By default, AWS Lambda only supports a specific version of JavaScript. It doesn’t have an up-to-date Node.js engine. And looking a bit further ahead, we’ll be using a more advanced flavor of JavaScript with ES6/ES7 features. So it would make sense to follow the same syntax on the backend and have a transpiler convert it to the target syntax. This would mean that we won’t need to worry about writing different types of code on the backend or the frontend.

In this chapter, we are going to enable ES6/ES7 for AWS Lambda using the Serverless Framework. We will do this by setting up Babel and Webpack to transpile and package our project. If you would like to code with AWS Lambda’s default JavaScript version, you can skip this chapter. But you will not be able to directly use the sample code in the later chapters, as they are written in ES6 syntax.

Install Babel and Webpack

At the root of the project, run.

$ npm install --save-dev \
    babel-core \
    babel-loader \
    babel-plugin-transform-runtime \
    babel-preset-es2015 \
    babel-preset-stage-3 \
    serverless-webpack \
    glob \
    webpack \

$ npm install --save babel-runtime

Most of the above packages are only needed while we are building our project and they won’t be deployed to our Lambda functions. We are using the serverless-webpack plugin to help trigger the Webpack build when we run our Serverless commands. The webpack-node-externals is necessary because we do not want Webpack to bundle our aws-sdk module, since it is not compatible.

Create a file called webpack.config.js in the root with the following.

var glob = require('glob');
var path = require('path');
var nodeExternals = require('webpack-node-externals');

// Required for Create React App Babel transform
process.env.NODE_ENV = 'production';

module.exports = {
  // Use all js files in project root (except
  // the webpack config) as an entry
  entry: globEntries('!(webpack.config).js'),
  target: 'node',
  // Since 'aws-sdk' is not compatible with webpack,
  // we exclude all node dependencies
  externals: [nodeExternals()],
  // Run babel on all .js files and skip those in node_modules
  module: {
    loaders: [{
      test: /\.js$/,
      loaders: ['babel'],
      include: __dirname,
      exclude: /node_modules/,
  // We are going to create multiple APIs in this guide, and we are 
  // going to create a js file to for each, we need this output block
  output: {
    libraryTarget: 'commonjs',
    path: path.join(__dirname, '.webpack'),
    filename: '[name].js'

function globEntries(globPath) {
  var files = glob.sync(globPath);
  var entries = {};

  for (var i = 0; i < files.length; i++) {
    var entry = files[i];
    entries[path.basename(entry, path.extname(entry))] = './' + entry;

  return entries;

This is the configuration Webpack will use to package our app. The main part of this config is the entry attribute that we are automatically generating by looking for the relevant files in our project root. If you are wondering how we would handle files that are not in the project root, we touch on this at the end of our guide.

Create a file called .babelrc in the root with the following.

  "plugins": ["transform-runtime"],
  "presets": ["es2015", "stage-3"]

The presets are telling Babel the type of JavaScript we are going to be using.

Open serverless.yml and replace it with the following.

service: notes-app-api

# Use serverless-webpack plugin to transpile ES6/ES7
  - serverless-webpack

# Enable auto-packing of external modules
  webpackIncludeModules: true

  name: aws
  runtime: nodejs6.10
  stage: prod
  region: us-east-1

And now we are ready to build our backend.