Building federated GraphQL on AWS Lambda
6 min read
A single, highly discoverable, and well-documented backend endpoint enabled our clients to experiment with the data available in the graph. We were able to clean up the backend API layer, introduce clear ownership boundaries, and give our client powerful tools to speed up their development cycle.
This post is written by Krzysztof Lis, Senior Software Development Engineer, IMDb.

IMDb is the world's most popular source for movie, TV, and celebrity content. It deals with a complex business domain including movies, shows, celebrities, industry professionals, events, and a distributed ownership model. There are clear boundaries between systems and data owned by various teams.

Historically, IMDb uses a monolithic REST gateway system that serves clients. Over the years, it has become challenging to manage effectively. There are thousands of files, business logic that lacks clear ownership, and unreliable integration tests tied to the data. To fix this, the team used GraphQL (GQL). This is a query language for APIs that lets you request only the data that you need and a runtime for fulfilling those queries with your existing data.

It's common to implement this protocol by creating a monolithic service that hosts the complete schema and resolves all fields requested by the client. It is good for applications with a relatively small domain and clear, single-threaded ownership. IMDb chose the federated approach, that allows us to federate GQL requests to all existing data teams. This post shows how to build federated GraphQL on AWS Lambda.


This article covers migration from a monolithic REST API and monolithic frontend to a federated backend system powering a modern frontend. It enumerates challenges in the earlier system and explains why federated GraphQL addresses these problems.

I present the architecture overview and describe the decisions made when designing the new system. I also present our experiences with developing and running high-traffic and high-visibility pages on the new endpoint – improvement in IMDb's ownership model, development lifecycle, in addition to ease of scaling.

Comparing GraphQL with federated GraphQL

Federated GraphQL allows you to combine GraphQLs APIs from multiple microservices into a single API. Clients can make a…
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