Down the rabbithole

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Building an API proxy with Serverless — Part 1

I’m back to building a weather app, this time not in Flask, but React. I wanted to skip the server part, but DarkSky is strict about CORS[1], so I had to build a proxy. Not really a front-end topic, but good to know if you work daily with backend engineers (which I do).

Enter serverless *

Constantly running a server just to proxy a single API call would be an overkill — Serverless on AWS Lambda is just the perfect way to solve this[2]. Of course, serverless is only as serverless as the cloud is not physical. It still runs on a server, but it’s someone else’s (in this case, AWS).

First, we’ll have to install serverless:

yarn global add serverless

Then create our service:

sls create --template aws-nodejs --path weather-service
cd weather-service

By the way, sls is a shorthand for serverless. Wherever you see serverless in the docs, you can use sls instead. The quick start guide suggests to deploy now, but we can skip this until we are ready, and test our proxy locally. Let’s see what we have so far:

sls invoke local -f hello

If we’ve done everything right (not much to break so far), the output should be:

  "statusCode": 200,
  "body": "{\"message\":\"Go Serverless v1.0! Your function executed successfully!\",\"input\":\"\"}"

Later, we can test the deployed function by calling sls invoke -f hello (without local), but that will count against our AWS Lambda usage.

Let’s turn this into a DarkSky API gateway *

First, I’d like to call my function something more meaningful, maybe getWeather. For this, let’s change the function name in serverless.yml:

    handler: handler.getWeather

And in handler.js, module.exports.hello should become:

module.exports.getWeather = () => { … }

Now if we try sls local invoke -f hello, it will fail, because there is no hello function. However, sls local invoke -f getWeather will work like charm!

Ok, on to the weather! *

I will use the request library for handling requests, for no particular reason, other than it’s simple and works well with serverless. There’s no magic here, just calling Dark Sky API with my secret key and some hard-coded coordinates (for now). Getting the API key from process.env is also a temporary solution optimised for local invokes, this may change in part 2.

'use strict';
const request = require('request');

module.exports.getWeather = (event, context, callback) => {
  const headers = {'Access-Control-Allow-Origin': '*'};

    { url: `${process.env.DARKSKY_KEY}/44,32` },
    (err, res, body) => {
      if (err) {
        const response = { statusCode: 404, headers, body: err };
        callback(null, response);
      } else {
        const response = { statusCode: res.statusCode, headers, body };
        callback(null, response);

Now, sls invoke will return the current weather for those coordinates. You can check out the full source on github.

In my next post, I will show how to deploy the function to AWS Lambda, how to handle requests, and how to create API endpoints. Until then, and happy holidays!

  1. Dark Sky API: Frequently Asked Questions: “If you were to make API calls from client-facing code, anyone could extract and use your API key, which would result in a bill that you’d have to pay. We disable CORS to help keep your API secret key a secret.” Fair enough. ↩︎

  2. Plus, AWS Free Tier includes 1 million monthly invokes. ↩︎

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