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Serverless on AWS is a Game Changer

Sam Kroonenburg
Sam Kroonenburg

When we set out to build A Cloud Guru, we didn’t have some grand vision to do away with servers.

Our decisions were driven by the practical realities of a bootstrap startup. Why pay to run a set of servers that are always on… always waiting… when AWS lambda could just execute some code when our users actually wanted to dosomething?

Why build and maintain a complex authentication system ourselves? Why setup, maintain and monitor database servers, when there are plenty of cloud storage services out there? Why build out an API, when we can just define on in AWS API Gateway?

Why manage something, if someone will manage it for us?

This architectural approach turned out to be a game changer for us. Not just in terms of the tech. In terms of our entire mindset for running the business.

Serverless — the Future of Software Architecture? — Serverless architecture cuts out the middle-man and brings the UI closer to the data store —

For context — we run an online training platform that helps engineers learn the ins and outs of AWS and prepare for AWS certification exams. It’s an online community of 250,000 engineers all connected and interacting in real time. We built the platform ourselves from the ground up on AWS. And we don’t run a single server.

In 6 months we’ve scaled to 40,000 users, and we don’t run a single server. Not one, anywhere. In fact, the only computers that our company has are our staff’s laptops.

Serverless Game Changer #1: Insane Speed to Market

Without having to build a backend, we got to market quickly. Within 4 weeks of starting the build, in fact. This enabled us to get users on the platform early and get their feedback often. It lead us to build a better product… a product that our users could give input to and help to craft.

Serverless Game Changer #2: Disruptively Low Cost

Serverless architecture has enabled us to have an extremely low operating cost base. We don’t run servers or infrastructure, which means we don’t have to employ people to maintain and monitor them. There are no servers to be patched, no auto scaling groups to manage, no compute performance metrics to worry about.

Instead we use a lot of different cloud services (such as AWS services, Auth0Intercom etc), to whom we pay fees on a monthly basis. This model brings economies of scale, because these companies provide the same service to tens/hundreds of thousands of customers and are optimised to deliver the service very cost-effectively.

This low cost model has enabled us to deliver our training with a disruptively low cost pricing model, and attract a large user base quickly. This has fueled the growth of our platform.

Serverless Game Changer #3: Mindset Shift

This is the most important one. The serverless approach has actually crafted the mindset of our company… our ethos, our identity.

The web is full of smart people doing incredible things. Let’s leverage their hard work and reward them for it. Let’s utilise the vast array of incredible online services to enhance our platform and lighten our own load.

Let’s free ourselves up to build the best social learning platform for our users. For engineers who want to understand the inner workings of AWS. For engineers who want to get AWS certified, build their profile and improve their career.

Interested in upscaling or beginning your journey with Cloud Architecture? A Cloud Guru’s AWS Architect Learning Paths offers custom courses fit for beginners and advanced gurus!

We Believe …

Don’t do the things that someone else can do.

Do the things that only we can do.

A Cloud Guru leverages cloud services for just about everything:

  • Code execution
  • Authentication
  • Data storage and real time streaming of updates
  • Beautiful, engaging email notifications
  • Payments & invoice generation
  • Tax compliance
  • On-demand thumbnail generation & image compression (just in time)
  • Build automation & CDN distribution
  • Video transcoding to a wide range of formats
  • Search and indexing
  • Browser testing
  • Web page pre-rendering for social media sharing
  • Customer messaging
  • Analytics and segmentation

… it goes on.

So apart from some of the very real and tangible benefits of serverless on AWS, like low operating costs and rapid innovation speed… it’s the shift in mindset that has paid the biggest dividends for our business. It’s the questioning behind every little decision…

Do we really need to do this ourselves? Is this already a solved problem?

Sam Kroonenburg

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