Exploring serverless expertise by benchmarking AWS Lambda

At Coinbase, we’re excited for the potential of serverless — if carried out appropriately it may possibly present sturdy safety ensures and “infinite” scalability at a dramatically decrease value. As we’ve explored the potential for serverless, we’ve discovered ourselves interested in the true world efficiency of sure use circumstances. A number of the questions we’ve begun to ask embody:

  • How dramatic is the VPC chilly begin penalty actually? This has a big effect on what database expertise we select (AWS DynamoDB and AWS Aurora Serverless have “public” APIs). We’d heard that ENI Chilly Begin could possibly be as much as 10 seconds, is that actually true? How steadily?
  • How does the scale of the Lambda have an effect on chilly begin instances? If a smaller bundle can scale back chilly begin instances, it could make sense to divide Lambdas into smaller packages. In any other case, it'd make extra sense to leverage “monolith” Lambdas.
  • We’d learn that Python can actually exhibit faster cold start times than Golang within the context of Lambda execution. As a Ruby/Golang store we’re curious to see how the efficiency of our runtimes stack up.


In the event you learn the above bullet factors with out skipping a beat, be at liberty to skip on to the subsequent part. In any other case, the beneath vocabulary part ought to assist present a refresher to a number of the phrases used all through the put up.

  • AWS Lambda — Totally managed compute as a service. AWS Lambda shops and runs code (“features”) on demand. Capabilities are run within sandboxed containers on host machines managed by AWS and created robotically to answer altering demand.
  • Heat Begin — Between perform executions, containers are “paused” on the host machine. A heat begin is any execution of an AWS Lambda perform the place an idle container already exists on a bunch machine and is executed from this paused state.
  • Chilly Begin — When a perform is executed however an idle container doesn't exist, AWS Lambda will begin a brand new container to execute your perform. Because the host machine must load the perform into reminiscence (from presumably S3), chilly begin executions exhibit longer execution instances than heat begins.
  • ENI — Elastic Community Interfaces symbolize a digital community card and are required for Lambdas to speak to assets within an AWS VPC (Digital Personal Community) to entry assets like inside load balancers, or databases like RDS or Elasticache.
  • ENI Chilly Begin — To be able to talk inside a VPC, an ENI matching the safety group of the Lambda should exist on the host machine when a perform is initialized. If an ENI doesn't exist already on the host machine, it should be created earlier than a perform might be executed. ENIs might be reused between Lambdas that share the identical safety group, however can't be shared throughout safety teams even for a similar VPC. AWS Plans to repair these points sometime in 2019.
  • Field Plot — A way to visually symbolize numeric knowledge by quartile. On this put up outliers are proven as factors exterior of the field.

The Setup

We started poking round on the web to seek out the solutions to our questions and located a number of nice papers and weblog posts. Nonetheless, there have been some questions that we didn’t really feel had been immediately answered, or no less than not within the context of the particular applied sciences we have been utilizing. In addition to, even when we belief the outcomes of the assessments, why not confirm? So we determined to take an try at discovering our personal solutions to those questions.

We wrote a small testing harness and a sequence of straightforward Lambdas to carry out these assessments. Actually we solely wanted our framework to carry out a sequence of chilly and heat invocations of a given Lambda bundle. We're capable of detect whether or not a Lambda is invoked chilly or heat by setting a worldwide variable “chilly” to false on first execution in order that whereas the primary invocation will return “chilly = true”, each subsequent invocation will return “chilly = false”. We're capable of pressure chilly begins by merely re-uploading a perform’s payload.

We used three completely different sources to measure invocation time: billing period, noticed period, and AWS X-Ray hint statistics. Since billing period doesn't embody chilly begin time, and X-Ray hint statistics don't embody ENI creation time, we use noticed time for many of our assessments.

Database/VPC Efficiency

Our first take a look at was designed to check the efficiency of our most typical databases from within Lambda. Since a lot of the databases we leverage stay inside an AWS VPC, this take a look at would additionally inherently take a look at the efficiency of Lambdas created inside a VPC (this primarily being the extra time essential to initialize an ENI on the host the place our Lambda lived).

We examined six databases, Aurora Serverless, Aurora MySQL, DynamoDB, Elasticache Redis, Elasticache Memcached, and MongoDB (Atlas). All apart from Aurora Serverless and DynamoDB required us to create the Lambda inside a VPC.

The outcomes from the chilly begin take a look at shocked us. We had anticipated ENI creation to contribute extra steadily to the chilly begin time of the Lambdas that have been created inside a VPC. As a substitute, chilly begin instances appeared to be constant throughout the board aside from considerably extra outliers on VPC Lambdas.

It turned clear from these outcomes that not each VPC chilly begin requires ENI creation. Quite, AWS reuses present ENIs throughout Lambda execution. So whereas technically Lambdas in a VPC have been extra liable to expertise an ENI Chilly Begin, the variety of chilly begins skilled was depending on the full variety of present ENIs within the invoking Lambda’s safety group.

We needed to grasp extra reliably the impression of an ENI Chilly Begin on Lambda invocation time. So we ran the take a look at once more and compelled ENI creation by recreating VPC Lambdas in a short lived new safety group earlier than every invocation. These assessments extra clearly spotlight the heavy penalty of an ENI Chilly Begin, requiring at minimal 7.5 seconds and steadily greater than 20 seconds!

Usain Bolt can run 100m quicker than it takes to ENI Chilly begin a Lambda

These assessments remind us to watch out when inserting VPC Lambdas in scorching or buyer going through paths. Some potential methods we're to mitigate the impression of ENI Chilly Begins are to let associated Lambdas share safety teams (and due to this fact ENIs) or inserting all VPC Lambdas on a 5–10 minute timer to make sure ENIs are created forward of execution.

Bundle Sizes

Our second take a look at was designed to grasp the chilly begin efficiency of bundle sizes throughout the AWS Lambda reminiscence sizes. We’d learn that the quantity of compute supplied to a given AWS Lambda perform is predicated on the provisioned reminiscence of the perform.

This take a look at was no completely different than the earlier take a look at, besides this time we merely included massive randomly generated recordsdata within the zip we uploaded to Lambda.

The outcomes for this take a look at have been clear: massive bundle sizes equal massive chilly begin penalties. It follows that Lambda pulls down a perform’s bundle to the invoking host on chilly begins, however what’s much less clear is why there’s such a large penalty on bigger sized packages. The straightforward math is {that a} 10s chilly begin for a 249MB bundle is a obtain velocity of 200mbps, fairly a bit beneath the 25gbps that an r5.steel or related might present. This means that AWS is throttling chilly begin bandwidth on a per-lambda foundation. The shortage of a efficiency increase on bigger reminiscence Lambdas appears to indicate that this isn't depending on Lambda reminiscence measurement.


Our ultimate take a look at was designed to grasp the chilly and heat begin efficiency of the varied AWS Lambda runtimes. We selected to match Ruby and Golang (together with Python as a management) since they’re the first languages we leverage internally. This take a look at executes a quite simple scripts that merely returns the “chilly” international variable and the basis X-Ray hint ID.

The outcomes of the take a look at point out that whereas Golang comes out on high for each chilly and heat begin efficiency, there may be not a dramatic distinction in execution time between the three languages. The outcomes of this take a look at permit us to really feel comfy permitting engineers to jot down Lambda features in whichever language they really feel most comfy.


In abstract a few of our main takeaways embody:

  • Any ENI Chilly Begin in a scorching/buyer going through path will end in what we contemplate to be an unacceptable spike in latency. ENI Chilly Begins might be mitigated by permitting shared Lambda features to share safety teams (no less than till AWS solves these issues sometime in 2019).
  • Lambda bundle measurement does matter considerably for chilly begin executions. Customers must be cautious to keep away from scorching paths with packages within the 100MB+ vary.
  • Provisioned Lambda reminiscence measurement issues lower than anticipated — on the decrease finish of the dimensions (128MB) we have been capable of observe heightened response instances, however the impression of measurement on lambdas bigger than 512MB was negligible.
  • The distinction between compiled and interpreted languages (Golang vs Ruby) turned out to be far much less dramatic than we had anticipated. In consequence we will really feel comfy permitting builders to jot down features in whichever language they really feel most comfy.

We’re excited to run these identical assessments sooner or later to see how AWS Lambda efficiency is altering over time!

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Exploring serverless technology by benchmarking AWS Lambda was initially revealed in The Coinbase Blog on Medium, the place individuals are persevering with the dialog by highlighting and responding to this story.

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