AWS Elasticsearch JavaScript Client

I have spent some time working with the AWS Elasticsearh Service lately. Regrettably, I found the threshold before being productive was higher than I anticipated. One of my obstacles was to get an AWS Elasticsearch JavaScript client working inside an AWS Lambda function, so I thought I’d better make a note of my solution in case I run into a similar problem in the future.

Elasticsearch IAM Policy Document

Before looking at the client implementation, we need to make sure that it is allowed to access the Elasticsearch domain. As always, this requires that the client is associated with an IAM Policy Document. Adhering to the AWS guideline of principle of least privileges the policy is as strict as possible.

The * character at the end of the es:ESHttp* value implies that all HTTP methods are allowed. You may choose to lock down the policy even further. One example is to use "es:ESHttpGet" for just permitting reading data from Elasticsearch. Another example is ["es:ESHttpPost", "es:ESHttpPut"] for clients that only add data to the domain. Finally, the Resource property tells us that the policy statement only affects the Elasticsearch domain with the specified ARN.

Elasticsearch Client

My first naive attempt was to use a HTTP client to make requests to the Elasticsearch HTTP API of my domain. It failed misearably, AWS requires that HTTP requests are signed with Signature Version 4 to be valid. The AWS SDK handles this internally so usually you do not need to bother. Realizing that, I took a closer look at what functionality the ES class in the AWS JavaScript SDK offers. It does indeed provide an Elasticsearch API, but it is all about domain configuration, management and it does not provide any client features. Next, when I studied the AWS Elasticsearh developer guide, I found an JavaScript client snippet. It had some limitations in my opinion (it uses global variables for request configuration and response handling just logs HTTP status code and response body). For this reason, I chose to rewrite it to a more generic elasticsearch-client.js file:

Example Usage

The above implementation enables you to implement all methods in the Elasticsearch HTTP API. The only missing part is an environment variable called ELASTICSEARCH_DOMAIN that should have the value of your AWS hosted Elasticsearch domain such as To create a new Elasticsearch index called my-index you execute the function call by providing the required parameters in the corresponding Create Index API:

And the result may look something like:


  • The Elasticsearch client above returns a Promise. Timeouts and unknown domain URLs result in a Promise.rejects() whereas successful HTTP request/response results in Promise.resolve(). The resolved JavaScript object has three or four properties, namely the HTTP statusCode, the HTTP statusMessage, the HTTP headers and body in case there is a HTTP response body. Consequently, the promise will be resolved successfully by any 4XX client error codes (e.g. 404 – Not Found) and 5XX server errors (e.g. 503 Service Unavailable). Feel free to modify the code to reject the promise on HTTP errors if you prefer such behaviour.
  • The client uses the AWS.EnvironmentCredentials class for obtaining valid credentials since it is being deployed as part of a Lambda function. This is not the only Node.js runtime environment and for this reason this is not the only credential class in the SDK. Please study the Setting Credentials in Node.js chapter in the AWS JavaScript developer guide for other alternatives.
  • A different approach to connect to an AWS Elasticsearch domain is to use the official Elasticsearch JavaScript client. Like my HTTP client attempt, it cannot be used directly since it does not have the AWS Signature Version 4 capability. However, it has a pluggable architecture and there is a community extension called http-aws-es that solves this problem. I have not tried this method, but they are both available as npm dependencies. Please check elasticsearch and http-aws-es for more information.

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