Please note that this is not a detailed guide … relevant links are included if you want detail. The objective is to highlight the key steps or rather, the ‘points-to-note ‘throughout the process. A LOT is assumed.

Basic Expected Setup

The first obvious assumption is that you are running Ubuntu. Running Ubuntu Cloud Guest on Amazon Web Services requires you to go through the following steps;

  1. Create your account on Amazon (if you do not already have one) and setup your credentials - Getting Started With Aws
  2. Install Amazon EC2 API Tools
  3. Instantiate your images(s)
  4. Configure your instance

Details of the above steps can be found here … though they seem a bit complicated due to reliance on the CLI, but if its any consolation, some of the tasks can be done via the Amazon Web Console.

Double check you have the following environment variables set up in your shell profile. You should have something close to … (see below code block) … in your ~/.bashrc if you use bash as your shell.

export JAVA_HOME=/usr

## Amazon Paths ##

# Set variables for each service
export EC2_HOME=/usr/local/aws/ec2
export AWS_IAM_HOME=/usr/local/aws/iam
export AWS_RDS_HOME=/usr/local/aws/rds
export AWS_ELB_HOME=/usr/local/aws/elb
export AWS_CLOUDFORMATION_HOME=/usr/local/aws/cfn
export AWS_AUTO_SCALING_HOME=/usr/local/aws/as
export CS_HOME=/usr/local/aws/cloudsearch
export AWS_CLOUDWATCH_HOME=/usr/local/aws/cloudwatch
export AWS_ELASTICACHE_HOME=/usr/local/aws/elasticache
export AWS_SNS_HOME=/usr/local/aws/sns
export AWS_ROUTE53_HOME=/usr/local/aws/route53
export AWS_CLOUDFRONT_HOME=/usr/local/aws/cloudfront

# This iterates through the list passed into it and sets the PATHs

## Amazon Credentials ##

# Choose whatever path, in this case it is `$HOME/.aws/...` this then set
# the relevant paths for authentification stuff
export EC2_PRIVATE_KEY=$(echo $HOME/.aws/pk-*.pem)
export EC2_CERT=$(echo $HOME/.aws/cert-*.pem)
export AWS_CREDENTIAL_FILE=$HOME/.aws/aws-credential-file.txt
export ELASTIC_MAPREDUCE_CREDENTIALS=$HOME/.aws/aws-credentials.json

Refresh environment variables after editing ~/.bashrc file. Just to be sure.

$ source ~/.bashrc

There’s probably something I’ve left out but that’s the general idea + the set up process is well documented online, a simple google search should do.

Ps: If you have services in other regions (from the US default) you have to set some URLs in the ~/.bashrc file. Don’t worry, keep reading … I’ve mentioned this with a litlle more detail ahead.

Adding Support For The Other Services

To put it simply, the ec2-api-tools only install ec2-* commands.

What I mean is that, after installing the api-tools you should have access to ec2-* type commands but no as-* (autoscaling), elb-* (elastic load balancer) etc. type commands - i.e. the other services. That’s because you have to manually install them. Check the AWS Developer Tools for official documentation on the tools, changelog & download links or check out this blog- post. Below is a list of commonly used API tools …

Assuming you are the super user & taking the Elastic Load Balanacer as an example, copy the files from the bin/ & lib/ folders (you see them after unzipping the downloaded file) into the respective folder for the service as was seen in the ~/.bashrc file earlier. Please note that after installing the ec2 -api-tools, the /usr/local/aws/ folder should not exist (unless you made them yourself) since its actually never been created. The following commands therefore should create the folders (with sub- folders) for you.

$ wget --quiet
$ unzip -qq
$ rsync -a --no-o --no-g ElasticLoadBalancing-*/ /usr/local/aws/elb/

And so on - repeat for each service that you wnat to add.

Once your done, the commands for each service should now be available to your shell.

Now we begin …

Configuring Autoscaling Using ELB & EC2

Prerequisite 1: Create/Choose Custom AMI

If you haven’t created an AMI from one of your running EC2 instances, create one now, or click over to your AMIs page on the AWS Console to retrieve the AMI ID to be used as a template, and write it down. You’ll need an AMI ID later. Think of it as your autoscaling-instance-template.

Ps: If you already have a running EBS-backed instance, you can save this Amazon Machine Image (AMI) and autoscale with it … find steps on how to create your own AMIs here

Prerequisite 2: Set Up Your Your ELB

The ELB name that is displayed on the AWS Console will also be required at some point. You can use the AWS Console to create an ELB if you don’t have one. Once your ELB is up, you will most likely create a CNAME record at your DNS provider pointing your landing page or vanity domain to the DNS name given in the AWS Console. Visit ‘Use Domain Names with Elastic Load Balancing’ at Amazon AWS Documentation page for details on this.

Prerequisite 3: Check Credentials/ Keys/ Authorizations Are In Order

Some services will fail if the credentials are not in order. Common mistake is to set the key & secret and assume that’s all that the other services require. For example, check out the set up process for autoscaling … it requires the aws-credential-file.txt that’s referenced in ~/.bashrc.

When setting up the credential file, check in the unzipped folder of the service for the credential-file-path.template to use as a reference for your own credentials file.

Also … By default, the Auto Scaling command line interface (CLI) uses the Eastern United States Region (us-east-1) with the service endpoint URL. If your instances are in a different region, you must specify the region where your instances reside by setting the AWS_AUTO_SCALING_URL environment variable.


Same as the ELB …

$ export AWS_ELB_URL=

Same as CloudWatch


Step 1: Create An Elastic Load Balancer

That’s if you haven’t already … spend some time here.

Step 2: Create Launch Config

The launch configuration specifies the template that Auto Scaling uses to launch Amazon EC2 instances. This template contains all the information necessary for Auto Scaling to launch instances that run your application.

A launch configuration is a template that the Auto Scaling group uses to launch Amazon EC2 instances. You create the launch configuration by including information such as the Amazon machine image ID to use for launching the EC2 instance, the instance type, key pairs, security groups, and block device mappings, among other configuration settings. When you create your Auto Scaling group, you must associate it with a launch configuration. You can attach only one launch configuration to an Auto Scaling group at a time. Launch configurations cannot be modified. They are immutable. If you want to change the launch configuration of your Auto Scaling group, you have to first create a new launch configuration and then update your Auto Scaling group by attaching the new launch configuration. When you attach a new launch configuration to your Auto Scaling group, any new instances will be launched using the new configuration parameters. Existing instances are not affected.

$ as-create-launch-config AutoscaleLC \
  --image-id="ami-xxxxxxxxc" \
  --instance-type="m1.small" \
  --group="your-security-group" \
OK-Created launch config

Don’t forget to set the --key YourKey especially if you want to ssh into the instances … you can get a list of your keys from here in case you don’t remember.

$ ec2-describe-keypairs

Step 3: Create an Auto Scaling Group

An Auto Scaling group is a collection of Amazon EC2 instances. You can specify settings like the minimum, maximum, and desired number of EC2 instances for an Auto Scaling group to which you want to apply certain scaling actions.

$ as-create-auto-scaling-group AutoScalingGroup \
  --availability-zones="eu-west-1a" \
  --launch-configuration="AutoscaleLC" \
  --min-size="1" \
  --max-size="2" \
  --load-balancers="AutoscaleLB" \
  --desired-capacity="1" \
  --default-cooldown="300" \
  --grace-period="300" \
OK-Created AutoScalingGroup

Step 4: Scale Up & Down

Scaling policie tells the Auto Scaling group what to do when the specified conditions change.

$ as-put-scaling-policy \
  --auto-scaling-group="AutoScalingGroup" \
  --name="scale-up" \
  --adjustment="1" \
  --type="ChangeInCapacity" \

Basic upscale policy defined, named “scale-up,” a ChangeInCapacity policy to add 1 server and wait 3 minutes before another policy can be triggered. Below is the reverse operation, or a “scale-down” policy to remove 1 server from the group.

$ as-put-scaling-policy \
  --auto-scaling-group="AutoScalingGroup" \
  --name="scale-dn" \
  --adjustment="-1" \
  --type="ChangeInCapacity" \

For details on the possible variations that can be applied such as the various adjustment types you can read this …

Ps: Cooldown period is in seconds.

Use the CloudWatch command mon-put-metric-alarm to create an alarm to for increasing the size of the Auto Scaling group when the average CPU usage of all the instances goes up to 80 percent.

$ mon-put-metric-alarmScaleUpAlarm \
  --alarm-description="Scale up at 80% load" \
  --comparison-operator="GreaterThanOrEqualToThreshold" \
  --evaluation-periods="2" \
  --metric-name="CPUUtilization" \
  --namespace="AWS/EC2" \
  --period="120" \
  --statistic="Average" \
  --threshold="80" \
  --alarm-actions="arn:aws:autoscaling:eu-west-1:xxxxxxxxxxxx:scalingPolicy:xxxxxxxx-xxxx-xxxx-xxxx-xxxxxxxxxxxx:autoScalingGroupName/AutoscaleG:policyNameScaleUp" \
OK-Created Alarm

Use the CloudWatch command mon-put-metric-alarm to create an alarm for decreasing the size of the Auto Scaling group when the average CPU usage of all the instances goes down 40 percent.

$ mon-put-metric-alarmScaleDownAlarm \
  --alarm-description="Scale down at 40% load" \
  --comparison-operator="LessThanOrEqualToThreshold" \
  --evaluation-periods="2" \
  --metric-name="CPUUtilization" \
  --namespace="AWS/EC2" \
  --period="120" \
  --statistic="Average" \
  --threshold="40" \
  --alarm-actions="arn:aws:autoscaling:eu-west-1:xxxxxxxxxxxx:scalingPolicy:xxxxxxxx-xxxx-xxxx-xxxx-xxxxxxxxxxxx:autoScalingGroupName/AutoscaleG:policyNameScaleDown" \
OK-Created Alarm

You can create your own SNS notification for auto-scaling events from the console if you want ie. send an email when X happens. Create a topic via the console, this gives you an ARN something like this arn:aws:sns:************************

$ as-put-notification-configuration \
  --topic-arn="arn:aws:sns:************************" \
  --auto-scaling-group="MYTEST-SG" \
  --notification-types="autoscaling:EC2_INSTANCE_LAUNCH, autoscaling:EC2_INSTANCE_TERMINATE, autoscaling:EC2_INSTANCE_TERMINATE_ERROR, autoscaling:EC2_INSTANCE_LAUNCH_ERROR"
OK-Put Notification Configuration

Considerations When Scaling LAMP-type Servers

When migrating a single-server LAMP app to an autoscaling deployment often takes some planning and changing some of the configuration a bit. For example, you’ll need to store shared data, particularly sessions, on a separate instance, or better yet, use Amazon’s shared MySQL cluster, called RDS.

By default, PHP stores sessions on disk as files, but that won’t work in your example, because User A’s session token got written to the first server, while User B’s is on server 2. But on their second or third request, the user’s request can be served by a different server instance, so they’ll instantly be logged out. That’s why you’ll want to use the database sessions, and use the same connection info from all your instances to a single database server or RDS.

If you enable Application-Controlled Session Stickiness;

The load balancer uses a special cookie to associate the session with the original server that handled the request, but follows the lifetime of the application-generated cookie corresponding to the cookie name specified in the policy configuration. The load balancer only inserts a new stickiness cookie if the application response includes a new application cookie. The load balancer stickiness cookie does not update with each request. If the application cookie is explicitly removed or expires, the session stops being sticky until a new application cookie is issued.

If an application server fails or is removed, the load balancer will try to route the sticky session to another healthy application server. The load balancer will try to stick to new healthy application server and continue routing to currently stick application server even after the failed application server comes back. However, it is up to the new application server on how it’ll respond to a request which it has not seen previously.

… so if your PHP app has a specific cookie it uses to manage settings, the ELB will make sure the request is passed to the same server that issued the request.

Your AMI should only have Apache & PHP on it, and each instance will have the same, shared MySQL server or RDS connection info, baked into the AMI. If users can upload images, you’ll need to move them from the instance to a shared server (rsync) or S3 bucket (cron script), and map that origin as your CloudFront endpoint for caching …

- OR -

… you could just have each instance upload the shared-data directly to a location that all the instances reference like S3. While AWS does a lot of the heavy lifting it is expected that you at least understand how your infrastructure is configured to achieve the desired result.

There are, of course, other ways of achieving the same end result, but the above suggestions are the most common, easiest techniques within Amazon Web Services.

Points To Note

  • Your original instance doesn’t have anything to do with Auto Scaling. It lives outside of your Auto Scaling setup and will not be touched. When Auto Scaling launches a new instance, it will always use the AMI you have defined in the launch configuration. That AMI never changes. You simply get a copy of the data from that point in time whenever an instance is launched.

  • Each instance is entirely separate. There is no connection between them. If you make changes on one instance, you will need to walk through all of them manually. These changes will not be persistent though. When a new instance is launched, it will be a copy of the original AMI. So you will probably want to replace the AMI instead. If you have some application code that can change, you might want to consider building an AMI that can fetch everything on boot, and maybe also react on changes somehow. If you can avoid having to replace the AMI “all the time”, that is going to make it easier for you.

  • You don’t need an Elastic IP when you are using Elastic Load Balancing.

  • When you have a new AMI, you will need to create a new launch configuration and update the Auto Scaling group. You can then, say, double the capacity, wait for the new instances to become available, and finally have the old instances terminated.

  1. AWS Developer Tools
  2. Ubuntu developers: Eric Hammond: Installing AWS Command Line Tools from Amazon Downloads
  3. EC2StartersGuide
  4. Autoscaling with EC2
  5. Installing AWS Command Line Tools from Amazon Downloads
  6. Amazon Elastic Load Balancer Setup
  7. Autoscaling your website with Amazon Web Services – Part 1
  8. Autoscaling your website with Amazon Web Services – Part 2
  9. Create Your Own AMIs
  10. Chef, EC2 Auto Scaling, and Spot Instances for Fun and Profit
  11. Use Domain Names with Elastic Load Balancing
  12. Autoscaling Documentation - Amazon AWS
  13. Amazon EC2 Instance Types
  14. Setting Up the Amazon EC2 Command Line Tools
  15. Autoscaling Documentation: Set the AWS_CREDENTIAL_FILE environment variable
  16. Register EC2 Instances to more than one Elastic Load Balancer
  17. Amazon AutoScaling Documentation: Scaling Based On Demand
  18. Amazon AutoScaling Documentation: Cooldown Period
  19. Enable Application-Controlled Session Stickiness
  20. Why Is It Good To Save Session in Database?
  21. Understanding autoscaled instances