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Serverless Days Belgrade 2019

Ever since the first Lambda function saw the light of day, back in  December of 2014, Serverless, a new paradigm in cloud applications development that Lambdas started, has become a hot topic. As good tradition dictates, hot topics in software development are best discussed and spread by organizing topic-specific conferences and Serverless is no excuse to this tradition. In 2017 in London, Serverless Days conference was born. During its brief history it visited nearly 20 cities around the globe and on September 13th it came to our home town of Belgrade, Serbia.


Here at DEVersity we are focused on keeping a close eye at software development trends and we are well into Serverless applications development, so the opportunity to hear from, and meet in person, so many great names of the Serverless world made our decision to visit this conference in greater numbers very easy. Eleven of us attended, and here are our impressions:

Organizaton


This extremely valuable event for the local software development scene was organized by a group of Serbian Serverless Heroes Aleksandar Simović, Gojko Adžić and Slobodan Stojanović. Venue chosen was the beautiful building of Yugoslav Film Archive, which made the event even more pleasant. Even though, as Gojko admitted himself, this was their first attempt at organizing such a conference, the organization was flawless. All of the talks followed the announced time schedule and the organizers made sure everyone returned to theirs seats after the breaks in a timely manner by ringing a school bell, reminiscing of school days. During the lunch break there was a buffet and feast is not a word strong enough to describe it.


Talks 

Serverless Days Conferences are all about one day and one track with a strong focus on the topic. Since Serverless is not only AWS, there were also talks about Azure and Cloudflare, as Serverless computing providers.



Opening keynote was presented by Mark Schwartz with an immensely amusing comparison of how Napoleon commanded the battle of Borodino with how Serverless can help today's businesses to better navigate their products. Key takeaways were that Serverless has really made the notion of compute becoming a utility (like electricity) and that really changes how we look at compute. Inspiring start of the day!

Rainer Stropek, a Microsoft MVP, gave an energetic, hands-on demonstration of the Azure cloud, with a focus on Azure functions. We were guided through the making and configuration of a Function App, the core of the Azure Cloud, as well as several real-life examples of functions. We touched on the ways functions are triggered, chained and used in the Serverless ecosystem. We saw real scripts that deploy these functions, and looked into a C# example of a function using multiple Azure services.

Next up was Danilo Poccia, Principal Evangelist at AWS Cloud with a topic on how to take Serverless to the next level, beyond just being able to create simple Lambda functions. He guided us through the six steps of improving and applying advanced patterns such as writing Infrastructure-as-Code, Automating deployments, turning projects into products, utilizing event-driven architectures, focusing on the team and finally, using AWS and not reinventing the wheel.

One of the most interesting perspectives on serverless systems, was brought by Lynn Langit in her talk about visualizing them. As she pointed out there are different vendors that provide Serverless services but one thing that connects them all is lack of a good way to visualize different Serverless architectures and it's components. This is crucial when it comes to creating, understanding and improving already created solutions and specially for trying out different ones and finding the one that will best suite your needs (money and execution vise). She provided us with a glimpse of things that would be important (like seeing system over time), presented some challenges (finding the right dialect) and invited anyone who finds this interesting to join her in making something that counts when it comes to this topic.

After the lunch break, even though drowsy from all of the food we ate, we had no problem keeping awake since the next topic was an eye-opener. Serverless doesn't have to be running in containers behind the scenes! Cloudflare's Mx. Kassian Perch showed us how Cloudflare Workers use V8 Isolates, WebAssembly and Edge Computing can bring the promise of Serverless computing without relying on containers.

Coming from similar product companies (Thundra and Lumigo) Emrah Samdan and Erez Berkner gave two informative talks about observability, Serverless applications monitoring and debugging. Their products can drastically shorten your application development cycle since they are able to do a lot of heavy lifting in easy to set up, visual manner.


Finally, as Gojko announced, a treat for the end of the day. In his own words, Dave Farley's talk had little to do with the Serverless paradigm, yet it left a big impact on the room. Dave's laws, albeit humorous in nature, had a lot to say about how we view the development process as a whole. With the help of visual illusions, historical facts and quotes from great scientists, we remember the importance of the scientific process and how it implies to our work as developers. Staying true to his statement at the beginning of the lecture, Dave left us with some open questions on the impact of human imperfection on the software we produce, and how we can do more.


Takeaways

 We had so much fun at this event. It was very valuable to hear these talks from the very people who shape the Serverless landscape of tomorrow. It was a great networking opportunity as well. AWS User Group Belgrade crew was there, covering the event. They held interviews with speakers and notable visitors and we had the pleasure of sharing our experience with Serverless with them. Also we had the chance to talk to Lumigo's CEO and get ourselves into the Beta of their product to try out some, still unreleased, features.



We sincerely hope that there will be more events like this one and September events on the tech scene in Serbia definitely suggest that.

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