Python the latest language to slither into Microsoft's serverless Azure Functions service

Look, we caught up with AWS

Python developers – the world of Azure Functions is yours at last.

Having been in preview for a while, support for Python 3.6 on the Azure Functions 2.0 platform has emerged blinking into the light with Microsoft unsurprisingly pitching the tech directly at those who like a little serverless with their machine learning and data science.

The functions themselves can be published as code or Docker containers to a Linux-based serverless hosting platform in Azure.

With all the not-invented-here technology currently flying around the halls of Redmond, it is almost as if the former Windows giant is attempting to be all things to all developers. Someone crueller than us might say "jack of all trades, master of none".

Still, with Python hovering around the top of the language tables, the arrival of General Availability will please those who have bought into Azure's serverless vision. Arch-rival AWS has, of course, enjoyed Python support in Lambda Functions for a while now.

The programming model for Azure Functions is based on event triggers and data bindings, and Microsoft envisages developers using the Python support to transform and process data through bindings or react to alerts or events within Azure to, for example, automate cloud resources.

It's an enticing option for developers – building and debugging locally before deploying to the cloud makes things considerably simpler, and in our once-around-the-block with the technology using the current darling of developers, Visual Studio Code, it was almost deceptively simple to coax into life.

We used the Azure Functions extension for Visual Studio Code coupled with the Python extension to get up and running. While we'd dispute Microsoft's "matter of minutes" claim, the ability to test locally before things go all cloudy was very handy when it came to figuring out why our code refused to work.

Azure Functions Core Tools will also allow developers to code with the editor of their choice, and naturally Microsoft would really like you to use the Azure Pipelines integration found in Azure DevOps to keep things under control in a continuous delivery world.

After all, as Jeff Hollan, a senior program manager in the Azure Functions team, told us: "Tech friends don't let friends right-click publish." Jeff later attributed the quote to Microsoft Cloud DevOps Advocate Damian Brady, but it's a handy reminder that while things seem to be headed in the direction of serverless, control is still required.

And, of course, all the Python love doesn't get away from some of the limitations inherent in serverless functions, be they Azure, AWS or GCP.

While issues like cold starts and sudden death after 10 minutes of running are a pain on the standard consumption plan, things are improved by ponying up for the Premium plan, which should keep things toasty warm and running quite a bit longer. AWS will give Lambda functions 15 minutes to do their stuff before bringing down the axe.

Python support for Azure Functions is therefore to be welcomed, but developers will still need to ponder how and when it should be deployed. ®

Other stories you might like

  • DigitalOcean sets sail for serverless seas with Functions feature
    Might be something for those who find AWS, Azure, GCP overly complex

    DigitalOcean dipped its toes in the serverless seas Tuesday with the launch of a Functions service it's positioning as a developer-friendly alternative to Amazon Web Services Lambda, Microsoft Azure Functions, and Google Cloud Functions.

    The platform enables developers to deploy blocks or snippets of code without concern for the underlying infrastructure, hence the name serverless. However, according to DigitalOcean Chief Product Officer Gabe Monroy, most serverless platforms are challenging to use and require developers to rewrite their apps for the new architecture. The ultimate goal being to structure, or restructure, an application into bits of code that only run when events occur, without having to provision servers and stand up and leave running a full stack.

    "Competing solutions are not doing a great job at meeting developers where they are with workloads that are already running today," Monroy told The Register.

    Continue reading
  • Microsoft Azure to spin up AMD MI200 GPU clusters for 'large scale' AI training
    Windows giant carries a PyTorch for chip designer and its rival Nvidia

    Microsoft Build Microsoft Azure on Thursday revealed it will use AMD's top-tier MI200 Instinct GPUs to perform “large-scale” AI training in the cloud.

    “Azure will be the first public cloud to deploy clusters of AMD's flagship MI200 GPUs for large-scale AI training,” Microsoft CTO Kevin Scott said during the company’s Build conference this week. “We've already started testing these clusters using some of our own AI workloads with great performance.”

    AMD launched its MI200-series GPUs at its Accelerated Datacenter event last fall. The GPUs are based on AMD’s CDNA2 architecture and pack 58 billion transistors and up to 128GB of high-bandwidth memory into a dual-die package.

    Continue reading
  • Despite 'key' partnership with AWS, Meta taps up Microsoft Azure for AI work
    Someone got Zuck'd

    Meta’s AI business unit set up shop in Microsoft Azure this week and announced a strategic partnership it says will advance PyTorch development on the public cloud.

    The deal [PDF] will see Mark Zuckerberg’s umbrella company deploy machine-learning workloads on thousands of Nvidia GPUs running in Azure. While a win for Microsoft, the partnership calls in to question just how strong Meta’s commitment to Amazon Web Services (AWS) really is.

    Back in those long-gone days of December, Meta named AWS as its “key long-term strategic cloud provider." As part of that, Meta promised that if it bought any companies that used AWS, it would continue to support their use of Amazon's cloud, rather than force them off into its own private datacenters. The pact also included a vow to expand Meta’s consumption of Amazon’s cloud-based compute, storage, database, and security services.

    Continue reading
  • If you're using the ctx Python package, bad news: Vandal added info-stealing code
    Domain associated with maintainer email expired, taken over in supply-chain attack

    Updated The Python Package Index (PyPI), a repository for Python software libraries, has advised Python developers that the ctx package has been compromised.

    Any installation of the software in the past ten days should be investigated to determine whether sensitive account identifiers stored in environment variables, such as cloud access keys, have been stolen.

    The PyPI administrators estimate that about 27,000 malicious copies of ctx were downloaded from the registry since the rogue versions of ctx first appeared, starting around 19:18 UTC on May 14, 2022.

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022