Serverless on AWS with Pulumi: simple, event-based functions

Posted by Cyrus Najmabadi on Jan 14, 2019 9:43:49 AM
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One of Pulumi’s goals is to provide the simplest way possible to do serverless programming on AWS by enabling you to create cloud infrastructure with the real programming languages that you are already using today. We believe that the existing constructs already present in these languages, like flow control, inheritance, composition, and so on, provide the right abstractions to effectively build up infrastructure in a simple and familiar way.

In a previous post we focused on how Pulumi could allow you to simply create an AWS Lambda out of your own JavaScript function. While this was much easier than having to manually create a Lambda Deployment Package yourself, it could still be overly complex to integrate these Lambdas into complete serverless application. To get a sense of that complexity, let’s look at how one would normally have to work with AWS’s resource system to create a simple Serverless application:

// Simplified for brevity
import * as aws from "@pulumi/aws";
import * as slack from "@slack/client";

// Create a simple bucket.
const bucket = new aws.s3.Bucket("testbucket", {
    serverSideEncryptionConfiguration: ...,
    forceDestroy: true,
});

// Create a lambda that will post a message to slack when the bucket changes.
// We can pass a simple JavaScript/TypeScript lambda here thanks to the magic of Lambdas as Lambdas:
// https://blog.pulumi.com/lambdas-as-lambdas-the-magic-of-simple-serverless-functions
const lambda = new aws.lambda.CallbackFunction("postToSlack", { 
    callback: async (e) => {
      const client = new slack.WebClient(...);
      for (const rec of e.Records) {
        await client.chat.postMessage({ ... });
      }
    },
    ...
});

// Give the bucket permission to invoke the lambda.
const permission = new aws.lambda.Permission("invokelambda", {
    function: lambda, 
action: "lambda:InvokeFunction",
principal: "s3.amazonaws.com", sourceArn: bucket.id.apply(bucketName => `arn:aws:s3:::${bucketName}`), }))
; // Now hookup a notification that will trigger the lambda when any object is created in the bucket. const notification = new aws.s3.BucketNotification("onAnyObjectCreated", { bucket: bucket.id, lambdaFunctions: [{ events: ["s3:ObjectCreated:*"], lambdaFunctionArn: lambda.arn, }], })

Phew… that’s a lot of code :-/ So what happened above? Well, in the AWS resource-oriented view of the world, most things are nouns (i.e objects). Your bucket is an object. The lambda is an object. The permission is an explicit object. And even the connection between the bucket and lambda (the BucketNotification) is itself an object. That’s one way to decompose the world, and it makes sense in some domains where everything is just ‘data’. But that isn’t a natural fit for a programming language, and it just doesn’t feel very idiomatic or appropriate for how people would expect things to work in their programming language of choice. Programming languages have lots of other facilities at their disposal to work with data. You can have methods/functions/messages you can send to an object. You can have events and callbacks on objects. You can encapsulate objects behind other objects. You can ‘run code’ to do things based on those objects, etc. etc.

Now, while data should be the start of how you interact with system, it shouldn’t be the end. Toward that goal, Pulumi makes it possible to simply compose and connect these resources in a more natural fashion. By just adding our own components, and leveraging what programing languages can already do, we can make it possible to simplify the above down to:

import * as aws from "@pulumi/aws";
import * as slack from "@slack/client";

// Create a simple bucket.
const bucket = new aws.s3.Bucket("testbucket", {
    serverSideEncryptionConfiguration: ...,
    forceDestroy: true,
});

// Create a lambda that will post a message to slack when the bucket changes.
bucket.onObjectCreated("postToSlack", async (e) => {
  const client = new slack.WebClient(...);
  for (const rec of e.Records) {
    await client.chat.postMessage({ ... });
  }
});

This now feels far more like how one might expect to express this concept with a normal application. A simple conceptual idea now maps to a simple code pattern. Instead of manually creating objects to represent the connection between the Bucket and the Lambda, we simply directly ask the Bucket to call the Lambda when the ObjectCreated event fires. Because this is all ‘code’, we can take care of all the boring cruft (like creating permissions) on your behalf. Of course, if you need to tweak this, that’s still possible. We believe you should always be in control of what’s going on. The actual low level details of how that is done are interesting as well, but a followup post will explain how we did it (and how you can do it too!). If you want to create your own composable modules for making cloud deployments easier then definitely look for that post!

Now, while it’s how the above examples worked, it’s also worth noting that the use of a JavaScript function for the AWS Lambda is not required. You can hook up a serverless event to call an AWS Lambda you create just by using new aws.lambda.Function. Or, you can get a reference to an existing AWS Lambda created outside of Pulumi and have that be the receiver of your serverless event. Here’s how that would look:

import * as aws from "@pulumi/aws";
import * as slack from "@slack/client";

// Create a simple bucket.
const bucket = new aws.s3.Bucket("testbucket", {
    serverSideEncryptionConfiguration: ...,
    forceDestroy: true,
});

// Retrieve an existing Lambda Function already created in your AWS infrastructure.
const func = aws.lambda.Function.get("postToSlack", "... existing lambda arn ...");

// Call that Lambda Function when an object is created in the bucket.
bucket.onObjectCreated("postToSlack", func);

We’ve tried to make it this simple to hook up many interesting AWS serverless events. For example, you can register to hear about events on S3 Buckets, SNS Topics, SQS Queues, Kinesis Streams, DynamoDB Tables, Cloudwatch Events, and more. We’ve tried to provide these prebuilt components for the most common and interesting cases. If there’s some serverless event we haven’t added support for that you want to use, definitely let us know!

Finally, because we think it’s great to be able to use a JavaScript or TypeScript function as the code for your Lambda, we’ve introduced a simple quality-of-life improvement for writing those functions. Specifically, because it’s so common that one will use the real AWS SDK for Node.js within a Lambda, we’ve provided a quick and simple way to get to a fully initialized instance of that API without needing any additional requires or imports in your code. Here’s how that would look:

// The only module you need to import.
import * as aws from "@pulumi/aws";

// ...

bucket.onObjectCreated("postToSlack", async (e) => {
  // direct access to the aws-sdk through `aws.sdk`.
  const sqs = new aws.sdk.SQS();
  sqs.sendMessage(/*...*/);
});

This allows you to use @pulumi/aws as both the deployment-time API to define your AWS infrastructure, as well as being the run-time API that you can use when your Lambda executes to access the full set of AWS functionality.

To get a sense of a more complete example of how this all ties together you can see many of our examples. One example that helps demonstrate many of the above concept is Twitter+Athena. In it, we use serverless events to define a schedule, a callback to invoke when the even t fires, use of a third-party twitter API to retrieve a set of relevant Tweets, use of the aws-sdk to store the Tweet information into an S3 Bucket, and finally the creation of an Athena Query to extract information from the information stored into the bucket. You could augment this example with any number of resources and events for all sorts of interesting use cases.

As we’ve seen, with a tiny amount of code, you can easily define the cloud resources you want to create (or reference your existing cloud resources). It’s then simple to add code to respond to events and call new or existing Lambdas. And, if you use a JavaScript function to create your Lambda, you can reference those resources along with the AWS SDK easily, all within the same application code!

Topics: AWS, JavaScript, Serverless

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