What is AWS Cloudformation

If you're unfamiliar with cloud computing, you may wonder what AWS CloudFormation is. In a nutshell, it's a tool that allows you to create and manage Amazon Web Services (AWS) resources more efficiently. It gives you an infrastructure-as-code approach, meaning you can define all the resources you want in a template file and then deploy them with just a few clicks. Sounds great so far, right? In this blog post, we will take a closer look at AWS CloudFormation and see how it can help you automate your AWS resource management.

CloudFormation is an AWS infrastructure automation platform that allows for the testable, repeatable, and auditable deployment of AWS services. AWS CloudFormation provides a standard language for describing and providing your cloud infrastructure resources.

Things to know about AWS CloudFormation:

  • AWS CloudFormation is an AWS tool that automates the setup of AWS resources by using template files.
  • CloudFormation can automate the configuration of workloads using the most popular AWS services, such as the IAM Service, S3 Storage Service, and EC2 Compute Service, to implement access control.

This article introduces AWS CloudFormation, covering its advantages, features, how to use the dashboard, and the AWS command line to build and deploy CloudFormation templates.

Table of contents: What is AWS CloudFormation

What is AWS CloudFormation?

AWS CloudFormation is a cloud-based service that can help you design and configure the Amazon Web Services resources so that you reduce the time you spend managing these resources and spend more time concentrating on the applications you have that run in the cloud. You create a template that describes all the AWS resources you want (like Amazon RDS databases or Amazon S3 buckets), and AWS CloudFormation provides and configures those resources for you.

aws cloudformation

There are a few things you should know about AWS CloudFormation templates:

  • They are formatted text files (JSON or YAML) that describe your AWS infrastructure
  • They can be used to launch new stacks or update existing stacks
  • They are stored in Amazon S3 and have a maximum size of 51,200 bytes
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The Concept Behind AWS CloudFormation 

You can use AWS CloudFormation to launch new services and applications, update existing resources orderly and predictable, or roll back changes if something goes wrong. 

AWS CloudFormation templates are written in JSON or YAML and are comprised of five main sections: 

  1. Parameters: Specify input values used when creating the stack. For example, you might specify the name of an Amazon S3 bucket to store website images.
  2. Mappings: Create mapping tables that can be used in the template (for example, to specify AMI mappings, so you don't have to hard-code AMI IDs). 
  3. Conditions: Define conditions that control whether certain resources are created or certain resource properties are assigned a value during stack creation or updating (for example, creating a resource only if it doesn't already exist). 
  4. Resources: Specify the stack resources and their properties, such as an Amazon EC2 instance or an Amazon S3 bucket. You can specify metadata for your resources (such as an instance profile) or override default property values defined by AWS CloudFormation (such as instance type). 
  5. Outputs: Declare output values that you can import into other stacks (for example, the Amazon S3 bucket URL)

concept behind aws cloudformation

Benefits of AWS CloudFormation

You can use AWS CloudFormation to automate the creation, update, and deletion of AWS resources such as Amazon EC2 instances, Amazon EBS volumes, Amazon S3 buckets, and more. With AWS CloudFormation, you can create templates describing the AWS resources you want to deploy in a concise format. 

The benefits of using AWS CloudFormation include the following:

  • Reduced time spent managing resources: You can use AWS CloudFormation to provision and manage all the resources needed for your application in a single place. This lets you spend less time managing those resources and more time developing your application.
  • Increased productivity: Automating the creation and updates of your resources with AWS CloudFormation can help increase your team's productivity. For example, suppose you need to create a new development environment for your application. You can use an AWS CloudFormation template to launch all the necessary resources with just a few clicks. 
  • Reduced costs: Using AWS CloudFormation can help you save money by reducing the need for manual processes and avoiding errors when provisioning or updating resources.

Moto of AWS CloudFormation

AWS CloudFormation is about making it easy to provision and manage your AWS resources. It enables you to create templates that describe the AWS resources you want to provision and then creates and provisions those resources for you.

AWS CloudFormation - Template Resource Attributes

There are several different types of resources that can be defined in an AWS CloudFormation template. Template resource attributes are used to specify the properties of a resource.

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Some of the most common template resource attributes include

  • Arn (Amazon Resource Name): The unique identifier for the resource.
  • DependsOn: Used to specify any dependencies the resource has on other resources in the stack. This ensures that resources are created in the correct order.
  • Metadata: Used to specify any additional information about the resource that should be passed to other resources or applications.
  • Properties: Used to specify the configuration settings for the resource. These will vary depending on the type of resource being defined.

template resource attributes

How to Create a CloudFormation Template

To create a CloudFormation template, you need to use a text editor such as Microsoft Word or Notepad++. Once your text editor is open, create a new document and save it as a .json file. Within your new document, you will need to enter in specific template format syntax for AWS CloudFormation to recognize it. This includes adding "Description," "Parameters," "Mappings," "Conditions," "Resources," and "Outputs" sections within the JSON (JavaScript Object Notation), where you will input the parameters for each section. 

  • The Description section is where you will provide general information about the purpose of your CloudFormation stack. 
  • The Parameters section is where you will specify values that you want the users of your stack to be able to customize, such as region or instance type. 
  • The Mappings section is used to specify the mapping of keys and values that can be used throughout the template (such as regions to AMIs). 
  • The Conditions section allows you to specify conditions that determine whether certain resources are created or whether certain properties are assigned to resources. 
  • The Resources section will specify all of the AWS resources you want to be included in your stacks, such as Amazon S3 buckets or Amazon EC2 instances.

How to Deploy a CloudFormation Template

Assuming you have an AWS account, the first step is to log into the AWS Management Console and select CloudFormation in the services dropdown. This will take you to the main CloudFormation page, where you can select Create Stack. On the next page, you have two options for creating a stack: With new or From existing resources.

If you choose With new resources, you must upload a valid template file in JSON or YAML format. The template will contain all the necessary information about your desired stack, including which AWS products you want to use and how they should be configured. Once you have selected your template file, give your stack a name and click Create.

If everything goes according to plan, you will have a new stack containing all of the resources defined in your template within a few minutes!

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Updating a CloudFormation Stack

To update a CloudFormation stack, you must create a new template that includes the changes you want. Once your new template is ready, you can use the AWS Management Console, AWS Command Line Interface, or AWS SDKs to update your stack.

When updating a stack, you have two options: you can specify whether you want AWS CloudFormation to replace the old template with the new one, or you can tell AWS CloudFormation to merge the new template with the old one. If you choose to replace the old template, any changes you made to the previous template will be lost; however, if you choose to merge the templates, your changes will be preserved.

Once you've decided how to update your stack, follow the instructions for creating a stack using your new template. When prompted, select "Update Stack" instead of "Create Stack." After your stack has been successfully updated, AWS CloudFormation will return an acknowledgment message.

Advanced CloudFormation

Advanced CloudFormation is an Amazon Web Services (AWS) tool that allows you to create and manage infrastructure as code. With CloudFormation, you can define templates for your AWS resources and launch them in an automated and predictable way.

CloudFormation is a powerful tool that can help you streamline your AWS deployments. In this section, we'll look at some of the more advanced features of CloudFormation, including StackSets, nested stacks, cross-stack references, and stack policies.

What Are the Benefits of Using CloudFormation Hooks?

There are many benefits of using CloudFormation hooks. They can help you automate your infrastructure, avoid repetitive tasks, and make it easier to manage your resources.  Hooks can be used to automate several different tasks related to AWS CloudFormation. For example, you can use a hook to automatically delete unused stacks or create new stacks when certain events occur. 

Hooks can also be used to manage multiple versions of your templates. For example, you can use a hook to update your templates when a new version is released automatically. This can help keep your infrastructure up-to-date and avoid manual updates. 

CloudFormation hooks can also be used to simplify complex tasks. For example, you can use a hook to automatically provision a new Amazon EC2 instance when an instance is terminated. This can save you time and effort when provisioning new instances. 

In addition, hooks can be used to monitor your resources for changes. For example, you can use a hook to track changes in Amazon S3 buckets or DynamoDB tables. This information can help debug or audit purposes. 

Overall, using CloudFormation hooks can help you save time and effort when managing your AWS infrastructure.

Benefits of Using CloudFormation Hooks

Best Alternatives to AWS CloudFormation and how to use it?

You can configure and manage your AWS resources in a few different ways. One popular option is to use the AWS CloudFormation service. However, there are a few alternatives to using this service that you should consider.

One option is to use the AWS CLI (Command Line Interface). This tool allows you to manage your AWS resources from the command line. You can also use scripts to automate the management of your resources.

Another alternative is to use the AWS Management Console. This web-based interface lets you view and manage your AWS resources in one place. You can also create templates that specify the resources and configurations you want to deploy.

You can also use third-party tools to manage your AWS resources. These tools typically provide a graphical user interface (GUI) that makes it easy to view and manage your resources. These tools also allow you to create templates for deploying your resources.


In conclusion, AWS CloudFormation is a powerful tool that can help you automate the provisioning and configuring of your AWS resources. With CloudFormation, you can create templates that describe your desired AWS resource configuration and then use those templates to provision and update your resources in an automated and reliable way. If you're looking for a way to simplify the management of your AWS environment, CloudFormation is worth checking out.

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Last updated: 04 Apr 2023
About Author


Madhuri is a Senior Content Creator at MindMajix. She has written about a range of different topics on various technologies, which include, Splunk, Tensorflow, Selenium, and CEH. She spends most of her time researching on technology, and startups. Connect with her via LinkedIn and Twitter .

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