6 Development Tools for Serverless Applications

Introduction

Serverless computing, also known as FaaS (function as a service), represents nothing short of a cloud computing revolution. By running functions on-demand rather than 24/7, businesses have leveraged serverless to do everything from improving the scalability of their web apps to optimize their cloud resource costs.

For many organizations, switching to serverless computing is a significant and beneficial change (check out our article on the benefits of serverless computing). In order to realize these benefits, however, you'll have to use the right serverless application development tools.

One of the biggest advantages of serverless is that it helps you achieve faster, simpler software development. So if you want to get started building serverless architectures, what are the right tools for the job? Below, we'll go over six serverless development tools that every tech-savvy business should know about.

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The Benefits of Serverless Development Tools

Before we discuss the best serverless development tools, why should you pay attention? Serverless application development tools have been optimized to help you build and deploy serverless functions and software. In particular, this means applications with serverless architectures such as microservices that represent a departure from the traditional monolithic software model.

When you have the best serverless tools at hand, you'll be able to build software with a wide variety of use cases, without having to worry about the onerous tasks of server management and maintenance. This helps reduce the workload of your DevOps team and can help you achieve the ideal of continuous integration/continuous delivery (CI/CD).

Tool #1: Dashbird

Dashbird is a serverless development tool that has been purpose-built for "automatic debugging, monitoring and troubleshooting for cloud-native applications." With no code changes to your serverless applications required and a five-minute setup time, it's easy to get Dashbird up and running (although it's only compatible with Amazon Web Services).

By continuously collecting and analyzing your application log data, Dashbird can automatically detect application and operating system failures in real-time. Dashbird also provides attractive visualizations and can integrate with channels like Slack, email, and social networking platforms.

Tool #2: The AWS Ecosystem

Depending on your choice of cloud platform, you may have multiple serverless development tools and services already available to you. For example, Amazon Web Services' main serverless computing offering is AWS Lambda, which it calls "a serverless compute service that lets you run code without provisioning or managing servers." However, AWS also comes with other tools for serverless development that can help you along the way:

  • DynamoDB is a fully managed NoSQL database service for building key-value and document databases. Thanks to its ability to scale automatically, DynamoDB is the perfect match to store data for your AWS Lambda functions.
  • API Gateway is an AWS managed service to build application programming interfaces for making backend HTTP requests and exposing AWS Lambda functions. Using API Gateway can save developers a significant amount of time that they would spend defining business logic and deploying their own APIs.

Tool #3: sls-dev-tools

If open-source serverless tools are more your style, check out sls-dev-tools, a package of serverless development tools that covers a wide range of functionality. The capabilities of sls-dev-tools include:

  • Viewing the statistics and recent calls for a given lambda function within a defined time interval.
  • Invoking lambda functions with a single keystroke.
  • Deploying a single lambda function or the entire stack.
  • Injecting events into the Amazon EventBridge event bus. (EventBridge is a serverless pub/sub service for seamlessly connecting different sources of real-time streaming data).

sls-dev-tools saves you the pain of having to switch to the AWS Management Console for every action and can be used directly in a terminal window. What's more, sls-dev-tools is compatible with any IaC (Infrastructure as Code) tool, from the Serverless Framework to the AWS Serverless Application Model (SAM).

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Tool #4: serverless-iam-roles-per-function

Serverless development is powerful, but you can be exposing yourself to security flaws if you don't have robust authentication practices in place. Another open-source plug-in, serverless-iam-roles-per-function, helps you perform IAM (identity and access management) for your serverless applications. IAM is an essential part of development for cloud services, letting you grant fine-grained access to cloud functions for different users and classes of users.

With serverless-iam-roles-per-function, you can create a dedicated role simply by creating an iamRoleStatements definition for each function. This allows you to define precisely which users and roles should be able to invoke a particular function.

Tool #5: Thundra

One of the drawbacks of serverless development is that it's often more complex and more difficult to debug. Because serverless architectures are decomposed into dozens, hundreds, or even thousands of functions, it can be highly time-consuming to identify the source of any given bug or performance issue.

Thundra is a serverless development tool that offers "application observability and security for cloud-native microservices." The goal of Thundra is to help users trace and understand their distributed applications end-to-end, providing greater visibility and clarity into their inner workings. Thundra is compatible with a wide variety of cloud architectures, including FaaS serverless functions, containers, and virtual machines (VMs). With Thundra, users can perform local and remote debugging of their cloud applications and quickly identify performance issues and bottlenecks.

Tool #6: lambda-warmer

Another disadvantage of serverless development is the "cold start" problem, where functions experience significant latency at startup when it's been a while since their last runtime. While there are multiple approaches to fix the issue of cold starts, one popular solution is "function warming" — i.e., sending pings to reactivate a function at regular intervals so that it's ready when you actually need it.

lambda-warmer is a lightweight, open-source module for optimizing the process of function warming for AWS Lambda functions. Using lambda-warmer simply requires you to pass the warming "event" as the first argument of your declared variable. (Note that although lambda-warmer helps analyze invocation events and manage handler processing, you'll still need to define a rule in Amazon CloudWatch to actually send the ping.)

The Best Tools for Serverless Computing

As we've discussed above, the best serverless development tools include:

  • Dashbird for automatic debugging and monitoring of serverless applications.
  • The AWS ecosystem, including AWS Lambda, DynamoDB, and API Gateway, for building out your serverless backend.
  • sls-dev-tools for an open-source package that makes it easy to interact with your serverless functions.
  • serverless-iam-roles-per-function for an open-source package that lets users quickly and easily define access roles for different serverless functions.
  • Thundra for providing end-to-end visibility into the inner workings of your serverless functions, allowing for faster diagnosis and debugging.
  • lambda-warmer for sending pings to your serverless functions, "warming them up" so that they're ready to be executed in production.

Many of the serverless development tools we've discussed above, although powerful, have inherent limitations: They only work with a single public cloud provider or a single programming language. So why not take advantage of a serverless computing solution that can let you work with any or all of these options, as best fits your business needs?

That's exactly what a serverless platform like IronWorker intends to accomplish. IronWorker is a cloud-agnostic serverless computing solution that is compatible with every programming language, thanks to the power of Docker containers. Thanks in large part to this flexibility and ease of use, IronWorker has earned an average rating of 4.6 out of 5 stars on the business software review website G2. One reviewer gives IronWorker a five-star rating, writing:

"I improved my CSV breakdown work drastically by putting 10 IronWorkers on the job. Up to that point, I was just using larger AWS instances, but the concept of actually running 'concurrent' jobs at the same time (through using workers that spin up on elastic cloud computing) was lost on me. The UI is very intuitive and gives really good detail about the time each job takes. I can run my Workers and then have them put the finished product on a message queue—which means my whole ETL process is done without any hassle... If you have a bottleneck in your workflows, IronWorker could be a great fit."

About Iron

Want to keep your options open when it comes to serverless development tools? IronWorker is the perfect solution for you. IronWorker is a highly flexible work-as-you-go platform for building serverless architectures that's compatible with AWS, Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud, helping you avoid vendor lock-in. The benefits of IronWorker include:

  • Running in a variety of environments, from on-premises and the public cloud to your own dedicated servers and even a hybrid solution that combines on-premises and the cloud.
  • Support for all major programming languages, including Ruby, PHP, Python, Java, Node.js, JavaScript, Go, and .NET.
  • A user-friendly learning curve and excellent customer support.

Ready to see why companies from Twitter and Philips to Whole Foods and Bleacher Report have taken advantage of IronWorker for their job processing needs?

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