Repository showing the POC of debugging dotnetcore2.1 AWS Lambda locally.
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Debugging .NET Core AWS Lambda Function in VS Code

Prerequisites and Setup

To run this sample you'll need:

  1. Docker 🐋
  2. VS Code
  3. VS Code C# extension.

Also you'll need to download vsdbg to you machine in order to mount it later to the running Docker container with the Lambda. You could easily get it to your home directory by invoking these commands from the repository root (or anywhere actually):

# Script is compatible with powershell and bash

# Create directory to store debugger locally
mkdir $HOME/vsdbg

# Mount this to get built vsdbg for AWS Lambda runtime container on host machine
docker run --rm --mount type=bind,src=$HOME/vsdbg,dst=/vsdbg --entrypoint bash lambci/lambda:dotnetcore2.0 -c "curl -sSL | bash /dev/stdin -v latest -l /vsdbg"

And this sample needs patched version of lambci/lambda:dotnetcore2.1 image with enabled debugging support for .NET Core (it will work on 2.0 version too, I took the latest just to showcase).

From repository root run these commands:

cd AWSDocker

docker build -t me/lambda:dotnetcore2.1 .
cd ../Lambda

# You need VS Code available from PATH for that - this will open IDE
code .

Upon successfully running above commands, you should have patched version of AWS .NET Core Lambda runtime image tagged me/lambda:dotnetcore2.1 with debugging support and compatible vsdbg available on your machine under ~/vsdbg path.

How to run this sample

Step 1 - Build .NET Core function

Open /Lambda folder with VS Code. And hit Ctrl + Shift + B to get the list of supported build commands. Choose to either publish (build in a way, that it could be run by dotnet runtime without SDK) AWS Lambda function using build Docker container or locally with your SDK. You can examine how these commands are setup in tasks.json file.

Integrated Terminal

Step 2 - Invoke the function

Now pop open VS Code integrated terminal by hitting Ctrl + ` . We will use use it to invoke our function in a way, that aligns closely with how SAM CLI does it. Run this command:

From powershell:

# Invoke AWS Lambda

docker run --rm --mount type=bind,src=$HOME/vsdbg,dst=/vsdbg,readonly --mount type=bind,src=$PWD/out,dst=/var/task,readonly --publish 6000 me/lambda:dotnetcore2.1 Lambda::Lambda.TestFunction::Handler -d "'Debugger Works!'"

From bash:

docker run --rm --mount type=bind,src=$HOME/vsdbg,dst=/vsdbg,readonly --mount type=bind,src=$PWD/out,dst=/var/task,readonly --publish 6000 me/lambda:dotnetcore2.1 Lambda::Lambda.TestFunction::Handler -d '"Debugger Works!"'

Note the difference is only in argument quoting.

Function invocation

After doing that you'll see the output of the runtime: Waiting for the debugger to attach...

Step 3 - Attaching

This means, that we are almost there. Now we need to attach to the process inside of the running Docker container. Luckily this is very easy - just go to the debugging section of Visual Studio code and choose .NET Core Docker Attach configuration there. Put some breakpoint in the TestFunction.cs Handler method and and hit F5 to start debugging.

At this point VS Code should go into the debug mode turning orange and all and breakpoint is actually hit, yay 🎉

Debugger works!

Detailed explanation


The most tricky part about .NET Core remote debugging is that debugger must be installed on the target rather than host machine. In our situation Docker container with AWS Lambda environment is that target machine. That said, the first challenge is to get vsdbg (our debugger) to target machine somehow.


  • Include vsdbg installation step to the Dockerfile. Making our runtime environment sort of “debugging ready” by default, thus providing seamless experience to SAM users.
  • Create some additional step in SAM CLI which will check some SAMs internal folder for debugger presence, if no debugger was found run Docker container of runtime with our install vsdbg script and mounted folder to get the output to host machine. After the installation SAM will reuse this debugger.
  • Tell the user to do the same steps of the previous option locally and then supply debugger_path SAM flag. The most inconvenient option as for me, but provides full control over the debugger. Note: VS Code and Visual Studio 2017 both use vsdbg as remote debugger

I think the easiest is the first one. Second option requires the biggest effort, but provides consistent UX, and - no need to touch Dockerfile. The third one is the most flexible of all

In this POC I've used the third method. When debugger is downloaded locally and then mounted to the running container.

Function invoker - Program.cs

Now, as we have debugger on the target machine, all we need to do is talk to it via VS Code and let him attach to our process in the Docker. For all of this to work we need two things:

  • Publish our lambda function in Debug configuration;
  • Halt lambda execution until the debugger is attached.

As for the first point it is straightforward and all, we are just passing -c Debug flag to dotnet publish command, and that is pretty much it.

For the second point we need some mechanism to wait till the attachment occurs. Sadly dotnet does not support this out of the box. Track the issue here and here. So I've started to investigate possible ways of accomplishing this wait and found, that corerun (source) supports waiting for the debugger to attach out of the box with \d flag. I've thrown in the link to the source intentionally, because it actually uses simple getchar() to support this feature - go check it out.

But in our case to provide seamless experience for the user we will use infinite loop which will inspect Debugger.IsAttached property on each iteration and timeout after 10 minutes (see source). Thanks @mikemorain and @sanathkr for the feedback to the initial approach and supporting the idea of spin wait.


This POC uses docker to perform .NET Core remote debugging and one very neat trick with docker ps command to avoid introducing any changes to SAM CLI and provide user with unified UX across runtimes. SAM CLI internally uses published port to provide debugging support for all of its runtimes. But .NET Core debugger is not capable of running in http mode. That is why VS Code C# extension provides pipeTransport configuration section to perform remote .NET debugging. User must provide pipeProgram which will let VS Code to talk to vsdbg located under debuggerPath on target machine (Docker container in our case).

I've chosen docker to serve as pipeProgram via its exec command. By supplying -i flag we keep the stdin open to let VS Code perform its communication. The only unsolved part in this equation is how do we know container name or container id to performexec, because SAM CLI does not specifically set those. And the answer is: use docker ps with filter!

docker ps -q -f publish=<debugger_port>

-q will make this command print only the id of the container, and -f publish=<port> will filter containers based on the published port,pretty neat, right? This exact trick was used in launch.json to get container id for the docker exec command. I've used powershell on windows to get this nested command working (the sample includes configuration for OSX and Linux also):

"pipeTransport": {
    "pipeProgram": "powershell",
    "pipeArgs": [ 
        "docker exec -i $(docker ps -q -f publish=6000) ${debuggerCommand}"
    "debuggerPath": "/vsdbg/vsdbg",
    "pipeCwd": "${workspaceFolder}",

As for the processId - luckily entry point program always gets PID of 1 in a running container, so no remote picker required!


We need to have a clean way to get the debugger on the target machine (Docker container). We can choose any option we like for that and stick to it. Using infinite loop we've implemented Ad-hoc mechanism to wait for the debugger to attach. With debugger on board of the target machine and VS Code wonderful pipeTransport setup it becomes super easy to attach to Docker container's process which is our AWS Lambda runtime.


This is an updated version of the POC, initial one could be found here