Despite its young age (barely 73 years; in comparison to, say, automobiles (200+), digital computing is growing and flourishing rapidly; and so are the associated tools and utilities. Today's "hot" topic or tech is no longer hot tomorrow, "legacy" in a week and "deprecated" in a month.
Application deployment and orchestration is no exception: in just three decades we have gone from legacy monoliths to modular systems, P2P integration, middleware, SOA, microservices, and the latest, functions or FaaS. The deployment paradigm has shifted to comply, with in-house servers and data centers, enterprise networks, VMs, containers, and now, "serverless".
Keeping up with things was easy so far, but the serverless paradigm demands quite a shift in the developer mindset (not to mention the programming paradigm). This, combined with the lack of intuitive tooling, has fairly hindered the adoption of serverless application development, even among the cutting-edge developers.
And (you guessed it), that's where _____ comes into play.
A way to glue stuff together.
A way to compose a serverless application care-free. Without having to worry—and to read tons of documentation, watch reels of tutorials, or trial-and-error till your head is on fire—about all the bells and whistles of the underlying framework and related services.
Essentially, a sum-up of all that is serverless.
What's in a name?
As the name implies, (quoted from the official website)
The Sigma editor is a hybrid between the simplicity of drag-and-drop style development, and the full and unlimited power of raw code. The drag-and-drop events generate sample or usage snippets to quickly get started, and introduce a powerful, uniform and intuitive library with auto-completion, which allow users to quickly become productive in developing Serverless applications that integrate with a myriad of AWS based services.
Before Sigma, a bit of background of its origins.
As a first-time user of AWS Lambda, one of our team members brought up an impressive series of questions: if serverless is so cool, why is it so complicated to get an application up and running in Lambda?
(His quest, converted into a presentation, is [right here].)
And we ourselves started trying out the same thing. Guess what, we got the same questions as well.
So we set out to devise something that could bypass all those tedious steps: something where we could just write our code, save it, and deploy it as a working serverless application, without having to wander from dashboard to dashboard, or sift through heaps of documentation or reels of video tutorials.
And we ended up with Sigma!
Yet another IDE?
At first glance, Sigma looks like another cloud IDE that additionally supports deploying an application directly into a serverless provider environment (AWS so far).
However, there are a few not-to-be-missed distinctions:
- Unlike many of the existing cloud IDEs, Sigma itself is truly serverless; it runs completely inside your browser, using backend services only for user authentication and analytics, and requires no dedicated server/VM/container to be running in the background. Just fire up your browser, log in, and start coding your dream away.
- Sigma directly interacts with and configures the serverless platform on your behalf, using the credentials that you provide, saving hours of configuration and troubleshooting time. No more back-and-forth between overcomplicated dashboards and dizzying configurations.
- Sigma encapsulates the complexities of the serverless platform, such as service entities, access policies, invocation trigger configurations and associated permissions, and even some API invocation syntaxes, saving you the trouble of having to delve into piles of documentation.
- All of this comes in a fairly simple, intuitive environment, with easy, drag-and-drop composition combined with the full power of written code. Drag and drop a DynamoDB table into the UI, pick your operation and just write your logic, and Sigma will do the magic of automatically creating, configuring and managing the DynamoDB table on your AWS account.
Now, I won't say that's "just another IDE"; what say you?
A serverless platform?
Based on the extent of its capabilities, you may also be inclined to classify Sigma as a serverless platform. This is true to a great extent; after all, Sigma facilitates all of it—composing, building and deploying the application! However...
Hybrid! It's a hybrid!
Yup, Sigma is a hybrid.
Fusion of a cloud IDE (which in itself is a hybrid of graphical composition and granular coding) and a serverless development framework (which automatically deploys and manages the resources, permissions, wiring and other bells and whistles of your serverless application).
One of a kind.
To be precise, the first of its kind.
A new beginning
With Sigma, we hope to redefine serverless development.
From here onwards, developers shall simply focus on what they need to achieve: workflow, business logic, algorithm, whatever.
Not about all the gears and crankshafts of the platform on which they would deploy the whole thing.
Not about the syntax of, or permissions required by, platform-specific API or service calls.
Not about the deployment, configurations and lifecycle of all the tables, buckets, streams, schedulers, REST endpoints, queues and so forth, that they want to use within their application.
Because Sigma will take care of it all.
And we believe our initiative would
- make it easy for newcomers to get started with serverless development,
- improve the productivity of devs that are already familiar with—or even experts of—serverless development,
- speed up the adoption of serverless development among the not-yet-serverless community,
- allow y'all to "think serverless", and
- make serverless way much fun!
We have proof!
While developing Sigma, we also wanted to verify that we were doing the right thing, and doing it right. So we bestowed upon two of our fellows, the responsibility to develop two showcase applications using Sigma: a serverless accounting webapp, and a location-based mobile dating app.
To our great joy, both experiments were successful!
The accounting app SLAppBook is now live for public access. By default it runs against one of our test serverless backends, but you can always deploy the serverless backend project on your own AWS account via Sigma and point the frontend to your brand new backend, after which you can use it for your own personal use!
The dating app HotSpaces is currently undergoing some rad improvements (see, now it's the frontend that takes time to develop!) and will be out pretty soon!
So, once again, we have proof that Sigma really rocks it!
Far from perfection, but getting there; fast!
Needless to say, Sigma is pretty much an infant. It needs quite a lot more—more built-in services, better code suggestions, smarter resource handling, faster builds and deployments, support for other cloud platforms, you name it—before it can be considered "mature".
But we are getting there. And we will get there. Fast.
We will publish our roadmap pretty soon, which would include (among other things) adding more AWS services, supporting integration with external APIs/services and, most importantly, expanding to other cloud providers like GCP and MS Azure.
That's where we need your help.
We need you!
Needless to say, you are most welcome to try out Sigma. Sign up here, if you haven't already, and start playing around with our samples (once you are signed in to Sigma, you can directly open them via the projects page). Or, if you feel adventurous, start off with a clean slate, and start building your own serverless application.
We are continually smoothening the ride, but you may hit a few bumps here and there. Possibly even hard ones. Sometimes even impassable. Maybe none, if you are really lucky.
Either way, we are eagerly waiting for your feedback. Just write us about anything that came to your mind: a missing functionality, a popular AWS service that you really missed in Sigma (there are hundreds, no doubt!), the next cloud platform you would like Sigma to support; a failed build, a faulty deployment, a nasty error that hogged your browser; or even the slightest of improvements that you would like to see, like a misaligned button, a hard-to-scroll pop-up or a badly-named text label.
If you would like to join hands with us in our forward march, towards a "think serverless" future, drop us an email at email@example.com right away.
Welcome to Sigma!
That's it; time to start your journey with Sigma!
(Originally authored on Medium.)