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Nicky Meuleman
Nicky Meuleman

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Serverless GraphQL - part deux

This is a continuation of From zero to a serverless GraphQL endpoint in a flash. Please read that post first to get up to speed.

Ready? Let's go! 🚀

Serverless GraphQL using multiple files

We left off at a point where the entire serverless GraphQL endpoint was contained in one file.

That's cool, but a larger API than we have currently would cause that file to become absolutely colossal. Let's split our singular graphql.js file into multiple files. Each with their own concern.

Each serverless function file that gets sent to Netlify should include everything it needs, since it is going to run on AWS Lambda as its own, self-contained thing.

Combining that with the fact I told you every .js file inside the functions folder would become a serverless function. How do we split the logic of a serverless function over multiple files? 🤔

It turns out Netlify supports another method of creating a serverless function.

It might not surprise you, but it's a folder... The solution is a folder.

Only the .js file inside that folder with the same name as the folder will become a serverless function. The rest of the folder can be filled with supporting files the function can use.

Following that logic, move functions/graphql.js to functions/graphql/graphql.js

It's time to start pulling parts from that file and placing them in their own file.

First is the schema, or our typeDefs variable.
Move it to functions/graphql/schema.js and export that variable.

const { gql } = require('apollo-server-lambda');

exports.typeDefs = gql`
  type Query {
    hello: String!
    allPokemon: [Pokemon]!
    pokemonById(id: Int!): Pokemon
    pokemonByName(name: String!): Pokemon
  type Mutation {
    createPokemon(id: Int!, name: String!, isVeryBest: Boolean!): Pokemon
    deletePokemon(id: Int!): Pokemon
    updatePokemon(id: Int!, name: String, isVeryBest: Boolean): Pokemon
  type Pokemon {
    id: ID!
    name: String!
    isVeryBest: Boolean!

Repeat the same step for pokemons (which I moved to functions/graphql/db.js) and resolvers.

When you are done, the folder structure should look like this

directory structure

Using context to access the database

You can use a neat feature to access the database.
Instead of directly referencing the pokemons array, we'll add the array to the context of our GraphQL server and talk to our database that way.

Make sure, at the top of functions/graphql/graphql.js, to import the variables from all the files you just created.

Add a context key to the object you pass to ApolloServer.
That key will hold a function that returns an object.

That context object will be available in every resolver function as a parameter.

Reminder of the resolver function signature:

fieldName(obj, args, context, info) { result }

The functions/graphql/graphql.js file now looks like this:

const { ApolloServer } = require('apollo-server-lambda');
const { typeDefs } = require('./schema.js');
const { resolvers } = require('./resolvers.js');
const { pokemons } = require('./db.js');

const server = new ApolloServer({
  context: function() {
    return { db: pokemons };
  playground: true,
  introspection: true

exports.handler = server.createHandler();

Editing our resolvers

The change required to take advantage of what we just did is very straightforward.

In functions/graphql/resolvers.js

Find all instances of pokemons and replace them with context.db

The isVeryBest conundrum

Right now, multiple Pokemon can have their isVeryBest field set to true.

That doesn't make any logical sense! Only ONE Pokemon -Mr. Mime- can be the very best.

We are storing the isVeryBest field in our database for every individual Pokemon. That's not needed.
Let's remove that field from the database, while keeping it available in our GraphQL endpoint.

How will we do that? By adding a resolver that will be called every time we ask for that field on a Pokemon.

After removing the isVeryBest key from every pokemon in db.js, move to the resolvers.js file.

There, next to the top level Query and Mutation objects, add an object named Pokemon.
This object will hold the resolvers you want to run whenever something about a Pokemon is asked in your GraphQL endpoint.

The isVeryBest field no longer holds any data.
Returning a boolean for that field based on whether or not a Pokemon is Mr. Mime seems ideal.

That logic will happen in the isVeryBest resolver in our newly created Pokemon object.

The resolvers obj parameter holds the result that is returned from the resolver of the parent field.

The Apollo docs for resolvers

Sound confusing? It did to me.

In practice what that means is if you query for

  allPokemon {

Every time that query finds a Pokemon the information for that single Pokemon is sent along for the ride to the isVeryBest resolver.
If that Pokemon is Mr. Mime, the obj parameter will be { id: 122, name: "Mr. Mime" }

That checking whether or not a Pokemon is Mr. Mime now seems easy, since the id is available at

Also remove all the other references to isVeryBest from your resolvers!

exports.resolvers = {
  Query: {
    hello: (obj, args, context) => {
      return 'Hello, file-seperated world!';
    allPokemon: (obj, args, context) => {
      return context.db;
    pokemonById: (obj, args, context) => {
      return context.db.find(pokemon => ===;
    pokemonByName: (obj, args, context) => {
      return context.db.find(pokemon => ===;
  Mutation: {
    createPokemon: (obj, args, context) => {
      const pokemon = { id:, name: };
      return pokemon;
    updatePokemon: (obj, args, context) => {
      const pokemon = context.db.find(pokemon => ===; =;
      return pokemon;
    deletePokemon: (obj, args, context) => {
      const index = context.db.findIndex(pokemon => ===;
      const pokemon = context.db[index];
      context.db.splice(index, 1);
      return pokemon;
  Pokemon: {
    isVeryBest: (obj, args, context) => {
      // is it Mr. Mime?
      return === 122;

Congratulations! 🎉 Our GraphQL server is now broken! 😢

Caught why?

Our resolvers and our schema are no longer in sync

That means some adjusting in schema.js to reflect the changes we made in resolvers.js, removing the mentions of isVeryBest from our Mutations (but not our Pokemon!).

Next steps

The next step will be to replace our JavaScript array database.

For this we'll use FaunaDB.
The database will finally be populated with more pokemon, without doing a bunch of manual data entry, using the PokeAPI

For a sneak peak of what the next blogpost will contain, feel free to look at the code for the examples

GitHub logo NickyMeuleman / serverless-graphql

Serverless GraphQL endpoint

If you can't wait for FaunaDB content, Chris :party-corgi: Biscardi has some very useful content in his The Complete Guide to FaunaDB course on Egghead.

If you can wait, I highly encourage you to check it out anyway. Did I mention it's free? 🆓

As something to look forward to, a little birdie corgi told me more content is coming to that course!

Get it? Corgi? That's Chris. Chris is tall 🙈

Optional explanation

Did you try to include files from outside of the functions directory into your serverless function?

That won't work, at least not without some extra effort.

Earlier in this blogpost, I mentioned every .js file that turns into a serverless function should include everything it needs.
Without that extra effort, everything it needs should live in the functions directory.

The .js files we created in our functions directory turning into a working serverless function has a layer of magic to it.

On Netlify, that layer is called zip it and ship it.
Netlify runs it before publishing your site, to package up everything it needs and put it in a neat .zip archive 📦.

When you look at the Deploys log when Netlify builds your site, you'll see it in action.

Netlify using zip it and ship it during the build

Build step

The extra effort mentioned above is a build step.
That build step will gather the everything it needs.

That's not all it can do for you.
If configured correctly, that build step can also convert languages that normally wouldn't be supported.

Netlify Lambda is a package that can perform such a build step for you.

For the JaSON API, the source code for the functions lives in src/lambda and is written in TypeScript.

Before Netlify publishes the site, the build step runs and eventually writes out .js files that include everything they need.

Those .js files then get picked up by zip it and ship it, and off to AWS Lambda they go 🚀.

Discussion (2)

quantuminformation profile image

Thanks again!

quantuminformation profile image

Looking fwd to part 3!