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Netlify wants to make it easier for web developers to use AWS Lambda event triggers


Netlify has a vision of changing the way we develop websites, making it simpler to connect the front-end design to backend services execution. Today, the company announced another step in that vision when it introduced AWS Lambda functions on Netlify.

The company aims to reduce much of the complexity associated with web development. You design your front end in HTML and JavaScript, then Netlify helps you connect to a set of services you might be using such as Stripe for payments or MailChimp for email newsletter management. Netlify has abstracted away the concept of a web server, which it says is slow to deploy and hard to secure and scale. By shifting from a monolithic website to a static front end with back-end microservices, it believes it can solve security and scaling issues and deliver the site much faster.

They don’t care what tools you use to build the site. You simply design it and Netlify can handle all of the back-end coding directly at the edge where it is executing. In that sense, it is part Content Delivery Network, part developer automation engine.

This ability to build faster more dynamic websites caught the eye of Andreessen Horowitz’s Peter Levine, who led the firm’s $12 million Series A investment last August. “[The founders] had the brilliant idea of using microservices and APIs to build more flexible, dynamic websites; deploying to the edge to create a more high-performance end-user experience; and integrating with Github to easily create and manage the application,” Levine said.

Today’s announcement takes that service approach a step further. Lambda is AWS’s so-called serverless tool. It enables developers to create functions that run based on a particular trigger event without worrying about running a server 24/7. This fits perfect with Netlify’s approach to web development, which has essentially removed the web server from the web publishing process.

In this case, the company has created an easier way to run Lambda functions. They believe that while web developers like the idea of event triggers, the AWS workflow has been too complicated. By providing an easier way to create event triggers, especially around developer identity, it will lower the barrier to entry.

“We saw the promise [of Lambda] was obvious, but the fact that there wasn’t a workflow around it made it hard to use. We have a workflow for front-end publishing, so [we decided] let’s do same thing for serverless,” company co-founder Christian Bach explained.

“Each Lambda trigger becomes a tiny micro service you can talk to from the browser,” he said. For example, to make a payment using Stripe you need to code your secret Stripe credentials to enter the payment gateway. “To make that little call, you needed to run a server from somewhere. People would build a Rails application just for that little functionality,” Bach said.

With the Netlify approach, you type in your credentials via a few lines of code then use a Lambda trigger with a little bit of Netlify glue code. This solves the issue of where that code lives and how you manage it, he said.

It’s probably not a coincidence that Levine, who sees Edge computing as a big tech driver moving forward, led the Series A investment for Andreessen Horowitz and has joined the Netlify board.

“I’ve been talking for a while about edge computing and Netlify is part of the broader trend of services at the edge. ​The company has developed the way to build and deploy modern websites,” Levine said.

The company was founded in 2015 and has raised $14.1 million.



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