28 Apr 2017

Disabling retries on Amazon Lambda

Amazon Lambda retries asyncronous invocations up to two more times if there is a failure (script error, timeout, etc). The drawback to this is that sometimes these retries are not necessary. Our functions may be time senstive or not important enough for a retry. Another thing is that the error may not be temporary, meaning retrying may not solve the issue. A database failure or syntax error is an example of this. If it’s a function scheduled to be invoked recurrently, failure retries will stack up and your bill can seriously surge.

The bad news? There is no way to disable retries on Lambda. A simple trick is to store the context’s AWS Request Id of each invocation and check against that store. This Request Id is always the same for retried invocations. For how to get the Request Id, check the context object documentation in the language you are writing your functions in. For NodeJs for example, this will be:

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

  dbClient.connect(dburl, function(err, db) {

    // DB connection error
    if (err) {
      // todo: Log and notify
      return callback(err);

    // Is this a retry?
    db.collection('reqids').findOne({id: context.awsRequestId}, function(err, doc) {
      // Yup! Exit
      if (doc)
        return callback();

      // Else Log id to remember
      // todo: Dont forget to create an index on id
      db.collection('reqids').insert({id: context.awsRequestId});

      // Rest of our function here


It is the same for process for other languages supported on Amazon Lambda. Just check for the context object and see how you can get the AWS Request Id.

My name is Opeyemi Obembe. I build things for web and mobile. You should follow me on Twitter (@kehers).