Lifting and shifting a web application to AWS Serverless: Part 2

Lifting and shifting a web application to AWS Serverless: Part 2

In part 1, you learn if it is possible to migrate a non-serverless web application to a serverless environment without changing much code. You learn different tools that can help you in this process, like Lambda Web Adaptor and AWS Amplify. By the end, you have migrated an application into a serverless environment.

However, if you test the migrated app, you find two issues. The first one is that the user session is not sticky. Every time you log in, you are logged out unexpectedly from the application. The second one is that when you create a new product, you cannot upload new images of that product.

This final post analyzes each of the problems in detail and shows solutions. In addition, it analyzes the cost and performance of the solution.

Authentication and authorization migration

The original application handled the authentication and authorization by itself. There is a user directory in the database, with the passwords and emails for each of the users. There are APIs and middleware that take care of validating that the user is logged in before showing the application. All the logic for this is developed inside the Node.js/Express application.

However, with the current migrated application every time you log in, you are logged out unexpectedly from the application. This is because the server code is responsible for handling the authentication and the authorization of the users, and now our server is running in an AWS Lambda function and functions are stateless. This means that there will be one function running per request—a request can load all the products in the landing page, get the details for a product, or log in to the site—and if you do something in one of these functions, the state is not shared across.

To solve this, you must remove the authentication and authorization mechanisms from the function and use a service that can preserve the state across multiple invocations of the functions.

There are many ways to solve this challenge. You can add a layer of authentication and session management with a database like Redis, or build a new microservice that is in charge of authentication and authorization that can handle the state, or use an existing managed service for this.

Because of the migration requirements, we want to keep the cost as low as possible, with the fewest changes to the application. The better solution is to use an existing managed service to handle authentication and authorization.

This demo uses Amazon Cognito, which provides user authentication and authorization to AWS resources in a managed, pay as you go way. One rapid approach is to replace all the server code with calls to Amazon Cognito using the AWS SDK. But this adds complexity that can be replaced completely by just invoking Amazon Cognito APIs from the React application.

For example, when a new user is registered, the application creates the user in the Amazon Cognito user pool directory, as well as in the application database. But when a user logs in to the web app, the application calls Amazon Cognito API directly from the AWS Amplify application. This way minimizes the amount of code needed.

In the original application, all authenticated server APIs are secured with a middleware that validates that the user is authenticated by providing an access token. With the new setup that doesn’t change, but the token is generated by Amazon Cognito and then it can be validated in the backend.

let auth = (req, res, next) => {
    const token = req.headers.authorization;
    const jwtToken = token.replace('Bearer ', '');

    verifyToken(jwtToken)
        .then((valid) => {
            if (valid) {
                getCognitoUser(jwtToken).then((email) => {
                    User.findByEmail(email, (err, user) => {
                        if (err) throw err;
                        if (!user)
                            return res.json({
                                isAuth: false,
                                error: true,
                            });

                        req.user = user;
                        next();
                    });
                });
            } else {
                throw Error('Not valid Token');
            }
        })
        .catch((error) => {
            return res.json({
                isAuth: false,
                error: true,
            });
        });
};

You can see how this is implemented step by step in this video.

Storage migration

In the original application, when a new product is created, a new image is uploaded to the Node.js/Express server. However, now the application resides in a Lambda function. The code (and files) that are part of that function cannot change, unless the function is redeployed. Consequently, you must separate the user storage from the server code.

For doing this, there are a couple of solutions: using Amazon Elastic File System (EFS) or Amazon S3. EFS is a file storage, and you can use that to have a dynamic storage where you upload the new images. Using EFS won’t change much of the code, as the original implementation is using a directory inside the server as EFS provides. However, using EFS adds more complexity to the application, as functions that use EFS must be inside an Amazon Virtual Private Cloud (Amazon VPC).

Using S3 to upload your images to the application is simpler, as it only requires that an S3 bucket exists. For doing this, you must refactor the application, from uploading the image to the application API to use the AWS Amplify library that uploads and gets images from S3.

export function uploadImage(file) {
    const fileName = `uploads/${file.name}`;

    const request = Storage.put(fileName, file).then((result) => {
        return {
            image: fileName,
            success: true,
        };
    });

    return {
        type: IMAGE_UPLOAD,
        payload: request,
    };
}

An important benefit of using S3 is that you can also use Amazon CloudFront to accelerate the retrieval of the images from the cloud. In this way, you can speed up the loading time of your page. You can see how this is implemented step by step in this video.

How much does this application cost?

If you deploy this application in an empty AWS account, most of the usage of this application is covered by the AWS Free Tier. Serverless services, like Lambda and Amazon Cognito, have a forever free tier that gives you the benefits in pricing for the lifetime of hosting the application.

  • AWS Lambda—With 100 requests per hour, an average 10ms invocation and 1GB of memory configured, it costs 0 USD per month.
  • Amazon Cognito—Provides 50,000 monthly active users for free.
  • AWS Amplify—If you build your client application once a week, serve 3 GB and store 1 GB per month, this costs 0.87 USD.
  • MongoDB Atlas Forever free shared cluster.

The total monthly cost of this application is approximately 2.11 USD.

Performance analysis

After you migrate the application, you can run a page speed insight tool, to measure this application’s performance. This tool provides results mostly about the front end and the experience that the user perceives. The results are displayed in the following image. The performance of this website is good, according to the insight tool performance score – it responds quickly and the user experience is good.

After the application is migrated to a serverless environment, you can do some refactoring to improve further the overall performance. One alternative is whenever a new image is uploaded, it gets resized and formatted into the correct next-gen format automatically using the event driven capabilities that S3 provides. Another alternative is to use Lambda on Edge to serve the right image size for the device, as it is possible to format the images on the fly when serving them from a distribution.

You can run load tests for understanding how your backend and database will perform. For this, you can use Artillery, an open-source library that allows you to run load tests. You can run tests with the expected maximum load your site will get and ensure that your site can handle it.

For example, you can configure a test that sends 30 requests per seconds to see how your application reacts:

config:
  target: 'https://xxx.lambda-url.eu-west-1.on.aws'
  phases:
    - duration: 240
      arrivalRate: 30
      name: Testing
scenarios:
  - name: 'Test main page'
    flow:
      - post:
          url: '/api/product/getProducts/'

This test is performed on the backend APIs, not only testing your backend but also your integration with the MongoDB. After running it, you can see how the Lambda function performs on the Amazon CloudWatch dashboard.

Running this load test helps you understand the limitations of your system. For example, if you run a test with too many concurrent users, you might see that the number of throttles in your function increases. This means that you need to lift the limit of invocations of the functions you can have at the same time.

Or when increasing the requests per second, you may find that the MongoDB cluster starts throttling your requests. This is because you are using the free tier and that has a set number of connections. You might need a larger cluster or to migrate your database to another service that provides a large free tier, like Amazon DynamoDB.

Conclusion

In this two-part article, you learn if it is possible to migrate a non-serverless web application to a serverless environment without changing much code. You learn different tools that can help you in this process, like AWS Lambda Web Adaptor and AWS Amplify, and how to solve some of the typical challenges that we have, like storage and authentication.

After the application is hosted in a fully serverless environment, it can scale up and down to meet your needs. This web application is also performant once the backend is hosted in a Lambda function.

If you need, from here you can start using the strangler pattern to refactor the application to take advantage of the benefits of event-driven architecture.

To see all the steps of the migration, there is a playlist that contains all the tutorials for you to follow.

For more serverless learning resources, visit Serverless Land.

This content was originally published here.