Breaking Down AWS SAM: The Serverless Application Model published 4/14/2023 | 4 min read

With the rise of cloud computing, serverless architecture has become more prevalent. The serverless approach lets developers focus on building the application logic without worrying about infrastructure management, scaling, and maintenance, using services like AWS Lambda, Azure Functions, or Google Cloud Functions.

The AWS Serverless Application Model (SAM) is an open-source framework that streamlines the process of building and deploying serverless applications on AWS. It is built on top of AWS CloudFormation and adds several features to facilitate serverless application development.

In this post, we will dive into the AWS Serverless Application Model, its benefits and limitations, and a step-by-step guide on how to use it.

What is AWS Serverless Application Model?

The AWS Serverless Application Model (SAM) is an open-source framework used to develop and deploy serverless applications on AWS. SAM is based on AWS CloudFormation, which enables you to define your infrastructure as code. SAM extends the capabilities of CloudFormation by adding new resources and simplifying the syntax used to define them.

SAM allows you to define your serverless application as a template in either JSON or YAML format. The template includes the AWS resources needed to run the application, such as Lambda functions, API Gateway APIs, DynamoDB tables, S3 buckets, and more.

SAM also provides a command-line interface (CLI) tool that you can use to package and deploy the application to AWS. The tool automatically generates the necessary CloudFormation code and uploads the artifacts to Amazon S3.

Benefits of AWS SAM

Here are some of the benefits of using AWS SAM:

Simplified Syntax

SAM offers a simplified syntax for defining serverless resources. You can define Lambda functions, API Gateway APIs, DynamoDB tables, and more in simple YAML templates. SAM also offers a library of preconfigured templates that you can use as a starting point for your serverless applications.

Easy to Deploy

SAM makes it easy to package and deploy your serverless application by allowing you to use the same AWS CloudFormation deployment process. The CLI tool can package and upload the application code and the CloudFormation templates to S3 for deployment.

Integrated with CloudFormation

SAM is built on top of AWS CloudFormation, which makes it easy to manage your serverless application infrastructure. You can use CloudFormation to create and update stacks that contain your serverless resources.

Limitations of AWS SAM

Here are some of the limitations of using AWS SAM:

Limited Support for CloudFormation Features

Although SAM is based on AWS CloudFormation, it does not support all of the features offered by CloudFormation. For example, you cannot create Amazon RDS databases or AWS Elastic Beanstalk environments using SAM.

Limited Portability

SAM is specific to AWS and cannot be used to deploy to other cloud providers. If you need to deploy to multiple cloud providers, you will need to use different deployment tools for each one.

Limited Debugging Capabilities

SAM does not provide much support for debugging serverless applications. If your application encounters an error, you will need to rely on CloudWatch Logs or other logging solutions to troubleshoot the issue.

How to Use AWS SAM?

To use AWS SAM, you need to have an AWS account and the AWS CLI installed on your local machine. You can then install the SAM CLI by running the following command in the terminal:

pip install aws-sam-cli

Once you have the SAM CLI installed, you can create a new serverless application by running the following command:

sam init --runtime python3.7

This creates a new serverless application with a simple Lambda function in Python 3.7. You can edit the template and the code to suit your needs.

To build and deploy your serverless application, you can use the following command:

sam build --use-container
sam deploy --guided

The sam build command packages your application and its dependencies into a deployment package. The sam deploy command deploys the package to AWS by uploading it to Amazon S3 and creating a CloudFormation stack.


The AWS Serverless Application Model (SAM) is a useful tool for building and deploying serverless applications on AWS. SAM simplifies the process of defining serverless resources by providing a simpler syntax and integrating with AWS CloudFormation.

While SAM has some limitations, it is a solid framework for developers who want to focus on building serverless applications without worrying about infrastructure management.

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