19 March 2013

Recently I was trying to figure a way to setup chef-client on our AWS machines in a way we could start / reboot them through Amazon UI or knife.

It turns out that Amazon AMI and most official Ubuntu AMIs provide cloud-init tool which we can use to manipulate user-data.

Here is a link to documenation if you are curious https://help.ubuntu.com/community/CloudInit

Now that we have this tool we can do interesting things with node userdata, for example create user_data script which will be executed on boot:

With Knife:

knife ec2 server create -x ec2-user -I ami-3275ee5b -f c1.medium --user-data ~/path_to/user_data.sh



curl https://example.com/deploy.io | bash /dev/stdin \

-c colabs \

-r webserver \

-e test

Where deploy.io script is also a bash script which accepts couple command line options -c -r and -e which I defined as CONTEXT, ROLE and ENVIRONMENT

I think you spotted /dev/stdin part in the example above and may be wondering what the hell is this thing. The answer is simple - that’s one of the ways to pass arguments to the downloaded script.

bash manual says:

If the -s option is present, or if no arguments remain after option processing, then commands are read from the standard input. This option allows the positional parameters to be set when invoking an interactive shell.

Ok, so that’s about it. Now we have a custom script which could live on S3 and is not embedded into AMI, which means we can update it pretty easily without switching all boxes to the new AMI if you use some kind of AMI burned script which reads userdata.

With this script we can modify our nodes in any way we want, one useful case would be chef-client installation on boot.

I’m sure you will find your own way to use cloud-init and userdata, so don’t hesitate to share your notes!

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My books recommendations

Great book for operations people. Helped me to design and build solid deployment pipelines. Awesome advices on automated testing as well. The author advocates against feature branches, every commit goes to master! Scary? I know, but it actually makes sense once you get the idea. Read the book to find out more.

One of those rare books where every word counts!

Classics from John Allspaw who is SVP of Infrastructure and Operations at Etsy (and used to work for Flickr). The book covers very important topics like metrics collection, continuous deployment, monitoring, dealing with unexpected traffic spikes, dev and ops collaboration and much more. Def recommend if you are starting out in the operations field or been doing it for a while ( in latter case you probably read this book already :).

This book is must read for every software engineer, no matter which language you use! It will change your perspective on writing code. I was amazed by the quality of material - very detailed and up to the point.

"The only way to make the deadline -- the only way to go fast -- is to keep the code as clean as possible at all times."

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