September 2012 Archives

You may be able to save on future EC2 expenses by selling an unused Reserved Instance for less than its true value or even $0.01, provided it is in the “Heavy Utilization” class.

In the description of the Heavy Utilization Reserved Instance, is this statement:

you pay […] a significantly lower hourly usage fee, and you’re charged that lower hourly rate for every hour in the Reserved Instance term you purchase [emphasis added]

What may not be clear to the casual reader is the fact that when you purchase a Heavy Utilization Reserved Instance, you commit not only to paying the one-time up front cost, but you are also committing to paying the hourly charge for every hour of every month, even if you are not running a matching instance!

The Light Utilization and Medium Utilization descriptions state:

Light [and Medium] Utilization RIs allow you to turn off your instance at any point and not pay the hourly fee.

This statement is conspicuously missing from the Heavy Utilization description.

If you buy a 12 month Heavy Utilization Reserved Instance and you only run the matching instance for 5 months and then terminate it, you still pay hourly instance charges each of the next 7 months as if you were still running the instance.

How to Save

Amazon just opened the Reserved Instance Marketplace, which lets you sell the remaining months on a Reserved Instance that you no longer need. After you list a Reserved Instance, it will be shown to EC2 customers when they look to purchase a Reserved Instance, right along with Amazon’s normal offerings.

When you list a Reserved Instance for sale, Amazon suggests a price that matches what the Reserved Instance would be worth to somebody purchasing the remaining months.

AWS Reserved Instance Marketplace purchase listing

Though you would surely prefer to get that value (minus Amazon’s 12% commission) for the Reserved Instance, you might consider listing it for substantially less, especially while the Marketplace has fewer buyers and listings take longer to sell.

For every month that your Heavy Utilization Reserved Instance does not sell on the Reserved Instance Marketplace, you end up paying Amazon the hourly instance charges for the month, even if you are not running a matching instance.

If you give away the Heavy Utilization Reserved Instance by listing it for $0.01 it should sell fairly quickly in a rational marketplace, and you will not have to pay the hourly instance charges for the remaining months.

Thus, giving away a Heavy Utilization Reserved Instance could save you a bundle if you no longer need it.

If there is a non-zero chance you may want to run a matching instance before the end of the term, then the Reserved Instance has some positive value to you and you might consider holding on to it or listing it for a higher price, even though you need to pay when the instance is not running.

Figuring out the optimal listing price between $0.01 and a price near Amazon’s suggested listing price is left as an exercise for the reader.

This article describes how to install the old generation of AWS command line tools. For the most part, these have been replaced with the new AWS cli that is easier to install and more comprehensive:

When you need an AWS command line toolset not provided by Ubuntu packages, you can download the tools directly from Amazon and install them locally.

In a previous article I provided instructions on how to install AWS command line tools using Ubuntu packages. That method is slightly easier to set up and easier to upgrade when Ubuntu releases updates. However, the Ubuntu packages aren’t always up to date with the latest from Amazon and there are not yet Ubuntu packages published for every AWS command line tools you might want to use.

Unfortunately, Amazon does not have one single place where you can download all the command line tools for the various services, nor are all of the tools installed in the same way, nor do they all use the same format for accessing the AWS credentials.

The following steps show how I install and configure the AWS command line tools provided by Amazon when I don’t use the packages provided by Ubuntu.


Install required software packages:

sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install -y openjdk-6-jre ruby1.8-full rubygems     libxml2-utils libxml2-dev libxslt-dev     unzip cpanminus build-essential
sudo gem install uuidtools json httparty nokogiri

Create a directory where all AWS tools will be installed:

sudo mkdir -p /usr/local/aws

Now we’re ready to start downloading and installing all of the individual software bundles that Amazon has released and made available in scattered places on their web site and various S3 buckets.

Download and Install AWS Command Line Tools

These steps should be done from an empty temporary directory so you can afterwards clean up all of the downloaded and unpacked files.

Note: Some of these download URLs always get the latest version and some tools have different URLs every time a new version is released. Click through on the tool link to find the latest [Download] URL.

EC2 API command line tools:

wget --quiet
unzip -qq
sudo rsync -a --no-o --no-g ec2-api-tools-*/ /usr/local/aws/ec2/

EC2 AMI command line tools:

wget --quiet
unzip -qq
sudo rsync -a --no-o --no-g ec2-ami-tools-*/ /usr/local/aws/ec2/

IAM (Identity and Access Management) commmand line tools:

wget --quiet
unzip -qq
sudo rsync -a --no-o --no-g IAMCli-*/ /usr/local/aws/iam/

RDS (Relational Database Service) command line tools:

wget --quiet
unzip -qq
sudo rsync -a --no-o --no-g RDSCli-*/ /usr/local/aws/rds/

ELB (Elastic Load Balancer) command line tools:

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

AWS CloudFormation command line tools:

wget --quiet
unzip -qq
sudo rsync -a --no-o --no-g AWSCloudFormation-*/ /usr/local/aws/cfn/

Auto Scaling command line tools:

wget --quiet
unzip -qq AutoScaling-*.zip
sudo rsync -a --no-o --no-g AutoScaling-*/ /usr/local/aws/as/

AWS Import/Export command line tools:

wget --quiet
sudo mkdir /usr/local/aws/importexport
sudo unzip -qq -d /usr/local/aws/importexport

CloudSearch command line tools:

wget --quiet
tar xzf cloud-search-tools*.tar.gz
sudo rsync -a --no-o --no-g cloud-search-tools-*/ /usr/local/aws/cloudsearch/

CloudWatch command line tools:

wget --quiet
unzip -qq CloudWatch-*.zip
sudo rsync -a --no-o --no-g CloudWatch-*/ /usr/local/aws/cloudwatch/

ElastiCache command line tools:

wget --quiet
unzip -qq AmazonElastiCacheCli-*.zip
sudo rsync -a --no-o --no-g AmazonElastiCacheCli-*/ /usr/local/aws/elasticache/

Elastic Beanstalk command line tools:

wget --quiet
unzip -qq AWS-ElasticBeanstalk-CLI-*.zip
sudo rsync -a --no-o --no-g AWS-ElasticBeanstalk-CLI-*/ /usr/local/aws/elasticbeanstalk/

Elastic MapReduce command line tools:

wget --quiet
unzip -qq -d elastic-mapreduce-ruby
sudo rsync -a --no-o --no-g elastic-mapreduce-ruby/ /usr/local/aws/elasticmapreduce/

Simple Notification Serivice (SNS) command line tools:

wget --quiet
unzip -qq SimpleNotificationServiceCli-*.zip
sudo rsync -a --no-o --no-g SimpleNotificationServiceCli-*/ /usr/local/aws/sns/
sudo chmod 755 /usr/local/aws/sns/bin/*

Route 53 (DNS) command line tools:

sudo mkdir -p /usr/local/aws/route53/bin
for i in; do
  sudo wget --quiet --directory-prefix=/usr/local/aws/route53/bin$i
  sudo chmod +x /usr/local/aws/route53/bin/$i
cpanm --sudo --notest --quiet Net::DNS::ZoneFile NetAddr::IP   Net::DNS Net::IP Digest::HMAC Digest::SHA1 Digest::MD5

CloudFront command line tool:

sudo wget --quiet --directory-prefix=/usr/local/aws/cloudfront/bin
sudo chmod +x /usr/local/aws/cloudfront/bin/

S3 command line tools:

wget --quiet
unzip -qq
sudo mkdir -p /usr/local/aws/s3/bin/
sudo rsync -a --no-o --no-g s3-curl/ /usr/local/aws/s3/bin/
sudo chmod 755 /usr/local/aws/s3/bin/

AWS Data Pipeline command line tools:

wget --quiet
unzip -qq
sudo rsync -a --no-o --no-g datapipeline-cli/ /usr/local/aws/datapipeline/

Now that we have all of the software installed under /usr/local/aws we need to set up the AWS credentials and point the tools to where they can find everything.

Set up AWS Credentials and Envronment

Create a place to store the secret AWS credentials:

mkdir -m 0700 $HOME/.aws-default/

Copy your AWS X.509 certificate and private key to this subdirectory. These files will have names that look something like this:


Create the file $HOME/.aws-default/aws-credential-file.txt with your AWS access key id and secret access key in the following format:

AWSAccessKeyId=<insert your AWS access id here>
AWSSecretKey=<insert your AWS secret access key here>

Create the file $HOME/.aws-default/aws-credentials.json in the following format:

"access-id": "<insert your AWS access id here>",
"private-key": "<insert your AWS secret access key here>",
"key-pair": "<insert the name of your Amazon ec2 key-pair here>",
"key-pair-file": "<insert the path to the .pem file for your Amazon ec2 key pair here>",
"region": "<The region where you wish to launch your job flows. Should be one of us-east-1, us-west-1, us-west-2, eu-west-1, ap-southeast-1, or ap-northeast-1, sa-east-1>", 
  "use-ssl": "true",
  "log-uri": "s3://yourbucket/datapipelinelogs"

Create the file $HOME/.aws-secrets in the following format:

%awsSecretAccessKeys = (
  'default' => {
    id => '<insert your AWS access id here>',
    key => '<insert your AWS secret access key here>',

Create a symbolic link for s3curl to find its hardcoded config file and secure the file permissions

ln -s $HOME/.aws-secrets $HOME/.s3curl
chmod 600 $HOME/.aws-default/* $HOME/.aws-secrets

Add the following lines to your $HOME/.bashrc file so that the AWS command line tools know where to find themselves and the credentials. We put the new directories in the front of the $PATH so that we run these instead of any similar tools installed by Ubuntu packages.

export JAVA_HOME=/usr
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


export EC2_PRIVATE_KEY=$(echo $HOME/.aws-default/pk-*.pem)
export EC2_CERT=$(echo $HOME/.aws-default/cert-*.pem)
export AWS_CREDENTIAL_FILE=$HOME/.aws-default/aws-credential-file.txt
export ELASTIC_MAPREDUCE_CREDENTIALS=$HOME/.aws-default/aws-credentials.json
export DATA_PIPELINE_CREDENTIALS=$HOME/.aws-default/aws-credentials.json

Set everything up in your current shell:

source $HOME/.bashrc


Make sure that the command line tools are installed and have credentials set up correctly. These commands should not return errors:

eb --version
elastic-mapreduce --list --all
sns-list-topics --keyname default | xmllint --format - --keyname default | xmllint --format - --id default | xmllint --format -
datapipeline  --list-pipelines

Are you aware of any other command line tools provided by Amazon? Let other readers know in the comments on this article.

[Update 2012-09-06: New URL for ElastiCache tools. Thanks iknewitalready]

[Upate 2012-12-21: Added AWS Data Pipeline command line tools. May break Elastic MapReduce due to Ruby version conflict.]

Ubuntu AMIs

Ubuntu AMIs for EC2: