AWS Lambda
Developer Guide

Retries on Errors

A Lambda function can fail for any of the following reasons:

  • The function times out while trying to reach an endpoint.


  • The function fails to successfully parse input data.


  • The function experiences resource constraints, such as out-of-memory errors or other timeouts.

If any of these failures occur, your function will throw an exception. How the exception is handled depends upon how the Lambda function was invoked:

  • Event sources that aren't stream-based – Some of these event sources are set up to invoke a Lambda function synchronously and others invoke it asynchronously. Accordingly, exceptions are handled as follows:


    • Synchronous invocation – The invoking application receives a 429 error, and is responsible for retries. For a list of supported event sources and the invocation types they use, see Supported Event Sources. These event sources may have additional retries built into the integration.

      If you invoked the Lambda function directly through AWS SDKs, or through API Gateway, your client receives the error and can choose to retry. If you are invoking Lambda through API Gateway, you need to make sure you map Lambda response errors to API Gateway error codes.


    • Asynchronous invocation – Asynchronous events are queued before being used to invoke the Lambda function. If AWS Lambda is unable to fully process the event, it will automatically retry the invocation twice, with delays between retries. If you have specified a Dead Letter Queue for your function, then the failed event is sent to the specified Amazon SQS queue or Amazon SNS topic. If you don't specify a Dead Letter Queue (DLQ), which is not required and is the default setting, then the event will be discarded. For more information, see Dead Letter Queues.


  • Stream-based event sources – For stream-based event sources (Amazon Kinesis Streams and DynamoDB streams), AWS Lambda polls your stream and invokes your Lambda function. Therefore, if a Lambda function fails, AWS Lambda attempts to process the erring batch of records until the time the data expires, which can be up to seven days for Amazon Kinesis Streams. The exception is treated as blocking, and AWS Lambda will not read any new records from the stream until the failed batch of records either expires or processed successfully. This ensures that AWS Lambda processes the stream events in order.

For more information about invocation modes, see Event Source Mapping.

Suggested Reading

If you are new to AWS Lambda, we suggest you read through all of the topics in the How It Works section to familiarize yourself with Lambda. The next topic is AWS Lambda Permissions Model.

After you read all of the topics in the How it Works section, we recommend that you review Building Lambda Functions, try the Getting Started exercise, and then explore the Use Cases. Each use case provides step-by-step instructions for you to set up the end-to-end experience.