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Lambda Container Reuse: Why State Can Persist Across Executions

aws, lambda2 min read

AWS Lambda is a serverless computing service that allows developers to run code without provisioning or managing servers. When a Lambda function is invoked, AWS creates a container to run the code in. The container provides an isolated environment to execute the code and includes the runtime, code, and dependencies.

Container reuse is an optimization technique used by AWS to reduce the startup time of a Lambda function. When a function is invoked, AWS checks if there are any available containers that can be reused for the function execution. If a container is available, AWS uses it to run the function code, reducing the startup time and improving performance.

One of the potential consequences of container reuse is that the state can persist across multiple function executions. For example, if a Lambda function stores data in memory during its execution, the container that runs the function may be reused for subsequent executions, and the state of the memory may be retained. This can lead to unexpected behavior and bugs in the function.

Let's consider an example of a Java Lambda class that uses an instance variable:

public class ExampleLambda implements RequestHandler<Map<String, String>, String> {
private int count = 0;
public String handleRequest(Map<String, String> event, Context context) {
return null;
private void processEvent(Map<String, String> event) {
for (String key : event.keySet()) {
// Some processing...

In this example, the ExampleLambda class contains an instance variable count that is incremented after processing each event map entry. If the container is reused, the value of count can persist across function invocations, resulting in incorrect count values.

To prevent state persistence across function invocations, developers should ensure that their Lambda functions are stateless. If state needs to be stored, an external storage mechanism like a database should be used.

In the case of instance or global variables, they should be avoided and local variables should be preferred. If such types of variables are needed, they should be initialized to a default value at the beginning of the function code.

In summary, Lambda container reuse is a powerful feature that can improve function execution times, but it can also cause state persistence issues if not properly handled. Lambda function code should be designed with statelessness in mind to avoid unexpected behavior. For further reading, check out this related article in the AWS Compute Blog.

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