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README.md

NightmareJS on Lambda

Intro

UPDATE: 2017-December 22nd

If your script broke on December 22nd, download the latest version of nightmare-lambda-pack.js or manually edit line 21 of nightmare-lambda-pack.js:

 // ...
    defaultElectronPackageUrl: 'https://github.com/dimkir/nightmare-lambda-tutorial/releases/download/v0.5/nightmare-lambda-pck-with-xvfb-20170313-1726-43.zip',
 // ...

Quick Start

Pick a name for your lambda function

Throughout this guide we will use name of function nightmare-tut-hello so be sure to adjust command line arguments in case you use different name.

Install dependencies

WIP! In order to complete this tutorial, we need to publish nightmare-lambda-pack npm package and get our PR merged into xvfb package creator. (or create fork). After those steps completed we would be able to use the following installation line: npm install nightmare nightmare-lambda-pack xvfb. However for the moment we have to pull dev versions of those files via wget.

cd nightmare-tut-hello
npm init -y
npm install nightmare 
mkdir -p lib/bootstrap
wget -O lib/bootstrap/nightmare-lambda-pack.js https://raw.githubusercontent.com/dimkir/nightmare-lambda-tutorial/master/lib/bootstrap/nightmare-lambda-pack.js
wget -O lib/bootstrap/xvfb.js https://raw.githubusercontent.com/dimkir/nightmare-lambda-tutorial/master/lib/bootstrap/xvfb.js


Write your lambda function source code

When writing your lambda logic, you will have to add binary pack installation line outside of the event handler and wrap actual application logic within callback to xvfb.start() (and remember to call xvfb.stop()).

After you've completed those steps your source would look like this:

var 
  binaryPack = require('./lib/bootstrap/nightmare-lambda-pack'), // WIP: should be `require('nightmare-lambda-pack')`
  Xvfb       = require('./lib/bootstrap/xvfb'),                  // WIP: should be `require('xvfb')`
  Nightmare  = require('nightmare')
;

var isOnLambda = binaryPack.isRunningOnLambdaEnvironment;

var electronPath = binaryPack.installNightmareOnLambdaEnvironment();

exports.handler = function(event, context){
    var xvfb = new Xvfb({
        xvfb_executable: '/tmp/pck/Xvfb',  // Xvfb executable will be at this path when unpacked from nigthmare-lambda-pack
        dry_run: !isOnLambda         // in local environment execute callback of .start() without actual execution of Xvfb (for running in dev environment)
    });
    
    xvfb.start((err, xvfbProcess) => {

        if (err) context.done(err);

        function done(err, result){
            xvfb.stop((err) => context.done(err, result));
        }

        // ...
        // Main logic with call to done() upon completion or error
        // ...

        var nightmare = Nightmare({
          show: true,                   // show actual browser window as Nightmare clicks through
          electronPath: electronPath    // you MUST specify electron path which you receive from installation
        });

        nightmare
            .goto('https://duckduckgo.com')
            .type('#search_form_input_homepage', 'github nightmare')
            .click('#search_button_homepage')
            .wait('#r1-0 a.result__a')
            .evaluate(function () {
                return document.querySelector('#r1-0 a.result__a').href;
            })
            .end()
            .then(function (result) {
                console.log(result);
                done(null, result);  // done() instead of context.done()
            })
            .catch(function (error) {
                console.error('Search failed:', error);
                done(error);         // done() instead of context.done()
            });    

    });
};

Create lambda function zip-package

Let's create deployment package:

zip -r deployment-package.zip index.js lib node_modules -x '*electron/dist*' 
ls -lh *.zip

The resulting zip package should be 3-4Mb in size.

Not that we add -x '*electron/dist*' option to exclude node_modules/nightmare/node_modules/electron/dist` subfolder which has heavy electron binaries, which are of no use when pushed to AWS Lambda environment.

Note that '*electron/dist*' pattern will exclude any filepath (eg. selectron/distrib), so if any of your direct or transitive dependency names happen to collide with this pattern, simply use longer version of the exclusion pattern:

zip -r deployment-package.zip index.js lib node_modules \
  -x '*node_modules/nightmare/node_modules/electron/dist*'

Create your Lambda function on AWS

Now as you have zip-file with your lambda source, you are ready to create lambda function on AWS.

We are going to create function with the following parameters:

  • Runtime node4.3
  • Memory size 1GB (Selecting 1GB of memory would automatically match up with faster instance which will unzip binary package in a jiffy)
  • Timeout of 60 seconds (Downloading & installing Electron along with Xvfb and running Nightmare crawl of the site will take longer than default timeout of 3 seconds. We recommend 60 or at least 30 seconds).
  • Deployment package zip from the previous step

There are many ways you can create lambda function on AWS

  • AWS web console (you can do it yourself)
  • AWS CLI
  • Cloud Formation

In order to help you get up and running with your lambda function quickly, we have prepared a simple standalone helper script lambda-install-aws.sh, which you can put into your projects directory.

wget -O lambda-install-aws.sh https://raw.githubusercontent.com/dimkir/nightmare-lambda-tutorial/master/bin/install/lambda-install-aws.sh

Now edit this script "Settings" section and set up your unique function name and region.

#############
#  Settings
#############

FUNCTION=nightmare-tut-hello 
REGION=eu-west-1
DEPLOYMENT_PACKAGE_ZIP=deployment-package.zip

In order to run this script you need AWS CLI installed and credentials configured.

Keep in mind that AWS permissions for initial creation of Lambda function should be relatively broad. Because creation of lambda function requires permissions forAWS IAM to create role and policy and later permissions for AWS Lambda to create function and configuration. If you use managed policies I would recommend Administrator as PowerUser won't be enough.

Now let's create our function on AWS:

chmod +x lambda-install-aws.sh
./lambda-install-aws.sh

And you will get output like this:

[nightmare-tut-hello]$ ./lambda-install-aws.sh 
>>> Creating execution role ...
    Execution role name: [nightmare-tut-hello-lambda-execution-role]
    Execution role arn: [arn:aws:iam::326625058526:role/nightmare-tut-hello-lambda-execution-role]
>>> Creating execution policy...
>>> Creating lambda function...
{
    "CodeSha256": "nulOwznG/Cm9OaNvglEJedqL9OuFfUNPOznhE4cZMFs=", 
    "FunctionName": "nightmare-tut-hello", 
    "CodeSize": 3658846, 
    "MemorySize": 1024, 
    "FunctionArn": "arn:aws:lambda:eu-west-1:326625058526:function:nightmare-tut-hello", 
    "Version": "$LATEST", 
    "Role": "arn:aws:iam::326625058526:role/nightmare-tut-hello-lambda-execution-role", 
    "Timeout": 60, 
    "LastModified": "2017-03-18T12:53:21.106+0000", 
    "Handler": "index.handler", 
    "Runtime": "nodejs4.3", 
    "Description": ""
}

Invoke your lambda function

We can use AWS CLI to invoke lambda and will pass two parameters: done.log will hold the result of call to context.done() and as payload we will send empty event {}

aws lambda invoke --function-name nightmare-tut-hello --payload {} done.log

And in case of success you would get code 200

{
    "StatusCode": 200
}

Inspect result(or error) examine contents of the done.log file:

cat done.log

if everything worked well, you will see segment url as a result. In case of error you may get null or error object.

"https://github.com/segmentio/nightmare"

Self hosting electron

Currently the specially prepared electron binary is hosted on Github Releases (which as of day of this writing is hosted in us-east-1). The electron binary has to be downloaded by lambda upon every container warmup. This means that if your lambda runs in us-east-1 the downloads would be lightning fast. Whereas if your lambda is in farther region, it may take 5-20 seconds to download it.

Self hosting electron binary will speed up your lambdas and is highly recommended. Self hosting is easy - just upload the electron binary into your S3 bucket in the same region as lambda and modify call to .installNightmare() as shown below:

After uploading electron binary to S3, make sure that lambda has permissions to access this file.

// ....

if ( isOnLambda ){
    electronPath = binaryPack.installNightmare({
        electronPackageUrl : 
        'https://s3-YOUR-REGION.amazonaws.com/YOUR-BUCKET/nightmare-lambda-pck-with-xvfb-20170313-1726-43.zip'
    }; 
}


// ....

How did we make Nightmare work on Lambda - The Full Picture

Lambda is amazing, but this awesomeness comes at cost of few restrictions and limitations. Thus setting up Nightmare "the usual way" via npm install nightmare and uploading it to Lambda won't work. In this tutorial we outline the recipe to go around those Lambda limitations and give some technical insights which will help you develop intuition for running Nightmare on Lambda.

The vanilla approach which won't work on Lambda

You would typically start writing source for your lambda function on local development machine following those steps:

1. Install Nightmare `npm install nightmare` 
2. Create `index.js` (source below)
3. Create dummy event file to test lambda `echo {} > event.json` 
4. Run `lambda-local -l index.js  -e event.json --timeout 30`  

To run lambda on local machine with ease, we will use lambda-local command line utility which you can install on your dev machine via npm install -g lambda-local.

// index.js 
var Nightmare = require('nightmare');       
var nightmare = Nightmare({ show: true });

exports.handler = function(event, context){

    nightmare
    .goto('https://duckduckgo.com')
    .type('#search_form_input_homepage', 'github nightmare')
    .click('#search_button_homepage')
    .wait('#r1-0 a.result__a')
    .evaluate(function () {
        return document.querySelector('#r1-0 a.result__a').href;
    })
    .end()
    .then(function (result) {
        console.log(result);
        context.done(null, result); 
    })
    .catch(function (error) {
        console.error('Search failed:', error);
        context.done(error);
    });

}
  

Problem with missing Electron dependencies

Although this approach seems trivial, there's a bit of magic involved. In particular npm install will not only install JavaScript sources for the dependencies, but also binary dependencies. And because Nightmare relies heavily on Electron under the hood, the binary executable electron will be installed into your projects subfolder node_modules/nightmare/node_modules/electron/dist. The dist folder will have few more supporting binaries including localization files and libs.

On your typical desktop distribution of Linux everything is going to work well. On most server distributions you will hit missing shared libraries error, which you can solve by following instructions on solving Common Execution Problems. However the solution provided requires root access, which you do not have on Lambda.

So Electron requires:

  • a ton of static libraries which are not installed on Lambda (eg. libgtk+)
  • a real display or fake display framebuffer (eg. Xvfb ) to run successfully

In order to solve the problem we have picked and compiled missing libraries manually and now we need to upload to Lambda somehow.

Lambda has limit to zip-package size

When we first bundled all the missing libraries into a zip-file to upload to Lambda, it turned out 58 Mb whilst Lambda has limit of 50 Mb maximum for function zip-file.

The solution was simple - to package all the required binaries into a zip file and make it available on S3 in the region where your function runs. Your lambda function should download the binary package to /tmp directory before each execution and unzip it.

This is why in the head of your lambda function you must use:

var binaryPack = require('./lib/bootstrap/nightmare-lambda-pack');

// returns path to electron executable eg. /tmp/pck/electron
var electronPath = binaryPack.installNightmareOnLambdaEnvironment();

exports.handler = function(event, context){
    ...
}

The installNightmareOnLambdaEnvironment() call would take care of pulling binary package from S3 into current running Lambda container before execution of your event handler. Also as the name suggests on your local machine it will do nothing. So you can run lambda function locally with lambda-local or other runner.

If you want to inspect the binary Nightmare package (which includes Electron and Xvfb) for your region you can find some of them here:

Adding virtual display framebuffer to Lambda (Xvfb)

To run display application on headless systems, you would run virtual framebuffer (Xvfb) as a background daemon or via runner xvfb-run.sh. In both cases Xvfb is run before we run our application. In order to achieve the same result and run Xvfb before Nightmare/Electron in our Lambda function, we will use xvfb package. This package will also take care of closing cleanly Xvfb after we have finished Nightmare execution.

The example below wraps your main logic with calls to start and stop Xvfb

Note: in this example Xvfb will be forced to run regardless of whether you already got a real display or not (eg. on your dev machine). Instructions on how to run Xvfb only when on AWS Lambda environment are further below.

var Xvfb = require('./lib/bootstrap/xvfb');

// ...

exports.handler = function(event, context){


var xvfb = new Xvfb({ xvfb_executable: '/tmp/pck/Xvfb' }); // this is location of Xvfb executable, after binary pack unzipped

 xvfb.start((err, xvfbProcess) => {
     
     if (err) context.done(err);

     function done(err, result){
        xvfb.stop((err) => context.done(err, result)); 
     }

     // ... 
     // Here goes the logic of your actual lambda function
     // note that you must call done() instead of context.done() to close Xvfb correctly.
     // ...


 });

}

// ...

Code sample for final solution

Now we know that in order to run Nightmare successfully as lambda function we need to: 1. Download the binary lambda pack 2. Wrap our main logic in calls to Xvfb

var 
  binaryPack = require('./lib/bootstrap/nightmare-lambda-pack'),
  Xvfb       = require('./lib/bootstrap/xvfb')
;

var isOnLambda = binaryPack.isRunningOnLambdaEnvironment;

var electronPath = binaryPack.installNightmareOnLambdaEnvironment();

exports.handler = function(event, context){
    var xvfb = new Xvfb({
        xvfb_executable: '/tmp/pck/Xvfb',  // Xvfb executable will be at this path when unpacked from nigthmare-lambda-pack
        dry_run: !isOnLambda         // in local environment execute callback of .start() without actual execution of Xvfb (for running in dev environment)
    });
    
    xvfb.start((err, xvfbProcess) => {

        if (err) context.done(err);

        function done(err, result){
            xvfb.stop((err) =>{
                context.done(err, result);
            });
        }

        // ...
        // Main logic with call to done() upon completion or error
        // ...

    });
};
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