PHP runtimes for AWS Lambda

There is no built-in support for PHP on AWS Lambda. Instead, we can use 3rd party runtimes via AWS Lambda layers.

Bref provides the runtimes (or "layers") to run PHP on Lambda.

Bref runtimes

Bref provides 2 main runtimes:

  • The "FPM" runtime, to create web applications.
  • The "function" runtime, to create event-driven functions.

You can see in the documentation menu how these two runtimes are used for two different kinds of applications.

Web apps: php-80-fpm and php-74-fpm

This runtime uses PHP-FPM to run web applications on AWS Lambda.

It's the easiest to start with: it works like traditional PHP hosting and is compatible with Symfony and Laravel.

Get started with the FPM runtime in "Bref for web apps".

Event-driven functions: php-80 and php-74

AWS Lambda was initially created to run functions (yes, functions of code) in the cloud.

The Bref function runtime lets you create Lambda functions in PHP like with any other language.

This runtime works great to create event-driven micro-services.

Get started with the Function runtime in "Bref for event-driven functions".

Console: console

This runtime lets you run console commands on Lambda.

For example, we can run the Symfony Console or Laravel Artisan.

Read more about the console runtime here.


To use a runtime, import the corresponding layer in serverless.yml:

service: app
    name: aws
    runtime: provided.al2
    - ./vendor/bref/bref
            - ${bref:layer.php-80}
            # or:
            - ${bref:layer.php-80-fpm}

The ${...} notation is the syntax to use variables in serverless.yml. Bref provides a serverless plugin ("./vendor/bref/bref") that provides those variables:

  • ${bref:layer.php-81}
  • ${bref:layer.php-80}
  • ${bref:layer.php-74}
  • ${bref:layer.php-73}
  • ${bref:layer.php-81-fpm}
  • ${bref:layer.php-80-fpm}
  • ${bref:layer.php-74-fpm}
  • ${bref:layer.php-73-fpm}
  • ${bref:layer.console}

Bref currently provides runtimes for PHP 7.3, 7.4 and 8.0. It also provides experimental runtimes for PHP 8.1.

php-80 means PHP 8.0.*. It is not possible to require a specific "patch" version.

Lambda layers in details

Notice: this section is only useful if you want to learn more.

You can skip it for now if you just want to get started with Bref.

Get started with web apps.

Bref runtimes are AWS Lambda layers. While Bref provides a Serverless plugin to simplify how to use them, you can use the layers directly.

The layer names follow this pattern:


For example:

You can use layers via their full ARN, or example in serverless.yml:

service: app
    name: aws
    runtime: provided.al2
            - 'arn:aws:lambda:us-east-1:209497400698:layer:php-80:21'

Or if you are using SAM's template.yaml:

AWSTemplateFormatVersion: '2010-09-09'
Transform: AWS::Serverless-2016-10-31
        Type: AWS::Serverless::Function
            Runtime: provided.al2
                - 'arn:aws:lambda:us-east-1:209497400698:layer:php-80:21'

Bref layers work with AWS Lambda regardless of the tool you use to deploy your application: Serverless, SAM, CloudFormation, Terraform, AWS CDK, etc.

Remember: the layer ARN contains a region. You need to use the same region as the rest of your application else Lambda will not find the layer.

Layer version (<layer-version>)

The latest of runtime versions can be found at and is shown below:

Watch out: if you use the layer ARN directly instead of the ${bref:layer.php-80} variables (which only work in serverless.yml), you may need to update the ARN (the <version> part) when you update Bref. Follow the Bref release notes closely.

Bref ping

Bref layers send a ping to estimate the total number of Lambda invocations powered by Bref. That statistic is useful in two ways:

  • to provide new users an idea on how much Bref is used in production
  • to communicate to AWS how much Bref is used and push for better PHP integration with AWS Lambda tooling

We consider this to be beneficial both to the Bref project (by getting more users and more consideration from AWS) and for Bref users (more users means a larger community, a stronger and more active project, as well as more features from AWS).

What is sent

The data sent in the ping is completely anonymous. It does not contain any identifiable data about anything (the project, users, etc.).

The only data it contains is: "A Bref invocation happened".

Anyone can inspect the code and the data sent by checking the Bref\Runtime\LambdaRuntime::ping() function.

How is it sent

The data is sent via the statsd protocol, over UDP.

Unlike TCP, UDP does not check that the message correctly arrived to the server. It doesn't even establish a connection. That means that UDP is extremely fast: the data is sent over the network and the code moves on to the next line. When actually sending data, the overhead of that ping takes about 150 micro-seconds.

However, this function actually sends data every 100 invocation, because we don't need to measure all invocations. We only need an approximation. That means that 99% of the time, no data is sent, and the function takes 30 micro-seconds. If we average all executions, the overhead of that ping is about 31 micro-seconds. Given that it is much much less than even 1 milli-second, we consider that overhead negligible.


The ping can be disabled by setting a BREF_PING_DISABLE environment variable to 1.