Which AWS Lambda programming language should you use?

To me personally, when I think programming languages I think JavaScript and while 67% of the developers out there might think the same (at first) that does not imply it’s the most efficient language to use with AWS Lambda.

So without further ado, here we go.

1. Java

Java has been in service for decades and is, to this day, a reliable option when choosing the backbone of your stack. With AWS Lambda is no different as it makes a strong candidate for your functions.

Java applications in AWS Lambda have the following merits.

Reliable and well-tested libraries. The libraries will make life easy for you through enhanced testability and maintainability of AWS Lambda tasks.

Predictive performance. While Java has slower spin up time, you can easily predict the memory needs of your functions and to counteract those dreaded colds starts you can just up your memory allocation.

Tooling Support. Java has a wide range of tooling support which includes Eclipse, IntelliJ IDEA, Maven, and Gradle among others.

If you’re wondering how Java remains an efficient AWS lambda language, here is the answer. Java has unique characteristics like multi-thread concurrency, platform independence, security, and object-orientation.

2. Node.js

I’m definitely biased but Node.js is probably the best one on this list. I know it has it’s downfalls but the overwhelming support that Node had in the past years has to have its merits.

Why Node.js?

Modules. As of now, there are 2257 plugins on npm tagged “aws-lambda” which help developers with their applications in a lot of different ways from running Lambda locally to keeping vital functions warm to (avoid cold-starts)[https://dashbird.io/blog/can-we-solve-serverless-cold-starts/].

Spinup times. Node.js has better spin-up times than C# or Java which make it a better option for client facing applications that risk suffering from uneven traffic distribution.

Community. It’d be a miss if I didn’t mentionin this as one of the major draw-ins of Node. You can always count on its community support to find a solution to your problem.

3. Python

Python applications are everywhere. From GUI-based desktops, web frameworks, operating systems, and enterprise applications. In the past few years, we’ve seen a lot of developers adopting Python and it seems like this trend is not stopping.

The benefits of Python in AWS Lambda environments.

Unbelievable spin up times. Python is without a doubt the absolute winner when it comes to spinning up containers. It’s about 100 times faster than Java or C#.

Third party modules. Like npm, Python has a wide variety of modules available. The feature helps ease interaction with other languages and platforms.

Easy to learn and community support. If you are a beginner, programming languages can be daunting. However, Python has extensive readability and a supportive community to help in its application. The Pythonistas have uploaded over 150,000 support packages to help users.

Simplicity. With Python you can avoid overcomplicating your arhitecture.

4. Go

The introduction of GO language was a significant move forward for AWS Lambda. Although, Go has its share of problems, it’s suitable for a serverless environment and the merits of Go are not to be ignored.

So, what is so outstanding about Go?

Go has a remarkable tenacity of 1.x. Unlike other languages like Java, C++, etc, Go has the highest tenacity. Such tenacity rate is a promise of a correct compilation of programs without constant alterations.

Go uses static binaries. It implies that the need for static linking is no more. Besides programming, AWS Lambda programs with Go would help with forward compatibility.

Go offers stability. Its unique tooling, language design, and ecosystem make this programming language stand out.

5. Net.Core Language

Net.Core language is definitely one of the popular guys in programming and it’s a welcomed addition to people already relying on AWS for running their .net applications.

NuGet Support. Just like all the other languages supported on Lambda, Net.core gets module support via NuGet, which makes life for developers a lot easier.

Consistent performance. Net.Core has a more consistent performance result than Node.js or Python as a result of it’s less dynamic nature.

Faster execution Compared to Go, Net.Core has a faster execution time which is not something to be ignored.

6. Ruby

If you’re an AWS customer, then you must be familiar with Ruby. Ruby programming language stands out as it reduces complexities for AWS Lambda users.

So, what are the benefits of Ruby in AWS lambda?

Third party module support. The language has unique modules that allow the addition of new elements of class hierarchy at runtime. Strong and supportive community. Thus, it makes it easy to use.

Clean Code. It’s clean code significantly improves AWS Lambda performance.

Wrapping up

At the first glance performance in a similar and controlled environment, running the same kind of functions isn’t all that different, and until you get these to production you won’t be able to get a definitive conclusion.

Editor’s note: This blog has been refreshed and updated for accuracy in July 2020. Originally published in February 2019.

A collection of lessons learned at Dashbird after working with 4,000+ customers and 300,000+ Lambda functions

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