DEV Community

Cover image for Simple Serverless Scheduler
Pawel Zubkiewicz for AWS Community Builders

Posted on • Updated on

Simple Serverless Scheduler

When I was working on the license key management solution for my application CloudPouch I had to face the deferred cancelation of paid subscriptions problem.

When a user cancels his/her subscription for some reason, the license key must work until the end of the current billing period. Since the use case is not complicated, I decided to solve it as simple as possible, using the available Serverless services, following the principles of architecture-controlled architecture.

Serverless scheduler

The topic of the serverless scheduler has been appearing fairly regularly for years. In my opinion, this is a repetitive problem that AWS should provide us with a managed solution. Discussions in the AWS Community Builders Slack channel have not brought any effects, and we still need to implement it by ourselves.

Fortunately, AWS provides several primitives that you can use while building your own scheduler. The most popular options are:

  • DynamoDB TTL
  • CRON in EventBridge (used to be in CloudWatch)
  • StepFunctions.

Selection of a solution for a business problem

The solutions mentioned above differ significantly from each other.

Foremost, they offer different accuracy of operation (delay) in terms of the period between the designated and the actual time of calling. For example, for Dynamodb TTL it can be up to 48 hours. While using CRON in EventBridge, we can invoke a Lambda function every minute. Huge difference, right?

This is the most important, functional characteristic because it directly affects the implementation of business requirements. In numerous instances, it is difficult to imagine business stakeholders accepting a two-day hold-up in a response to a user action.

Other characteristics that we can describe these solutions are also important. For many, the maximum number of scheduled actions will be as important as accuracy. Another feature will be the maximum time to postpone the action in the future. And of course, whether the action is cyclical or one-off.

Going further, one cannot forget about the cost of running, and the level of complexity of the solution, directly affecting the time of implementation.

Taking all these characteristics into account, it quickly turns out that there are many options and the final solution depends on the requirements.

Business case

The CloudPouch tool is a desktop application for analysis and optimization of the AWS cloud costs. It is available in the subscription model, for a small monthly or annual fee. Each customer has the opportunity to cancel their subscription at any time. In such case, the license key must be valid until the end of the current billing period, for which the fee has already been charged. Take a look at t1 time point presented in the diagram.

Time graph

The mechanism must work analogously for annual subscriptions.

Selection of the solution

Given the business requirements and the characteristics of AWS services, I decided to choose a solution that will be the easiest to implement and use. It was a classic architectural trade-off because the simplicity of implementation was obtained at the cost of accuracy.

Choosing the Dynamodb TTL (Time to Live) mechanism turned out to be the best in this case because:

  • Accuracy (delay) is not the most important for me, in the worst-case scenario my customer will receive 2 extra days of subscription for free πŸ˜‰
  • I do not need cyclical calls - a particular license can be canceled only once
  • It's simple to implement - the DynamoDB table itself and its stream are all you need
  • It is in line with the Event-Driven Architecture, AWS will automatically trigger scheduled action in the future - push instead of pull approach.
  • Allows you to easily check which licenses are to be canceled in the future - just view the elements in the DynamoDB table
  • is the cheapest, although, with my scale, every solution would be free πŸ˜‰

Implementation of the solution

The solution is very simple and consists of a Lambda function and a DynamoDB table with a stream.

Solution architecture

In response to the cancelation of a subscription performed by the user, an event is sent to the eventBus in the EventBridge. Thanks to the defined rules, this event is redirected to the Lambda function Scheduler (in the real solution, other components consume this event as well). The Lambda function 'Scheduler' saves in the Scheduling table information about the license to be canceled. This element ("record") has a basic structure, it consists of information that allows you to identify the license in the table Paidlicenses and the time when this is going to happen.

The cancelation date is saved in the Unix time format under the attribute specified in the configuration of the DynamoDB table. I called this attribute ttl, it was defined in CloudFormation definition of the table, at line 10:

SchedulingTable:
  Type: AWS::DynamoDB::Table
  Properties:
    AttributeDefinitions:
      - AttributeName: PK
        AttributeType: S
    KeySchema:
      - AttributeName: PK
        KeyType: HASH
    TimeToLiveSpecification: # ttl definition
        AttributeName: ttl
        Enabled: true
    BillingMode: PAY_PER_REQUEST
    TableName: Scheduling
    StreamSpecification:
      StreamViewType: OLD_IMAGE
Enter fullscreen mode Exit fullscreen mode

When using Node.js (JavaScript), pay attention to the ttl calculation. It must be provided in seconds and not milliseconds. Hence, the division by 1000:

Math.floor(new Date(cancelationDateAsString).getTime() / 1000)
Enter fullscreen mode Exit fullscreen mode

How does it work

The AWS DynamoDB service constantly monitors our table and when the ttl value is older than the current time, it will delete the element.

For the whole solution to make sense, we must react to the deletion events of elements. We do it with a stream, which triggers the DeactivatePaidLicense function. The payload sent to this function contains all the data of the element that was previously stored in the 'Scheduling' table, thanks to which the function knows which license to cancel by making the appropriate update in the table PaidLicenses.

The connection between the stream and the Lambda function is defined in the serverless.yml:

functions:
  deactivatePaidLicense:
    handler: src/deactivatePaidLicense/function.handler
    description: Deactivate license upon Paddle event
    events:
      - stream:
          type: dynamodb
          arn: !GetAtt SchedulingTable.StreamArn
          maximumRetryAttempts: 1
          batchSize: 1
          filterPatterns:
            - eventName: [REMOVE]
Enter fullscreen mode Exit fullscreen mode

I used a filter here, thanks to which the function will be called only as a result of removing the element from the table. In this way, we transfer logic from our code to the configuration of the AWS infrastructure, which is of course the best practice πŸ˜ƒ

Note:

The Scheduling table is an independent table that only stores scheduled cancelations. I didn't use the single-table design approach here, so I don't have to worry about removals of other entity types.

Solution in action

My cursory tests have shown that the DynamoDB in the us-east-1 region deletes the elements with a delay of 10 to 12 minutes after a designated time in the ttl attribute. It is much faster than over mentioned 48 hours limit, but still may not be acceptable for many solutions. In addition, I want to highlight that while those are typical delay times, we have no guarantee that they will always be like that.

My observations coincide with tests carried out by Yan Cui some time ago.

In summary, I must conclude that minimal time spent on implementation delivered a fully functional solution that meets my business needs & is easy to operate. And that's what I was aiming for πŸ˜ƒ

CloudPouch

If you are curious about the CloudPouch application, which I've built, please use a free 7-day trial or just watch this short demo video (1:30).

Discussion (5)

Collapse
mmuller88 profile image
Martin Muller

Nice will be part of my newsletter <3.

Collapse
pzubkiewicz profile image
Pawel Zubkiewicz Author

Thanks. Which newsletter it is?

Collapse
mmuller88 profile image
Martin Muller
Collapse
zirkelc profile image
Chris

Super interesting post! I’m using TTL on DDB for storing expiring sessions and access tokens.

Collapse
pzubkiewicz profile image
Pawel Zubkiewicz Author

Thank you πŸ˜€