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The Ultimate Guide to AWS Lambda Metrics

Ayooluwa Isaiah
Updated on June 24, 2024

AWS Lambda is a serverless computing service that automatically handles infrastructure resources, triggered by events from other services. It's cost-effective as it only runs functions when needed. However, it requires a different monitoring approach than traditional servers since system metrics like CPU usage aren't directly available.

Effective monitoring involves understanding function usage, resource needs, and interactions with other services. This helps avoid issues like throttling due to insufficient concurrency or errors from upstream services.

Lambda pricing depends on execution time, memory allocation, and request count, so monitoring is key to cost management. To optimize your Lambda functions, it's important to monitor metrics related to function utilization and performance, invocations, concurrency, and provisioned concurrency.

This guide will delve into those key metrics, offering insights into Lambda's functionality and how to leverage data from logs and traces for comprehensive application monitoring.

Let's get started!

Key AWS Lambda metrics to monitor

Lambda offers a wide variety of metrics for monitoring the efficiency of your function code, invocations, and concurrency. Most of these metrics are readily available in CloudWatch (at no charge), while others require extraction from Lambda logs.

They cover areas like function invocation, performance and efficiency, and concurrency. You can monitor these metrics through Amazon CloudWatch by building dashboards and setting alarms to respond to changes in utilization, performance, or error rates.

You can also send them to other monitoring platforms like Better Stack which we'll cover in a separate article. In this section, we'll look at the some of the key metrics to be aware of in AWS Lambda.

1. Function invocation metrics

In AWS Lambda, a function invocation is a request to execute your Lambda function code. Each time your Lambda function is triggered by an event or called directly, it counts as an invocation.

When invoking a Lambda function, you can choose between synchronous or asynchronous invocation. Synchronous invocation requires waiting for the function to process the event and return a response before proceeding, while asynchronous invocation queues the event for processing and returns a response immediately, allowing your application to continue without waiting. The InvocationType parameter in the Invoke API dictates this behavior, with RequestResponse for synchronous and Event for asynchronous invocation.

When you invoke a function, you can choose to invoke it synchronously or asynchronously. With synchronous invocation, you wait for the function to process the event and return a response. In such cases, you have to determine the strategy for handling errors such as retrying the request or sending it to a queue for debugging.

With asynchronous invocation, Lambda queues the event for processing and returns a response immediately so that the caller can move on to the next task once it has confirmed that the event was added to the queue successfully.

If the function returns an error, Lambda retries it twice before discarding the event. You can also configure a dead-letter queue (DLQ) (which could be Amazon SQS or SNS) for tracking such discarded events so that you can examine them later for troubleshooting and potential reprocessing.

Regardless of how your functions are invoked, Lambda emits several metrics and logs to help you monitor their outcomes in real-time. Standard metrics like invocation count and errors are available for all functions, while other metrics are tailored to specific invocation types. We'll look at a few of these in this section:

Metric Name Description
Invocations The number of times your function is invoked, including both successful and failed invocations.
Errors The number of invocations that result in an error.
DeadLetterErrors The number of times Lambda failed to send a discarded event to a dead-letter queue.


The Invocations metric refers to the total number of times that your function code is invoked, regardless of whether it succeeded or failed. Monitoring this value can help you understand how your functions are performing, and identify peak usage periods, traffic trends for capacity planning, resource allocation, and cost optimization.

A sudden spike or drop in invocations can indicate unexpected behavior or issues with your application or its dependencies. By monitoring this metric, you can quickly detect such anomalies and investigate their cause.


Lambda's Errors metric counts the number of invocations that results in a function error (errors that occur during the execution of your function code). It does not count invocation errors that occur before your function starts running (due to issues like missing permissions or invalid request parameters).

A spike in your error rate (Errors / Invocations) might point to a problem within the Lambda function itself or a related AWS service. Examining other telemetry data, such as Lambda logs, can help you pinpoint the cause and resolve the issue.

Dead letter errors

The Lambda runtime may sometime encounter issues when trying to deliver a discarded event to the dead-letter queue. This could be due to permission errors, misconfigured resources, or size limits.

When any of these issues occur, Lambda increments the DeadLetterErrors metric in CloudWatch. Monitoring and alerting on this metric lets you detect potential data loss caused by failed deliveries to the DLQ.

Async events received

The AsyncEventsReceived metric provides visibility into the total number of events that has been successfully received and queued for processing by Lambda when using asynchronous invocation. Monitoring this metric lets you detect when there's an undesired increase in the number of events queued for processing which could indicate trigger misconfiguration.

Async events age

The AsyncEventAge metric measures the time duration between when an event is successfully queued by Lambda for asynchronous invocation and when the Lambda function is invoked to process the event. An increasing value could indicate issues like:

  • Throttling: If your function is being throttled (hitting its concurrency limit), events will accumulate in the queue, leading to increased age.
  • Errors: If your function encounters errors and retries are triggered, the event's age will increase with each retry attempt.
  • Backlogs: A sudden surge in events or slower function processing can cause a backlog in the queue, leading to older events.
  • Cold starts: If your function experiences frequent cold starts, this can add to the event's waiting time.

If you notice a rise in this metric, investigate the Errors metric to pinpoint any function errors, and the Throttles metric to detect potential concurrency bottlenecks.

Async events dropped

The AsyncEventsDropped metric tracks the total number of events that were not successfully processed by your Lambda function and were ultimately dropped. If a dead-letter queue (DLQ) or OnFailure destination is configured, events are routed there before being discarded. Events can be dropped for various reasons, such as:

  • Maximum event age or retry attempts: Lambda has limits on how long an event can stay in the queue or how many times it can be retried before being dropped.
  • Throttling: Lambda function reaching its concurrency limit, causing some events to be dropped.
  • Function Errors: Exceptions or bugs in your code preventing successful processing.

Monitoring and alerting on this metric will allow you to detect such situations early and take corrective actions.

2. Performance metrics

AWS Lambda performance metrics provide insights into how a single function invocation performs so that you identify potential bottlenecks, and optimize for better performance. Here are some of the key performance metrics to keep an eye on:

Metric name Description
Duration The amount of time your function code spends processing an event in milliseconds.
Billed Duration The amount of time billed for your function's execution in milliseconds.
Init Duration The time it takes for the runtime environment to initialize before your handler code starts executing.
Memory Size The amount of memory allocated to your Lambda function.
Max Memory Used The maximum amount of memory used by your function during execution.
Post Runtime Extensions Duration The time taken by the runtime extension to complete after the function execution ends, in milliseconds.
Iterator Age For stream-based event sources, the age of the last record for each batch of records processed.

Duration and billed duration

The Duration metric in measures the time your function's code takes (in milliseconds) to process an event from the start of its invocation to the completion of its execution.

Since AWS Lambda pricing is based on this Duration value rounded up to the nearest 1ms (billed duration), monitoring it is important for optimizing both performance and cost by identifying slow functions due to inefficient code or latency caused by external dependencies.

The Duration metric also supports percentile statistics that help filter out extreme values that can distort the average and maximum, giving you a more accurate picture of typical performance. For instance, the p95 statistic reveals the maximum duration for 95% of invocations, excluding the slowest 5%.

Init duration

The Init duration metric can be found in the REPORT log line for each function invocation. It tracks how long it look to set up an execution environment for your function (cold starts):

REPORT RequestId: 765b52b4-2600-4348-9ec4-c7f7f1346c57 Duration: 259.72 ms Billed Duration: 260 ms Memory Size: 128 MB Max Memory Used: 69 MB Init Duration: 189.15 ms

If your Lambda functions frequently experiences lengthy initialization times due to cold starts, you can configure provisioned concurrency mitigate this latency and improve response times. Note that this value is not counted towards the Duration metric.

Memory size and max memory used

Monitoring memory size and max memory used in AWS Lambda is necessary for preventing resource over-provisioning (which increases costs) and under-provisioning (which risks performance issues). These metrics are also captured in the REPORT log examined earlier which shows that the memory used (68 MB) is more than half of the available memory (128 MB):

REPORT RequestId: 765b52b4-2600-4348-9ec4-c7f7f1346c57 Duration: 259.72 ms Billed Duration: 260 ms Memory Size: 128 MB Max Memory Used: 69 MB Init Duration: 189.15 ms

Analyzing memory usage trends and alerting if the memory consumption approaches the configured maximum helps with identifying memory-bound functions where increasing the memory can help resolve the compute bottlenecks. Or if you see that the memory usage is consistently only a fraction of available memory, you could reduce the allocated memory to reduce costs.

Post runtime extensions duration

Lambda extensions are a way to augment your Lambda functions with additional functionality, such as monitoring, observability, security, and more. They run alongside your function code and can perform tasks before, during, and after your function's execution.

The PostRuntimeExtensionsDuration metric specifically focuses on the time spent (in milliseconds) by extensions after your function's handler has completed. This includes tasks like sending logs, metrics, or traces to external services, performing cleanup actions, or interacting with other AWS resources.

Monitoring this metric allows you to understand how much additional execution time your extensions are adding to your Lambda function. This can help you decide between similar extensions or identify extensions that are causing performance issues.

Iterator age

The IteratorAge metric in AWS Lambda pertains to the age of the oldest record in the event stream your function is processing. It is specifically relevant for stream-based invocations, where your Lambda function is triggered by events from sources like DynamoDB Streams or Kinesis Streams.

The higher the IteratorAge value, the greater the lag between when a record is added to the stream and when your function processes it. This could indicate that your function is not keeping up with the incoming data stream.

A growing IteratorAge may be caused by various scenarios such as high ingestion rates, insufficient function concurrency, slow execution due to inefficient code or external dependencies, invocation errors, or limitations in the stream's throughput capacity.

Keeping a close eye on the IteratorAge metric allows you to detect such issues and take corrective action. This might involve optimizing your function code, increasing concurrency, adjusting batch sizes, or scaling the stream's throughput.

3. Concurrency metrics

Concurrency in AWS Lambda refers to the number of function instances that are executing simultaneously at any given time. Each concurrent execution represents an independent environment where your Lambda function code runs to handle a request.

The Lambda manages function concurrency automatically by scaling up or down the number of execution environments based on incoming request traffic. When a function receives a request, it will either use a pre-existing but idle environment to process it, or if none are available, a new environment will be created for that specific request.

Since each execution environment can process up to 10 requests per second, the number of concurrent environments required depends on how quickly the functions process each request.

For example, if you're receiving 100 requests per second and each request takes an average of 200ms to be processed, the number of concurrent environments required to handle the load will be 20 (100 rps * 0.2 seconds). If the function execution time increases to 500ms, you will need 50 concurrent environments (100 rps * 0.5 seconds).

However, there are limits to how many execution environments that can be active at the same time. Here are some key concepts to take note of:

  • Total account concurrency: There is a limit on the total number of function instances that can execute simultaneously across all functions within your AWS account in a specific region. By default, this limit is 1000, but you can request an increase.

  • Reserved concurrency: You can reserve a portion of your account's concurrency limit for specific functions. This prevents other functions from using that concurrency, ensuring your critical functions always have enough capacity to handle requests. Reserved concurrency also acts as a limit that prevents the overconsumption of resources by a single function.

  • Unreserved concurrency: Unreserved concurrency is the remaining pool of concurrent executions available to all functions that do not have reserved concurrency. Lambda requires that a minimum of 100 concurrent executions per-region are always available to such functions.

  • Provisioned concurrency: This is a feature in Lambda that keeps a specified number of execution environments initialized and ready to respond immediately to invocations. It's designed to eliminate cold starts, which are delays caused by initializing a new environment when a function is invoked after a period of inactivity.

Tracking concurrency metrics in AWS Lambda is key to optimizing function performance and managing resource allocation. By monitoring concurrency, you can identify overprovisioned functions, scale resources to match demand, and set reserved concurrency to control scaling behavior and prevent resource contention.

Lambda provides the following metrics to help you monitor and manage concurrency:

Metric name Description
ConcurrentExecutions The number of function instances that are processing events at any given time.
UnreservedConcurrentExecutions The number of concurrent function executions that are using the unreserved portion of your account's concurrency limit.
Throttles The number of invocation requests that are throttled due to concurrency limits being exceeded.
ProvisionedConcurrentExecutions The number of function instances with provisioned concurrency processing events.
ProvisionedConcurrencyUtilization The percentage of provisioned concurrency that is being utilized.
ProvisionedConcurrencyInvocations The number of times your function is invoked using provisioned concurrency.
ProvisionedConcurrencySpilloverExecutions The number of times your function is invoked without provisioned concurrency when all provisioned instances are in use.

Concurrent executions

The ConcurrentExecutions metric represents the number of function instances that are actively processing events at any given time. By tracking and alerting on this metric, you can see how close your functions are to reaching their concurrent executions quota for the region or the reserved concurrency limits, which could lead to throttling if exceeded.

Unreserved concurrent executions

The UnreservedConcurrentExecutions metric lets you monitor the number of concurrent function executions that are using the unreserved portion of your account's concurrency limit. If there's a spike in this metric, it could indicate that one or more functions are consuming all the available unreserved concurrency which could lead to the throttling of all other functions.

To mitigate such issues, you should reserve concurrency for your most important functions, but keep in mind that Lambda will throttle any function that uses all of its reserved concurrency.


When the number of concurrent executions reaches or exceeds the defined per-region concurrency limits, Lambda throttles additional requests by returning a "429 Too Many Requests" error and incrementing the Throttles metric.

These throttled requests are not counted as Invocations or Errors, so you must monitor the Throttles metric to detect when your Lambda functions are hitting concurrency limits and potentially causing delays or failures in your application.

If you're consistently exhausting your concurrency limits, you can take several actions such as requesting a higher limit from AWS, reducing the execution time of your functions to free up concurrency faster, or reserving units of concurrency for specific functions to avoid throttling during peak traffic hours.

Provisioned concurrent executions

The ProvisionedConcurrentExecutions metric tells you how many of your pre-initialized execution environments (provisioned concurrency) are currently busy handling requests. If the number is consistently low, you might be over-provisioning and wasting resources. But if it frequently reaches the maximum, you might need to increase your provisioned concurrency to avoid throttling.

Provisioned concurrency utilization

The ProvisionedConcurrencyUtilization metric measures the percentage of your function's invocations that are benefiting from the faster response times enabled by provisioned concurrency. Since provisioned concurrency incurs additional costs, monitoring this metric helps you understand the balance between the cost of provisioning and the benefits of faster response times. It also helps you gauge how effectively you're utilizing your provisioned concurrency so that you're not consistently paying for unused resources.

Provisioned concurrency invocations

While the Invocations metric tracks all function invocations that use both provisioned and non-provisioned concurrency, the ProvisionedConcurrencyInvocations metric only tracks the invocations that use provisioned concurrency. A sudden decrease in these invocations could signal a problem within the function itself or a disruption in an upstream service that triggers it.

Provisioned concurrency spillover invocations

When the number of concurrent requests surpasses the provisioned concurrency limit, the excess requests are not rejected. Instead, they "spill over" and are handled by additional execution environments that are created on-demand. These on-demand environments might experience cold starts, leading to increased latency for those specific invocations.

The ProvisionedConcurrencySpilloverInvocations metric tracks the number of invocations that were handled by these on-demand environments due to exceeding the provisioned concurrency limit. A high spillover rate might indicate that your provisioned concurrency is insufficient to handle peak traffic so that you can determine whether to increase your provisioned concurrency.

Defining custom metrics

While Lambda automatically generates a wealth of built-in metrics, you can also create and track custom metrics in your application domain to yield even more insight into your business-specific features.

The default AWS Lambda metrics are emitted at a standard resolution which provides a one-minute granularity, but custom metrics offers the flexibility by allowing you to also define standard or high-resolution (one-second) granularity.

Each custom metric must be published to a namespace, which isolates groups of custom metrics, so often a namespace equates to an application or workload domain. You can develop graphs, dashboards, and statistical analysis on custom metrics in the same way as you can for AWS-generated metrics.

There are two primary ways to create custom metrics in Lambda:

1. Embedded Metric Format (EMF)

This involves embedding custom metrics in a specific format alongside your function's structured log entries. CloudWatch will then automatically extract metric data from these logs so that you can you can visualize and alert on them for real-time incident detection.

2. CloudWatch PutMetricData API

This API lets enables you to send custom metric data directly to CloudWatch from your Lambda function code. It's a more direct approach and offers greater control over metric definitions.

Final thoughts

In this post, we've covered the inner workings of AWS Lambda and highlighted many essential metrics for optimizing your serverless functions and managing costs.

In the next post, we'll dive into the practical aspects of collecting, viewing, and monitoring your Lambda metrics so that you can unlock the full potential of your serverless applications.

Thanks for reading!

Author's avatar
Article by
Ayooluwa Isaiah
Ayo is the Head of Content at Better Stack. His passion is simplifying and communicating complex technical ideas effectively. His work was featured on several esteemed publications including, Digital Ocean, and CSS-Tricks. When he’s not writing or coding, he loves to travel, bike, and play tennis.
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