AWS Cloud Cover

Nov 14 2014   4:32PM GMT

Amazon Lambda looks like Greek to Java developers

cameronmcnz Cameron McKenzie Profile: cameronmcnz


Amazon may have just released the most confusingly named product to date, especially if you’re a Java developer.

At AWS re:Invent in Las Vegas, Amazon announced mainstream availability of its compute service AWS Lambda. The big sell on it is that it can recognize and respond immediately to server-side events, performing functions and processing data as soon as something interesting happens. For example, if an end user uploads an image to the system, admins can configure AWS Lambda to create thumbnails images, perform facial recognition processes and save the results in Amazon S3. And of course, the whole thing comes with the standard Amazon promise of being able to access high-availability systems, run processes within a millisecond of the event being triggered – with efficiency and cost effectiveness built-in.

But here’s the problem: This new AWS Service shares its name with Project Lambda, the major Java initiative that brought functional programming to the JVM. As far as Java developers go, lambda is a concept that is tied very tightly with Java 8 and the evolution of the language. Of course, it’s not possible to call, “stamped it, no erasies” on the 11th letter of the Greek alphabet. So Amazon hasn’t done anything wrong, but it certainly is confusing for anyone that has done some Java programming in the past.

Looking at the sample code that is presented on their online tutorial, Java isn’t even promoted as the development language. In fact, the sample “HelloWorld” application uses Node.js, let alone Java with a lambda function thrown in for good measure.

It’s hard to believe Amazon was unaware that naming its service the same as one of the biggest things to happen to the Java language in 10 years wouldn’t cause confusion. But it’s not likely Amazon salespeople are targeting developers, so it should not hurt the service’s adoption. After all, it is no doubt an amazing service, especially if it can indeed pull together task scheduling, stream processing, data synchronization, and auditing and notification systems that running in the Amazon cloud. It’s just a shame that they had to give it such a clashing and confusing name.​

4  Comments on this Post

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  • Whatever2
    It's a service for running Lambda/anonymous expression/functions. A general programming concept. Many languages already have Lambda expression support. It's just Java that is late to the game. Would you think anonymous would have been a better name ? ;-)
    80 pointsBadges:
  • ToddN2000
    I'm surprised that this does not happen more often. Most companies keep their future projects under wraps with a code name that may or may not get leaked out. It may take years to release. Who's to say another company did not come up with the same code name for their project? Coincidence maybe, then again are there any new hires at Amazon that used to work for Java ??
    135,295 pointsBadges:
  • EricWilson
    I think the only one that would be confused by this would be the Java developer that is a Java-only developer. Python has had a lambda for some time, and ruby and JavaScript developers use anonymous functions all the time.

    Certainly of all the languages, Java has the least claim to the letter lambda. 
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  • sunilmnambiar
    It is just a name conflict, underlying feature is completely different, I don't think it is going to create confusion among Java developers. As you mentioned, aws Lambda is a powerful feature, even you can build serverless REST services with it, check this tutorial written for Java developers.
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