PHP Programação

A bref AWS PHP story – Part 3

We are starting Part 3 of the Series "A bref AWS PHP history". You can check Part 1, where I presented the PHP language as a reliable and good alternative for Serverless applications and Part 2 where we see the usage of CDK features in favour of a faithful CI/CD.

Part 3 is to show the upgrade path to Bref 2 and to achieve more coverage of the AWS resources. We will use DynamoDB, a powerful database for serverless architectures.

Some of those topics seem straightforward to some people, but I would like to avoid guessing that this is known to the audience since I have experienced some PHP developers struggling to put all these together for the first time due to the paradigm change. It should be fun.

Table of contents:

  1. What else are we doing?
  2. Describing more AWS services - Adding a DynamoDB table
  3. Bref upgrade
  4. Testing CDK
  5. PHP and AWS Services
  6. Wrap-up

What else are we doing?

In this section, we'll explore additional functionalities and enhancements to our serverless application. Building upon the foundation laid in Part 2, we'll introduce new features and integrations to further extend the capabilities of our AWS PHP application.

The Part 2 uses the result of the Fibonacci of a provided integer or a random integer from 400 to 1000 (to get a good image and not to overflow integer). This integer is the number of pixels of an image from the bucket and an arbitrary request metadata we are creating. If the image does not exist, the lambda will fetch a random image from the web with that number of pixels, save it and generate the metadata.

The computing complexity is irrelevant because it could be very complex logic or very simple, and the topics we are discussing in this part of the series will use the same design.

The lambda will now search the metadata in a DynamoDB table, saving the metadata when it does not exist. DynamoDB is largely used in Lambda code.

Get the part-3 source-code on GitHub and the diff from part-2.

Describing more AWS services - Adding a DynamoDB Table

DynamoDB plays a crucial role in serverless architectures, offering scalable and high-performance NoSQL database capabilities. In this section, we'll delve into the process of integrating DynamoDB into our AWS CDK stack, expanding our application's data storage and retrieval capabilities.

DynamoDB is a fully managed NoSQL database service provided by AWS, offering seamless integration with other AWS services, automatic scaling, and built-in security features. Its scalability, low latency, and flexible data model make it well-suited for serverless architectures and applications with varying throughput requirements.

    const table = new Table(this, TableName, {
      partitionKey: { name: 'PK', type: AttributeType.STRING },
      sortKey: { name: 'SK', type: AttributeType.STRING },
      removalPolicy: RemovalPolicy.DESTROY,
      tableName: TableName,

Following the same principles for creating other AWS resources, we utilize the AWS CDK to define a DynamoDB table within our stack. Let's dive into the key parameters of the Table constructor:

  • partitionKey: This parameter defines the primary key attribute for the DynamoDB table, used to distribute items across partitions for scalability. In our example, { name: 'PK', type: AttributeType.STRING } specifies a partition key named 'PK' with a string type. The naming convention ('PK') is arbitrary and can be tailored to suit your application's needs.
  • sortKey: For tables requiring a composite primary key (partition key and sort key), the sortKey parameter comes into play. Here, { name: 'SK', type: AttributeType.STRING } defines a sort key named 'SK' with a string type. Like the partition key, the name and type of the sort key can be customized based on your data model.
  • removalPolicy: This parameter determines the behaviour of the DynamoDB table when the CloudFormation stack is deleted. By setting RemovalPolicy.DESTROY, we specify that the table should be deleted (destroyed) along with the stack. Alternatively, you can opt for RemovalPolicy.RETAIN to preserve the table post-stack deletion, which may be useful for retaining data.

By decoupling configuration from implementation, we adhere to SOLID principles, ensuring cleaner and more robust code. This approach fosters flexibility, allowing our code to seamlessly adapt to changes, such as modifications to the table name while maintaining its functionality.

The implementation code is aware that the name will come from an environment variable and will work with that (yes, if you think that test will be easy to write, you are right):

    const lambdaEnvironment = {
      TableArn: table.tableArn,
      BucketName: brefBucket.bucketName,

Bref Upgrade

Bref, the PHP runtime for AWS Lambda, continually evolves to provide developers with the latest features and optimizations. In this section, we'll discuss the upgrade to Bref 2.0 and explore how it enhances the deployment process and performance of our serverless PHP applications.

In this section, we're upgrading our usage of Bref, a PHP runtime for AWS Lambda, to version 2.0. Bref simplifies the deployment of PHP applications to AWS Lambda, enabling us to run PHP code serverlessly.

The upgrade involves modifying our AWS CDK code to utilize the new features and improvements introduced in Bref 2.0. One notable improvement is the automatic selection of the latest layer of the PHP version, which simplifies the deployment process and ensures that our Lambda functions run on the most up-to-date PHP environment available.

  const getLambda = new PhpFunction(this, ${stackPrefix}${functionName}, {
    handler: 'get.php',
    phpVersion: '8.3',
    runtime: Runtime.PROVIDED_AL2,
    code: packagePhpCode(join(__dirname, ../assets/get), {
      exclude: ['test', 'tests'],
    environment: lambdaEnvironment,
  • `PhpFunction` Constructor: We're using the `PhpFunction` constructor provided by Bref to define our Lambda function. This constructor allows us to specify parameters such as the handler file, PHP version, runtime, code location, function name, and environment variables.
  • `handler`: Specifies the entry point file for our Lambda function, where the execution starts.
  • `phpVersion`: Defines the PHP version to be used by the Lambda function. In this case, we're using PHP version 8.3.
  • `runtime`: Indicates the Lambda runtime environment. Here, `Runtime.PROVIDED_AL2` signifies the use of the Amazon Linux 2 operating system.
  • `code`: Specifies the location of the PHP code to be deployed to Lambda.
  • `functionName`: Sets the name of the Lambda function.
  • `environment`: Allows us to define environment variables required by the Lambda function, such as database connection strings or configuration settings.

By upgrading to Bref 2.0 and configuring our Lambda function accordingly, we ensure compatibility with the latest enhancements and optimizations provided by Bref, thereby improving the performance and reliability of our serverless PHP applications on AWS Lambda.

Testing CDK

Ensuring the correctness and reliability of our AWS CDK infrastructure is crucial for maintaining a robust serverless architecture. In this section, we'll delve into testing our CDK resources, focusing on the DynamoDB table we added in the previous section.

As described earlier, we utilized the AWS CDK to provision a DynamoDB table within our serverless stack. Now, let's ensure that the table is configured correctly and behaves as expected by writing tests using the CDK's testing framework.

First, let's revisit how we added the DynamoDB table:

const table = new Table(this, TableName, {
  partitionKey: { name: 'PK', type: AttributeType.STRING },
  sortKey: { name: 'SK', type: AttributeType.STRING },
  removalPolicy: RemovalPolicy.DESTROY,
  tableName: TableName,

In this code snippet, we define a DynamoDB table with specified attributes such as partition key, sort key, removal policy, and table name. Now, to ensure that this table is created with the correct configuration, we'll write tests using CDK's testing constructs.

Check the following thest:

test('Should have DynamoDB', () => {
        "DeletionPolicy": "Delete",
        "Properties": {
          "AttributeDefinitions": [
              "AttributeName": "PK",
              "AttributeType": "S",
              "AttributeName": "SK",
              "AttributeType": "S",
          "KeySchema": [
              "AttributeName": "PK",
              "KeyType": "HASH",
              "AttributeName": "SK",
              "KeyType": "RANGE",
          "ProvisionedThroughput": {
            "ReadCapacityUnits": 5,
            "WriteCapacityUnits": 5,
          "TableName": "BrefStory-table",
        "Type": "AWS::DynamoDB::Table",
        "UpdateReplacePolicy": "Delete",

This test ensures that the DynamoDB table is created with the correct attribute definitions, key schema, provisioned throughput, table name, and other properties specified during its creation. By writing such tests, we validate that our CDK infrastructure is provisioned accurately and functions as intended.

PHP and AWS Services

Leveraging PHP in a serverless environment opens up new possibilities for interacting with AWS services. In this section, we'll examine how PHP code seamlessly integrates with various AWS services, following best practices for maintaining clean and modular code architecture.

This is the part where we have fewer serverless needs impacting the code, as the PHP code will follow the same logic we might be using to communicate with AWS services on any other platform overall (there are always some specific use cases).

The reuse of the same existing logic is excellent. It leverages the decision to keep using PHP when moving that workload to Serverless, as the bulk of the knowledge and already proven code would remain as-is. We may escape the trap of classifying that PHP code as legacy as if it should be avoided, terminated or halted.

As a side note, a few external layers of our software architecture are touched if a good software architecture was applied before. Therefore, during the implementation of this architectural change, it should be quick to realise how beneficial and time-saving it is to have a well-architectured application with a balanced decision for patterns, principles, and designs to be applied, ultimately giving flexibility to the application and its features.

The handler is simplified now and should accommodate everything to a class in the direction of following SRP, a principle that we are bringing to the code during the code bites:

Applications, domains, infrastructure, etc

Our `PicsumPhotoService` is still orchestrating the business logic. The Single Responsibility Principle and Inversion of Control are applied. We are injecting the specialized services in the constructor:

// readonly class PicsumPhotoService
    public function __construct(
        private HttpClientInterface $httpClient,
        private ImageStorageService $storageService,
        private ImageRepository $repository,

Each specialized service has all its dependencies injected in the constructor as well. We can see the factory instantiation:

    public static function createPicsumPhotoService(): PicsumPhotoService
        return new PicsumPhotoService(
            new S3ImageService(
                new S3Client(),
            new DynamoDbImageRepository(
                new DynamoDbClient(),

The `ImageStorageService` will handle all image operations, connecting to the AWS Service when appropriate and observing business logic details. This is a slim interface:

interface ImageStorageService
    public function getImageFromBucket(int $imagePixels): ?array;

    public function saveImage(int $imagePixels, mixed $fetchedImage): void;

    public function createAndPutMetadata(int $imagePixels, array $metadata): PutObjectOutput;

Instead of `: PutObjectOutput`, usually we would return a domain object, to not couple the interface with implementation details of using S3 Services, but for simplicity, I did not create a domain object here. It would be preferable though.

The `ImageRepository` will handle all metadata operations. It will save into a repository and observe logic details as well. Following the same principles, this is a slim interface:

interface ImageRepository
    public function findImage(int $imagePixels): ImageMetadataItem;

    public function addImageMetadata(ImageMetadataItem $imageMetadataItem): PutItemOutput;

The `ImageMetadataItem` is a representation of one of the domain objects we have in our codebase.

readonly class ImageMetadataItem
    public function __construct(public int $imagePixels, public array $metadata)

    public function toDynamoDbItem(): array
        return [
            'PK' => new AttributeValue(['S' => 'IMAGE']),
            'SK' => new AttributeValue(['S' => "PIXELS#{$this->imagePixels}"]),
            'pixels' => new AttributeValue(['N' => "{$this->imagePixels}"]),
            'metadata' => new AttributeValue(['S' => json_encode($this->metadata)]),

     * @param array $item
    public static function fromDynamoDb(array $item): static
        return new static(
            (int) $item['pixels']->getN(),
            (array) json_decode($item['metadata']->getS()),

If you check the implementation details, it operates transparently with all the services, business logic and AWS Services without any high couple with them. There are two utility functions:

  • toDynamoDbItem: to transform the object into a valid DynamoDb Item to be added
  • fromDynamoDb: to perform the opposite operation, transforming a DynamoDb Item into a domain object

The scope of the operation is very clear and does not bring the domain into dependency on those services, as the domain object can be used independently. It does not block any other way of dealing with it, giving the usage with other types of services, such as different databases or APIs. This is very important to the maintainability of the application without sacrificing the ease of readiness as it keeps the context of the utilities in the right place.

If you check all PHP code carefully, Bref is such a great abstraction layer that, removing the code from the handler file, any other line of code can be used as a lambda or a web application interchangeably without changing any line of code. This is very powerful, as you can imagine how you can leverage and migrate some of the existing code to lambda by just creating a handler that will trigger your existing code, if the code is well structured.


It would be simple like that. Check more details in the source code, install it and try it yourself. This project is ready to:

  • Extend lambda function using Bref
  • Upgrade to use Bref 2.0
  • Create a DynamoDB table
  • Test the stack Cloudformation code
  • Separate the PHP logic
  • Have PHP communicating with AWS Services


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