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A simple command-line tool to deploy CloudFormation applications to AWS





dynamic is a command line tool written in Node.js that makes it easier to create and manage CloudFormation applications. It is made for those who like the serverless framework, but want something a little closer to the CloudFormation-metal where you are in control of writing the CloudFormation templates. If you are familiar with CloudFormation and you build serverless applications with AWS Lambda, this CLI might be something for you.

Here's what dynamic does:

  • CloudFormation Templates as JS Files. dynamic allows you to write CloudFormation templates in multiple .js files and compile them into a single file during deployment. Files matching functions/**/*.cf.js will by default be considered CloudFormation files, but this can be changed with the cloudformationMatch config setting. These files must return a JavaScript object with at least one of the required CloudFormation template keys (e.g. { Parameters: {}, Resources: {}, Outputs: {}} or { Resources: {}}). This makes it possible to divide longer templates into multiple, and use JavaScript logic to create your template files.

  • Lambdas. dynamic allows you to write lambda functions, compile them into a production build with Webpack, and deploy them via CloudFormation. By default, files in the functions/ folder not matching *.cf.js or *.test.js will be considered a lambda, but this can be changed with the lambdaMatch config setting. Unlike the serverless framework, you will need to write the CloudFormation template to create your lambda, but dynamic makes this a lot easier by automatically packaging all lambdas with their dependencies via Webpack, upload them to a chosen S3 folder, and injecting this S3 key into the CloudFormation template.

  • Environments. dynamic has native support for multiple environments, which is decided based on the current Git branch. Want to spin up a new staging environment for your application? Simply run git checkout -b staging and dynamic deploy. The CloudFormation template will automatically receive the name of the environment via the environment parameter. The branch master is considered the production environment, but all other branches keep their names.

  • Native Deployments. All createStack and updateStack commands are automatically handled by running dynamic deploy. This makes it easy to redeploy the entire application (dynamic deploy) or a single function (dynamic deploy myFunction). All updates a made via CloudFormation change sets.

  • Generators. dynamic makes it easy to get started with a new project. Simply run dynamic generate route to generate the files needed to deploy a single lambda attached to a AWS API HTTP Gateway.

Project Example

First, let's consider this simple project structure:


When you run dynamic deploy, the myScript.js file is packaged, zipped, uploaded to S3, and the parameter myScriptS3Key is passed to the template created by reading the file.

Consider a more complicated project structure:


When you run dynamic deploy, the indexUsers.js and showUser.js files are packaged, zipped, uploaded to S3, and the parameters indexUsersS3Key and showUserS3Key is passed to the CloudFormation template. This template is created by combining all the *cf.js files, which allows you to have the CloudFormation template for each route in a separate file. You can use subfolders too, but they are ignored, so filenames have to be unique.


First install with npm i -g @designsystemsinternational/dynamic

cd into your project folder and run dynamic init. Follow the instructions.

Then rune dynamic generate route. follow the instructions.

When you are ready to deploy your application, run dynamic deploy.

After doing a full deploy, you can deploy a single lambda function by running dynamic deploy NAME. In the simple project example from above, this would be dynamic deploy myScript.


  • dynamic init. Asks a few questions needed to run dynamic and saves the response to package.json.
  • dynamic deploy. Create or update the entire stack. This will prompt you about all parameters in the template, and update the template and all the function code.
  • dynamic deploy functionName. Creates a CloudFormation changeset with only the update function code.
  • dynamic generate route. Create the files needed for a single API route.
  • dynamic show. Shows the outputs for the current environment.

Config file settings

The dynamic config is defined in a dynamic key inside the package.json. The following settings apply:

  • cloudformationMatch. The glob patterns used to detect cloudformation files. Uses micromatch and defaults to ["functions/**/cf.js"].
  • lambdaMatch. The glob patterns used to detect lambda files. Uses micromatch and defaults to ["functions/**/*.js", "!functions/**/cf.js"].
  • buildDir. Directory where the lambda build files go. Defaults to build.

Automatic parameters

The following parameters are automatically added to the CloudFormation template and can be used with { Ref: "PARAM_NAME" }.

  • environment. Name of the current environment, which is named after the current Git branch.
  • operationsS3Bucket. Name of the bucket chosen for lambda zip files.
  • [function]S3Key. For every function, the path of the zip file of its code in the operations bucket.

Why not use X?

  • serverless is a great framework, but it introduces another layer of abstraction on top of CloudFormation which is not necessarily great when you are used to writing CloudFormation templates. Also, it does not use CloudFormation for function deploys, which defeats the purpose of the stack. It is also written to work on many cloud providers whereas dynamic is solely for AWS CloudFormation.