Event Source - SES

In this section we’ll walkthrough how to trigger your lambda function in response to inbound email. This overview is based on the SpartaApplication sample code if you’d rather jump to the end result.


Assume that we have already verified our email domain with AWS. This allows our domain’s email to be handled by SES.

We’ve been asked to write a lambda function that logs inbound messages, including the metadata associated with the message body itself.

There is also an additional requirement to support immutable infrastructure, so our service needs to manage the S3 bucket to which message bodies should be stored. Our service cannot rely on a pre-existing S3 bucket. The infrastructure (and associated security policies) together with the application logic is coupled.

Getting Started

We’ll start with an empty lambda function and build up the needed functionality.

func echoSESEvent(event *json.RawMessage,
  context *sparta.LambdaContext,
  w http.ResponseWriter,
  logger *logrus.Logger) {

    "RequestID": context.AWSRequestID,
  }).Info("Request received")

Unmarshalling the SES Event

At this point we would normally continue processing the SES event, using Sparta types if available.

However, before moving on to the event unmarshaling, we need to take a detour into dynamic infrastructure because of the immutable infrastructure requirement.

This requirement implies that our service must be self-contained: we can’t assume that “something else” has created an S3 bucket. How can our locally compiled code access AWS-created resources?

Dynamic Resources

The immutable infrastructure requirement makes this lambda function a bit more complex. Our service needs to:

  • Provision a new S3 bucket for email message body storage
    • SES will not provide the message body in the event data. It will only store the email body in an S3 bucket, from which your lambda function can later consume it.
  • Wait for the S3 bucket to be provisioned
    • As we need a new S3 bucket, we’re relying on AWS to generate a unique name. But this means that our lambda function doesn’t know the S3 bucket name during provisioning.
    • In fact, we shouldn’t even create an AWS Lambda function if the S3 bucket can’t be created.
  • Include an IAMPrivilege so that our Go function can access the dynamically created bucket
  • Discover the S3 Bucket at lambda execution time

Provision Message Body Storage Resource

Let’s first take a look at how the SES lambda handler provisions a new S3 bucket via the MessageBodyStorage type:

func appendSESLambda(api *sparta.API,
  lambdaFunctions []*sparta.LambdaAWSInfo) []*sparta.LambdaAWSInfo {

  // Setup options s.t. the lambda function has time to consume the message body
  sesItemInfoOptions := &sparta.LambdaFunctionOptions{
    Description: "",
    MemorySize:  128,
    Timeout:     10,
  // Our lambda function will need to be able to read from the bucket, which
  // will be handled by the S3MessageBodyBucketDecorator below
  lambdaFn := sparta.NewLambda(sparta.IAMRoleDefinition{}, echoSESEvent, sesItemInfoOptions)

  // Add a Permission s.t. the Lambda function automatically manages SES registration
  sesPermission := sparta.SESPermission{
    BasePermission: sparta.BasePermission{
      // SES only supports wildcard ARNs
      SourceArn: "*",
    InvocationType: "Event",
  // Store the message body
  bodyStorage, _ := sesPermission.NewMessageBodyStorageResource("Special")
  sesPermission.MessageBodyStorage = bodyStorage

The MessageBodyStorage type (and the related MessageBodyStorageOptions type) cause our SESPermission handler to add an S3 ReceiptRule at the head of the rules list. This rule instructs SES to store the message body in the supplied bucket before invoking our lambda function.

The single parameter "Special" is an application-unique literal value that is used to create a stable CloudFormation resource identifier so that new buckets are not created in response to stack update requests.

Our SES handler then adds two ReceiptRules:

sesPermission.ReceiptRules = make([]sparta.ReceiptRule, 0)
sesPermission.ReceiptRules = append(sesPermission.ReceiptRules, sparta.ReceiptRule{
  Name:       "Special",
  Recipients: []string{"sombody_special@gosparta.io"},
  TLSPolicy:  "Optional",
sesPermission.ReceiptRules = append(sesPermission.ReceiptRules, sparta.ReceiptRule{
  Name:       "Default",
  Recipients: []string{},
  TLSPolicy:  "Optional",

Dynamic IAMPrivilege Arn

Our lambda function is required to access the message body in the dynamically created MessageBodyStorage resource, but the S3 resource Arn is only defined after the service is provisioned. The solution to this is to reference the dynamically generated BucketArnAllKeys() value in the sparta.IAMRolePrivilege initializer:

// Then add the privilege to the Lambda function s.t. we can actually get at the data
lambdaFn.RoleDefinition.Privileges = append(lambdaFn.RoleDefinition.Privileges,
    Actions:  []string{"s3:GetObject", "s3:HeadObject"},
    Resource: sesPermission.MessageBodyStorage.BucketArnAllKeys(),

The last step is to register the SESPermission with the lambda info:

// Finally add the SES permission to the lambda function
lambdaFn.Permissions = append(lambdaFn.Permissions, sesPermission)

At this point we’ve implicitly created an S3 bucket via the MessageBodyStorage value. Our lambda function now needs to dynamically determine the AWS-assigned bucket name.

Dynamic Message Body Storage Discovery

Our echoSESEvent function needs to determine, at execution time, the MessageBodyStorage S3 bucket name. This is done via sparta.Discover():

configuration, configErr := sparta.Discover()

  "Error":         configErr,
  "Configuration": configuration,
}).Debug("Discovery results")

The sparta.Discover() function returns a DiscoveryInfo structure. This structure is the unmarshaled CloudFormation Metadata of the CloudFormation Lambda::Function resource.

The structure includes the stack’s Pseudo Parameters as well information about any immediate resource dependencies. Eg, those that were explicitly marked as DependsOn. See the discovery documentation for more details.

Of note is that sparta.Discover() does not accept any parameters and instead uses reflect to determine which sparta.LamdaAWSInfo structure to lookup. Discovery is therefore limited to being called from a Sparta-compliant Go lambda function only.

It will return the full set of data iff:

  • It’s called from a Sparta.LambdaFunction function
  • That function has immediate AWS resource dependencies

A sample DiscoveryInfo for SES is below :

  "Region": "us-west-2",
  "StackID": "arn:aws:cloudformation:us-west-2:123412341234:stack/SpartaApplication/a94e1e70-cc2a-11e5-b38e-50d5ca789e4a",
  "StackName": "SpartaApplication",
  "Resources": {
    "SESMessageStoreBucketa622fdfda5789d596c08c79124f12b978b3da772": {
      "ResourceID": "SESMessageStoreBucketa622fdfda5789d596c08c79124f12b978b3da772",
      "Properties": {
        "DomainName": "spartaapplication-sesmessagestorebucketa622fdfda5-1ide79vkwrklp.s3.amazonaws.com",
        "Ref": "spartaapplication-sesmessagestorebucketa622fdfda5-1ide79vkwrklp",
        "WebsiteURL": "http://spartaapplication-sesmessagestorebucketa622fdfda5-1ide79vkwrklp.s3-website-us-west-2.amazonaws.com",
        "sparta:cloudformation:restype": "AWS::S3::Bucket"
      "Tags": {
        "sparta:logicalBucketName": "Special"

Note that the Resources map has an entry for the S3 bucket. Our code just needs to root around a bit to find the Ref property which is the immediate dependencies bucket name output. If there were multiple resources, we could have disambiguated by also filtering for the Special tag, which is the logical name we provided earlier:


As we only have a single dependency, our discovery filter is:

// The message bucket is an explicit `DependsOn` relationship, so it'll be in the
// resources map.  We'll find it by looking for the dependent resource with the "AWS::S3::Bucket" type
bucketName := ""
for _, eachResource := range configuration.Resources {
  if eachResource.Properties[sparta.TagResourceType] == "AWS::S3::Bucket" {
    bucketName = eachResource.Properties["Ref"]
if "" == bucketName {
  logger.Error("Failed to discover SES bucket from sparta.Discovery")
  http.Error(w, "Failed to discovery SES MessageBodyBucket", http.StatusInternalServerError)

Sparta Integration

The rest of echoSESEvent satisfies the other requirements, with a bit of help from the SES event types:

var lambdaEvent spartaSES.Event
err := json.Unmarshal([]byte(*event), &lambdaEvent)
if err != nil {
  logger.Error("Failed to unmarshal event data: ", err.Error())
  http.Error(w, err.Error(), http.StatusInternalServerError)

// Get the metdata about the item...
svc := s3.New(session.New())
for _, eachRecord := range lambdaEvent.Records {
    "Source":     eachRecord.SES.Mail.Source,
    "MessageID":  eachRecord.SES.Mail.MessageID,
    "BucketName": bucketName,
  }).Info("SES Event")

  params := &s3.HeadObjectInput{
    Bucket: aws.String(bucketName),
    Key:    aws.String(eachRecord.SES.Mail.MessageID),
  resp, err := svc.HeadObject(params)
    "Error":    err,
    "Metadata": resp,
  }).Info("SES MessageBody")

Wrapping Up

With the lambdaFn fully defined, we can provide it to sparta.Main() and deploy our service. The workflow below is shared by all SES-triggered lambda function:

  • Define the lambda function (echoSESEvent).
  • If needed, create the required IAMRoleDefinition with appropriate privileges if the lambda function accesses other AWS services.
  • Provide the lambda function & IAMRoleDefinition to sparta.NewLambda()
  • Add the necessary Permissions to the LambdaAWSInfo struct so that the lambda function is triggered.

Additionally, if the SES handler needs to access the raw email message body:

  • Create a new sesPermission.NewMessageBodyStorageResource("Special") value to store the message body
  • Assign the value to the sesPermission.MessageBodyStorage field
  • If your lambda function needs to consume the message body, add an entry to sesPermission.[]IAMPrivilege that includes the sesPermission.MessageBodyStorage.BucketArnAllKeys() Arn
  • In your Go lambda function definition, discover the S3 bucketname via sparta.Discover()