AWS Developer Blog

Stubbing AWS Responses

by Trevor Rowe | on | in Ruby | | Comments

I come across questions frequently about how to test an application that uses the AWS SDK for Ruby (aws-sdk gem). Testing an application that makes use of an external service is always tricky. One technique is to stub the client-level responses returned by the SDK.


Calling the AWS.stub! method in your ruby process configures the client classes (e.g. AWS::EC2::Client) to stub their responses when called. They stop short of making a live HTTP request and instead return an empty response.


instance_ids =
instance_ids #=> will always be empty in this example, not HTTP request made

Under the covers, the code example is constructing an AWS::EC2::Client object and is calling the #describe_instances method. AWS.stub! causes the client to return an empty response that looks like a normal response with a few differences:

  • Lists are returned as empty arrays
  • Maps are returned as empty hashes
  • Numeric values are always zero
  • Dates are returned as now

Localized Stubbing

Calling AWS.stub! is the same as calling AWS.config(:stub_requests => true). You can use this configuration option with any constructor that accepts configuration.

stub_ec2 = => true)
real_ec2 =

Customizing the Responses

In addition to getting empty responses, you can access the stubbed responses and populate them with fake data.


ec2 =
resp = ec2.stub_for(:describe_instances)[:reservation_set] = [...]

# now calling ec2.describe_instances will return my fake data
#=> { :reservation_set => [...] } 

There are two methods you can use here:

  • #stub_for(operation_name)
  • #new_stub_for(operation_name)

The first method, #stub_for, returns the same stubbed response every time. It is the default response for that operation for that client object (not shared between instances). The second method, #new_stub_for, generates a new response. This is useful if you need to stub the client to return different data from multiple calls. This is common for paged responses.

Not a Mock

Unfortunately, this approach stubs responses, but it does not mock AWS services. If I used a stubbed AWS::DynamoDB::Client and call #put_item, I will not be able to get the data back. There are a number of third-party libraries that attempt to provide local service mocks. These can be helpful when you are trying to run local tests without hitting the network.