AWS Elastic Beanstalk is an easy to use service that lets you deploy your applications without having to deal with infrastructure configuration. I use Elastic Beanstalk to deploy Docker containers backed by Elastic Container Service. You can choose which EB deployment method fits your needs best.

Elastic Beanstalk Deployment Methods

Method Deploy Time Zero Downtime Rollback Process Code Deployed To Impact of Failed Deployment
All at Once ✦ 🕑 Re-Deploy Existing Instances Downtime
Rolling 🕑🕑♦ Re-Deploy Existing Instances Single batch out of service. Any prior successful batches running new code
Rolling + add'l Batch 🕑🕑🕑♦ Re-Deploy New and Existing Instances Minimal if first batch fails, otherwise similar to Rolling
Immutable ✦ 🕑🕑🕑🕑 Re-Deploy New Instances Minimal
Blue/Green 🕑🕑🕑🕑🕑 Swap URL New Instances Minimal

✦ Options available for both Single Instance and Load Balance/Auto-Scaled Environments
♦ Varies depending on instance batch size

In this showcase, we are going to use the "Rolling" deployment method using 2 EC2 instances with a batch size of 1.

Note the relatively lower deploy time of "Rolling" because it uses existing instances. On the other extreme, "Blue/Green" deployments take the longest but have the least impact during a failed deployment. With exception of "All at Once", the rest provide zero-downtime deployments.

Overview of the Services

Here's the list of services you will be using, I'll go into more detail below.

Amazon RDS

Amazon's managed database service is fantastic and although this post is on zero-downtime deployment, database migrations in a ZDT fashion are awfully hard and the strategy depends on your requirements and constraints. I've included it in the showcase, but migrations are on you, sorry.

CodeCommit

AWS CodeCommit, as the name implies, is a code repository service and we'll be using it with Git. It will require an IAM user and SSH key pair as it is the preferred way to manage access to the repository.

AWS CodeCommit demo application repository
AWS CodeCommit demo application repository

CodeBuild

AWS CodeBuild is essentially a managed Jenkins service. It will build your container, run your tests and produce an artifact that will later be used during deployment.

AWS CodeBuild dashboard of demo application
AWS CodeBuild dashboard of demo application

CodePipeline

AWS CodePipeline is a continuous delivery service that will manage the release cycle, from new commits to build and through deployment in Elastic Beanstalk. This showcase just scratches the surface of what's possible with CodePipeline.

AWS CodePipeline in process of building code from CodeCommit and through to release
AWS CodePipeline in process of building code from CodeCommit and through to release

Amazon Container Service and Registry

The Elastic Beanstalk application will use ECS and ECR under the hood. There is no extra configuration needed for this. Elastic Beanstalk will pull the latest image from ECR and use ECS to deploy the containers. The EC2 instances, load balancer and DNS settings are managed entirely by Elastic Beanstalk.

Amazon ECR (Container Registry) docker images
Amazon ECR (Container Registry) docker images

Amazon S3, VPC and IAM

General familiarity with these is enough, you will just need take one extra step with IAM when setting up access to the CodeCommit repository.

Launch the Showcase

Click the deep-link below go to CloudFormation with the template ready to go.

CloudFormation stack for ZDT deployments with ElasticBeanstalk and CodePipeline
CloudFormation stack for ZDT deployments with ElasticBeanstalk and CodePipeline

Notes on the Setup

Refer do the diagram above:

  • The public subnet is where your web servers will live.
  • The private subnets are for the database. If using MultiAZ configuration, both will be used.
  • The private subnets are of course, not publicly accessible. The database will only accept incoming connections from the VPC.
  • The private subnets can access the internet through the Egress-only Internet Gateway.

Once your stack is created, the infrastructure is ready to receive your code. Go to the "Outputs" tab of the stack.

CloudFormation Stack Outputs
CloudFormation stack Outputs

Open the EBApplicationEndpoint in your browser and you should see this:

Before you can push any changes to the CodeCommit repository, you have to configure the CodeCommit IAM User.

Configure CodeCommit SSH Access

You will need to generate an SSH key pair and upload the public key to the IAM user that was created for CodeCommit access.

1) Create an SSH key pair if you don't already have one

Open a terminal and run: $ ssh-keygen

ssh-keygen example output
ssh-keygen example output

2) Upload the SSH Public Key to the IAM User

Go to the IAM dashboard and open the IAM user that was created, it should be something like {YOUR_STACK_NAME}-CodeCommitUser-ABC123. You can find it in the CloudFormation stack Outputs.

Click "Upload SSH public key" and paste the contents of your public key.

IAM user details, upload the generated SSH public key to allow access to the CodeCommit repository.

3) Update Your SSH Config

Add this entry to your ~/.ssh/config file:

Host git-codecommit*
  user APK*********N64P
  IdentityFile ~/.ssh/{NAME_OF_YOUR_PRIVATE_KEY}
  • Replace the user key above with the CodeCommit user's Access key ID
  • Replace the identify file above with the path to your CodeCommit private key

If the host definition above is too broad, for example if you have many CodeCommit repositories, replace the wildcard * with the complete URL to the repository.

Setup Git for Existing or New Project

If starting from an existing project:

git remote add origin ssh://git-codecommit.REGION.amazonaws.com/v1/repos/YOUR_REPO_NAME

If starting a new project, clone the repo:

git clone origin ssh://git-codecommit.REGION.amazonaws.com/v1/repos/YOUR_REPO_NAME

Configure CodeBuild

You will need to create a buildspec.yml file which CodeBuild will use to build your Docker image, tag and push it into Elastic Container Registry (ECR). A sample of mine is below, I basically copied the push commands from ECR:

Elastic Container Registery (ECR) Push Commands
Elastic Container Registry (ECR) Push Commands

The sample below does the following:

  1. Logs into Amazon ECR
  2. Builds and tags your docker container
  3. Pushes the container to ECR
version: 0.2

phases:
  pre_build:
    commands:
      - echo Logging in to Amazon ECR...
      - $(aws ecr get-login --region $AWS_DEFAULT_REGION)
  build:
    commands:
      - echo Running unit tests...
      - echo Build started on `date`
      - echo Building the Docker image...
      - docker build -t <YOUR_CONTAINER_REGISTRY_NAME> .
      - docker tag <YOUR_CONTAINER_REGISTRY_NAME>:$IMAGE_TAG $AWS_ACCOUNT_ID.dkr.ecr.$AWS_DEFAULT_REGION.amazonaws.com/<YOUR_CONTAINER_REGISTRY_NAME>:$IMAGE_TAG
  post_build:
    commands:
      - echo Build completed on `date`
      - echo Pushing the Docker image...
      - docker push $AWS_ACCOUNT_ID.dkr.ecr.$AWS_DEFAULT_REGION.amazonaws.com/<YOUR_CONTAINER_REGISTRY_NAME>:$IMAGE_TAG
artifacts:
  files:
    - '**/*'
  discard-paths: yes

Replace <YOUR_CONTAINER_REGISTRY_NAME> with your ECR name.

Refer to the Build Specification Reference for CodeBuild for more information on creating your buildspec.yml with more advanced configuration.

Configure Elastic Beanstalk to use ECS

Next you need to create a Dockerrun.aws.json file which defines the container name, image and container resource specifications. Refer to the Multicontainer Docker Configuration documentation for more information.

{
  "AWSEBDockerrunVersion": "2",
  "containerDefinitions": [
    {
      "name": "<YOUR_CONTAINER_REGISTRY_NAME>:latest",
      "image": "<YOUR_ACCOUNT_ID>.dkr.ecr.<REGION>.amazonaws.com/<YOUR_CONTAINER_REGISTRY_NAME>",
      "essential": true,
      "memory": 1024,
      "cpu": 1,
      "environment" : [
      ],
      "portMappings": [
        {
          "hostPort": 80,
          "containerPort": 80
        }
      ]
    }
  ]
}

Replace <YOUR_CONTAINER_REGISTRY_NAME> with the ECR name found under the CloudFormation stack Outputs. Replace <YOUR_ACCOUNT_ID with your AWS account ID. Replace <REGION> with the region in which you launched the CloudFormation stack.

Docker Container

In my example, I'm using a small nginx image just for testing.

https://github.com/nginxinc/docker-nginx/blob/master/mainline/buster/Dockerfile

Finally

After you've created the buildspec.yml, Dockerrun.aws.json (and Dockerfile if this is a new project). These files should be in the top level of your application directory.

./buildspec.yml
./Dockerrun.aws.json
./Dockerfile
./myDemoApp
 ...

Then commit and push to your CodeCommit repository and CodePipeline will start the build and deploy process.

git add . && git commit -m 'My first commit... maybe.' && git push

Rolling Deploy

Elastic Beanstalk carries out the deployment as follows (high level):

  1. Takes the first instance out of service
  2. Deploys new container version to the out-of-service instance
  3. Ensures the health check URL returns success on the new container
  4. Puts the new instance back into service if success or rolls-back if failed
  5. Repeats steps 1-4 for the second instance

When the deployment is done, navigate to the EB environment URL and you should see this:

Accessing the Database

The CloudFormation template configures Elastic Beanstalk to exposes the database host, port, name, username and password as environment variables in your containers.

  • RDS_HOSTNAME
  • RDS_DB_NAME
  • RDS_PORT
  • RDS_USERNAME
  • RDS_PASSWORD

Amazon Route53

Route53 isn't shown in this demo. When you're ready to point a domain to your application, create a CNAME record pointing to the application environment URL found under the CloudFormation stack Outputs.

Wrapping Up

Be mindful of the cost, you will have at least 3 instances running at all times, 2 for EB and 1 for RDS. If you delete the stack, be sure to backup the database as it will be deleted.


About Me

I'm a software engineer and hold a Masters degree in Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering from the University of California, Irvine. My broad background helps me adapt and stay passionate about finding pragmatic solutions to complicated problems. Let's chat ackhatib@gmail.com.