The Cloud Christmas

Modular and Serverless API with ZEIT Now

A 3 minute read written by
Vebjørn Isaksen

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By now, you have probably heard about serverless applications. You know, the applications where you focus on the code and let some third-party cloud provider manage the infrastructure and deployment process. With serverless functions offered by these cloud providers, it is surprisingly easy to create modular and serverless APIs that can easily be deployed with one command. Let's dig into how.

ZEIT Now is a cloud platform that allows you to deploy static sites from the command line with the single command now. With Now 2.0, the platform also offers deployment and execution of serverless functions. These functions work by responding to HTTP requests and can be written in Go, Python or JavaScript.

In this article, we will explore how Santa Claus can use serverless functions to create a simple 🎁-list API for all his elves to use.

Note: To follow the steps in this tutorial, use a unix-compatible shell.

Setting up the project

Before we start, we need to prepare some stuff.

  • Sign up at
  • Install now-cli with npm i -g now (or with Yarn if you prefer).
  • Login with now login.
  • Initilize the folder structure with mkdir gifts && cd gifts.
  • Next, initlize the project with npm init to create a package.json.

Constructing the API

Ok, we are now ready to create Santa's simple gift lists API. First, we create a new directory named api at the project's root. Any file, as long as the extension is supported, we put in this folder will be automatically executed when someone visits the route /api/file-name. This works since filesystem routing is used by default, but it's also possible to define your own routes. If you want a file to live inside the api folder, but not be served as a serverless function, you can simply prefix the filename with an underscore, like _utils.js. If you prefix a folder with an underscore, none of the files inside it will be executed by Now.

The first endpoint will provide all the gift lists. Let's make the api directory with mkdir api && cd api, create the first endpoint with touch gifts.js and write these lines of code:

module.exports = (req, res) => {
  const gifts = [
    { name: "Albert", "gift-list": ["Lego", "Candy"] },
    { name: "Christine", "gift-list": ["Dracco Heads", "Hot Wheels"] }
  res.json({ gifts });

This is a serverless function and will run whenever the /api/gifts endpoint is visited. The two objects, req and res, are passed to each serverless function and can look like standard HTTP request and response objects. However, they include some additional helper functions provided by Now, including the res.json(obj) used above to send all the gift lists as a JSON object.

We can also create a dynamic route to retrieve a gift list by a persons name. If we wrap the filename in square brackets, Now will pass the value in the route to the function. So let's create a [name].js file in the directory /api/gifts. Inside this file, write this simple function:

module.exports = (req, res) => {
  const {
    query: { name }
  } = req;

  const gifts = [
    { name: "Albert", "gift-list": ["Lego", "Candy"] },
    { name: "Christine", "gift-list": ["Dracco Heads", "Hot Wheels"] }
    giftList: gifts.find(x => === name)

To retrieve Albert's gift list, the elves can simply go to the route /api/gifts/albert. Neat, right?

So, how do I deploy this?

Well, I promised you that the API could be deployed with one single command. And that's true, from your project's root in the terminal, run the command now. Now will spin up a server and provide free automatic SSL with zero configuration. After some seconds, you will receive a live URL like this and Santa's API is ready to go.

Made some changes or added more endpoints? Just run now again and the URL point to the latest changes.

What about local development?

Also one command. In your project's root, run now dev to get a local environment.

Let's sum it up

This article only scratches the surface of what's possible with Now and there is still a lot to learn. I recommend you to explore the Now cloud platform from simple static site deployments to serverless functions. The workflow is truly amazing.

See the related links below to learn more. Happy holidays🎅

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