Exploring serverless know-how by benchmarking AWS Lambda

At Coinbase, we’re excited for the potential of serverless — if applied accurately it will probably present robust 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 embrace:

  • How dramatic is the VPC chilly begin penalty actually? This has a big effect on what database know-how we select (AWS DynamoDB and AWS Aurora Serverless have “public” APIs). We’d heard that ENI Chilly Begin may very well be as much as 10 seconds, is that basically true? How continuously?
  • How does the scale of the Lambda have an effect on chilly begin occasions? If a smaller package deal can scale back chilly begin occasions, it might 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.


For those who learn the above bullet factors with out skipping a beat, be happy to skip on to the subsequent part. In any other case, the beneath vocabulary part ought to assist present a refresher to among the phrases used all through the put up.

  • AWS Lambda — Absolutely managed compute as a service. AWS Lambda shops and runs code (“features”) on demand. Features are run within sandboxed containers on host machines managed by AWS and created routinely to answer altering demand.
  • Heat Begin — Between operate executions, containers are “paused” on the host machine. A heat begin is any execution of an AWS Lambda operate the place an idle container already exists on a number machine and is executed from this paused state.
  • Chilly Begin — When a operate is executed however an idle container doesn't exist, AWS Lambda will begin a brand new container to execute your operate. For the reason that host machine must load the operate into reminiscence (from presumably S3), chilly begin executions exhibit longer execution occasions than heat begins.
  • ENI — Elastic Community Interfaces symbolize a digital community card and are required for Lambdas to speak to sources within an AWS VPC (Digital Personal Community) to entry sources like inside load balancers, or databases like RDS or Elasticache.
  • ENI Chilly Begin — In an effort to talk inside a VPC, an ENI matching the safety group of the Lambda should exist on the host machine when a operate is initialized. If an ENI doesn't exist already on the host machine, it have to be created earlier than a operate will be executed. ENIs will 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 technique 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 search out the solutions to our questions and located a number of nice papers and weblog posts. Nevertheless, there have been some questions that we didn’t really feel had been straight answered, or a minimum of not within the context of the particular applied sciences we have been utilizing. Moreover, even when we belief the outcomes of the checks, 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 collection of easy Lambdas to carry out these checks. Actually we solely wanted our framework to carry out a collection of chilly and heat invocations of a given Lambda package deal. 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 drive chilly begins by merely re-uploading a operate’s payload.

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

Database/VPC Efficiency

Our first check was designed to check the efficiency of our most typical databases from within Lambda. Since a lot of the databases we leverage dwell inside an AWS VPC, this check would additionally inherently check 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 aside from Aurora Serverless and DynamoDB required us to create the Lambda inside a VPC.

The outcomes from the chilly begin check shocked us. We had anticipated ENI creation to contribute extra continuously to the chilly begin time of the Lambdas that have been created inside a VPC. As a substitute, chilly begin occasions gave the impression to be constant throughout the board apart from considerably extra outliers on VPC Lambdas.

It grew to become clear from these outcomes that not each VPC chilly begin requires ENI creation. Somewhat, AWS reuses current 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 entire variety of current ENIs within the invoking Lambda’s safety group.

We wished to know extra reliably the impression of an ENI Chilly Begin on Lambda invocation time. So we ran the check once more and compelled ENI creation by recreating VPC Lambdas in a brief new safety group earlier than every invocation. These checks extra clearly spotlight the heavy penalty of an ENI Chilly Begin, requiring at minimal 7.5 seconds and continuously greater than 20 seconds!

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

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

Bundle Sizes

Our second check was designed to know the chilly begin efficiency of package deal sizes throughout the AWS Lambda reminiscence sizes. We’d learn that the quantity of compute offered to a given AWS Lambda operate is predicated on the provisioned reminiscence of the operate.

This check was no totally different than the earlier check, besides this time we merely included massive randomly generated recordsdata within the zip we uploaded to Lambda.

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


Our ultimate check was designed to know 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 check executes a quite simple scripts that merely returns the “chilly” world variable and the basis X-Ray hint ID.

The outcomes of the check 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 check 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 embrace:

  • Any ENI Chilly Begin in a sizzling/buyer going through path will lead to what we contemplate to be an unacceptable spike in latency. ENI Chilly Begins will be mitigated by permitting shared Lambda features to share safety teams (a minimum of till AWS solves these issues sometime in 2019).
  • Lambda package deal measurement does matter considerably for chilly begin executions. Customers needs to be cautious to keep away from sizzling paths with packages within the 100MB+ vary.
  • Provisioned Lambda reminiscence measurement issues lower than anticipated — on the decrease finish of the size (128MB) we have been capable of observe heightened response occasions, 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. Because of this we are able to really feel comfy permitting builders to jot down features in whichever language they really feel most comfy.

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

For those who’re fascinated by serving to us build a contemporary, scalable platform for the way forward for crypto markets, we’re hiring in San Francisco!

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