AWS Lambda Walkthrough Command Line Companion

The AWS Lambda Walkthrough 2 uses AWS Lambda to automatically resize images added to one bucket, placing the resulting thumbnails in another bucket. The walkthrough documentation has a mix of aws-cli commands, instructions for hand editing files, and steps requiring the AWS console.

For my personal testing, I converted all of these to command line instructions that can simply be copied and pasted, making them more suitable for adapting into scripts and for eventual automation. I share the results here in case others might find this a faster way to get started with Lambda.

These instructions assume that you have already set up and are using an IAM user / aws-cli profile with admin credentials.

The following is intended as a companion to the Amazon walkthrough documentation, simplifying the execution steps for command line lovers. Read the AWS documentation itself for more details explaining the walkthrough.

Set up

Set up environment variables describing the associated resources:

When Are Your SSL Certificates Expiring on AWS?

If you uploaded SSL certificates to Amazon Web Services for ELB (Elastic Load Balancing) or CloudFront (CDN), then you will want to keep an eye on the expiration dates and renew the certificates well before to ensure uninterrupted service.

If you uploaded the SSL certificates yourself, then of course at that time you set an official reminder to make sure that you remembered to renew the certificate. Right?

However, if you inherited an AWS account and want to review your company or client’s configuration, then here’s an easy command to get a list of all SSL certificates in IAM, sorted by expiration date.

aws iam list-server-certificates \
  --output text \
  --query 'ServerCertificateMetadataList[*].[Expiration,ServerCertificateName]' \
  | sort

To get more information on an individual certificate, you might use something like:

EBS-SSD Boot AMIs For Ubuntu On Amazon EC2

With Amazon’s announcement that SSD is now available for EBS volumes, they have also declared this the recommended EBS volume type.

The good folks at Canonical are now building Ubuntu AMIs with EBS-SSD boot volumes. In my preliminary tests, running EBS-SSD boot AMIs instead of EBS magnetic boot AMIs speeds up the instance boot time by approximately… a lot.

Canonical now publishes a wide variety of Ubuntu AMIs including:

  • 64-bit, 32-bit
  • EBS-SSD, EBS-SSD pIOPS, EBS-magnetic, instance-store
  • PV, HVM
  • in every EC2 region
  • for every active Ubuntu release

Matrix that out for reasonable combinations and you get 492 AMIs actively supported today.

EC2 create-image Does Not Fully "Stop" The Instance

The EC2 create-image API/command/console action is a convenient trigger to create an AMI from a running (or stopped) EBS boot instance. It takes a snapshot of the instance’s EBS volume(s) and registers the snapshot as an AMI. New instances can be run of this AMI with their starting state almost identical to the original running instance.

For years, I’ve been propagating the belief that a create-image call against a running instance is equivalent to these steps:

  1. stop
  2. register-image
  3. start

However, through experimentation I’ve found that though create-image is similar to the above, it doesn’t have all of the effects that a stop/start has on an instance.

Specifically, when you trigger create-image,

  • the Elastic IP address is not disassociated, even if the instance is not in a VPC,

  • the Internal IP address is preserved, and

  • the ephemeral storage (often on /mnt) is not lost.

I have not tested it, but I suspect that a new billing hour is not started with create-image (as it would be with a stop/start).

So, I am now going to start saying that create-image is equivalent to:

Finding the Region for an AWS Resource ID

use concurrent AWS command line requests to search the world for your instance, image, volume, snapshot, …


Amazon EC2 and many other AWS services are divided up into various regions across the world. Each region is a separate geographic area and is completely independent of other regions.

Though this is a great architecture for preventing global meltdown, it can occasionally make life more difficult for customers, as we must interact with each region separately.

One example of this is when we have the id for an AMI, instance, or other EC2 resource and want to do something with it but don’t know which region it is in.

This happens on ServerFault when a poster presents a problem with an instance, provides the initial AMI id, but forgets to specify the EC2 region. In order to find and examine the AMI, you need to look in each region to discover where it is.

Changing The Default "ubuntu" Username On New EC2 Instances

configure your own ssh username in user-data

The official Ubuntu AMIs create a default user with the username ubuntu which is used for the initial ssh access, i.e.:

ssh ubuntu@<HOST>

You can create other users with your preferred usernames using standard Linux commands, but it is difficult to change the ubuntu username while you are logged in to that account since that is one of the checks made by usermod:

$ usermod -l myname ubuntu
usermod: user ubuntu is currently logged in

There are a couple ways to change the username of the default user on a new Ubuntu instance; both passing in special content for the user-data.

Approach 1: CloudInit cloud-config

Default ssh Usernames For Connecting To EC2 Instances

Each AMI publisher on EC2 decides what user (or users) should have ssh access enabled by default and what ssh credentials should allow you to gain access as that user.

For the second part, most AMIs allow you to ssh in to the system with the ssh keypair you specified at launch time. This is so common, users often assume that it is built in to EC2 even though it must be enabled by each AMI provider.

Unfortunately, there is no standard ssh username that is used to access EC2 instances across operating systems, distros, and AMI providers.

Here are some of the ssh usernames that I am aware of at this time:

New c3.* Instance Types on Amazon EC2 - Nice!

Worth switching.

Amazon shared that the new c3.* instance types have been in high demand on EC2 since they were released.

I finally had a minute to take a look at the specs for the c3.* instances which were just announced at AWS re:Invent, and it is obvious why they are popular and why they should probably be even more popular than they are.

Let’s just take a look at the cheapest of these, the c3.large, and compare it to the older generation c1.medium, which is similar in price:

Query EC2 Account Limits with AWS API

Here’s a useful tip mentioned in one of the sessions at AWS re:Invent this year.

There is a little known API call that lets you query some of the EC2 limits/attributes in your account. The API call is DescribeAccountAttributes and you can use the aws-cli to query it from the command line.

For full JSON output:

aws ec2 describe-account-attributes

To query select limits/attributes and output them in a handy table format:

Using aws-cli --query Option To Simplify Output

My favorite session at AWS re:Invent was James Saryerwinnie’s clear, concise, and informative tour of the aws-cli (command line interface), which according to GitHub logs he is enhancing like crazy.

I just learned about a recent addition to aws-cli: The --query option lets you specify what parts of the response data structure you want output.

Instead of wading through pages of JSON output, you can select a few specific values and output them as JSON, table, or simple text. The new --query option is far easier to use than jq, grep+cut, or Perl, my other fallback tools for parsing the output.

aws --query Examples

The following sample aws-cli commands use the --query and --output options to extract the desired output fields so that we can assign them to shell variables: