Managing AWS CloudFormation Templates and Stacks

CloudFormation simplifies provisioning and management on AWS. You can create templates for the service or application architectures you want and have AWS CloudFormation use those templates for quick and reliable provisioning of services or applications (called stacks). By adding a CloudFormation template to the Commander service catalog, you can use Commander to deploy a stack.

CloudFormation templates are JSON files that specify AWS resources to deploy and configure. These templates can be thought of as an analogue to the Commander service catalog entry. They list the AMIs used to provision instances and they describe information such as security group and availability zones used to configure the instances.

CloudFormation templates have parameters that serve as inputs, such as instance type, SSH key and database credentials. CloudFormation templates provide outputs, such as the ID of a deployed instance and the public IP/DNS name of a load balancer. CloudFormation templates can include resource definitions for EC2, Auto Scaling Groups, RDS, ElastiCache, beanstalk and others. Commander displays all stack resources on the Resources tab.

Note: CloudFormation templates can be configured as single-region or multi-region templates. All resources in a CloudFormation template must be deployed to the same region. You must configure distinct deployment destinations for each AWS region you will deploy to.

CloudFormation parameters

Commander allows you to add CloudFormation parameters to the request form with a combination of custom attributes and variables. When you add a CloudFormation template to the service catalog, the parameters and initial values displayed are retrieved from the template. Parameter values are encrypted when saved in the Commander database. Parameters can also be customized during manual deployment.

Custom attributes allow administrators to:

  • select parameter values during manual deployment.
  • specify a regular expression value for a parameter during manual deployment.

Similarly, custom attributes allow requesters to:

  • select parameter values on the form.
  • specify a regular expression value for a parameter on the form.

Variables allow you to access information about the deployment destination and the request form. See AWS CloudFormation Template Parameter Variables for the list of supported variables.

How Commander calculates costs for CloudFormation templates and stacks

As the cost of an AWS stack can't be determined until the stack is created, you must provide an estimated Annual Stack Cost in the service catalog. This cost provides users with an estimate of the stack's cost at request time.

Once the stack is created, its base cost is determined by adding the total cost of the stack resources supported by Commander. Supported stack resources include VMs, load balancer and databases; Auto Scaling Groups are supported, but they don't have a cost. This resource cost is subtracted from the Annual Stack Cost, and the remainder is assigned to a custom attribute called "Additional Costs". The Additional Costs custom attribute captures the cost of all resources in this stack that aren't directly managed by Commander.

For example, let's say you enter an Annual Stack Cost of 4800 USD in the service catalog. Once the stack is requested and deployed, Commander calculates an annual cost of 3426 USD for VMs in this stack. The Additional Costs custom attribute for this stack therefore has a value of 4800 USD - 783 USD - 923 USD - 1720 USD = 1374 USD . This value is displayed on the stack's Summary tab, in the Details section, as the Additional Costs property.

If you determine that 1374 USD isn't an accurate cost for the remaining resources in this stack, you can navigate to the stack and set a value for the custom attribute. You can also adjust the value for Annual Stack Cost in the service catalog so that future deployments have a more accurate total cost.

Troubleshooting costing for stacks

If the Additional Costs property for a stack deployed by Commander has a value of 0, this means that the costs for the supported resources exceeded the value you entered for Annual Stack Cost. In this case, you should navigate to the stack and set a value for the custom attribute. You should also adjust the value for Annual Stack Cost in the service catalog so that future deployments have a more accurate total cost.

Stack ownership in the Service Portal

If a Service Portal user owns a stack, but doesn't own all of the VMs in the stack, the unowned VMs are displayed as unsupported resources. Unsupported resources are displayed in the Resources table for the stack, but the VM name can't be clicked to access its details, and an icon isn't displayed in the Type column.