What is AWS Lambda?

With AWS Lambda, users run their code in serverless functions, and AWS takes care of the backend administration. In addition, Lambda’s “only pay for what you use” model helps enterprises avoid paying for unused cloud resources. Because it abstracts away operational complexity and can reduce cloud costs, Lambda has surged in popularity and become an essential part of serverless architecture for many enterprises. 

Below, we’ll take a closer look at how AWS Lambda works, its features and benefits, and how enterprises can secure their Lambda workloads.

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What is AWS Lambda?

How does AWS Lambda work?

From the user perspective, the way AWS Lambda works can be summarized in four steps.

#1. Upload code to Lambda or write it directly in the Lambda console editor.

Developers can upload code they have already written, or use Lambda’s native editor to write code from scratch. Generally, the Lambda code needs to be stateless. This means it should not depend on the state of the underlying infrastructure, file systems, or child processes. If stateful data is required, it can be called from other AWS services like S3. The code uploaded or written in this step is known as a Lambda function. Each Lambda function requires some basic metadata configuration including a name, resource requirements, and entrypoint.

#2. Configure triggers that execute the code.

Triggers are simply automatic responses to events. They allow Lambda functions to run as a result of specific events or actions. For example, an API call or modification to a DynamoDB database can act as a trigger for a Lambda function.

#3. When a triggering event occurs, Lambda runs the code automatically.

Once triggers are configured, every time they occur AWS will automatically run the Lambda function. Enterprises don’t need to worry about the underlying infrastructure, operating system patching, monitoring, or logging. The functions run and scale as needed. 

#4. AWS bills only for the resources the Lambda code uses while running.

Customers are billed based on the time Lambda resources are running. The duration of a given run of a Lambda function is measured from the time it begins until it completes (or terminates) rounded up to the nearest millisecond.

Key AWS Lambda features

AWS Lambda offers a variety of features that make it possible for enterprises to reliably scale workloads in the AWS cloud. Some of the most important Lambda features are:

  • Autoscaling. Lambda automatically scales based on incoming requests. That means that performance remains consistent even for highly burstable workloads. Because Lambda functions are stateless, the platform can trigger them rapidly without configuration or deployment delays. 
  • Support for multiple languages. Lambda natively supports Python, Java, PowerShell, Ruby, C#, Go, and Node.js. Additionally, enterprises can use the Lambda Runtime API to use other programming languages for their Lambda functions. 
  • Automated administration. Infrastructure management, patching, monitoring, and logging is complex and time-consuming. Lambda removes this complexity by making administration part of the underlying service. Enterprises only need to worry about the code and triggers. 
  • Blueprints. Function blueprints make writing Lambda functions that interact with AWS services and 3rd party apps easier. 
  • Integrations with other AWS and 3rd party services. Lambda easily integrates with a variety of other AWS services including RDS Proxy, Elastic File System, S3, and CloudFront. Additionally, Lambda is extensible enough to easily integrate with a variety of other 3rd party services including identity providers.
  • Code Signing. Code signing validates the authenticity of Lambda code. With signed function code, enterprises can help ensure only approved and unmodified Lambda functions are executed.

The Key Benefits of AWS Lambda

Of course, the features of AWS Lambda only matter if they provide practical benefits. The key benefits of Lambda for modern enterprises include: 

  1. True serverless architecture. The promise of serverless architecture is that enterprises can run workloads without managing servers. Lambda makes that possible at scale on the largest cloud infrastructure provider in the world. Enterprises don’t need to worry about patching, maintenance, fault tolerance, or scalability, they simply focus on their workloads and code.

  2. Reduced costs. The pay-as-you-go pricing model means enterprises aren’t stuck purchasing compute resources they rarely use.

  3. Iterative development. Serverless architecture enables rapid innovation and iterative development. With Lambda, enterprise development teams can deploy code faster and feedback loops.

For a deeper dive into the benefits of Lambda, check out 7 Benefits of AWS Lambda for Cloud Computing.

AWS Lambda and Serverless Security Challenges

While serverless architecture abstracts away many tasks such as patching and operating system hardening, serverless security comes with its own unique set of challenges. For example, applications are now broken up into many Lambda functions that may use triggers from a wide range of sources. This creates more attack vectors enterprises must protect. Similarly, creating policies that enforce the principle of least privilege and zero trust across becomes more complex as the number of functions grows. 

Fortunately, modern Cloud Workload Protection Platform (CWPP) and other cloud security solutions can help enterprises address these serverless security challenges.

Enterprise-grade AWS Lambda Security with Check Point

Check Point CloudGuard for Serverless Security is purpose-built to address the challenges of securing serverless architecture and Lambda. For example, with CloudGuard, enterprises gain:

  • Continuous scanning of serverless functions.
  • Function Self Protection (FSP) to baseline and whitelist behavior and protect workloads without hurting performance.
  • Static code and function analysis to automatically determine least privilege recommendations. 
  • Zero-touch serverless security and threat prevention with allowlisting, blocklisting, and pattern matching applied at the function-level. 

If you’d like to learn more about serverless security, download the free Serverless Security Risks and Mitigation Strategies ebook  which covers:

  • The way serverless fundamentally changes how enterprises approach DevOps and security.
  • Serverless security advantages and challenges. 
  • Serverless security risk mitigation. 

If want to try CloudGuard for yourself, sign up to schedule a free CloudGuard Workload demo. In the demo, you’ll see how to automatically generate least privilege roles, detect and address runtime security risks, and much more

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