AWS CloudFormation For Beginners with Examples

In this blog we will explore AWS CloudFormation with examples.


  1. AWS Account Setup


  1. CloudFormation Concepts (Stacks & ChangeSet)
  2. Parameters
  3. Mappings
  4. Conditions
  5. Outputs

AWS CloudFormation is used to describe and provision all of the infrastructure resources in your cloud environment.

  1. We called it as “Infrastructure as Code” which means that you are writing a code to create your infrastructure and it is repeatable and also version-able because you can store your code in your git repo.
  2. So to create an infrastructure on AWS you actually create a CloudFormation template.

AWS CloudFormation Concepts

  1. Stack

To create a resources we actually create a stack

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In the stack, you actually provide a template( Cloudformation template) which contains all the code to provision your resources like AWS EC2, VPC etc.

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2. ChangeSet

You can see what all changes will be made when you run this template. You can say like a dry run before actually creating a resources

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Here you can see that what all changes will be deploying with this template

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There are several properties in Amazon Relational Database Service (Amazon RDS) instances that AWS CloudFormation modifies and requires replacement in the underlying database instance resource. If backups are not being taken, data loss will occur. You use a change set to preview the replacement event, make the necessary backups, and take the required precautions before you update the resources.


You can use an IAM user or a role to create a template. IAM user or role should have the permission to create whatever you are provisioning from your cloudformation template.

If you submit the template as a local file, it uploads to Amazon S3 on your behalf. Because of this, you must add these permissions to create a stack:

  • cloudformation:CreateUploadBucket
  • s3:PutObject
  • s3:ListBucket
  • s3:GetObject
  • s3:CreateBucket

AWS Template Structure

"AWSTemplateFormatVersion": "2010-09-09",
"Description": "String Description",
"Metadata": { },
"Parameters": { },
"Mappings": { },
"Conditions": { },
"Transform": { },
"Resources": { },
"Outputs": { }

AWS CloudFormation requires only the Resources section.

If you do not define Resource section then you will see the below error

Template format error: At least one Resources member must be defined.


Parameters — You can provide the input parameters while creating/updating a stack

Each parameter must be given a logical name (also called logical ID like InstanceTypeParameter), which must be alphanumeric and unique among all logical names within the template.

For the sensitive parameter like password, you can add the NoEcho property. When this is set, the parameter value displays as asterisks (***) for any cloudformation:Describe* calls.

AWS CloudFormation supports the following parameter types:

  • String
  • Number
  • List of numbers
  • Comma-delimited list
  • AWS parameter types — Like Amazon EC2 key pair names, IDs of resources, AWS regions/availability zones which are already exist in your account so instead of user provides these value manually , cloudformation template automatically get these properties from your AWS account
  • AWS System Manager parameter types AWS Systems Manager parameter types can reference parameters that exist in the AWS Systems Manager Parameter Store. If you specify a parameter key, AWS CloudFormation will search your Systems Manager Parameter Store for the correct value and input this into the stack

In the below example we will provide following parameters

  • what type of instance you want to create
  • create an ec2 instance for that particular type only.
  • Ask the DB password
  • All keys from your AWS account will come in the dropdown
  • This will also show how to refer the parameters in a template
AWSTemplateFormatVersion: 2010-09-09
Type: AWS::EC2::Instance
Ref: InstanceTypeParameter1
ImageId: ami-01aab85a5e4a5a0fe
Type: String
Default: t2.micro
- t2.micro
- m1.small
- m1.large
Description: Enter t2.micro, m1.small, or m1.large. Default is t2.micro.
Default: 3306
Description: TCP/IP port for the database
Type: Number
MinValue: 1150
MaxValue: 65535
NoEcho: true
Description: The database admin account password
Type: String
MinLength: 1
MaxLength: 41
Description: Amazon EC2 Key Pair
Type: "AWS::EC2::KeyPair::KeyName"


Mappings used to matches a key to a corresponding set of named values.

Create a mapping that will look for Amazon EC2 instance AMI IDs based on the region and architecture type

The below example -

  • Creating a mapping of EC2 AMI’s based on the region and type
  • Creating an EC2 instance ( finding the region automatically and based on that it will find the AMI ID from the mapping)
  • The AWS::Region reference is a pseudoparameter; that is, it’s a parameter that AWS defines automatically on your behalf.
AWSTemplateFormatVersion: "2010-09-09"
HVM64: ami-01aab85a5e4a5a0fe
HVMG2: ami-0a584ac55a7631c0c
HVM64: ami-0bdb828fd58c52235
HVMG2: ami-066ee5fd4a9ef77f1
HVM64: ami-047bb4163c506cd98
HVMG2: ami-0a7c483d527806435
HVM64: ami-06cd52961ce9f0d85
HVMG2: ami-053cdd503598e4a9d
HVM64: ami-08569b978cc4dfa10
HVMG2: ami-0be9df32ae9f92309
Type: "AWS::EC2::Instance"
ImageId: !FindInMap [RegionMap, !Ref "AWS::Region", HVM64]
InstanceType: t2.micro


We define conditions when to create a resource. We use intrinsic functions to evaluate multiple inputs against one another

For Ex-

Create a larger EC2 instance when environment is production

Create a volume only when the environment is production

AWSTemplateFormatVersion: 2010-09-09
Description: Environment type.
Default: test
Type: String
- prod
- test
ConstraintDescription: must specify prod or test.
CreateProdResources: !Equals
- !Ref EnvType
- prod
Type: 'AWS::EC2::Instance'
ImageId: ami-01aab85a5e4a5a0fe
InstanceType: t2.micro
Type: 'AWS::EC2::VolumeAttachment'
Condition: CreateProdResources
InstanceId: !Ref EC2Instance
VolumeId: !Ref NewVolume
Device: /dev/sdh
Type: 'AWS::EC2::Volume'
Condition: CreateProdResources
Size: 100
AvailabilityZone: !GetAtt
- EC2Instance
- AvailabilityZone


Outputs are values that can be made available to use outside a single stack. You can reference these values in a number of different ways, such as cross-stack references, nested stacks, describe-stack API calls, or in the AWS CloudFormation console.

For ex- output an Elastic Load Balancing load balancer URL to the user when a web application stack deploys successfully.

In this example-

  • the output named StackEC2 returns the ID of a EC2, and then exports the value for cross-stack referencing with the name EC2 appended to the stack's name. (Cross stack reference)
  • the output named InstanceID returns the ID of EC2
AWSTemplateFormatVersion: "2010-09-09"
HVM64: ami-01aab85a5e4a5a0fe
HVMG2: ami-0a584ac55a7631c0c
Type: "AWS::EC2::Instance"
ImageId: !FindInMap [RegionMap, !Ref "AWS::Region", HVM64]
InstanceType: t2.micro
Description: The Instance ID
Value: !Ref myEC2Instance
Description: The ID of the EC2 Instance
Value: !Ref myEC2Instance
Name: !Sub "${AWS::StackName}-EC2"
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