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Modern Full-Stack Serverless, Part II

Salah Elhossiny
ML engineer || AWS Certified MLS || AWS Community Builders member || Fullstack developer
Updated on ・11 min read

Getting Started with AWS Amplify

At the core of most applications is the data/API layer. This layer could look like many things. In the serverless world, this usually will be composed of a combination of API endpoints and serverless functions. These serverless functions could be doing some logic and returning data, interacting with a database of some kind, or even interacting with another API endpoint.

There are two main ways of creating APIs with Amplify:

  1. A combination of Amazon API Gateway and a Lambda function

  2. A GraphQL API connected to some type of data source (database, Lambda function, or HTTP endpoint)

API Gateway is an AWS service that allows you to create API endpoints and route them to different services, often via a Lambda function. When you make an API call, it will route the request through API Gateway, invoke the function, and return the response. Using the Amplify CLI, you can create both the API Gateway endpoint as well as the Lambda function; the CLI will automatically configure the API to be able to invoke the Lambda function via an HTTP request.

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Creating and Deploying a Serverless Function

At the core of many serverless applications are serverless functions. Serverless functions run your code in stateless compute containers that are event-driven, short-lived (may last for one invocation), and fully managed by the cloud provider of your choice. These functions scale seamlessly and do not require any server operations.

While most people think of serverless functions as being invoked or triggered by an API call, these functions can also be triggered by a variety of different events. In addition to HTTP requests, a few popular ways to invoke a serverless function are via an image upload to a storage service, a database operation (like create, update, or delete), or even from another serverless function.

Serverless functions scale automatically, so there’s no need to worry about your application if you get a large spike in traffic. The first time you invoke a function, the service provider will create an instance of the function and run its handler method to process the event. After the function finishes and returns a response, it will remain and process additional events if they come in. If another invocation happens while the first event is still processing, the service will then create another instance.

Serverless functions also have a payment model that is different from traditional infrastructure. With services like AWS Lambda, you only pay for what you use and are charged based on the number of requests for your functions and the time it takes for your code to execute. This is in contrast to provisioning and paying for infrastructure like servers regardless of whether they are being utilized.

Now that you know about serverless functions, let’s take a look at how you can create a serverless function and hook it up to an API that will invoke it from an HTTP request.

Creating the React Application and Installing the Dependencies

To get started, you’ll first need to create the React application. To do so, you can use npx:

  ~ npx create-react-app amplify-react-app
  ~ cd amplify-react-app
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Next, you will need to install the dependencies. For this app, you’ll only need the AWS Amplify library:

  ~ npm install aws-amplify
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After installing the dependencies, you can now initialize a new Amplify project in the root of the React application:

~ amplify init
? Enter a name for the project: cryptoapp
? Enter a name for the environment: local
? Choose your default editor: <your-preferred-editor>
? Choose the type of app that you're building: javascript
? What javascript framework are you using: react
? Source Directory Path: src
? Distribution Directory Path: build
? Build Command: npm run-script build
? Start Command: npm run-script start
? Do you want to use an AWS profile? Here, choose *Y* and
pick the AWS
profile you created when you ran `amplify configure`.
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Now, both the Amplify project and the React app have been successfully created and you can begin adding new features.

Creating a New Serverless Function with Amplify CLI

In the next step, we’ll create the serverless function that you will be using for this app. The app you are building in this chapter is a cryptocurrency app. At first, you will hardcode an array of cryptocurrency information in the function and return it to the client. Later in this chapter, you’ll update this function to call another API (CoinLore) and asynchronously fetch and return data. To create the function, run the following command:

  ~ amplify add function
  ? Select which capability you want to add: Lambda function
  ? Provide a friendly name for your resource to be used as a
  label for
  this category in the project: cryptofunction
  ? Provide the AWS Lambda function name: cryptofunction
  ? Choose the function runtime that you want to use: NodeJS
  ? Choose the function template that you want to use:
  Serverless express
  function (Integration with Amazon API Gateway)
  ? Do you want to access other resources created in this
  project from
  your Lambda function? No
  ? Do you want to invoke this function on a recurring
  schedule? No
  ? Do you want to configure Lambda layers for this function?
  ? Do you want to edit the local Lambda function now? No
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Walking Through the Code

When you created this resource, a new folder in amplify/backend was created named function. All of the functions created by the CLI will be stored in this folder. For now, you only have a single function, cryptofunction. In the cryptofunction folder, you will see a couple of configuration files as well as an src directory where the main function code is located.

Serverless functions are essentially just encapsulated applications running on their own. Because the function you created is in JavaScript, you’ll see that there are all of the things you’d typically see in any JavaScript application, including package.json and index.js files.

Next, have a look at the function entry point located at src/index.js, in the cryptofunction folder. In this file you’ll see that there is a function called exports.handler. This is the entry point for the function invocation. When the function is invoked, this is the code that is run.

You can handle the event directly in this function if you would like, but since you will be working with an API, a more useful way to do this is to proxy the path into an express app with routing (i.e., http://yourapi/). Doing this gives you multiple routes in a single function as well as multiple HTTP request methods like get, put, post, and delete for each route. The serverless expressframework provides an easy way to do this and has been built into the function boilerplate for you.

In index.js, you will see a line of code that looks like this:

   awsServerlessExpress.proxy(server, event, context);  
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This code is where the event, context, and path are proxied to the express server running in app.js. In app.js, you will then be able to create HTTP requests against whatever routes you create for your API (this example being a /coins route to fetch cryptocurrency).

Creating the /coins Route

Now that you have seen how the application is structured, let’s create a new route in app.js and return some data from it. The route that you will be creating is a /coins route. This route will be returning an object containing a coins array.

Let’s add the new route. Before the first app.get('/items') route, add the following code:

// amplify/backend/function/cryptofunction/src/app.js

app.get('/coins', function(req, res) {
  const coins = [
    { name: 'Bitcoin', symbol: 'BTC', price_usd: "10000" },
    { name: 'Ethereum', symbol: 'ETH', price_usd: "400" },
    { name: 'Litecoin', symbol: 'LTC', price_usd: "150" }
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Adding the API

Now that the function is created and configured, let’s put an API in front of it so you can trigger it with an HTTP request. To do this, you will be using Amazon API Gateway. API Gateway is a fully managed service that enables developers to create, publish, maintain, monitor, and secure REST and WebSocket APIs. API Gateway is one of the services supported by both the Amplify CLI as well as the Amplify client library.

Creating a New API

To create the API, you can use the Amplify add command. From the root of the project, run the following command in your terminal:

  ~ amplify add api
  ? Please select from one of the below mentioned services:
  REST? Provide a friendly name for your resource to be used as a
  label for
  this category in the project: cryptoapi
  ? Provide a path: /coins
  ? Choose a Lambda source: Use a Lambda function already
  added in the
  current Amplify project
  ? Choose the Lambda function to invoke by this path:
  ? Restrict API access: N
  ? Do you want to add another path? N
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Deploying the API and the Lambda Function

Now that the function and API have both been created, you need to deploy them to your account to make them live. To do so, you can run the Amplify push command:

~ amplify push
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? Are you sure you want to continue? Y
Once the deployment has successfully completed, the services are live and ready to use.

You can use the Amplify CLI status command at any time to see the current status of your project. The status command will list out all of the currently configured services in your project and give you the status for each of them:

  ~ amplify status
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The main thing to notice in this status output is the Operation. The Operation tells you what will happen the next time push is run in the project. The Operation property will be set to Create, Update, Delete, or No Change.

Interacting with the New API

Now that the resources have been deployed, you can begin interacting with the API from the React application.

Configuring the Client App to Work with Amplify

To use the Amplify client library in any application, there is a base configuration that needs to be set up, usually at the root level. When you create the resources, the CLI populates the aws-exports.js file with information about your resources. You will use this file to configure the client application to work with Amplify. To configure the app, open src/index.js and add the following below the last import:

  import Amplify from 'aws-amplify';
  import config from './aws-exports';
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The Amplify Client API Category

After the client application has been configured, you can begin interacting with your resources.

The Amplify client library has various API categories that can be imported and used for various types of functionality, including Auth for authentication, Storage for storing items in S3, and API for interacting with REST and GraphQL APIs.

In this section, you will be working with the API category. API has various methods available—including API.get,, API.put, and API.del—for interacting with REST APIs, and API.graphql for interacting with GraphQL APIs.

When working with a REST API, API takes in three arguments: API.get(apiName: String, path: String, data?: Object)


The name given when you create the API from the command line. In our example, this value would be cryptoapi.


The path that you would like to interact with. In our example, we created /coins, so the path would be /coins.


This is an optional object containing any properties you’d like to pass to the API, including headers, query string parameters, or a body.

In our example, the API call is going to look like this:

API.get('cryptoapi', '/coins');
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The API returns a promise, meaning you can handle the call using either a promise or an async function:

// promise
API.get('cryptoapi', '/coins')
.then(data => console.log(data))
.catch(error => console.log(error))

// async await
const data = await API.get('cryptoapi', '/coins');

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Calling the API and Rendering the Data in React

Next, let’s call the API and render the data. Update src/App.js with the following:

 // Import useState and useEffect hooks from React
import React, { useState, useEffect } from 'react'
// Import the API category from AWS Amplify
import { API } from 'aws-amplify'
import './App.css';
function App() {
// Create coins variable and set to empty array
const [coins, updateCoins] = useState([])
// Define function to all API
async function fetchCoins() {
const data = await API.get('cryptoapi', '/coins')

  // Call fetchCoins function when component loads
useEffect(() => {
}, [])
return (
<div className="App">
{, index) => (
<div key={index}>
<h2>{} - {coin.symbol}</h2>
export default App; 
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Then run the app using:

 ~ npm start
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Updating the Function to Call Another API

Next, you’ll update the function to call another API, the CoinLore API, that will return dynamic data from the CoinLore service. The user will be able to add set filters like limit and start to limit the number of items coming back from the API. To get started, you will first need a way to interact with an HTTP endpoint in the Lambda function. The library you will be using forthis lesson is the Axios library. Axios is a promise-based HTTP client for the browser and Node.js

Installing Axios

The first thing you need to do is install the Axios package in your function folder in order to send HTTP requests from the function. Navigate to amplify/backend/function/cryptofunction/src, install Axios, and then navigate back to the root of the app:

~ cd amplify/backend/function/cryptofunction/src
~ npm install axios
~ cd ../../../../../
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Updating the Function

Next, update the /coins route in amplify/backend/function/cryptofunction/src/app.js with the following:

// Import axios

  const axios = require('axios')
  app.get('/coins', function(req, res) {
  // Define base url
  let apiUrl = `

  // Check if there are any query string parameters
  // If so, reset the base url to include them

  if (req.apiGateway &&
  req.apiGateway.event.queryStringParameters) {
  const { start = 0, limit = 10 } =
  apiUrl = `

  // Call API and return responseaxios.get(apiUrl)
  .then(response => {
  res.json({ coins: })
  .catch(err => res.json({ error: err }))
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In the preceding function, we’ve imported the Axios library and then used it to make an API call to the CoinLore API. In the API call, you can pass in a start and limit parameter to the request to define the number of coins to return, as well as to define the starting point.

In the req parameter, there is an apiGateway property that holds the event and the context variables. In the function just defined, there is a check to see if this event exists as well as the queryStringParameters property on the event. If the queryStringParameters property exists, we use those values to update the base URL with the parameters. Using queryStringParameters, the user can specify the start and limit values when querying the CoinLore API.

Once the function is updated, you can deploy the updates by running the push command in your terminal:

 ~ amplify push 
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Updating the Client App

Now that you have updated the function, let’s update the React app to give the user the option to specify the limit and start parameters.

To do so, you’ll need to add fields for user input and give the user a button to trigger a new API request. Update src/App.js with the following changes:

// Create additional state to hold user input for limit and
start properties
const [input, updateInput] = useState({ limit: 5, start: 0
/* Create a new function to allow users to update the input values */

function updateInputValues(type, value) {
updateInput({ ...input, [type]: value })
// Update fetchCoins function to use limit & start properties

async function fetchCoins() {
const { limit, start } = input
const data = await API.get('cryptoapi', `/coins?
// Add input fields to the UI for user input
onChange={e => updateInputValues('limit',}
placeholder="start"onChange={e => updateInputValues('start',}
// Add button to UI to give user an option to call API
<button onClick={fetchCoins}>Fetch Coins</button>
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Next, run the app:

  ~ npm start
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Book: Full Stack Serverless: Modern Application Development with React, AWS, and GraphQL for Nader Dabit

Part I:

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