AWS CloudFormation (Amazon Web Services CloudFormation)

This definition is part of our Essential Guide: An insider's look at AWS re:Invent 2014

Amazon Web Services CloudFormationis a free service that provides Amazon Web Service (AWS) customers with the tools they need to create and manage the infrastructure a particular software application requires to run on Amazon Web Services.

CloudFormation has two parts: templates and stacks. A template is a JavaScript Object Notation (JSON) text file. The file, which is declarative and not scripted, defines what AWS resources or non-AWS resources are required to run the application. For example, the template may declare that the application requires an Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) instance and an Identity and Access Management (IAM) policy.

When the template is submitted to the service, CloudFormation creates the necessary resources in the customer's account and builds a running instance of the template, putting dependencies and data flows in the right order automatically. The running instance is called a stack.

Customers can make changes to the stack after it’s been deployed by using CloudFormation tools and an editing process that is similar to version control. When a stack is deleted, all related resources are deleted automatically as well.

An important advantage of CloudFormation is that it allows developers to automate service provisioning steps in a fairly simple way. There is no extra charge for AWS CloudFormation; customers only pay for the AWS resources that are required to run their applications.

This was last updated in September 2014

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