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serverless / Blog / Serverless Cloud / AWS Fargate vs. Lambda: Which Serverless Solution is Right for You?

AWS Fargate vs. Lambda: Which Serverless Solution is Right for You?

published Aug 28, 2023

Lines that symbolize different AWS services, from AWS Fargate to AWS Lambda.

In this article, we cover the intricacies of Fargate and Lambda, highlighting their distinct features. Rely on our profound expertise to choose the right serverless avenue for your projects.

As cloud innovations storm the tech world, two AWS services have emerged as talking points: Fargate and Lambda. Each offers developers a unique approach to scaling and managing applications. With Fargate, think container orchestration without the fuss. In contrast, Lambda brings to the table powerful serverless, event-driven functions.

But when faced with "Fargate vs. Lambda," which should you gravitate towards? Or can you integrate "Fargate and Lambda" in harmony? Delve into this guide as we uncover when to pick "Fargate or Lambda" and, perhaps, when it makes sense to use both.

Key Differences Between AWS Fargate and Lambda

If you’re reading this, you have caught yourself in the crossfire of the "Fargate versus Lambda" debate. Or you’re sitting there pondering about the core difference between Fargate and Lambda. Trust me, you're not alone. We feel you. So, let’s unpack this!

Let’s start with Fargate. Picture this — the elegance of containers without the backstage hustle. Fargate sweeps in, offering a "serverless" approach to containers. No more wrestling with the orchestration platform, whether it's ECS or EKS. Fargate’s got your back.

Now, Lambda is all about agility. It's simple: Code, deploy and then watch the magic happen. Lambda swings into action in response to events without a server in sight.

Containers… Or Where Fargate Truly Excels

When conversations sway towards containers, there's a murmur that "Fargate is better than Lambda." And, in some scenarios, it's spot on. Companies with intricate applications that demand granular control over their environment will find a loyal ally in Fargate. If you've got a microservices framework architecture or even a monolithic app that you’re itching to migrate to the cloud with ease, Fargate could be your golden ticket.

Lambda’s Arena of Brilliance — Speed

On the other side of the spectrum, Lambda is a beacon for those driven by rapidity. When you're treading the waters of event-driven architectures, and speed is the name of the game, Lambda stands unmatched. It's the go-to for budding startups aiming to craft swiftly without cumbersome overheads and for large-scale enterprises keen on efficiently juggling myriad tasks.

Fargate’s Consistency Rules the Stage

In terms of performance, Fargate takes the lead with its consistency. Resources are isolated at a task level, which ensures a stable and reliable operation. Unlike Lambda, which relies on memory size for its functions, Fargate provides a steadfast experience.

Automatic Scaling with Lambda

While both Fargate and Lambda offer decent scalability, the latter excels with swift and automatic scaling. Lambda adjusts its capacity on the fly, delivering stable performance at the lowest possible cost. It’s a go-to choice for those who require hands-off scalability in their projects.

Jack-of-All-Trades aka Fargate

Fargate steals the show with its versatility. It’s perfect for long-running apps, microservices, machine learning, batch processing, and generally high-performance tasks. Lambda has its charm, too. It’s tailored to quick operations like real-time processing or data transformation. Yet, Fargate’s extensive capabilities make it a better pick for a broader range of use cases.

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AWS Fargate and Lambda: A Detailed Comparison

Alright! Let’s dive deep into the world of Fargate and Lambda. As we decode the digital conundrum, keep your IDEs... I mean, eyes open, and let’s see how they stack up.

Architecture

Fargate
The essence of Fargate is “containers without the infrastructure fuss.” It is essentially a serverless computing engine for containers. With Fargate, users can run containers without managing the underlying EC2 instances. It integrates with Amazon ECS (Elastic Container Service) and EKS (Elastic Kubernetes Service), so you decide on the task, and Fargate takes care of the rest.

Lambda
Lambda, on the other hand, is about “code execution without the server.” It lets you run your code without provisioning or managing servers. Just upload your code, set the triggers, and Lambda runs the function only when needed, scaling automatically from a few requests to thousands per second.

Read on about the comparison of AWS Lambda vs. EC2.

Costs

Fargate
Fargate pricing is based on vCPU and memory resources that your containerized application requests. You're billed for the amount of vCPU and memory resources that are provisioned for your applications, irrespective of actual usage.

Lambda
Lambda takes a slightly different route. You're only billed for the compute time your code executes. This means if your code runs for 200ms, you only pay for 200ms. Additionally, AWS gives you a million free requests per month and 400,000 GB-seconds of compute time per month for free.

Performance

Fargate
With its underlying container technology, Fargate can be a beast when it comes to applications that require consistent performance. It’s especially powerful for long-running processes or background tasks.

Lambda
Lambda shines with event-driven architectures. It's designed for quick, small bursts of activity in reaction to events. There's a cold start time to consider, especially in VPCs, but subsequent invocations can be faster.

Support

Fargate
Being part of the larger ECS ecosystem, Fargate enjoys robust support. AWS continually invests in tooling, integrations, and documentation for its container services.

Lambda
Lambda, being one of the poster children of AWS's serverless offerings, has substantial documentation, active forums, and tons of third-party tools and plugins.

Security

Fargate
Fargate tasks are isolated from each other. With integration into VPCs, you can ensure network isolation. Also, AWS takes care of the underlying infrastructure security, ensuring patching and updates.

Lambda
Lambda functions can also be executed within VPCs, ensuring data stays within your network. IAM roles and policies ensure granular access controls, and encryption at rest and in transit ensures your data's sanctity.

Ease of Use

Fargate
For developers familiar with containers, Fargate simplifies the process further by abstracting infrastructure management. Deployments are straightforward, especially if you’re already versed in ECS or EKS.

Lambda
The learning curve is steep if you’re new to serverless, but once you're over that hump, deploying code becomes a breeze. The integrated AWS toolset, from CloudWatch for monitoring to AWS SAM for deployments, makes life easier.

Community

Fargate
The container community is vast, and with AWS’s backing, Fargate has garnered a significant following. Numerous forums, blogs, and tools are available to help you navigate its waters.

Lambda
Lambda’s community is massive! Thanks to its early entry into the serverless arena, many developers, startups, and enterprises have shared their experiences, leading to a wealth of resources for newcomers and experts alike.

Cloud Agnostic

Fargate
Fargate, at its core, is deeply integrated with AWS services. While the application you run within a Fargate container can be cloud-agnostic, the Fargate service itself is AWS-specific. If you've heavily invested in Fargate-specific configurations and setups, it could be a bit challenging to migrate that to another cloud provider's container solution without some modifications.

Still, the very nature of containers promotes portability, so your actual application code would be quite portable, provided you're not binding it tightly with AWS-specific services.

Lambda
Lambda is a quintessential AWS service. While the idea of serverless functions is prevalent across cloud providers (like Azure Functions or Google Cloud Functions), the nuances of implementation, tooling, and integration can differ. If your Lambda function makes heavy use of AWS SDK or integrates deeply with other AWS services, then "lifting and shifting" directly to another cloud can be tricky. Those who are planning to move from Azure to AWS may find our post Migrating from Azure to AWS interesting.

However, if you're mindful of this from the outset and use frameworks like the Serverless Framework or architectures designed to be cloud-agnostic, you can develop in a way that's more adaptable to multiple cloud environments.

You may also want to read about Serverless Framework vs. AWS SAM.

Final Comparison Table

Here’s a quick overview of all key similarities and differences if you don’t feel like reading the whole article.

Criteria AWS Fargate AWS Lambda
Architecture Containers without infrastructure. Works with ECS and EKS. Code execution without servers. Triggers code based on events.
Costs Based on vCPU and memory resources. Charged for provisioned resources. Charged for compute time. First million requests per month are free.
Performance Suitable for long-running processes or background tasks. Optimized for quick, small bursts of activity. Cold start considerations.
Support Part of ECS ecosystem with robust support. Extensive documentation, forums, and third-party tools.
Security Tasks are isolated; integrates with VPCs. Infrastructure security by AWS. Execution within VPCs. Uses IAM for access controls. Encryption features.
Ease of Use Simplified for those familiar with containers. Works with ECS and EKS. Steeper learning curve for serverless newbies but integrated with AWS tools.
Community Strong community with forums, blogs, and tools around container services. Massive community due to early entry into serverless; abundant resources.
Cloud Agnostic Containers promote portability but Fargate configurations are AWS-specific. Serverless functions vary by cloud; Lambda is AWS-centric but can be adapted with frameworks.

Picking the Right Tool: Fargate or Lambda?

When navigating the vast AWS seas, we often encounter the Fargate and Lambda islands. Both are alluring in their own right, but knowing when to drop anchor at each can be the difference between smooth sailing and rough waters.

Being a company deeply rooted in serverless microservices architecture, we've had extensive hands-on experience with AWS Lambda. We've seen firsthand the power of serverless, from rapid scalability to a delightful reduction in infrastructure management overhead. Lambda resonates with us particularly because:

  • Event-Driven Architecture: Our projects often involve reacting to real-time data or events. Whether it's a user uploading a file, a change in a database, or an API call, Lambda's event-driven nature is perfect for these scenarios.
  • Seamless Integration: Being entrenched in the AWS ecosystem, we love how Lambda seamlessly meshes with services like Amazon API Gateway, S3, and DynamoDB. This integration has allowed us to architect solutions without the constraints of interoperability.
  • Cost Efficiency: With Lambda, the cost model revolves around actual compute time. For startups to big enterprises, this pay-as-you-go model has often translated to significant savings.
  • Rapid Development & Deployment: In our agile world, speed is key. Lambda lets us quickly deploy code without the toils of infrastructure setup. This means more time coding and less time configuring.

However, it's not always Lambda-tinted glasses. There are scenarios where AWS Fargate has its unique strengths. For longer-running tasks or when we need a containerized solution, Fargate becomes the go-to. But given our expertise and penchant for serverless, Lambda remains our primary choice for most projects.

In essence, while both Fargate and Lambda are formidable in their domains, our compass usually points towards Lambda for project development, given its alignment with our serverless microservices ethos. Still, as always, it's about picking the right tool for the task at hand. And with our experience, we know just when to pick which.

AWS Lambda vs. Fargate: Use Cases

AWS Lambda and Fargate are serverless computing titans, each with unique strengths and use cases. When picking one for your project, it’s good to know where they shine. Let’s break down their most common applications.

AWS Lambda’s Use Cases

Lambda excels in the following areas:

  • Running serverless websites
  • Expanding operations on a massive scale
  • Processing large volumes of data in real-time
  • Scheduling events for various tasks and data backup
  • Processing user input and optimizing backend data for improved website responsiveness
  • Analyzing log data on request
  • Integrating with third-party services.

AWS Fargate’s Use Cases

Fargate is perfect for container-based applications with minimum downtime. Here are the possible use cases:

  • Developing, deploying, and managing APIs, microservices, and apps through containers
  • Scaling container-based data processing operations
  • Migrating outdated apps from EC2 instances without refactoring or rearchitecting
  • Developing and managing scalable environments for AI and ML projects.

Harnessing the Best of Both Worlds: Using AWS Fargate and Lambda Together

As we said before, it’s not always about either or. Sometimes, you must find harmony between two powerful offerings to create a symphony of efficiency and performance. Such is the case with Fargate and Lambda.

Individually, they're already powerhouses. Together? They can be game-changing. And since we are experts in AWS cloud development, we won’t gatekeep this info from you. So, what are the perks of combining them?

Hybrid Architectures

AWS Fargate and Lambda can work in tandem within a hybrid architecture. Imagine a scenario where you have Lambda functions that handle quick, event-driven tasks (like responding to user activities or updating databases) while Fargate containers are running background processes or complex computations. This combination ensures you're optimizing costs and efficiency based on the nature of the task at hand.

Streamlined Data Processing

Let's consider a data processing pipeline. Lambda can act as the entry point, preprocessing and filtering incoming data. The heavy lifting, such as data transformation or batch processing, can be offloaded to a Fargate container. Post-processing and pushing data to other services or databases? Lambda jumps back into action!

Resilient and Adaptive Workloads

Using both Fargate and Lambda can also offer redundancy. If one service experiences an unforeseen hiccup, the other can potentially pick up the slack, ensuring that your applications remain resilient and adaptive.

Flexibility in Development and Deployment

For developers, the combination means more tools in the arsenal. Short, event-driven code snippets? Lambda's got you covered. Need more environment control or have a containerized application? Fargate is your best buddy. This flexibility can be especially helpful when transitioning between development phases or when integrating solutions from different teams.

Of course, AWS Fargate and Lambda are stellar on their own. And as we told you before, Lambda is the one for us. But we can’t ignore that Fargate and Lambda offer an unparalleled cloud experience when strategically combined.

Embracing both allows businesses to tailor their cloud infrastructure more precisely, adapting seamlessly to diverse workloads and achieving optimal performance and cost efficiency. So, sometimes you sure can have your cake and eat it too.

In The Grand Scheme of Things...

Navigating the intricate terrains of AWS offerings like Fargate and Lambda can be daunting. While both platforms have their unique strengths, our company leans heavily towards Lambda due to its synergy with our serverless microservices architecture. Its event-driven nature, seamless AWS integration, cost efficiency, rapid deployment capabilities, and the myriad of AWS Lambda use cases have made it our go-to for most of our projects.

However, choosing between the two is not about picking sides. It's a strategic call shaped by the contours of your business narrative and technological ambitions. Whether it’s Fargate’s container mastery or Lambda’s event-driven finesse, the choice should sync with your enterprise's pulse.

And remember, every business has its unique needs, and there's no one-size-fits-all. Whether you're a developer on the frontline or a CTO charting the course, the decision's resonance lies in alignment with your vision.

If you want to detect water leaks with AWS IoT or wonder how to migrate to serverless, remember we're here to help you figure out any development or serverless migration services.

Regardless of what you're making, even if it's a multi-player game, we got you covered with our AWS Game Development Services, AWS IoT solutions development, Saas Software Solutions, AWS Serverless Backend Development Services, and many more.

Our deep expertise in this domain means we can provide tailored advice, ensuring you make the best decision for your tech landscape. Whether you require Azure to AWS migration services or migrating from GCP to AWS, we are here to help you out.

Faq

What's the core difference between Fargate and Lambda?


AWS Fargate is primarily focused on running containers without the need to manage the underlying infrastructure, fitting seamlessly with ECS and EKS. On the other hand, AWS Lambda is all about executing code in response to specific events, eliminating the need to manage servers.

In the AWS Fargate vs. Lambda debate, which is more suited for development?


Both Fargate and Lambda can be utilized effectively for development. Your choice depends on the project's specifics. If you're aiming for a serverless microservices architecture, AWS Lambda shines. However, if your project necessitates a containerized solution with long-running tasks, AWS Fargate might be a better fit.

Is there a situation where Fargate is better than Lambda?


Absolutely! Fargate is ideal when you need to run containerized applications without dealing with the intricacies of managing the infrastructure. It's especially effective for long-running tasks or when you need more granular control over the environment.

Given the choice between Fargate and Lambda for development, which should a new startup lean towards?


Startups might benefit from the scalability and reduced overhead of Lambda, especially if their projects are event-driven and don't require long-running processes. However, if they are venturing into applications that need a container-centric approach, Fargate could be the way to go.

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Kyrylo Kozak
Kyrylo Kozak
founder, CEO