Modern CI/CD cycles force cloud infrastructure to be as agile as other components of the development and deployment process. After integrating security into the CI/CD cycle and adopting Infrastructure as Code, automation becomes the next thing to leverage.
Automation in cloud infrastructure, however, can be limited in its application. With image management, for instance, automation can only be done through scripts designed to create snapshots and maintain images.
EC2 Image Builder is Amazon’s answer to the growing demand for agile cloud infrastructure. As the name suggests, it is a fully managed and automated AWS service for the creation, management, and deployment of customized Images.
EC2 Image Builder works not only with Amazon EC2 but also with on-premise infrastructure connected through AWS Outposts. Creating EC2 images that are ready to deploy becomes a simple process because it can now be done through a graphical user interface.
The real benefit of using EC2 Image Builder, however, can be felt when you start managing hundreds of images. That’s when keeping images up-to-date and maintaining your repository of images become complicated when done manually.
Keeping server images up-to-date can be time-consuming, resource-intensive, and error-prone. Currently, customers either manually update and snapshot VMs or have teams that build automation scripts to maintain images.
With EC2, images are automatically kept up-to-date and whenever there is a pending update (e.g., source AMI updates, security updates, updates to compliance, new tests, etc.), triggers get generated. Based on those triggers, new images are configured.
The latest images can also be tested with the Image Builder to validate our applications on the updated builds. We can also subscribe to notifications via SNS queues for pending updates to images built with the Image Builder. We can use these notifications as triggers to build new images.
EC2 Image Builder eliminates manual steps completely. The automation pipeline is also not needed—you don’t have to develop custom scripts for your CI/CD cycles or applications. Since the lack of proprietary scripts also means no code maintenance, image management and maintenance become incredibly efficient.
Another big advantage of using EC2 Image Builder is the way it simplifies securing your VMs. You can, for instance, configure images to include only the essential components. Image Builder can recommend components that can be removed safely.
Security policies get implemented automatically during the image creation process. Known vulnerabilities are closed following Amazon’s information security best practices. Similar to image creation, Image Builder automates patch deployments and the implementation of custom security policies, allowing server administrators to focus more on aspects such as compliance and rapid delivery.
It is also worth noting that EC2 Image Builder supports a wide range of image formats. Naturally, it supports VM Import/Export natively, so you can easily create images for Amazon EC2 f. Support for Open Virtualization Format, VMware vSphere, and Microsoft Hyper-V are also available.
Another security feature that brings value to this tool is validation. There is a build-in image validation function, and it is highly tunable. Aside from following security standards defined by Amazon, you can also run validation tests for functionality and compatibility based on your own parameters. Automated validation allows for quality checks of images being deployed to a production environment.
EC2 Image Builder is designed to be simple for most users, but that doesn’t mean it cannot be used to manage complex environments. With a source image prepared, there are several things you can do with your EC2 images.
First, you can customize the software installed in the image, which means images can have specific build environments depending on their intended purpose. A development image, for example, can have extra tools for debugging and testing.
You can also secure the images you build differently. Security patches can be applied across all images, but security policies, ports configuration, and firewalls can be defined differently. Even better, maintaining these different configurations is fully automated.
Tests, as mentioned before, will validate the images. You can test if certain patches are applied or if the security policy hampers your microservices before allowing images to be deployed; yes, Image Builder can automate flagging images too.
Everything is stored as an Amazon Machine Image (AMI) that can be deployed as EC2 instances right away. Additional components include Amazon EBS volume, IAM-related configurations, and security policies, and a unique AMI signature.
EC2 image builder includes the following:
The advantages of using the AWS service include:
Image Builder is present in all AWS regions at no cost, other than the cost of the underlying AWS resources used to create, store, and share the images. We can also share these generated images to different regions, different AWS accounts, and also to on-premises machines.
Interestingly, the EC2 Image Builder service even lets you turn the process of creating and maintaining EC2 images into a highly efficient workflow. When creating a new image, you immediately have access to build components provided by Amazon, which means Python 3 or PowerShell Core are immediately available.
As mentioned, creating tests is just as comprehensive a process. EC2 Image Builder lets you schedule tasks—including tests—using standard CRON expression. Make sure you configure the infrastructure settings to define EC2 instance type and details such as VPC.
When we use the AWS console to leverage the EC2 Image Builder, we go through the following steps:
And there we have it, a successfully implemented pipeline from start to finish and completed image build. When used properly, the EC2 Image Builder simplifies image management and maintenance completely.
The fact that you can integrate EC2 Image Builder with other automation tools also provided by Amazon means you can create longer pipelines—and efficient CI/CD cycles—without going to extra trouble.
Ibexlabs is an experienced DevOps & Managed Services provider and an AWS consulting partner. Our AWS Certified DevOps consultancy team evaluates your infrastructure and make recommendations based on your individual business or personal requirements. Contact us today and set up a free consultation to discuss a custom-built solution tailored just for you.