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A First Look at the Serverless Framework


The Serverless Framework consists of an open source CLI and a hosted dashboard. We will create a boilerplate Node Lambda handler and deploy it to AWS.


All of this project’s code can be found in the First Look monorepo on my GitHub.


The Serverless Framework consists of an open source CLI and a hosted dashboard. Together, they provide you with full serverless application lifecycle management. It helps you develop and deploy your AWS Lambda functions, along with the AWS infrastructure resources they require.


It was created by Austen Collins in 2015 as a boilerplate project for a company or something called Servant, whose existence seems to be completely wiped from the internet aside from this git commit.

Servant Boilerplate LADEN: AWS Lambda, Angular, AWS DynamoDB, Express, Node.js

A Servant Boilerplate Application already integrated with Servant (https://www.servant.co) built on the LADEN stack. Use this to rapidly build Servant applications. This stack in particular is perfect for integrations or any applciation that needs to offload intense processing tasks to AWS Lambda. We use this for our apps! – The Servant Team

This boilerplate is current under development…

Austen Collins - Serverless initial commit (April 20, 2015)

When it was officially announced the project was called JAWS before being renamed to Serverless after the newly formed Serverless Inc.

One of the projects I had recycled the branding from was the JavaScript AWS framework. I’m a big JavaScript fan and at the time there just wasn’t a good application framework for AWS. Something that could help developers be productive on AWS.

The Story of the Serverless Framework with Austen Collins (September 14, 2020)

Core Concepts

The Framework has four main concepts. Here is how they pertain to AWS and Lambda.


A Function is an AWS Lambda function. It’s an independent unit of deployment, like a microservice. It’s merely code, deployed in the cloud, that is most often written to perform a single job such as:

  • Saving a user to the database
  • Processing a file in a database
  • Performing a scheduled task


Anything that triggers a Lambda Function to execute is regarded as an Event. Events are infrastructure events on AWS such as:

  • API Gateway HTTP endpoint request for a REST API
  • S3 bucket upload for an image
  • CloudWatch timer run every 5 minutes
  • SNS message topic

When you define an event for your Lambda functions, the Framework will automatically create any infrastructure necessary for that event such as an API Gateway endpoint and configure your AWS Lambda Functions to listen to it.


Resources are AWS infrastructure components which your Functions use such as:

  • DynamoDB Table for saving Users/Posts/Comments data
  • S3 Bucket for saving images or files
  • SNS Topic for sending messages asynchronously
  • Anything defined in CloudFormation

The Serverless Framework deploys your Functions and the Events that trigger them, along with the AWS infrastructure components your Functions depend upon.


A Service is the Framework’s unit of organization. You can think of it as a project file, though you can have multiple services for a single application. It’s where you define:

  • Your Functions
  • The Events that trigger them
  • The Resources your Functions use

Create a Project

Install the Serverless CLI

Terminal window
npm install -g serverless
What do you want to make? AWS - Node.js - Starter
What do you want to call this project? aws-node-project
Downloading "aws-node" template...
Project successfully created in 'aws-node-project' folder.
What org do you want to add this to? ajcwebdev
What application do you want to add this to? [create a new app]
What do you want to name this application? starters
Your project has been setup with org: "ajcwebdev" and app: "starters"

In our serverless.yml file we have a nodejs12 runtime and a single handler named hello.

org: ajcwebdev
app: starters
service: aws-node-project
frameworkVersion: '2'
name: aws
runtime: nodejs12.x
lambdaHashingVersion: 20201221
handler: handler.hello

Function Handler

handler.js returns a JSON object containing a message demanding less servers.

'use strict'
module.exports.hello = async (event) => {
return {
statusCode: 200,
body: JSON.stringify(
{ message: 'But could we have even LESS servers?', input: event }, null, 2

Serverless Deploy

The sls deploy command deploys your entire service via CloudFormation. Run this command when you have made infrastructure changes such as editing serverless.yml.

Terminal window
serverless deploy
Serverless: Using provider credentials, configured via dashboard:
Service Information
service: aws-node-project
stage: dev
region: us-east-1
stack: aws-node-project-dev
resources: 8
api keys:
hello: aws-node-project-dev-hello
Serverless: Publishing service to the Serverless Dashboard...
Serverless: Successfully published your service to the Serverless Dashboard:

Serverless Invoke

The sls invoke command invokes deployed function. It allows sending event data to the function, reading logs and displaying other important information about the function invocation.

Terminal window
serverless invoke --function hello
Serverless: Using provider credentials, configured via dashboard:
"statusCode": 200,
"body": "{
\n \"message\": \"But could we have even LESS servers?\",
\n \"input\": {}\n}"