A Real World PHP Lambda App Part 6: Local Development

Submitted by nigel on Tuesday 10th April 2018

One of the drawbacks of developing AWS Lambda apps is the time it takes to deploy any changes to code. In addition there are financial costs to repeatedly uploading the lambda executable to an AWS S3 bucket, exacerbated by the need in our case to upload a PHP image. The upload triggers GET Lambda costs and storage costs so it is a double whammy. 

Ideally a development regime should be implemented whereby most development is undertaken locally and only deployed to AWS when the developer has a high degree of confidence there are no outstanding bugs. 

In an earlier blog we discussed how to set up a local copy of DynamoDB - so now we have the ammunition to perform our development locally. Up until now I have been spoon-feeding all my code - but in reality development is an iterative process of building out functionality and fixing bugs. Let's see how we can do this. 

Persist Local DynamoDB Data
For us to do anything meaningful we are really going to have to persist our DynamoDB data. The earlier blog started the local instance of DynamoDB with the -inMemory flag. Let's check it isn't still running before we do anything:
$ ps -ef | grep java
nigel     1142     1  0 Apr09 ?        00:00:00 /usr/bin/daemon --name=jenkins --inherit --env=JENKINS_HOME=/var/lib/jenkins --output=/var/log/jenkins/jenkins.log --pidfile=/var/run/jenkins/jenkins.pid -- /usr/bin/java -Djava.awt.headless=true -jar /usr/share/jenkins/jenkins.war --webroot=/var/cache/jenkins/war --httpPort=8080
nigel     1143  1142  0 Apr09 ?        00:07:12 /usr/bin/java -Djava.awt.headless=true -jar /usr/share/jenkins/jenkins.war --webroot=/var/cache/jenkins/war --httpPort=8080
nigel     8748  8694  0 10:13 pts/1    00:00:00 grep --color=auto java
Ok so whilst the Java runtime is there - it actually corresponds to my Jenkins server and not DynamoDB. So lets start DynamoDB with a path to a directory where we want the database file to be.
$ cd /usr/lib/dynamodb/
$ java -Djava.library.path=./DynamoDBLocal_lib -jar DynamoDBLocal.jar -sharedDb -dbPath /home/nigel
Initializing DynamoDB Local with the following configuration:
Port:	8000
InMemory:	false
DbPath:	/home/nigel
SharedDb:	true
shouldDelayTransientStatuses:	false
CorsParams:	*
Now let's create our database.
$ aws dynamodb create-table --table-name=vote_dev --attribute-definitions AttributeName=id,AttributeType=S --key-schema AttributeName=id,KeyType=HASH --provisioned-throughput ReadCapacityUnits=5,WriteCapacityUnits=5  --endpoint-url http://localhost:8000
    "TableDescription": {
        "TableArn": "arn:aws:dynamodb:ddblocal:000000000000:table/vote_dev", 
        "AttributeDefinitions": [
                "AttributeName": "id", 
                "AttributeType": "S"
        "ProvisionedThroughput": {
            "NumberOfDecreasesToday": 0, 
            "WriteCapacityUnits": 5, 
            "LastIncreaseDateTime": 0.0, 
            "ReadCapacityUnits": 5, 
            "LastDecreaseDateTime": 0.0
        "TableSizeBytes": 0, 
        "TableName": "vote_dev", 
        "TableStatus": "ACTIVE", 
        "KeySchema": [
                "KeyType": "HASH", 
                "AttributeName": "id"
        "ItemCount": 0, 
        "CreationDateTime": 1523353381.749
Check the database is there ok
$ aws dynamodb list-tables --endpoint-url http://localhost:8000
    "TableNames": [
Setting the DynamoDB Endpoint in AWS PHP SDK
Under normal circumstances (i.e. when doing regular deploys to AWS) the DynamoDB endpoint doesn't need to be specified in the AWS PHP SDK. However when we are developing locally, the SDK does need to know where we have our local instance running. To achieve that we need to set the endpoint in the client configuration. The line of code would look like:
'endpoint' => 'http://localhost:8000'
This needs to be added to the existing client configuration but must be set conditionally, i.e. only when we are running locally. So that means we can't do
VoteModel.php **WRONG**
protected $client_config = [
'region' => 'eu-west-1',
'version' => '2012-08-10',
'credentials.cache' => TRUE,
'validation' => FALSE,
'endpoint' => 'http://localhost:8000',
'scheme' => 'http'
We could create a new custom environment variable and surface it at the DynamoDB client creation step. But we already have a candidate - the stage variable can be used - and we could create a fictitious new stage of local to be used in a conditional.
VoteModel.php **CORRECT**
protected function loadClient()
$this->client_config['credentials'] = \Aws\Credentials\CredentialProvider::env();
        if (
$this->data['requestContext']['stage'] == 'local') {
$this->client_config['endpoint'] = 'http://localhost:8000';
Creating the Lambda Data
Cloudwatch List
Cloudwatch Log list
JSON dump

When we invoke a Lambda function locally, we need to ensure the environment is set up correctly for it. This includes the routing information (since we don't have a local copy of API Gateway) and the run time data that the Lambda function will be asked to process. In our case that would be the submitted POSTed form data. So how do we build this? We can handcraft some JSON which includes all this information, but it's time consuming. A much easier approach is to copy the data directly from a previous AWS invocation in the CloudWatch logs - this is where our Got event debug trace pays dividends! 

Navigate to the Cloudwatch logs and you'll see a list of all the Lambda functions (see first screenshot above). Select the form POST function which in my case is /aws/lambda/vote-dev-vote_post. This takes us to the list of previous invocations (second screenshot) - I've done quite a lot which is a side effect of blogging! Select the top one and open up a Got event log entry (third screenshot). Select the dumped JSON object and copy it to your clipboard. 

This can then be saved in a file. I created a new subdirectory under the project's top directory called data and I named this file post.json

Set the Stage
Now edit the post.json file so that the stage is set to local - see below
"stage": "local",
Local Invocation
We are now ready to run our code locally. The syntax for this is below:
$ sls invoke local -f vote_post --no-color -p data/post.json 
The -f flag value sets the Lambda function name which in our case is vote_post. We use the --no-color switch for readability, and the -p flag value is a path to our data file. Running it gives us the following output (for brevity some output removed)
Got event {"resource":"/","path":"/","httpMethod":"POST","headers":{"Accept":"text/html,application/xhtml+xml,application/xml;q=0.9,image/webp,image/apng,*/*;q=0.8","Accept-Encoding":"gzip, deflate, br","Accept-Language":"en-GB,en-US;q=0.9,en;q=0.8","cache-control":"no-cache","CloudFront-Forwarded-Proto":"https","CloudFront-Is-Desktop-Viewer":"true","CloudFront-Is-Mobile-Viewer":"false","CloudFront-Is-SmartTV-Viewer":"false","CloudFront-Is-Tablet-Viewer":"false","CloudFront-Viewer-Country":"GB","content-type":"application/x-www-form-urlencoded","Cookie":"_ga=GA1.2.1152355093.1509819171; mousestats_vi=d4e8e34af07e2372c27c","Host":"n4kofna4l1.execute-api.eu-west-1.amazonaws.com","origin":"https://n4kofna4l1.execute-api.eu-west-1.amazonaws.com","pragma":"no-cache","Referer":"https://n4kofna4l1.execute-api.eu-west-1.amazonaws.com/dev/","upgrade-insecure-requests":"1","User-Agent":"Mozilla/5.0 (Macintosh; Intel Mac OS X 10_13_4) AppleWebKit/537.36 (KHTML, like Gecko) Chrome/65.0.3325.181 Safari/537.36","Via":"2.0 bd161094d4b1a9657f26409a791c36ef.cloudfront.net (CloudFront)","X-Amz-Cf-Id":"qbxtM7siu0PhYiY58aPKYVXrhG5RO8S4r8XfXOUG-u-IwuTjL_2Vpw==","X-Amzn-Trace-Id":"Root=1-5acbbc81-1c0ce7281e876d1c307f0d98","X-Forwarded-For":",","X-Forwarded-Port":"443","X-Forwarded-Proto":"https"},"queryStringParameters":null,"pathParameters":null,"stageVariables":null,"requestContext":{"resourceId":"lp67djpm80","resourcePath":"/","httpMethod":"POST","extendedRequestId":"FFpkSGhmjoEFlug=","requestTime":"09/Apr/2018:19:18:25 +0000","path":"/dev/","protocol":"HTTP/1.1","stage":"local","requestTimeEpoch":1523301505841,"requestId":"c6eb6aa6-3c2a-11e8-8346-13d846b589a2","identity":{"cognitoIdentityPoolId":null,"accountId":null,"cognitoIdentityId":null,"caller":null,"accessKey":null,"cognitoAuthenticationType":null,"cognitoAuthenticationProvider":null,"userArn":null,"userAgent":"Mozilla/5.0 (Macintosh; Intel Mac OS X 10_13_4) AppleWebKit/537.36 (KHTML, like Gecko) Chrome/65.0.3325.181 Safari/537.36","user":null},"apiId":"n4kofna4l1"},"body":"first_name=Joe&last_name=Soap&optradio=phpstorm","isBase64Encoded":false,"static_url":"https://s3-eu-west-1.amazonaws.com/vote-dev-webapps3bucket-1htbi30lx4nii","dynamodb_table":"vote_dev"} []
    "headers": {
        "Location": "https://n4kofna4l1.execute-api.eu-west-1.amazonaws.com/local/thank_you"
    "statusCode": 307,
    "body": ""
Note that the body contains the submitted data and we should now have a record in our local DynamoDB containing that informations. Also note that we got a HTTP response of 307 - this is a redirect which would, with API Gateway being present, redirect us to the thank_you page. Obviously running locally terminates the Lambda function once its job has been completed. There are two methods for determining whether the write to DynamoDB worked - the cli and the local console shell.
DynamoDB Scan Results - CLI Method
The easiest method to ensure your records are being created correctly is to use the AWS CLI. The command below doesn't really require further explanation.
$ aws dynamodb scan --table-name=vote_dev --endpoint-url http://localhost:8000
    "Count": 1, 
    "Items": [
            "optradio": {
                "S": "phpstorm"
            "forename": {
                "S": "Joe"
            "surname": {
                "S": "Soap"
            "id": {
                "S": "4679de4d-1726-436e-b24b-755415b6298a"
            "datetime": {
                "S": "2018-04-11T09:45:54"
    "ScannedCount": 1, 
    "ConsumedCapacity": null
DynamoDB Scan Results - Console Shell Method
Shell Button
Expanded Scan
Scan Console.

This is more complicated than the command line, but is more powerful and would be ideally suited to someone with a good understanding of JavaScript. Go to your console shell at http://{your_ip_address}:8000/shell/ and click the </> button as shown in the first screenshot. This will provide a list of JavaScript templates. Click the Scan template and it will expand to show the sample JavaScript as per the second screenshot. Click the thick left arrow and the console will appear for you to edit code and run it (the third screenshot). 

Now here's the (slightly) fiddly bit. The code has a great many parameters which can be supplied, but we don't need that. We just want to dump all records in their entireity. So cut all the parameters we don't need. For convenience I have pasted below what you need to leave in. It's quite obvious, but copy this over the entire code in the console. 

var params = {
    TableName: 'vote_dev',
    Limit: 10, // optional (limit the number of items to evaluate)
                              //           SPECIFIC_ATTRIBUTES | COUNT)
    ConsistentRead: false, // optional (true | false)
    ReturnConsumedCapacity: 'NONE', // optional (NONE | TOTAL | INDEXES)
dynamodb.scan(params, function(err, data) {
    if (err) ppJson(err); // an error occurred
    else ppJson(data); // successful response
Now click on the play shaped button.
Console successful run
Zoomed successful run

The first screenshot above shows the console after it has completed the playback of the JavaScript code. The second screenshot shows a zoomed view of the results. The results are exactly what we put into the local invocation so it is fine. 

Further Functions

The example I have shown above relates to the form's POSTed submission. To develop the original form GET and the redirect to the thank_you page, simply change the function names in the local invocation. The POST is the most complex since it performs the database write. The others shouldn't be too onerous in comparison!