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AWS Lambda with Rust: Part 1 – Create, build, and deploy from the command line

We explore how to get started with implementing AWS Lambda functions using Rust.

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AWS Lambda with Rust
AWS Lambda with Rust

AWS Lambda is one of the most used AWS services in the serverless category. For those who are not familiar with the concept, serverless means that you, as a user, should not have to worry about the underlying compute infrastructure provisioning and maintenance. Your sole responsibility is packaging the code you want to be run in response to certain triggers. AWS Lambda is an ideal choice in situations when you have a self-contained piece of logic that you want to be executed in response to external events. Leveraging this concept, together with other fully-managed AWS services, it is possible to build quite sophisticated systems, without having to worry about managing the infrastructure – a task that usually requires a lot of experience and time.

AWS Lambda architecture overview

AWS Lambda service API
Lambda service API (from AWS docs)

In order to understand how to create your own instance of Lambda, it is important to understand, at least on a basic level, the service architecture. AWS Lambda consists of several components: Lambda service (managed by AWS) and execution environment (managed by the user). The Lambda service is what enables triggering Lambda function calls and integration with other services. The execution environment wraps around the actual Lambda function and its (optional) extensions. These two components are connected by the standard API layer that the Lambda service implements. The API consists of three parts: Runtime API, Extensions API, and Telemetry API (see docs for more details). The execution environment acts as a client of the API implemented by the Lambda service. For example, Runtime API is used by the execution environment to get notified when the function must be triggered.

How do I get started?

Based on this very high-level overview, it is clear that we, as users, are responsible for setting up the execution environment that upon start communicates with the Lambda service via the pre-defined API. You should not be worried about this too much since AWS provides tools to make this task quite smooth. In particular, many of the popular programming languages have a pre-packaged managed runtime maintained by AWS and a pretty good documentation with examples. The managed runtimes require the user to provide only the Lambda function source code to bootstrap a proper execution environment. Rust is one of those languages that have partial support from AWS, meaning that you need to do a bit more work than with Python or JavaScript, for example, to set up your Lambda.

Note: If you intend to use a language that does not have a runtime interface client or if the provided runtime version is not what you want, then you will have to implement the custom runtime yourself (see also OpenAPI specification in the docs).

In case of Rust, we are lucky that AWS provides an experimental but rather stable implementation of the runtime interface client for Rust. However, there is no pre-packaged managed runtime that automatically wraps your code together with the runtime interface client (in contrast to officially supported languages) into an execution environment, so we will have to make it ourselves. This is done with the help of a special OS-only runtime – a lower-level runtime that provides only an Amazon Linux OS environment with a C standard library.

Show me the code!

Okay, enough introduction, let’s get started! If you are reading this article, you probably know about the Rust package manager called cargo. AWS provide a cargo module that allows to bootstrap, run, build, and deploy functions on AWS Lambda using a convenient command-line interface. Before you install this module, make sure that you have Rust toolchain installed on your machine. Next, we should install the cargo-lambda module,

pipx install cargo-lambda

There are multiple ways to install the module, but it is generally recommended to install pre-built binaries.


Now, we are ready to get started. Bootstraping the function source is easy,

cargo lambda new aws-lambda-tutorial

You will be prompted to answer a few questions:

? Is this function an HTTP function? (y/N) N
[type `yes` if the Lambda function is triggered by an API Gateway, Amazon Load Balancer(ALB), or a Lambda URL]

to decide whether you want your function to respond to HTTP events, and

? AWS Event type that this function receives
v codebuild::CodeBuildEvent
[↑↓ to move, tab to auto-complete, enter to submit. Leave it blank if you don't want to use any event from the aws_lambda_events crate]

to choose the event payload type. The latter allows to quickly create a function that integrates with other AWS services. If you do not choose anything in the last prompt, you will get a generic function,

use lambda_runtime::{run, service_fn, Error, LambdaEvent};
use serde::{Deserialize, Serialize};

struct Request {
    command: String,

struct Response {
    req_id: String,
    msg: String,

async fn function_handler(event: LambdaEvent<Request>) -> Result<Response, Error> {
    let command = event.payload.command;

    let resp = Response {
        req_id: event.context.request_id,
        msg: format!("Command {}.", command),


async fn main() -> Result<(), Error> {
        // disable printing the name of the module in every log line.
        // disabling time is handy because CloudWatch will add the ingestion time.


Another popular choice is to accept a generic JSON object. In this case you would use serde_json crate, and serde_json::Value struct as payload,

use lambda_runtime::{service_fn, LambdaEvent, Error};
use serde_json::{json, Value};

async fn handler(event: LambdaEvent<Value>) -> Result<Value, Error> {
    let payload = event.payload;
    let command = payload["command"].as_str().unwrap_or("empty");
        "req_id": event.context.request_id,
        "msg": format!("Command {command}.")

async fn main() -> Result<(), Error> {
        // disable printing the name of the module in every log line.
        // disabling time is handy because CloudWatch will add the ingestion time.


At this point, this is just a Rust project, and you are free to install any other crates you need and implement the handler logic.


When you think you are ready to try running your function, you can do it with a few commands. First, in the root of your project, run

cargo lambda watch

This will start the emulated AWS Lambda environment on your machine that you can interact with via another command,

cargo lambda invoke --data-ascii '{ "command": "hello" }'

Note that the commands mentioned above are great for running your function locally, but they do not replace proper unit testing of the handler logic.

Build and deploy

Now, when you think your function is ready to be deployed to your AWS account, it is time to build a release binary,

cargo lambda build --release [--arm64]

This command will generate a single executable binary in target/lambda/aws-lambda-tutorial/bootstrap. The generated binary bootstraps a proper AWS Lambda execution environment, as we discussed above. If you provide the optional --arm64 flag, the built binary can be deployed to AWS machines with Graviton processor (implement ARM 64-bit instruction set architecture), which is often cheaper than x86-64.

Deploying the binary can also be done with just one command,

cargo lambda deploy [--iam-role FULL_ROLE_ARN] [--profile PROFILE_NAME]

If you omit the --iam-role option, a new IAM role will be created for you upon deployment. By default, the attached policy should at least be allowed to send logs to AWS CloudWatch,

  "Version": "2012-10-17",
  "Statement": [
      "Effect": "Allow",
      "Action": "logs:CreateLogGroup",
      "Resource": "arn:aws:logs:<region>:<accountID>:*"

      "Effect": "Allow",
      "Action": ["logs:CreateLogStream", "logs:PutLogEvents"],
      "Resource": [

If you omit the --profile option, the default profile will be used. Note that to run the deploy command you need AWS credentials to be set up. At this point, you should have a fully-functioning Lambda deployed to your account.

Final thoughts

I have discussed a high-level overview of the AWS Lambda architecture and how you can get started with creating functions with Rust. We looked at Lambda lifecycle management with the help of a convenient command-line interface provided by the cargo-lambda module. I encourage you to explore the documentation of the module and various options that can be supplied to cargo lambda subcommands.

The approach discussed in this part is alright for one-off functions that can be easily maintained with this manual process. This approach does not scale, however, if you need to work in a team and/or have many such functions to deal with. In the next part of this series, we will look at how the deployment process can be automated using Terraform and CI/CD pipelines.