Perl runtime layer for AWS Lambda environment
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This is the README for the AWS Perl Lambda Serverless Framework...aka...plambda?

This is a POC and WIP! Documentation and implementation will likely change in the near future.

Table of Contents



At re:Invent 2018 Amazon announced support for the Lambda Runtime API and Lambda Layers.

The statement below from the press release confirms that for the first time it is technically feasible and more importantly, supported, to create Lambdas in languages others than those supported directly by their standard Lambda runtime environments.

We are announcing Lambda Runtime API and Lambda Layers, two new AWS Lambda features that enable developers to build custom runtimes, and share and manage common code between functions.

While it always been possible to invoke a shell and perform certain operations within the Lambda runtime environment (like run a Perl script using the system perl), you were forced to do that from a supported runtime language (like Node or Python) which was responsible for unloading the event and context and presenting it to your Lambda function in a language specific manner. The new Lambda API makes it possible to do the unloading and presentation piece of this in any language directly...including Perl. Hence this project.

Back to Table of Contents

Project Details

In order to create a Perl Lambda you need:

  1. An AWS custom runtime

    A custom runtime is a environment that implements the Lambda protocol using the Lambda Runtime API. The runtime passes control to your Lambda function with the context of the current event. You can see a reference implementation in bash that the folks at AWS provide as a guide here. This project will implement something I'll call the Custom Perl Runtime Layer or CPRL.

  2. A handler, written in Perl that acts as your Lambda function

    This project provides a framework that will allow you to write Perl based Lambda functions without worrying about the handshaking required by a custom runtime. For example a "Hello World!" Lambda:

    package MyLambda;
    use strict;
    use warnings;
    use parent qw/Amazon::Lambda/Runtime/;
    sub handler {
      my $self = shift;
      my ($event, $context) = @_;
      return "Hello World!";
  3. A Perl layer

    A Perl layer is a Lamba Layer that will contain a full installation of a specific version of perl. You can use a Perl layer when developing Lambdas or alternately accept the limitations associated with the version of perl that is part of the Lambda runtime environment (currently 5.16.3). You should know that if you decide to use the system Perl, it may not include modules you need in your application. My deep dive into that environment reveals that important modules are missing, modules that you might expect from a full Perl installation (for example Data::Dumper). You can backfill those modules by creating additional layers that have just the Perl dependencies you need and continue to use the system perl...or you could create a layer containing a newer, complete version of perl. The latter mechanism being a more desirable method.

  4. An IAM role for your Lambda

"A Lambda function requires an execution role created in IAM that provides the function with the necessary permissions to run."

In other words, if you want your Lambda to interact with AWS resources, it should be granted permissions to access those resources. At a minimum you'll need a role that has at least has permissions to produce CloudWatch logs.

Perl Lambda Architecture

 /                                                                               \
.                        L A M B D A   S E R V I C E                             .
.     +-------------------------------------------------------------------+      .
.     |                         H a n d l e r                             |      .
.     |...................................................................|      .
.     |                                                                   |      .
.     |                  package;                             |      .
.     |                                                                   |      .
.     |                  use strict;                                      |      .
.     |                  use warnings                                     |      .
.     |                                                                   |      .
.     |                  use parent qw/Amazon::Lambda::Runtime/;          |      .
.     |                                                                   |      .
.     |                  sub handler {                                    |      .
.     |                    my $self = shift;                              |      .
.     |                    my ($event, $context) = @_;                    |      .
.     |                                                                   |      .
.     |                    return "Hello World!";                         |      .
.     |                  }                                                |      .
.     |                                                                   |      .
.     |                  1;                                               |      .
.     +-----------+-------------------------------------------------------+      .
.     |           |         Custom Perl Runtime Layer (CPRL)              |      .
.     |           |                                                       |      .
.     | bootstrap |                                   |      .
.     |           |          Amazon::Lambda::Runtime                      |      .
.     +-----------+-------------------------------------------------------+      .
.     |                    optional Perl Layer  (e.g. perl-5_28_1)        |      .
.     +-----------+-------------------------------------------------------+      .
.     |                  Lambda Execution Environment                     |      .
.     |                                                                   |      .
.     |         - Operating system – Amazon Linux                         |      .           
.     |         - AMI – amzn-ami-hvm-2017.03.1.20170812-x86_64-gp2        |      .
.     |         - Linux kernel – 4.14.77-70.59.amzn1.x86_64               |      .
.     |         - AWS SDK for JavaScript – 2.290.0                        |      .
.     |         - SDK for Python (Boto 3) – 3-1.7.74 botocore-1.10.74     |      .
.     +-------------------------------------------------------------------+      .
.                                Firecracker                                     .

What's Included in this Project?

This project provides the tooling necessary to create item #1 - a custom runtime layer.

What's Not Included?

  • Item #2 (handler) - you create your own handler by implementing a class and method written in Perl.

  • Item #3 (a Perl layer) above is either unnecessary if you use the system version of perl found in the Lambda environment or is somewhat trivial to concoct.

  • Item #4 (IAM role) is something your cloud SysOps team will create for you or you'll create on your own if your user or role permissions allow you to create IAM roles and policies. Here's an example of creating a basic IAM role with an appropriate attached policy for your Lambda to access resources in your VPC.

    cat >assume-role-policy-document.json <<EOF
        "Version": "2012-10-17",
        "Statement": [
                "Action": "sts:AssumeRole",
                "Effect": "Allow",
                "Principal": {
                    "Service": ""
    aws iam create-role --role-name my-lambda-role --assume-role-policy-document file://assume-role-policy-document.json
    aws iam attach-role-policy --role-name my-lambda-role --policy-arn arn:aws:iam::aws:policy/service-role/AWSLambdaVPCAccessExecutionRole 

The tooling provided in this project is in the form of several scripts and at its core (and mostly opaque to you) an autoconfiscated project. Once installed and configured, you can create and install your Lambdas by executing the plambda script with the appropriate commands.

plambda config
plambda install lambda

Project Dependencies

Dependencies for the project are described below. It is recommended that you develp your Lambdas on a system that is compatible with the target Lambda enviroment. It's also assumed you have knowledge and experience with:

  • Perl
    • developing classes
    • installing modules
  • Amazon Web Services
    • command line interface
    • EC2s
    • Lambdas

Perl Modules

  • App::cpanminus
  • ...and many others

I think it can be assumed that the consumers of this project will be Perl programmers who wish to interact with AWS cloud resources. Therefore, it will also be assumed that you are familiar with installing Perl modules. The project provides a cpanfile named plambda-cpanfile you can use to install the necessary Perl modules that support the plambda framework.

GNU Utilities

  • autoconf, automake, libtools suite from the GNU project

You will also need to have handy the GNU automake tools which should be available on all *nix distros. Depending on how you roll you may have success with simply using the system package manager (yum, apt, pkg, etc) to install many of the dependencies listed below.

AWS CLI Environment

  • aws - CLI utility

    You should also have the latest AWS CLI installed that has support for Lambda Layers and have the necessary IAM permissions to issue Lambda API calls (you probably want to at least have PowerUserAccess) and possible need to be able to create IAM roles and policies. Specifically, you'll need to be able to issue the Lambda operations:

    • create-function
    • delete-function
    • delete-layer-version
    • get-function
    • get-layer-version
    • invoke
    • list-functions
    • list-layer-versions
    • list-layers-by-version
    • list-layers
    • publish-layer-version
    • publish-version
    • update-function-configuration

    Additionally, you should be able to issue the Security Token Service operation get-caller-identity and the IAM list-roles API.

Other Dependencies

  • The standard set of utilities found on all *nix based systems
    • perl, sed, awk, cp, mv, rm, mkdir, mktemp, zip, unzip, comm, and possibly others
  • jq - a JSON parsing utility - used to parse JSON output from AWS CLI output

Instaling Dependencies on an Amazon Linux AMI

The instructions below assume you have provisioned an EC2 or are running in a container or system that looks like one. If you are attempting to develop on a Debian based distro (Ubuntu, e.g.) you might have some success as long as you can install the dependencies and your Lambdas are not too complex (meaning you are not packaging up dependencies that might be binary incompatible with the Lambda environment).

You will, however, more than likely, run into problems if you don't develop in the target can't emphasize enough the fact that you should be building and packaging your assets on a system that mimics the Lamdbda runtime environment.

  • Install dependencies:

    • upgrade your AWS CLI to make sure it support Lambda Layers.
    • install git, gcc, jq, automake, openssl and cpanm
    • install
    sudo pip install awscli --upgrade
    sudo yum install -y git gcc jq automake openssl-devel 'perl(App::cpanminus)'
    cpanm -S --install Module::ScanDeps

    After installing the above dependencies, make sure you run aws configure to create your AWS credentials file.

  • Bootstrap the latest version of cpanm:

    • get rid of the packaged version of cpanm on RHEL/CentOS as it's an older version with no cpanfile support
    sudo cpanm --install App::cpanminus
    sudo yum remove -y 'perl(App::cpanminus)'


After you've installed all of the project dependencies, install the project by first cloning the project and creating a distribution tarball. Install the Perl module dependencies listed in plambda-cpanfile.

git clone
cd perl-Amazon-Lambda-Runtime
sudo /usr/local/bin/cpanm --cpanfile plambda-cpanfile --installdeps .
autoreconf -i --force
make dist

If you see errors similar to this during the configure phase:

configure: error: cpanm not found? may indicate that you do not have one of the dependencies required.

Unpack the tarball created in the step above and run the install-framework script. This will install the plambda scripts.

mkdir ~/my-project
cd ~/my-project
export PLAMBDA_HOME=$(pwd)
tar --strip-components=1 -xvzf perl-Amazon-Lambda-Runtime-0.0.1.tar.gz
sudo ./install-framework

You can install the framework locally as long as you create and add the location to your PATH.

./install-framework ~/plambda

You should now have installed the necessary plumbing to create a custom runtime and Perl Lambdas. The framework includes a script named plambda that will assist in this process.

You can get help with any plambda command by providing the command name followed by help.

plambda init help

Configuring, Building and Invoking Your Lambda


  1. Create a buildspec.yml file
  2. Create a Lambda handler
  3. Configure the project
  4. Build your Lambda package
  5. Install your Lambda package
  6. Invoke your Lambda handler

Create a buildspec.yml file

Before you can build and install your Lambda you'll need to create a buildspec.yml file that describes your Lambda. You can create a template for your buildspec.yml by invoking the init command of the plambda utility.

plambda init > buildspec.yml

Inspect and edit your buildspec.yml and customize as per your requirements. See plambda init help for more details on the format and options you can set in the buildspec.yml file.

Here's an example buildspec.

  profile: sandbox
  account: 111111111111
  role: perl-lambda-vpc-role
  region: us-east-1
handler: Lambda.handler
    version: 128
    version: 1
    - subnet-08b5e355
    - sg-55888722
  DBI_DBNAME: mydb
  DBI_USER: user
  DBI_PASS: password
timeout: 3
memory-size: 128
  - /usr/lib64/mysql/

The sections of the YAML file are described below.

  • aws

    Provides basic information about the AWS account and Lambda environment.

  • handler

    The name of the Lambda handler.

  • layers (optional)

    Specifies the layers that your Lambda will use. Each section within the layer section should specify the name of the layer and the version.

  • vpc-config (optional)

    If you need to access resources in your VPC, configure the subnets and security groups here.

  • environment (optional)

    Add custom environment variables in this section.

  • timeout (optional)

    The default time out for Lambda functions is 3s. The limit for a Lambda function is 15m (900s). value by setting this value.

  • memory-size (optional)

    The default memory size is 128MB. The value should be a multiple of 64.

  • extra-libs (optional)

    If you would like to include shared library files, specify the fully qualified path names of those files here.

Create a Lambda handler

Create your Lambda in the project root directory. If you ran the plambda init command above, you'll have a stub of a Lambda written as

package Lambda;

use strict;
use warnings;

use parent qw/Amazon::Lambda::Runtime/;

sub handler {
  my $self = shift;
  my ($event, $context) = @_;
  return "Hello World!";


Configure the project

Once you have created a buildspec.yml file and implemented your handler, configure the framework.

plambda config

Build your Lambda package

After configuring the project, you build a zip-file that contains your Lambda handler and any additional dependencies. The framework tries to determine dependencies and creates a cpanfile you can later edit. You can maintain this file or you can continue to allow the framework to automatically attempt to keep it up to date when changes are made to your handler.

plambda build lambda

Install your Lambda

You can now build and install the Lambda and runtime packages. These two steps can be done at the same time by just running install command. If changes were made that require the Lambda package to be rebuilt, the framework will detect them and initiate a build prior to installing the package. If this is the first time you have run the install, both the custom Perl runtime layer (CPRL) and the Lambda package will be built and installed.

plambda install lambda

Alternately, you can build the packages separately and inspect the output prior to installation to the AWS environment.

plambda build runtime
unzip -l ~/.plambda/ | less
plambda build lambda
unzip -l ~/.plambda/ | less

Execute the state command to report the current state of your Lambda and runtime.

plambda state

Invoke you Lambda handler

After installing your runtime and Lambda packages, you can invoke your Lambda by using plambda or the AWS CLI. The plambda invoke command has some nice features that make it somewhat more convenient than using the AWS CLI. Try plambda invoke help for more details.

Typically, Lambdas are not invoked by the CLI but rather as a result of an AWS event. For example, you can map an S3 event like PutObject to a Lambda to execute some operation on an object that has landed in S3. See AWS Lambda Event Source Mapping.

For testing your Lambdas, you can simulate an event by supplying an event object as the payload and using the invoke command. The Lambda console can also be used to test your Lambda and configure test events that mimick actual AWS events.

plambda invoke payload '{"text":"Hello"}' outfile lambda.out

...or using the AWS CLI:

aws lambda invoke --payload '{"text":"Hello"}' --function-name Lambda lambda.out

The return value of your Lambda is written to the file lambda.out in the exmple above. You'll see the return code from the invoke method on STDOUT.

You can view the Lambda logs by visiting the AWS console, accessing the CloudWatch service page, and clicking on the Logs link. This will allow you to inspect the log stream created by the invocation of your Lambda. You might want to check out this project for a CLI method of watching your Lambda logs.

awslogs get /aws/lambda/Lambda -s 1m --no-color -G -w | perl -npe 's/\r/\n/g;' | less

Development Cycle

Any time you edit your handler, the buildspec, or your cpanfile a new Lambda package will need to be built and deployed. Editing your buildspec file requires that you re-configure the framework using the plambda config command. Execute the plambda install lambda command and the framework will recognize that a change has been made and update your Lambda package.

The buildand install commands will create a new cpanfile whenever your Lambda changes (just in case you've added new dependencies). If you've been manually maintaining your cpanfile, you may want to prevent the framework from overwriting it. Use the --no-scandeps option when you build or install the Lambda package. You can set an environment variable (NO_SCANDEPS) which will also prevent overwriting your cpanfile.

You can report whether or not your Lambda needs to be rebuilt by executing the install command with the --dryrun option.

plambda --dryrun install plambda

You can force a build and install of your Lambda, using the --force option.

The state command will also tell you the current state of the Lambda development environment.

|                          Lambda State                          |
| Name   | Module    | Installed | Function   | CPRL             |
| Lambda | | yes       | re-install | perl-runtime:193 |

Columns in the output of the state commnand are color coded to suggest the current state and potential actions you might want to take.

  • Module
    • green => current
    • yellow => has changed, re-build
  • Function
    • green => installed and current
    • red => needs to be re-built & re-installed
    • yellow => needs to be installed
    • --- => not installed
  • CPRL
    • green => current
    • red => re-build/re-install
    • yellow => CPRL/Lambda configuration in sync, but no runtime in your working tree
    • --- => not installed

A typical development cycle looks like this:

  1. Start a new project as previously described
  2. Create a buildspec.yml file (manually or using plambda init)
  3. Create a Perl class and method that implements your handler.
  4. Configure the framework by executing plambda config
  5. Build and install your Lambda using plambda install
  6. Invoke and test your Lambda
  7. Modify the Lambda as necessary
  8. Iterate on steps #5, #6, #7

The project includes a gitignore file you can rename to .gitignore to have git ignore many of the files that make up the framework itself.

Perl and Custom Perl Runtime Layers

Along with publishing the Lambda runtime protocol, AWS announced a new feature called Lambda Layers. These two things can, but don't have to, work together when you create custom runtimes. Most Perl developers will probably want to use a customized version of Perl (not the system perl in the default Lambda runtime environment) and an implementation of the Lambda protocol (custom runtime) that makes it easy to write and invoke Perl Lambdas. This can be done by creating two new Lambda Layers; a customized version of Perl (e.g. 5.28.1) and a custom runtime layer that calls our Perl Lambdas, i.e. the layer produced by this project (Custom Perl Runtime Layer - CPRL).

Creating A Perl Layer (optional)

If you'd like to use a version of perl other than the version found on the Lambda runtime (5.16.3), then you'll need to create a Perl layer and rebuild your CPRL to match that version. Your development environment version of perl should also match the version of perl you are going to use in the Lambda environment.

You specify the version of perl to use for your Lambdas in the runtime-buildspec.yml file. If the value is not set, then the default version of perl in Lambda runtime is used. Again, if you opt to use the default value, you should be building your Lambda packages in an environment that matches that version.

Only set the version of perl if you do not want to use the default version of perl! If you set the value to 5.16.3, the bootstrap script will look for perl in /opt/perl-5.16.3 and you will be sad.

A Lambda Layer is just a collection of files that you assemble that will be overlayed on the Lambda runtime environment in the /opt directory. Therefore, to create a Perl version that can be used as a layer you'll need to bundle up a suitable version of perl from the /opt directory. Follow this recipe:

  • Download and compile a version of Perl you'd like to install as a layer

    • build the source so that it will reside under /opt. The framework uses the convention /opt/perl-{version}, so for 5.28.1, build the Perl environment to be installed to /opt/perl-5.28.1.
  • Create a zip-file that contails the Perl layer

  • Publish the layer using the AWS CLI

    aws publish-layer-version --layer-name perl-5_28_1 --zip-file fileb:// | jq -r .LayerArn > perl-layer-arn

    For layer names, use the convention perl-{version} with periods ('.') are replaced with underscore ('_').

If you follow these conventions you'll be able to configure this framework to use any version of Perl you happen to upload as a layer.

Detailed Instructions

As previously discussed you should create your Lambda Layers on a compatible Linux environment. Make sure you have gcc installed.

  • Download and unpack a stable version of Perl

    tar xfvz perl-5.28.1.tar.gz
    cd perl-5.28.1
  • Configure as per your needs. You probably want to avoid adding the man pages since they just take up space.

    ./Configure -des -Dprefix=/opt/perl-5.28.1 -Dman1dir=none -Dman3dir=none
  • Build and install the binaries

    sudo make install
  • zip up the binary and publish the layer as described above

    cd /opt
    zip -9 -r /tmp/ perl-5.28.1/*

After uploading a new version of perl as a layer, you should make sure the perl in your working environment points to this same version. You will also need to build a CPRL specifically for this version of perl.

Edit the runtime-buildspec.yml file, update the version of perl, rebuild and install a new CPRL.

  version: 5.28.1


See the make-a-perl script in the project root. This script will spark up an EC2, compile a version of perl, create a zip-file, write it to an S3 bucket and optionally terminate itself. Depending on your region, you select an appropriate AMI that supports one of the Lambda runtime enviroments. The script starts an EC2 with that AMI and runs a user-data script that will download the Perl source code from CPAN and compile it for you.

Hints and Tips

  • Take note of the version that is returned from the publish-layer-version CLI call as this will be used when you configure your Lambda environment.
  • You should install your new version of perl to a path named using the convention perl-{version}. (ex: perl-5.28.1)
  • You should also name your Perl layer based on the version of perl, replacing '.' with '_'. (ex: perl-5_28_1)
  • The size of all of your Lambda Layers must be <250MB in total (including your function).
  • Use high compression (zip -9 ) when zipping your Perl layer since the total size of zip file to upload must be <50MB
  • Compile your perl on a compatible Amazon Linux AMI to insure compatibility with the Lambda runtime environment. See this page for more details.
  • Build your custom Perl runtime layer on the same compatible Amazon Linux AMI (e.g. in us-east-1 use ami-4fffc834)

Custom Perl Runtime Layer (CPRL)

As noted developers can write Lambdas in any language by implementing the documented protocol for custom runtimes. This project provides just such a custom runtime that allows developers to invoke Lambdas written in Perl. Feel free to modify the custom runtime provided by this project if necessary (need I say it? Pull requests welcomed!).

This project includes a bootstrap script that invokes the Perl custom runtime which eventually invokes your Perl Lambda. Take a look at the bootstrap script and the Perl class Amazon::Lambda::Runtime found in this project if you'd like to learn more.

If you do decide to modify the runtime you can re-build and install the custom runtime layer by following these instructions.

  1. Clone the project as previously described.

  2. Make modifications as necessary to src/main/perl/lambda/ and/or src/main/perl/lambda/lib/Amazon/Lambda/

  3. Clear out any previously built runtime artifacts

    plambda clean
  4. Build and install the runtime.

    plambda install runtime


Rebuilding the runtime will require that you rebuild your Lambda package for use with that version of the runtime. The rebuild process will automatically trigger plambda to rebuild your Lambda package the next time you try the install command. This is necessary due to the fact that your Lambda function is configured to use a specific version of the runtime layer and that will change each time your build a runtime. Read on...

Perl Lambda packages are supplementary to the CPRL. To avoid installing conflicting libraries when a Lambda function is packaged, only the Perl modules that are unique to the Lambda are included in the package. If modules have already been packaged in the runtime, they are not added to the Lambda deployment package. Therefore any time you build a new runtime, the framework will need to re-compute the non-overlapping modules of your Lambda and create a new Lambda package.

Again, as noted above, Lambda layers are versioned and a Lambda is configured to use a specific version of a layer.

If you start creating your own CPRLs, you may want to remove old layers that are not in use.

To remove all but the latest version of the CPRL:

plambda --old delete runtime

To see what what CPRLs you have use the --dryrun option.

plambda --dryrun delete runtime

Technical Notes & Troubleshooting

More About Perl Versions

The plambda framework uses the Perl in your path (/bin/env perl) when running scripts and more importantly when using cpanm to package dependencies for your custom Perl runtime layer (CPRL) and your Lambda package. If there is a misalignment between the perl version in your development environment and the perl you will be using in your Lambda environment, then the dependency resolution phase may not detect the correct dependencies for the environment in which you will be running your Lambda.

It is highly recommended that you use the same version of perl in both environments.

Moreover, if you choose to use the system perl for developing and the system perl in your Lambda runtime environment, make sure they are the same version (currently 5.16.3). You should also be aware that certain modules (like Data::Dumper, Digest::SHA and many others) are missing from the standard Lambda runtime.

The framework relies on cpanm for installing non-core packages, so it needs to know what is core and what is not core. Note this from the cpanm documentation with regard to the -L option:

Note that this option does NOT reliably work with perl installations supplied by operating system vendors that strips standard modules from perl, such as RHEL, Fedora and CentOS, UNLESS you also install packages supplying all the modules that have been stripped. For these systems you will probably want to install the perl-core meta-package which does just that.

Empirically, I have found that some modules in the perl-core meta-package are in fact included in the Lambda environment's Perl installation. If you want to know if a Perl module is part of the standard Lambda environment, launch an EC2 with one of the compatible AWS Linux AMIs or install the lambci/lambda Docker container and poke around. They both contain the same system perl environment (5.16.3).

If you have Docker installed...

cat >Dockerfile <<eot
FROM lambci/lambda
CMD bash

...and after building the local container...have a look around

docker build . -t lambci/lambda
docker run -it --entrypoint /bin/bash lambci/lambda:latest

Attempts to package missing modules to supplement the 5.16.3 environment by simply adding them to your cpanfile may result in some degree of futility since cpanm may consider a module part of core if you have already installed the perl-core meta-package on your RHEL or Amazon Linux development system (as you almost certainly would have done in order to get anything useful accomplished) and therefore fail to install that module in your Lambda package.

You may be able to force an installation of a module that is considered core by specifying a version of the module greater than the version already installed or possibly uninstalling the specific module (either via cpanm or your package manager) and re-install each module you need as you encounter a dependency that is missing from the Lambda environment. In this manner you may cajole cpanm into packaging your module.

In the end however, your best approach is probably to abandon the use of the system perl and develop your Perl application using a specific version that you've installed with all of the bells, whistles and modules you'd like to see in your Perl environment (keeping it all under 250MB of course!).

cpanm failures

Occasionally cpanm will fail while trying to install a module to be packaged. Here are some tips.

  • Check the cpan build log (~/.cpanm/build.log)
  • Try adding additional modules manually to your cpanfile
  • Dependencies are sometimes reported by that are not actually dependencies (at least for your use case). In those situations, remove the module from the cpanfile. Don't forget to use the --no-scandeps option after modifying the cpanfile when re-building your Lambda
  • Specify a version of the module
  • You may need to install a shared library or development package that contains necessary header files, etc to build a module. You may also need to package the library. See Packaging Libraries

Custom Perl Runtime Layer (CPRL)

The custom runtime layer created by this project essentially consists of:

  • bootstrap
  • Amazon::Lambda::Runtime ... and its Perl dependencies

In practice, this should be built and installed to your AWS environment just once either when you build your Lambda function for the first time or prior to building and installing your Lambda function. You can do this immediately after you have configured the framework and before starting work on your Lambda as shown below:

plambda install runtime

Now list the layers available:

plambda -t -a list layers
|                                                     Lambda Layers                                                    |
| Name         | Version | Created                      | ARN                                                          |
| perl-runtime |     129 | 2019-01-14T02:22:26.588+0000 | arn:aws:lambda:us-east-1:111111111111:layer:perl-runtime:129 |

Once you have a stable CPRL you may use that same layer for multiple projects. See Downloading Custom Runtimes for Use in Multiple Projects

More on Module Dependencies

The most challenging part of creating Lambdas in Perl is satisfying the module dependencies. The framework uses cpanm to install dependencies in a build directory that is then packaged in a zip-file. The zip-file is uploaded to the AWS environment.

In order for cpanm to know what to install, the framework will run a dependency checker against your Lambda module to produce a cpanfile. By default, dependency checking is done essentially using -Rc > cpanfile

If you choose to create your own cpanfile or opt to later maintain that manually, disable the scandeps option in one of the following manners:

  1. disable it globally in your plambda.yml file found in the installation share/plambda directory.

       enabled: no
  2. use the --no-scandeps option when building or installing your Lambda or runtime

    plambda --no-scandeps install lambda
  3. set the environment variable NO_SCANDEPS

You can provide your own dependency resolution program. The program should produce (on STDOUT) a cpanfile. Set the path to your program in the plambda.yml file:

   path: /path/to/program
   enabled: true
     - some-arg


As noted previously, the framework uses cpanm which allows you to set various options that direct it to find modules in different locations. By default the framework will look for CPAN modules at If you want to specify a local repository (a so-called DarkPAN repo) then set the path to your DarkPAN repo using the mirror-only option in the cpan section of your plambda.yml file.

  mirror-only: /tmp/DarkPAN

This will cause the framework to essentially execute a statement similar to the one shown below to install dependencies in a local directory to be packaged.

cpanm --mirror-only --mirror file:///tmp/DarkPAN --mirror ...

Creating a DarkPAN

Use the script to create a DarkPAN if you need a version of a module not available on CPAN or have your own mirrored repository.

mkdir -p /path/to/DarkPAN --destination /path/to/DarkPAN --pause BIGFOOT Amazon-S3-0.47.tar.gz

Packaging Libraries

Some Perl modules require shared libraries. For example DBD::mysql requires In the Lambda environment shared libraries should be installed in the /opt/lib directory if they are not already provided in the default runtime environment. Accordingly, the plambda framework allows you to specify shared libraries to be installed in that directory by adding a list of libraries in your buildspec.yml file in the exra-libs section.

  - /usr/lib64/mysql/

You should specify the paths in your development environment where plambda can find the shared libraries.

Libraries can be added to your Lambda package or the runtime itself. Add the same section (extra-libs) to the runtime-buildspec.yml file with a list of libraries you'd like to add to your CPRL.

If you are building modules that require shared libraries that are not already installed in the default Lambda environment, make sure you are building your runtime on one of the AMIs that represent a currently supported Lambda runtime environment. From this page

When creating deployment packages for AWS Lambda, any native binaries must be compiled to match the underlying AWS Lambda execution environment. Please see the AWS Lambda Developer Guide section Execution Environment and Available Libraries for additional details.

Packaging Additional Perl Modules

In order to add packages that are not identified by the, modify cpanfile or runtime-cpanfile by adding the necessary Perl modules. If you add files to either file you should use the --no-scandeps option to prevent plambda from re-computing dependencies when you modify your Lambda or the runtime.

plambda --no-scandeps install lambda

Downloading Custom Runtimes for Use in Multiple Projects

You only need to build and install the CPRL in your AWS environment once. Subsequently for other Lambdas you will be developing you can download the runtime into your current project's build tree so that you can develop and package Lambdas for that runtime.

  • Why is this necessary?

    The working model for developing Lambdas with this framework is to use a standardized CPRL, a Perl layer with a specific version of perl if desired, and your Lambda package together as the Lambda environment. Since each Lambda only packages the modules necessary to supplement the CPRL, the framework must be able to determine the additional modules needed to address your dependencies. By downloading the CPRL you wish to use, plambda can then compare the modules already packaged in the CPRL against the modules required by your Lambda to create the minimal package necessary to create a working Lambda environment.

  • Can I have multiple CPRLs?

    Sure. Since each CPRL is versioned and your Lambda is configured to use versioned layers, you can have multiple CPRLs for various projects or to address the need to package projects with different versions of perl. In practice, it may be best for the Perl community to use standardized CPRLs (one for each version of perl ?) and use your own custom runtime layers to supplement your needs. The hope is that this project is a catalyst for creating standard CPRLs and who knows...encourage AWS to add Perl to their supported runtime list.

  • Why not make the Custom Perl Runtime Layer public?

    Although layers can be published for cross (AWS) account access, and the roadmap is in fact to perhaps publish a CPRL as a public layer, this project is highly experimental and it is almost certainly premature to publish a layer at this time. Before a CPRL is published as a public layer, more thought and consideration should be given to various aspects of this implementation as it represents only a reference implementation. Security, ubiquity of the toolchain, design of the interface, etc are all topics that should be vetted prior to publishing version 1.0 of the CPRL.

  • How do I use an existing CPRL in a new project?

    Start a new project by unpacking the distribution tarball into your project directory. If you have previously run the install-framework script you do not need to run that again, the plambda utilities should already have been installed.

    mkdir ~/my-project
    cd ~/my-project
    tar --strip-components=1 xfvz perl-Amazon-Lambda-Runtime-1.0.0.tar.gz

    Now download the latest CPRL runtime you've previously installed in your AWS environment using the download command with the --runtime option.

    plambda --runtime download

    This will download the most recent (highest versioned) layer named perl-runtime. If you want to download a specific version, use the --version option when using the download command.

    Create your buildspec file, run the config command and then build and install your Lambda. Your Lambda will be built against the runtime you downloaded and only the Lambda package will be installed.


  • Can I bundle my custom perl version and the CPRL into one layer?

    Sure. You can even bundle your customized perl version, the runtime and your Lambda into the deployment package and avoid using layers. That's probably impractical, but you could bundle perl and the CPRL into one layer since they do have a relationship with one another. Assuming some degree of stability in the CPRL, this may in fact be the way to encourage a community based CPRL based on perl versions. There may be other reasons for bundling as well - you may not like this OO implementation of the Lambda protocol, object to the logging mechanism, or have some other reason to roll your own or modify the CPRL in this project (TIMTOWTDI).

    OTOH, after noodling this a long time, my guts says it is probably best to decouple the perl version layer and the CPRL. If you want to bundle the smallest Lambda functions possible and continue to use this framework for developing your Lambdas, the three package (Perl, CPRL, Lambda) approach seems to makes sense to me. If you disagree, or want to experiment see below.

    If you plan on using the Lambda console to develop Perl Lambdas (and you can!), you'll want to try hard to keep your deployment package under 3MB in size. That's another good reason to split up the layers.

  • If I want to bundle the CPRL with my version of perl how do I do that?

    After you create a zip file containing your version of perl, simply add the runtime to the zip file and create a new layer.

    • Clear out any existing runtime

      plambda clean
      plambda config
    • Make sure your runtime-buildspec.yml file specifies your version of perl.

      cat runtime-buildspec.yml
      extra-libs: ~
        version: 5.28.1
    • Build a new version of the CPRL.

      plambda build runtime
    • Merge the CPRL files just built into your zipped Perl package.

      cd src/main/perl/lambda/cache/runtime
      zip -r /tmp/ local/*
    • Create a new Lambda layer that represents the bundled package

      aws lambda publish-layer-version --layer-name perl5_28_1 --compatible-runtimes provided \
        --description 'perl5.28.1/CPRL' --zip-file fileb:///tmp/ > layer_arn

    Currently, if you choose to use a bundled layer, you will no longer be able to use this framework to package your Lambda functions. That may change in the future, however in order to build and install your Lambdas now, you will need to manually track your dependencies and create the Lambda zip file in a fashion similar to that shown below.

    mkdir -p local/lib/perl5
    cp local/lib/perl5
    zip -r local/*
    aws lambda create-function --function-name Lambda --runtime provide --handler Lambda.handler \
                               --role arn:aws:iam::111111111111:role/perl-lambda-vpc-role \
                               --zip-file fileb://
    aws lambda update-function-configuration --function-name Lambda --layers $(cat layer_arn)

    HINT: After building your runtime for your version of perl, create a Lambda package for a Lambda that does nothing but provide a stub handler. This process will create a cpanfile that lists the dependencies for the Lambda. Save that cpanfile since it represents the additional modules that have already been packaged with your layer. You can safely omit those from any future package you build and install.

  • I think I know what I'm doing with this Lambda stuff. Can't I just create the CPRL without using the included plambda script?

    Yes, this project is actually just an autoconfiscated project that is designed to build a CPRL and your Lambda package using a Makefile. The plambda script is a POC project that might grow up someday to represent a smoother pathway for developing serverless Perl applications, OTOH, you may just want to use the included Perl modules that represent the core of the runtime and deal with dependencies, building and packaging using your own toolchain.

    If all you want to do is create the runtime layer package and you are familiar with configuring and installing GNU projects in the Linux environment and know enough about the AWS Lambda environment to install layers and functions, then follow the basic recipe below.

    • Provision an EC2 using the latest Linux AMI that is compatible with the Lambda runtime environment

    • Install dependencies (note you'll need the latest AWS CLI with Lambda layer support)

    • Clone the project

    • Configure the project

    • In the src/main/perl/lambda directory run make runtime-pkg

    • Publish the layer

      After you've completed these steps you will have a file named which represents the CPRL built for use with the system perl found on the default Lambda runtime environment.

      Install the zip file as a new layer, create a Lambda handler, package and install it manually as previously described and have some fun.

    • A more detailed recipe is shown below. These instructions are only for building a CPRL that you might use with the system version of perl and assumes you don't want to use the framework itself.

      • Install dependencies to your EC2 - See Installing Dependencies on an Amazon Linux AMI

      • Clone the project:

        git clone
        cd perl-Amazon-Lambda-Runtime/
        export PLAMBDA_HOME=$(pwd)
      • Install some additional Perl dependencies:

        cp runtime-cpanfile-default  runtime-cpanfile
        sudo /usr/local/bin/cpanm --cpanfile runtime-cpanfile --installdeps .
      • Configure and build the runtime:

        touch runtime-buildspec.yml
        autoreconf -i --force
        cd src/main/perl/lambda/
        touch runtime-libs
        NO_SCANDEPS=1 make runtime-pkg
    • Publish the layer:

      Note: Make sure you run aws configure first and/or your EC2 has a role that enables you to make Lambda API calls.

      aws lambda publish-layer-version --layer-name perl-runtime-test --zip-file fileb:// | jq -r .LayerVersionArn > layer_arn
    • Write a Lambda function:

      cd $PLAMBDA_HOME
      mkdir -p local/lib/perl5
      cat >local/lib/perl5/ <<eof
      package MyLambda;
      use parent qw/Amazon::Lambda::Runtime/;
      sub handler {
        return "Hello World!";
    • Package it up:

      zip -r local/*
    • Create the Lambda:

      aws lambda create-function --function-name MyLambda --handler MyLambda.handler --role some-role --zip-file fileb:// --runtime provided
      aws lambda update-function-configuration --layers $(cat layer_arn) --function-name MyLambda
    • Invoke the Lambda:

      aws lambda invoke --function-name MyLambda --invocation-type RequestResponse   --payload '{"text":"Hello"}' lambda.out
  • Cool, but I'd really rather just install a CPAN module and be done with it. Any chance I can do that?

    Ok. The core of the CPRL just is just three Perl artifacts and one bash script as noted previously. This only represents however, the necessary but insufficient components that make up the CPRL. You still need to package these artifacts up with the other dependent Perl modules into a zip file to create a Lambda layer. The instructions above that you have hopefully read are to make sure the correct dependencies are packaged in the right places to make the whole kit & kaboodle work. In other words, you need the kit and the kaboodle! Knowing that people like have options and enjoy gnashing their teeth installing dependencies, there may be a CPAN distribution available soo that just bundles the core components.

    • Amazon::Lambda::Runtime
    • Amazon::Lambda::Context

    It's left as an exercise to the reader to go from there, but there are plenty of clues sprinkled throughout this tome so that those with the inclination can tinker.

Accessing VPC Resources

In order for your Lambda to access resources in your VPC (like RDS instances), you'll need to provide the subnet ids and security group ids necessary for your Lambda to communicate with these resources. You can provide these in your buildspec file.

     - string
     - string
     - string
     - string

Passing Environment Variables

You can configure your Lambda environment with environment variables by specifying them in an environment section of your buildspec. Specify a environment variables as key value pairs as shown below:

   LOG_LEVEL: debug
   BUCKET_NAME: my_bucket

IMPORTANT: Whenever the buildspec.yml file is updated, you will need to re-configure and build your Lambda.


Your Lambda can simply write to STDERR in order to log messages to CloudWatch log streams. You may find this adequate, but you can also use the logger from the parent class of your Lambda to log messages at various log levels that are more consumable (and understandable in the console) by CloudWatch.

sub handler {
  my $self = shift;

  my ($event, $context) = @_;

  my $logger = $self->get_logger;
  $logger->log_debug("some message");

By default, logging is done at the info level. You can also set the log level using an environment variable (LOG_LEVEL) configured in your Lambda environment. See Passing Environment Variables for information regarding environment variables in your Lambda environment.

See perldoc AWS::Lambda::Runtime for more details about logging.

Be aware that logs messages may not immediately be available in CloudWatch. If you are familiar with Lambda debugging you know that it may take several seconds for log messages to appear in CloudWatch.


  • automatically create a role and policies for the Lambda
  • autocleanup old layers
  • create a CPAN distribution of core files
  • allow events to be bound to Lambda
  • create a CI/CD pipeline for creating the CRPL using Docker or packer
  • eliminate use of make and autoconf


(c) Copyright 2019 Robert C. Lauer. All rights reserved. This is free software. It may be used, redistributed and/or modified under the same terms as Perl itself.