AWS cooks up Extensions API for Lambda serverless platform: Useful for monitoring, alerting

Cloud Functions rival flings out preview that enables custom code to handle lifecycle events

Cloud computing behemoth Amazon Web Services, has pushed out an Extensions API for its Lambda serverless platform that lets developers write custom code to handle lifecycle events – such as when the environment starts, invokes functions, and shuts down.

AWS Lambda runs functions on demand. It works by firing up an execution environment when a function is called, with a choice of runtimes including various versions of Java, Node.js, Python, .NET and Ruby, or a custom runtime. The environment stays running while there are frequent function invocations, and shuts itself down if not required for a period.

The Extensions API allows developers to write code for the three phases of the Lambda lifecycle: the init phase, when the environment starts up; the invoke phase, when functions run; and the shutdown phase, when the environment closes down.

Extensions can run either internally on the execution runtime, for purposes such as instrumenting code, or externally as companion processes, for purposes such as fetching secrets and caching them in the execution environment.

Lambda customer Square, a provider of eCommerce tools, has described how it used the new API to write an extension in Go that improves function startup time by fetching secrets before the runtime starts, and reported around 30-40 per cent reduction in cold start time.

Lambda extensions can run as parallel processes to the code on the runtime itself

Extensions are ideal for monitoring function execution on Lambda, and the usual suspects – companies like AppDynamics, DataDog, New Relic and Splunk, which provide monitoring and alerting services – have been quick to use them to integrate with their tools. The newly published API opens up ways for developers to optimise and monitor Lambda deployments using custom code. Extensions are deployed using Lambda layers, a way of packaging function dependencies. The pricing model is the same as for Lambda itself, based on a combination of the number of requests served and the compute time consumed.

Separately, AWS has also previewed CloudWatch Lambda Insights, CloudWatch being its own monitoring service. A multi-function view "provides visibility into issues such as memory leaks or performance changes caused by new function versions". CloudWatch users can enable Lambda Insights with a single click in the AWS console, where it is called Enhanced Monitoring, or via other tools such as the command-line interface (CLI).

The Extensions API is another piece in making Lambda more manageable and complete. Monitoring provider Thundra, another company taking advantage of the new feature, remarked that the "Extensions API will help companies that complain about the limitations of serverless overcome those challenges."

Serverless is the "best abstraction for deploying software", according to some experts, with Lambda the most popular option, though Microsoft has its equivalent in Azure Functions and Google has Cloud Functions. ®

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20,000 proteins expressed by human genome predicted by DeepMind's AlphaFold now available to download

Plus: Facial-recognition upstart Clearview raises $30m

In brief Deepmind and the European Bioinformatics Institute released a database of more than 350,000 3D protein structures predicted by the biz's AI model AlphaFold.

That data covers the 20,000 or so proteins made in the human body, and is available for anyone to study. The proteomes of 20 other organisms, from Zebrafish to E.coli bacteria, are also in there, too, and hundreds of millions of more structures will be added over time, we're told.

“In the hands of scientists around the world, this new protein almanac will enable and accelerate research that will advance our understanding of these building blocks of life,” said DeepMind’s CEO Demis Hassabis. He hopes that it will be a valuable resource that will be used in the discovery of new drugs and our understanding of diseases.

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For a true display of wealth, dab printer ink behind your ears instead of Chanel No. 5

Litre of the office essential costs as much as £2,410 – up from £1,700 in 2003, finds Which?

Printer ink continues to rank as one of the most expensive liquids around with a litre of the home office essential costing the same as a very high-end bottle of bubbly or an oak-aged Cognac.

Consumer advocate Which? has found that ink bought from printer manufactures can be up to 286 per cent more expensive than third-party alternatives.

Dipping its nib in one inkwell before delicately wiping off the excess on some blotting paper, Which? found that a multipack of colour ink (cyan, magenta, yellow) for the WorkForce WF-7210DTW printer costs £75.49 from Epson.

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The cockroach of Windows, XP, lives on in London's Victoria Coach Station

The three horsemen of the borkpocalypse: CMOS error, XP and... death

BORK!BORK!BORK! Windows XP is coming up to a 20th birthday yet it is heartening to see that the OS can still be guaranteed to take its place as one of the three horsemen of the borkpocalypse.

While not actually on a screen of blue, the ugly face of Windows XP has shown itself nestled between a CMOS error and another screen that has simply decided to end it all.

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After staring over the precipice once before, Kent County Council considers £500m in outsourcing again

Promise of 'efficiencies' may be appealing to authority facing £100m COVID black hole

Kent County Council is inviting IT services companies and BPO specialists to bid for places on a £500m framework agreement set to offer a range of outsourcing services to the English public authority.

In a contract notice published this week, the council put them market on notice to bid to be part of the cool half-billion deal, in the hope suppliers can "improve efficiency, provide an agile and reliable solution that will transform and meet [the council's] business objectives."

The Framework Agreement for Managed Services is set to see "the outsourcing [of] day-to-day management responsibilities and functions as a strategic method for transforming and improving business processes, through efficiencies, effectiveness and cutting operating costs," the notice said.

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Windows 11 comes bearing THAAS, Trojan Horse as a service

You may know it better as Teams. Giddy up

Column You can spot a veteran of the Browser Wars a mile off. These fearsome conflicts, fought across the desktops of the world not 20 years ago, left deep scars. Just whisper "Best viewed in IE6" in any crowd of Generation 95'ers, and watch grown men and women weep like babies as their hands grasp for an invisible mouse to click on that long-gone Close Window.

By Gen XP, it was all over and the internet desktop was under total Empire control. Then came the Rebel Alliance of Chrome and Firefox, and in a few short years we were liberated.

Like every peacetime generation, those since have forgotten the conflict. They assume that freedom is here by right. The desktop is an antique battleground, as obsolete as warships in the Baltic. We are mobile, we are cloud, all places where access lock-in is baked out.

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What is your greatest weakness? The definitive list of the many kinds of interviewer you will meet in Hell

You don't mind if we record this, do you?

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Russia's Pirs ISS module scheduled to fall away, much like Moscow's interest in the space station

Troubled Nauka might actually make it after four orbit corrections – since we left work Friday

Russia's space agency spent the weekend trying to get one module to the International Space Station and deciding to ditch another.

The module Moscow wants is Nauka, which launched last week after decades of delays caused by problems with its propulsion systems, tank contamination, and component expiration.

Nauka quickly found more trouble as its propulsion systems and docking sensors proved problematic.

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Somebody is destined for somewhere hot, and definitely not Coventry

Praise be for Firewalls

Who, Me? Welcome to Who, Me?, where hallowed ground gets trampled as a reader inadvertently cleans up the collective act of the senior staff.

Our story, told to us by "Susan" takes us back a quarter of a century to her time working for a well-known seller of mortgages in the UK (a firm that, for reasons that will become clear, will remain anonymous.)

Susan was ostensibly employed as a Visual Basic 6 and Microsoft SQL Server developer, as – let's face it – an awful lot of us were back then. Client/Server was where it was at, and Cloud Native was yet to trouble administrators.

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Fit for purpose: The case for the purpose-built database

One size does not fit all

Sponsored Remember when the only database in town was relational? Things have changed in 20 years. Today, the venerable old relational database management system (RDBMS) still presides, but the market is also filled with new database types designed for different kinds of jobs.

Database concepts predate the RDBMS, in the form of hierarchical and network databases, and even further back in the form of punched card collections. But it was really E.F Codd's relational concept, published in 1970, that ushered in the era of modern database computing. His concept of tables and rows separated the logical data model neatly from the underlying physical storage, and led to a flurry of database engines from the mid-seventies onwards.

The RDBMS was perfectly adequate for most applications for decades, but the seeds of change had already been planted. Just a year before Codd published his first paper, the Stanford Research Institute and UCLA exchanged the first ever internet message. That would eventually change everything, creating an internet that would morph computing forever, increasing applications' scale and scope.

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VMware's security boss suddenly bails

Tom Corn heads to Open Systems as Virtzilla hints its SmartNIC push has borne fruit

Video VMware's security products boss has bailed.

Tom Corn, until last week the company's Senior Vice President of Security Products, tweeted the news on Thursday.

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DEF CON offers beginner-level Spot the Fed this year: He'll be on stage giving a keynote

Plus: Microsoft responds to another NTLM relay attack technique, and more

In brief DEF CON's "Spot the Fed" game is going to be a little easier than usual this year: the head of the US government's Homeland Security is giving a keynote.

On Friday, the infosec conference organizers confirmed Alejandro Mayorkas will give a talk on Friday, August 6. The news has left some DEF CON veterans perturbed.

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