Provisioning Amazon EC2 instances

BSDploy provides automated provisioning of Amazon EC2 instances via the ploy_ec2 plugin.


The plugin is not installed by default when installing BSDploy, so you need to install it additionally like so pip install ploy_ec2.

Like with Virtualbox instances the configuration doesn’t just describe existing instances but is used to create them.

The first step is always to tell ploy where to find your AWS credentials in ploy.conf:

access-key-id = ~/.aws/
secret-access-key = ~/.aws/foo.key

Then, to define EC2 instances use the ec2- prefix, for example:

region = eu-west-1
placement = eu-west-1a
keypair = xxx
ip =
instance_type = c3.xlarge
securitygroups = production
image = ami-c847b2bf
user = root
startup_script = ../startup_script

Let’s go through this briefly, the full details are available at the ploy_ec2 documentation:

  • 2-3 here you set the region and placement where the instance shall reside

  • 4 you can optionally provide a keypair (that you must create or upload to EC2 beforehand). If you do so, the key will be used to grant you access to the newly created machine. See the section below regarding the startup_script.

  • 5 if you have an Elastic IP you can specify it here and ploy will tell EC2 to assign it to the instance (if it’s available)

  • 6 check the EC2 pricing overview for a description of the available instance types.

  • 7 every EC2 instance needs to belong to a so-called security group. You can either reference an existing one or create one like so:

    connections =
        tcp     22      22
        tcp     80      80
        tcp    443     443
  • 8 For FreeBSD the currently best option is to use Colin Percival’s excellent daemonology AMIs for FreeBSD. Simply pick the ID best suited for your hardware and region from the list and you’re good to go!

  • 9 The default user for which daemonology’s startup script configures SSH access (using the given keypair) is named ec2-user but BSDploy’s playbooks all assume root, so we explicitly configure this here. Note, that this means that we must change the ec-user name (this happens in our own startup_script, see below).

  • 10 ploy_ec2 allows us to provide a local startup script which it will upload for us using Amazon’s instance metadata mechanism. Here we reference it relative to the location of ploy.conf. The following example provides minimal versions of rc.conf and sshd_config which…

    • configure SSH access for root

    • install Python (needed for running the configuration playbook)

    • updates FreeBSD to the latest patch level upon first boot:

      cat << EOF > etc/rc.conf
      cat << EOF > /etc/ssh/sshd_config
      Port 22
      Subsystem sftp /usr/libexec/sftp-server
      PermitRootLogin without-password
      UseDNS no

Now you can provision the instance by running:

# ploy start production-backend

This will take several minutes, as the machine is started up, updates itself and reboots. Be patient, it can easily take five minutes. To check if everything is done, use ploy’s status command, once the instance is fully available it should say something like this:

# ploy status production-backend
INFO: Instance 'production-backend' (i-xxxxx) available.
INFO: Instance running.
INFO: Instances DNS name
INFO: Instances private DNS name
INFO: Instances public DNS name
INFO: Console output available. SSH fingerprint verification possible.

Especially the last line means that the new instance is now ready.

You should now be able to log in via SSH:

ploy ssh production-backend


Unlike with plain or Virtualbox instances, daemonology’s configinit in conjunction with a startup_script such as the example above already perform everything we need in order to be able to run the jailhost playbooks. In other words, you can skip the Bootstrapping step and continue straight to Configuring a jailhost.

But before continuing on to Configuring a jailhost, let’s take a look around while we’re still logged in and note what hard disks and network interfaces are available. I.e. on our example machine of c3.xlarge type, the interface is named xn0 and we have two SSDs of 40Gb at /dev/xbd1 and /dev/xbd2, but by default daemonology has already created a swap partition on the first slice (highly recommended, as most instance types don’t have that much RAM), so we need to specify the second slice for our use.

This means, that to configure a jailhost on this EC2 instance we need to declare an ez-master entry in ploy.conf with the following values:

instance = production-backend
bootstrap_data_pool_devices = xbd1s2 xbd2s2

In addition, since daemonology will also update the installation to the latest patch level, we will need to explicitly tell ezjail which version to install, since by default it uses the output of uname to compute the URL for downloading the base jail but that most likely won’t exist (i.e 10.0-RELEASE-p10). You can do this by specifying ezjail_install_release for the ez-master like so:

ezjail_install_release = 10.0-RELEASE

With this information you are now finally and truly ready to configure the jailhost..