DynamoDB Without DocumentClient in AWS's V3 SDK

AWS recently announced general availability of their new (V3) version of their JavaScript SDK. The V2 version of the SDK packaged all of AWS's core services in one big export. This meant that it was easy to get access to a myriad of services with one npm install. However, the downsize was the general HUGENESS of the node module. If folks were relying on a specific version of the V2 SDK by building it into a layer, this would mean a large performance loss in loading all that code into each Lambda's cold start.

With the above announcement though, Those hefty layers are a thing of the past. Programmers can pick and choose the exact packages they need and bundle them together in a hyper small, performant layer.

Not everything is roses and peanut butter with this new release though. AWS left something pretty major out of this new SDK: the DynamoDB DocumentClient. The DocumentClient has been a key tool in coersing JavaScript objects into and out of DynamoDB. This coupled with 'ORM like methods (query, get, put, etc) made this module indispensable. Not having access to these niceties would set back productivity for any programmer. Forcing them to stick with the older SDK version.

Fear not; there is a path forward! The SDK exposes a new package titled: 'util-dynamodb'. Specifically, two helper methods that will make our marshalling lives easier: marshall and unmarshall. If you aren't familiar with the term: 'marshalling', this article has you covered.

There is the ability to serialize or 'marshall' a JavaScript object into the expected DynamoDB 'Item' structure as well as unmarshall the response back into a 'handy' JavaScript object. What does this look like in practice, specifically around Create, Read, Update, Delete style actions?


import { marshall, unmarshall } from "@aws-sdk/util-dynamodb";
import { DynamoDB } from "@aws-sdk/client-dynamodb";

const ddb = new DynamoDB({});

Make sure to npm i these modules but, importing them where needed is key (as with all node modules). Secondly, we need a new instance of the DynamoDB class to alter items in the database.


async function createNote(note: Note) {
const params = {
Item: marshall(note),

await ddb.putItem(params);
return note

Marshalling the item into a format for DynamoDB is required when inserting them into the database.


async function getNoteById(id: string) {
const params = {
Key: marshall({ id }),

const { Item } = await ddb.getItem(params);
return Item ? unmarshall(Item) : undefined;

Like with the create function above, the 'Key' to the getItem (id in this case) must be marshalled. Along with that, the response from the database must be unmarshalled back to a JavaScript object.


async function updateNote(note: Note) {
let params: UpdateItemInput = {
Key: marshall({
id: note.id,
UpdateExpression: "",
ReturnValues: "UPDATED_NEW",

let prefix = "set ";
Object.keys(note).forEach((attr: string) => {
if (attr !== "id") {
params["UpdateExpression"] += `${prefix}#${attr} = :{attr}`;
params["ExpressionAttributeValues"]![`:${attr}`] = note[attr];
params["ExpressionAttributeNames"]![`#${attr}`] = attr;
prefix = ", ";
await ddb.updateItem(params);
return note;

This is TypeScript after all... Meaning we need some foreign ! methods between attribute assignment. This just means that we are informing the compiler that we 'guarentee' that those assignments will never be undefined. Besides this, there isn't anything special here. We are reconstructing the required attributes for the updateItem function and calling it on the database instance.


async function deleteNote(id: string) {
const params = {
Key: marshall({

await ddb.deleteItem(params);
return id;

Removing or deleting an item is just as simple reading a single note by id. The id is marshalled and the params are past onto the deleteItem function

And that's it! If this were a Lambda function, there would be a massive invocation savings by only needing to package a layer with these two modules, versus the entire V2 SDK. Sure there is tree shaking, blah, blah, blah but, this method guarentees that the invocation environment has only the needed modules.

What are folks plans when it comes to moving to this new V3 SDK? Reach out on Twitter and share your upgrading experiences.