dotenv for SSM

Usage no npm install needed!

<script type="module">
  import dotssm from '';




Dotenv for SSM. Load configuration from a file when running locally, seamlessly integrate with SSM when running in an AWS environment.


A simple example, say you have a value in parameter store /mydomain/myapp/name.

Add a .ssm.json file to your local repo with the following contents:

  "/mydomain/myapp/name": "Some Cool App (Dev)"

Use the following code in your app to retrieve the config:

import { getConfig } from "dotssm";

const namespace = "/mydomain/myapp/";
const config = await getConfig(namespace);
const appName =;

Exclude the .ssm.json file from your deployment pacakge and the config will seamlessly be loaded from AWS Systems Manager instead.

Need to customise the AWS client?

import { withAWSClient } from "dotssm";
import AWS from "aws-sdk";

const client = AWS.SSM({ apiVersion: "2014-11-06" });
const getConfig = withAWSClient(client);
const config = await getConfig("/mydomain/myapp/");

// TODO: Do something with config

Or perhaps you're using Lambda and want to only fetch config once per invocation:

import { withCache } from "dotssm";

export const myHandler = async (event, context) => {
  const getConfig = withCache();
  await serviceA(getConfig);
  await serviceB(getConfig);
  // The first call to getConfig will fetch from SSM
  // Everything thereafter will use the cached result

The client making the above request requires the following IAM policy:

  "Version": "2012-10-17",
  "Statement": [
      "Effect": "Allow",
      "Action": ["ssm:GetParametersByPath"],
      "Resource": "arn:aws:ssm:region:account-id:parameter/mydomain/myapp/*"

And that's all there is to it. You can now develop locally offline and seamlessly integrate with SSM once deployed.


This package is premised on the following three opinions:

  1. SSM is the best place to put config
  2. Having branching application code for config is a smell
  3. Running offline is essential to local development

If you agree with these premises, then there's a good chance this package is for you. If you're not sure you agree with these premises then read on.

1. SSM is a good place to put config

First off, what is config? The 12 factor app succinctly describes it as:

An app’s config is everything that is likely to vary between deploys (staging, production, developer environments, etc). This includes:

  • Resource handles to the database, Memcached, and other backing services
  • Credentials to external services such as Amazon S3 or Twitter
  • Per-deploy values such as the canonical hostname for the deploy

There are a number of options for storing application config in AWS. An obvious place for storing application config is environment variables but it can be difficult to store secrets securely in environment variables particularly when using Lambda (which makes those environement variables visible in the console).

So then perhaps you could put config in environment variables and secrets in SSM or secrets manager but then you have two different stories for what happens when config changes (changing an env var triggers a cold start for Lambda whereas SSM and secrets manager will change silently) which can be very confusing if you cache any config.

So if you want all your configuration in one place and environment variables won't do, why not secrets manager? Secrets manager is actually rather sophisticated and has a number of interesting (but difficult to reason about) key rotation features. We have found SSM to have the right level of sophistication to simplicity rather than being bogged down by a feature set that's too complex for most common use cases.

2. Having branching application code for config is a smell

If you different config sources between your local machine and a deployed environmnet, that can occassionally mean adding branching logic to your application code, just to ensure config is read from the corrrect place! This code is often hard to understand for newcomers to a codebase and can cause misinterpretations of what is actually happening when the system is run.

Moving this branching logic out of your application code and making it more tactile (if a .ssm.json file is present, read it, else go direct to SSM) makes the code much easier to reason about and makes misunderstandings far less likely to occur.

3. Running offline is essential to local development

When developing locally, it's a pain to be logged in to an environment. You should be able to develop your applications entirely offline to ensure a quick feedback cycle and speed of development. A local config file allows you to do this.


You mention AWS Lambda a bunch, is this package only useful if I'm using Lambda?

No! Though you may want to closely evaluate whether SSM is the best place for you to put your application config. We certainly found that for Lambda but that might not be true of your setup.

How do I contribute to the development of this package?

Please read the contribution guidelines.