traditional cloud-based applications required your team to create and manage "servers" and network infrastructure that incurred very expensive "DevOps" management and sometimes fundamental re-design of the application as they moved to production. While there are applications that still benefit from a traditional architecture, many applications can be implemented using the AWS SAM.

To sum it up; using AWS SAM will help you develop, test, deploy, and maintain your cloud-based application with a smaller team, at a lower cost, without sacrificing features, security or scalability.

Reducing Business Stakeholder and Technical Team Lead Tension

There is always a healthy tension among business stakeholders and technical leads. Business stakeholders top application priorities often include costs, time-to-market, quality, and features. Technical leads top priorities often include development cadence, technology selection, following best practices, avoiding technical obsolescence, talent acquisition, and development agility. The apparent conflict in priorities are an illusion as both parties are really working toward the same goal of delivering a successful application to users - this success is measured as the aggregate success of all the priorities mentioned. The tension stems from a lack of effective communication and understanding of the relative importance and trade-offs among these priorities.

Using the AWS SAM can help dramatically reduce this tension by giving the business stakeholder and technical lead a common "play book" that both can understand and agree to follow.