DynamoDB with AWS SAM - The Ultimate Guide

Rafal Wilinski

Written by Rafal Wilinski

Published on May 8th, 2020

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    Why DynamoDB with AWS SAM?

    AWS Serverless Application Model (SAM) + DynamoDB work together really well. AWS maintains both pieces of them and each of them are "serverless". SAM has a list of special resources and property types which enable much faster development. Moreover, SAM integrates perfectly with other AWS services and has the best practices built-in.

    In this tutorial, I'll show you how to build a simple API powered by SAM that uses DynamoDB as the data layer.

    Step 1 - Prerequisites

    Make sure you have the following installed:

    You should be able to run the following commands without any issues:

    Step 2 - Create new AWS SAM project

    Use the following command:

    It will guide you through a short project setup wizard. Go ahead an choose:

    • 1 - AWS Quick Start Templates
    • 1 - nodejs12.x runtime

    And type your project name. After that, change the directory to the newly created one, and to make sure everything was set up correctly, use sam build command.

    Step 3 - The DynamoDB Table - our data store

    First, we'll focus on adding the DynamoDB table into our application.

    There are two ways to create a DynamoDB Table in SAM. The first one is the classical one, using AWS::DynamoDB::Table resource. This is the more advanced one but requires a complicated structure. Fortunately, our DynamoDB Table Designer might help you with that.

    Second option, is to use simplified form of AWS::Serverless::SimpleTable resource. It supports only a single attribute primary key but is more intuitive:

    Paste that into template.yaml inside Resources section.

    Step 4 - Business Logic

    Similar to the Serverless Framework tutorial, we'll create three functions for our CRUD app:

    • Create Book
    • Get Books
    • Delete Book

    Create function

    After creating our SAM app, we should have a hello-world directory in it. Rename it to books and open app.js file. Replace it with the following contents:

    We will also need to change the HelloWorldFunction part in template.yaml file to the following one:

    It does a series of things:

    • Tells that the source code of our app is located inside books directory
    • Sets function handler to exported create function
    • Associates that function with API Gateway, specifically with POST /book endpoint

    But that's not all. We need to give our Lambda function an IAM permission to manipulate our DynamoDB table. Luckily, AWS SAM has a set of special policy templates that make this process much faster. All we need to do is to include the following snippet into Properties section of our function:

    That was when it came to the create function. We now want to have an ability to list everything that is in the database.

    List/get many function

    This one is easy. All we need to do is just run a Scan operation against our table. Paste the create function below:

    Similar to the previous function, we need to add its definition to the template.yaml file with slight modification:

    We changed the handler from create to list, Event name to ListBooks and method has changed to get instead of post.

    Delete function

    And for the last one, paste this code below the previous one:

    The logic here is self-explanatory. Lambda is going to remove a record with the key name where it equals to the name in path parameter. Don't forget about the template part:

    Notice the curly braces in Path. It will extract the part after /books/ into event.pathParameters.name which is usable in code.

    There's one more thing. In each of these functions, we're referring to variable TableName, but right now, it is not set. We can fix that by setting it to the actual table name inside Globals:

    Step 5 - Deployment

    After changing the code, we need to build it again:

    After that, there are two ways to test it: locally and by deploying it to the cloud. If you decide to test it locally with sam invoke local, you might want to use the DynamoDB Local instance.

    Go ahead and deploy it to the AWS using this command:

    It will ask you a series of questions and save the answers inside samconfig.toml so you won't be asked about them again.

    After a while of waiting, it should output the URL of your API endpoint. Use it to fire a request to check if it works correctly. If it does, then congrats! You've just deployed a production-ready, cloud-native API with AWS Serverless Application Model and DynamoDB!

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