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Create EC2 Instances with preconfigured settings
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Tool to create AWS EC2 instances consistently with pre-configured settings. The pre-configured settings are stored in the profiles folder of the current project directory. Example:

  • profiles/default.yml: Default settings. Used when no profile is specified.
  • profiles/myserver.yml: myserver profile. Used when --profile myserver is specified.

How It Works

In a nutshell, the profile parameters are passed to the ruby aws-sdk AWS::EC2::Client#run_instances method. This allows you to specify any parameter you wish that is available in the aws-sdk. To check out what a profile looks like check out example default profile.

Usage: Quick Start

forger new ec2 # generates starter skeleton project
cd ec2
forger create myserver # creates instance

Useful new options

By default, forger new generates a project with some starting values for the files in the config and profiles folders. You likely want to edit these values using your own values. Things like security groups, subnets, iam role, and the s3_folder option are useful settings to modify. You can also specify a lot of these values as a part of the new command. Example:

forger new ec2 --security-group sg-11223344 --iam MyIamRole --key-name my-keypair --s3-folder my-bucket/my-folder

Notably, using the --s3-folder option generates a project that make use of the app/scripts files and inserts some bash code into your user-data script that downloads and extracts the files. For more help:

forger new -h

Usage: More Details

forger create NAME --profile PROFILE
forger create myserver --profile myserver

Noop mode

You can do a test run with the --noop flag. This will print out what settings will be used to launch the instance. This is one good way to inspect the generated user-data script.

forger create myserver --profile myserver --noop
cat /tmp/forger/ec2/user-data.txt # to view generated user-data script

Conventional Profile Name

If there is a profile name that matches the EC2 specified instance name, you can omit the --profile flag. Example

forger create webserver --profile webserver
forger create webserver # same as above

It is useful to add a random string to the end of your server name, but not use it for the --profile flag. Example:

forger create myserver-abc --profile myserver
forger create myserver-123 --profile myserver

You can use the --randomize option to do this automatically:

forger create myserver --randomize

Project Structure

Directory Description
app/helpers Custom helpers methods. Define them as modules and their methods are made available whenever ERB is available: profiles, app/scripts, app/user_data files, etc. For example, you would define a module FooHelper in app/helpers/foo_helper.rb.
app/partials Your partials that can to be included in other scripts. This is used in conjunction with the partial helper method. With great power comes great responsibility. It is recommended to use partials sparely to keep scripts more straightforward.
app/scripts Where you define common scripts that can be used to configure the server. These scripts can be automatically uploaded to an s3 bucket for later downloading in your user-data script by setting the s3_folder settings option.
app/user_data Your user-data scripts that are used to bootstrap EC2 instance.
app/user_data/layouts user-data scripts support layouts. You user-data layouts go in here.
config/[FORGER_ENV].yml The config file where you set configs that you want available in your templating logic. Examples are: config/variables/development.rb and config/variables/production.rb. You access the config variables with ERB <%= @var %>.
profiles Your profile files. These files mainly contain parameters that are passed to the aws-sdk run_instances API method.
tmp Where the generated scripts get compiled to. You can manually invoke the compilation via forger compile to inspect what is generated. This is automatically done as part of the forger create command.


You can use ERB in the profile files. Some useful helper methods are documented here:

Helper Description
user_data Allows you to embed a generated user_data script. More details on the user-data are provided in the user data section below.
config Access to the variables set in config/[AWS_EC2_ENV].yml. Examples are config/variables/development.rb and config/variables/production.rb.
latest_ami Returns an AMI id by searching the AMI name pattern and sorting in reverse order. Example: latest_ami("ruby-2.5.0_*") would return the latest ruby AMIs are named with timestamps at the end like so: ruby-2.5.0_2018-01-30-05-36-02 and ruby-2.5.0_2018-01-29-05-36-02.
search_ami Returns a collection of AMI image objects based on a search pattern. The query searches on the AMI name.
extract_scripts Use this in your bash script to extract the app/scripts files that get uploaded to s3.

For a full list of all the template helpers check out: lib/forger/template/helper.

You can also define custom helpers in the app/helpers folder as ruby modules with the naming convention *_helper.rb. For example, you would define a module FooHelper in app/helpers/foo_helper.rb. Custom helpers are first-class citizens and have access to the same variables, methods, and scope as built-in helpers.


You can provide a user-data script to customize the server upon launch. The user-data scripts are located under the app/user_data folder. Example:

  • app/user_data/myserver.yml

The user-data script is generated on the machine that is running the forger command. If this is your local macosx machine, then the context of your local macosx machine is available. To see the generated user-data script, you can run the create command in --noop mode and then inspect the generated script. Example:

forger create myserver --noop
cat /tmp/forger/ec2/user-data.txt

Another way to view the generated user-data scripts is the forger compile command. It generates the files in the tmp folder. Example:

forger compile # generates files in tmp folder

To use the user-data script when creating an EC2 instance, use the user_data helper method in the profile file. Here's a grep of an example profile that uses the helper to show you want it looks like. Be sure to surround the ERB call with quotes because the user-data script context is base64 encoded.

$ grep user_data profiles/default.yml
user_data: "<%= user_data("bootstrap") %>"

User-Data Layouts

Refer to docs/


You can set variables in a config file and they are available when ERB is available: profiles, user-data, scripts, etc. Example config/variables/development.rb:

  - subnet-123
  - subnet-456
  - subnet-789
  - sg-123

The variables are accessed via the config helper method. Here's a filtered example where it shows the relevant part of a profile: profiles/default.yml:

image_id: ami-4fffc834 # Amazon Lambda AMI
instance_type: t2.medium
security_group_ids: <%= @security_group_ids %>
subnet_id: <%= @subnets.shuffle %>


A config/settings.yml file controls the internal behavior of forger. It is different from config files which are meant for user defined varibles. Settings variables are for internal use. Example:

  # By setting s3_folder, forger will automatically tarball and upload your scripts
  # to set. You then can then use the extract_scripts helper method to download
  # the scripts onto the server.
  s3_folder: my-bucket/forger
  # compile_clean: true # uncomment to clean at the end of a compile
  # extract_scripts:
  #   to: "/opt"
  #   as: "ec2-user"



There is only one hook: before_run_instances. You can configure this with config/hooks.yml: Example:

before_run_instances: /path/to/my/

This will run /path/to/my/ as a shelled out command before the run_instances call.

Dotenv File Support

You can set and configure environment variables in .env* files. Examples of this are in the example project. The env files are loaded in this order of precedence.

  1. .env.[FORGER_ENV].local
  2. .env.local
  3. .env.[FORGER_ENV]
  4. .env

An concrete example, FORGER_ENV=development (development is the default)

  1. .env.development.local
  2. .env.local
  3. .env.development
  4. .env

You are able to reference these values in the config/[FORGER_ENV].yml files with ERB.

AMI Creation

To create AMIs you can use the forger ami command. This command launches an EC2 instance with the specified profile and creates an AMI after the user-data script successfully completes. It does this by appending an AMI creation script at the end of the user-data script. It is recommended to use the set -e option in your user-data script so that any error halts the script and the AMI does not get created.

After the AMI is successfully created, the instance will also terminate itself automatically so you do not have to worry about cleanup. This is also done with an appended script. For more help run forger ami help.

For the instance to image and terminate itself, the EC2 IAM role for the instance requires IAM permissions for:

  • aws ec2 create-image
  • aws ec2 cancel-spot-instance-requests # in case a spot instance was used
  • aws ec2 terminate-instances

Spot Instance Support

Spot instance is natively supported by the AWS run_instances command by adding the instance_market_options to the parameters in the profile file. The available spot market options are available here:

An example of a spot instance profile is provided in example/profiles/spot.yml.

CloudWatch Support

The output of the logs like /var/log/cloud-init-output.log can get sent to CloudWatch. This gets enabled with the --cloudwatch flag. Example:

forger create myserver --cloudwatch

CloudWatch support only works for some OSes and is still somewhat experimental. Here's the OS check in the source: lib/forger/scripts/

Note, CloudWatch logs take a few seconds to send from the EC2 instance to CloudWatch. So when using the --auto-terminate option the instance might be terminated before all the logs get sent. So you might not capture all the logs. You can add a sleep 10 at the bottom of your user-data script if you think this is happening.

More Help

forger create help
forger ami help
forger compile help
forger help # general help

Examples are in the example folder. You will have to update settings like your subnet and security group ids.


gem install forger


This tool mainly uses the ruby aws-sdk. Though it does use the aws cli to check your region: aws configure get region. It also the uses aws s3 sync to perform the scripts upload. So it is dependent on the the aws cli.


  1. Fork it
  2. Create your feature branch (git checkout -b my-new-feature)
  3. Commit your changes (git commit -am "Add some feature")
  4. Push to the branch (git push origin my-new-feature)
  5. Create new Pull Request