Resolvers - AWS AppSync


From the previous sections, you learned about the components of the schema and data source. Now, we need to address how the schema and data sources interact. It all begins with the resolver.

A resolver is a unit of code that handles how that field's data will be resolved when a request is made to the service. Resolvers are attached to specific fields within your types in your schema. They are most commonly used to implement the state-changing operations for your query, mutation, and subscription field operations. The resolver will process a client's request, then return the result, which can be a group of output types like objects or scalars:

Resolver runtime

In AWS AppSync, you must first specify a runtime for your resolver. A resolver runtime indicates the environment in which a resolver is executed. It also dictates the language your resolvers will be written in. AWS AppSync currently supports APPSYNC_JS for JavaScript and Velocity Template Language (VTL). See JavaScript runtime features for resolvers and functions for JavaScript or Resolver mapping template utility reference for VTL.

Resolver structure

Code-wise, resolvers can be structured in a couple of ways. There are unit and pipeline resolvers.

Unit resolvers

A unit resolver is composed of code that defines a single request and response handler that are executed against a data source. The request handler takes a context object as an argument and returns the request payload used to call your data source. The response handler receives a payload back from the data source with the result of the executed request. The response handler transforms the payload into a GraphQL response to resolve the GraphQL field.

Pipeline resolvers

When implementing pipeline resolvers, there is a general structure they follow:

  • Before step: When a request is made by the client, the resolvers for the schema fields being used (typically your queries, mutations, subscriptions) are passed the request data. The resolver will begin processing the request data with a before step handler, which allows some preprocessing operations to be performed before the data moves through the resolver.

  • Function(s): After the before step runs, the request is passed to the functions list. The first function in the list will execute against the data source. A function is a subset of your resolver's code containing its own request and response handler. A request hander will take the request data and perform operations against the data source. The response handler will process the data source's response before passing it back to the list. If there is more than one function, the request data will be sent to the next function in the list to be executed. Functions in the list will be executed serially in the order defined by the developer. Once all functions have been executed, the final result is passed to the after step.

  • After step: The after step is a handler function that allows you to perform some final operations on the final function's response before passing it to the GraphQL response.

Resolver handler structure

Handlers are typically functions called Request and Response:

export function request(ctx) { // Code goes here } export function response(ctx) { // Code goes here }

In a unit resolver, there will only be one set of these functions. In a pipeline resolver, there will be a set of these for the before and after step and an additional set per function. To visualize how this could look, let's review a simple Query type:

type Query { helloWorld: String! }

This is a simple query with one field called helloWorld of type String. Let's assume we always want this field to return the string "Hello World". To implement this behavior, we need to add the resolver to this field. In a unit resolver, we could add something like this:

export function request(ctx) { return {} } export function response(ctx) { return "Hello World" }

The request can just be left blank because we're not requesting or processing data. We can also assume our data source is None, indicating this code doesn't need to perform any invocations. The response simply returns "Hello World". To test this resolver, we need to make a request using the query type:

query helloWorldTest { helloWorld }

This is a query called helloWorldTest that returns the helloWorld field. When executed, the helloWorld field resolver also executes and returns the response:

{ "data": { "helloWorld": "Hello World" } }

Returning constants like this is the simplest thing you could do. In reality, you'll be returning inputs, lists, and more. Here's a more complicated example:

type Book { id: ID! title: String } type Query { getBooks: [Book] }

Here we're returning a list of Books. Let's assume we're using a DynamoDB table to store book data. Our handlers may look like this:

/** * Performs a scan on the dynamodb data source */ export function request(ctx) { return { operation: 'Scan' }; } /** * return a list of scanned post items */ export function response(ctx) { return ctx.result.items; }

Our request used a built-in scan operation to search for all entries in the table, stored the findings in the context, then passed it to the response. The response took the result items and returned them in the response:

{ "data": { "getBooks": { "items": [ { "id": "abcdefgh-1234-1234-1234-abcdefghijkl", "title": "book1" }, { "id": "aaaaaaaa-bbbb-cccc-dddd-eeeeeeeeeeee", "title": "book2" }, ... ] } } }

Resolver context

In a resolver, each step in the chain of handlers must be aware of the state of the data from the previous steps. The result from one handler can be stored and passed to another as an argument. GraphQL defines four basic resolver arguments:

Resolver base arguments Description
obj, root, parent, etc. The result of the parent.
args The arguments provided to the field in the GraphQL query.
context A value which is provided to every resolver and holds important contextual information like the currently logged in user, or access to a database.
info A value which holds field-specific information relevant to the current query as well as the schema details.

In AWS AppSync, the context (ctx) argument can hold all of the data mentioned above. It's an object that's created per request and contains data like authorization credentials, result data, errors, request metadata, etc. The context is an easy way for programmers to manipulate data coming from other parts of the request. Take this snippet again:

/** * Performs a scan on the dynamodb data source */ export function request(ctx) { return { operation: 'Scan' }; } /** * return a list of scanned post items */ export function response(ctx) { return ctx.result.items; }

The request is given the context (ctx) as the argument; this is the state of the request. It performs a scan for all items in a table, then stores the result back in the context in result. The context is then passed to the response argument, which accesses the result and returns its contents.

Requests and Parsing

When you make a query to your GraphQL service, it must run through a parsing and validation process before being executed. Your request will be parsed and translated into an abstract syntax tree. The content of the tree is validated by running through several validation algorithms against your schema. After the validation step, the nodes of the tree are traversed and processed. Resolvers are invoked, the results are stored in the context, and the response is returned. For example, take this query:

query { Person { //object type name //scalar age //scalar } }

We're returning Person with a name and age fields. When running this query, the tree will look something like this:

From the tree, it appears that this request will search the root for the Query in the schema. Inside of the query, the Person field will be resolved. From previous examples, we know that this could be an input from the user, a list of values, etc. Person is most likely tied to an object type holding the fields we need (name and age). Once these two child fields are found, they are resolved in the order given (name followed by age). Once the tree is completely resolved, the request is completed and will be sent back to the client.