Working with AWS CloudFormation in Eclipse

One of the latest features we've added to the AWS Toolkit for Eclipse is support for working with AWS CloudFormation.

If you're not familiar with AWS CloudFormation yet, it gives developers and systems administrators an easy way to create and manage a collection of related AWS resources, provisioning and updating them in an orderly and predictable fashion. Templates describe the AWS resources, and any associated dependencies or runtime parameters, required to run your application. For example, your template might describe a set of Amazon EC2 instances, all located in an Auto Scaling group, configured behind an elastic load balancer, and an elastic IP. You don’t need to figure out the order in which AWS services need to be provisioned or the subtleties of how to make those dependencies work. CloudFormation takes care of this for you. Once your AWS resources are deployed, you can modify and update them in a controlled and predictable way allowing you to version control your AWS infrastructure in the same way you version control your software.

AWS CloudFormation is a powerful tool for building applications on the AWS platform, and the integration in Eclipse makes it easy to harness.

When you launch an AWS CloudFormation template, you create a stack, which is all your running infrastructure, as defined by your template. You can quickly see all the AWS CloudFormation stacks running in your currently selected account and active region by opening the AWS Explorer view in Eclipse. 

If you don't have any stacks running yet, you might want to start by launching one of the many sample templates. These sample templates are a great way to get a feel for what's possible with AWS CloudFormation, and also to learn the AWS CloudFormation template syntax. Often, you can find a sample template that's close to your application's architecture, and use it as a starting point for your own custom template.

To launch a new AWS CloudFormation stack from Eclipse, right-click the AWS CloudFormation node in the AWS Explorer view, and then click Create Stack. The New Stack wizard allows you to specify your own custom template, or the URL for one of the sample templates. 

Once you launch your stack, you can open the stack editor by double-clicking your stack listed under the AWS CloudFormation node in the AWS Explorer view. The stack editor shows you all the information about your running stack. While your stack is launching, you can use the stack editor to view the different events for your stack as AWS CloudFormation brings up all the pieces of your infrastructure and configures them for you. You can also view the various AWS resources that are part of your stack through the stack editor, and see the parameters and outputs declared in your template.

When you're ready to start writing your own templates, or editing existing templates, the AWS Toolkit for Eclipse has a template editor that makes it easy to work with CloudFormation templates. Just copy your template into one of your projects, and open it in the template editor. You'll get syntax highlighting, integration with Eclipse's outline view, content assist, and JSON syntax error reporting. There's a lot of functionality available in the template editor, and lots more that we plan to add over time. Stay tuned to the AWS Java Blog for more updates and in-depth examples of the various features. 

Are you already using AWS CloudFormation in any of your projects? Have you tried creating your own custom templates yet? Tell us how it's going in the comments below.

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