Creating a Custom Amazon EC2 AMI from ISO (using OI Hipster)
In this post, I’ll pick up from where I left off last time, and demonstrate one potential way to convert the installation ISO media generated in that post, into an AMI that can be used to create new VMs in the Amazon EC2 environment. It’s important to note a couple things before we start:
While I’ll be generating an AMI based on OI Hipster, this process should be applicable to any Linux or FreeBSD based operating system as well (and quite possibly Windows too, but I don’t know much about that platform).
I make no gaurantees about whether the process that’ll be demonstrated is correct, efficient, or complete. I have little to no expertise in this area, and this is simply a write up of the notes that I took as I was teaching myself how to do this. Just because the process below worked for me, does not necessarily mean it will work for anybody else. Thus, if you’re using this as a guide to create your own custom AMI(s), be aware, YMMV.
With that out of the way, lets get started.
Step 0: Create Template for Root Volume of AMI
The first step that we need to perform, is to create a disk image
that’ll be used as the template for the root volume of the AMI that
we’ll be creating. If you already have a
raw VM disk image that you
intend to use as the AMI root volume template, than this step can be
skipped. For the sake of completeness, I’m including one possible way to
raw disk image, that’ll then be used in later steps.
In order to generate this
raw disk image, we’ll create a VM that’ll be
used to execute the ISO installer, which will install our operating
system (OI Hipster, in my case) onto a “disk”, that we can then upload
to Amazon and use as our AMI’s root volume template.
For this guide, I’ll be using a Debian server that’s
configured as a Xen host to create the VM and disk image.
First, lets create a sparse file that’ll be attached as the VM’s only
virtual disk; after the ISO installation completes, this file will be
raw disk image that’ll be converted into the AMI’s root volume.
$ truncate -s 64G ami-template.img
Now, to create the VM, I need to specify the hardware configuration to use. I do this using the following Xen VM configuration:
$ cat <<EOF > ami-template.cfg > builder='hvm' > name='ami-template' > vcpus=4 > memory=4096 > vif=['bridge=xenbr0, type=ioemu'] > disk=[ 'file:/root/OpenIndiana_Text_X86.iso,hdb:cdrom,r', > 'file:/root/ami-template.img,xvda,w' ] > boot='d' > vnc=1 > vnclisten='0.0.0.0' > vncconsole=1 > on_crash='preserve' > xen_platform_pci=1 > serial='pty' > on_reboot='destroy' > EOF
For those unfamilar with Xen’s configuration files, this states that the VM will be given:
- 4 CPUs
- 4G of RAM
- The installation ISO will be attached as a CDROM
- The sparse file generated above will be used as the VM’s only disk
- The console will be displayed over VNC
With that configuration file generated, we can go ahead and create/start the VM with the following command:
$ xm create ami-template.cfg
With the VM running and it’s console being displayed over VNC, I can
then connect to the console and manually walk through the installer’s
instructions. After the installer completes, we’ll have a disk image
ami-template.img file) that’ll be uploaded to Amazon and used to
generate the AMI in later steps.
Step 1: Convert Raw Disk Image into Stream Optimized VMDK Format
Now that we’ve run the OI Hipster installer to completion, we should
ami-template.img file that contains a complete installation of
our operating system. While we could upload directly to Amazon as-is,
we won’t do this as it’d be an inefficient use of space (and time).
Remember that when we generated the file that we attached to the VM in
the previous step, we used a sparse file; we can use
see how much space was saved by doing so (as opposed to a non-sparse
$ ls -lsh ami-template.img 3.6G -rw-r--r-- 1 root root 64G Feb 5 22:10 ami-template.img
From this output, we can see that while the file is 64G in size, it’s only taking up 3.6G of space. Thus, it’d be great if we could upload only 3.6G (or less) worth of data to Amazon, rather than the full 64G (most of which would be zeros).
That’s what this step is about; rather than uploading the
ami-template.img file as-is, which would result in 64G of data being
transferred over the network, we’ll convert the file into a “stream
optimized” VMDK and upload this converted file. As a result, we’ll only
have to send a small fraction (of the original file’s size) of data over
the network, when compared to if we hadn’t done this conversion; which
is a huge benefit in terms of the latency required to perform the
We’ll use the
VMDKStream.py utility to do the conversion, so first we
need to download this tool:
$ wget -O VMDK-stream-converter-0.2.tar.gz \ https://github.com/imcleod/VMDK-stream-converter/archive/0.2.tar.gz $ tar -xf VMDK-stream-converter-0.2.tar.gz $ ls VMDK-stream-converter-0.2 COPYING README setup.py VMDKstream.py root@kvmserver1:~/psurya# ls -l VMDK-stream-converter-0.2 total 40 -rw-rw-r-- 1 root root 18092 Jun 29 2011 COPYING -rw-rw-r-- 1 root root 576 Jun 29 2011 README -rw-rw-r-- 1 root root 120 Jun 29 2011 setup.py -rwxrwxr-x 1 root root 11454 Jun 29 2011 VMDKstream.py
And now we can use it to read the original
raw disk image, and convert
it into the stream optimized
vmdk that we want:
$ ./VMDK-stream-converter-0.2/VMDKstream.py ami-template.img ami-template.vmdk
After this completes, we can use
ls again to see just how much less
data will be needed to transfer the disk image using this new format:
$ ls -lsh ami-template.img ami-template.vmdk 3.6G -rw-r--r-- 1 root root 64G Feb 5 22:10 ami-template.img 1022M -rw-r--r-- 1 root root 1022M Feb 5 22:35 ami-template.vmdk
As one can see, the converted file is much smaller than even the sparse file that we started with; rather than sending 64G over the network, we’ll only have to send about 1G.
Now with our stream optimized VMDK file generated, we can move on to actually performing the upload of this file to Amazon.
Step 2: Download EC2 Tools and Initialize Environment
To perform the upload of the VMDK file that we had just generated, as well as the various other steps involved in creating the AMI, we’ll use the EC2 API Tools provided by Amazon. Thus, the first thing we need to do, is to download these tools (assuming they aren’t already installed).
Step 2.1: Download EC2 API Tools
This is simple, using
$ wget http://s3.amazonaws.com/ec2-downloads/ec2-api-tools.zip $ unzip ec2-api-tools.zip
The tools will be extracted into a directory named
postfixed with the version of the tools downloaded. In this example,
126.96.36.199 was downloaded, so the directory containing the tools
ec2-api-tools-188.8.131.52, and we can verify this using
$ ls -l ec2-api-tools-184.108.40.206/ total 100 drwxr-xr-x 2 root root 36864 Sep 7 2015 bin drwxr-xr-x 2 root root 4096 Sep 7 2015 lib -rw-r--r-- 1 root root 4852 Sep 7 2015 license.txt -rw-r--r-- 1 root root 539 Sep 7 2015 notice.txt -rw-r--r-- 1 root root 46468 Sep 7 2015 THIRDPARTYLICENSE.TXT
Step 2.2: Initialize Necessary Environment Variables
In conjunction with the EC2 API Tools, we’ll also make use of the following environment variables to configure the invocation of the tools. The following is a list of the environment variables that we’ll use in the following sections, as well as a brief description of each:
AWS_ACCESS_KEY: This is required so the tools can authenticate as “you” when making API request to Amazon. This needs to be set based on each individual’s specific key. For more information, see here.
AWS_SECRET_KEY: In addition to the “access key” described above, authenticating with the Amazon APIs also requires a “secret key”. Exactly like the “access key”, this must be set based on the individual’s specific key. See here for more information.
AWS_ZONE: This will specify the AWS availability zone that will be used when generating the AMI. For more information about AWS availability zones, see here.
AWS_S3_BUCKET: This will specify the AWS S3 bucket used when uploading the disk image. The disk image will be uploaded to this bucket, and then a snapshot of the generated volume will be taken, and this snapshot used to create the root volume of the AMI. For more information about Amazon S3, see here.
AWS_AMI_NAME: This will specify the name given to the AMI.
AWS_AMI_DESC: This will specify the description given to the AMI.
The following is intended to serve as an example of the values that could be used for these various environment variables:
$ export AWS_ACCESS_KEY=AKIAIOSFODNN7EXAMPLE $ export AWS_SECRET_KEY=wJalrXUtnFEMI/K7MDENG/bPxRfiCYEXAMPLEKEY $ export EC2_URL=https://ec2.us-east-1.amazonaws.com $ export AWS_REGION=us-east-1 $ export AWS_ZONE=us-east-1a $ export AWS_S3_BUCKET=ivol-openindiana-hipster $ export AWS_AMI_NAME="OpenIndiana Hipster Testing 2017.02.06 (HVM)" $ export AWS_AMI_DESC="Hipster is a codename for rapidly moving \ > development branch of OpenIndiana and the development branch from \ > which major releases are made."
Step 3: Import the Stream Optimized VMDK to Amazon S3
Now that we have the EC2 API Tools installed, and the necessary environment variables initialized, we can start the process of uploading our disk image to Amazon, and converting that into an AMI.
The first step of this proces is to upload our stream optimized VMDK
(generated in step 1) to our Amazon S3 bucket; to do this,
we’ll use the
$ ./ec2-api-tools-220.127.116.11/bin/ec2ivol -o $AWS_ACCESS_KEY \ > -w $AWS_SECRET_KEY -b $AWS_S3_BUCKET -z $AWS_ZONE \ > -d "$AWS_AMI_DESCRIPTION" -f vmdk ami-template.vmdk Requesting volume size: 64 GB TaskType IMPORTVOLUME TaskId import-vol-fghpxu3l ExpirationTime 2017-02-13T20:39:29Z Status active StatusMessage Pending DISKIMAGE DiskImageFormat VMDK DiskImageSize 1070948352 VolumeSize 64 AvailabilityZone us-west-1a ApproximateBytesConverted 0 Creating new manifest at ivol-openindiana-hipster/0af50aa3-ee80-492d-96a5-bab6ab63bda4/ami-template.vmdkmanifest.xml Uploading the manifest file Uploading 1070948352 bytes across 103 parts ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Upload progress Estimated time Estimated speed / 100% [====================>] 56.056 MBps ********************* All 1070948352 Bytes uploaded in 19s ********************* Done uploading. Average speed was 56.053 MBps The disk image for import-vol-fghpxu3l has been uploaded to Amazon S3 where it is being converted into an EBS volume. You may monitor the progress of this task by running ec2-describe-conversion-tasks. When the task is completed, you may use ec2-delete-disk-image to remove the image from S3.
We can then use the
TaskId value provided by the output of
import-vol-fghpxu3l in this instance), and feed that into
ec2dct to retreive the status for the upload’s conversion.
$ ./ec2-api-tools-18.104.22.168/bin/ec2dct import-vol-fghpxu3l TaskType IMPORTVOLUME TaskId import-vol-fghpxu3l ExpirationTime 2017-02-13T20:39:29Z Status completed DISKIMAGE DiskImageFormat VMDK DiskImageSize 1070948352 VolumeId vol-041fd3aa8c9435e7d VolumeSize 64 AvailabilityZone us-west-1a ApproximateBytesConverted 1070945104
As can be seen from the
Status section, this conversion has
so we can move on to the next step. If the conversion hadn’t
yet, e.g. it was still
active, then we would need to wait (and poll
ec2dct) until it
Step 4: Create a Snapshot of Imported Volume
The next step that we need to perform, is to create a snapshot from the
volume that we just created. Looking at the prior output from
we can see from the
VolumeId field, that a volume was generated and
it’s ID is
vol-041fd3aa8c9435e7d. We will use the
to create a snapshot of that volume:
$ ./ec2-api-tools-22.214.171.124/bin/ec2addsnap vol-041fd3aa8c9435e7d SNAPSHOT snap-01b80a642ef5f1f51 vol-041fd3aa8c9435e7d pending 2017-02-06T20:49:11+0000 239688353806 64 Not Encrypted
Just like when importing the volume, we can check the status of the
snapshot generation process using
ec2dsnap (the parameter passed to it
comes from the the output of
$ while true; do > ./ec2-api-tools-126.96.36.199/bin/ec2dsnap snap-01b80a642ef5f1f51 > sleep 60 > done SNAPSHOT snap-01b80a642ef5f1f51 vol-041fd3aa8c9435e7d pending 2017-02-06T20:49:11+0000 0% 239688353806 64 Not Encrypted SNAPSHOT snap-01b80a642ef5f1f51 vol-041fd3aa8c9435e7d pending 2017-02-06T20:49:11+0000 0% 239688353806 64 Not Encrypted SNAPSHOT snap-01b80a642ef5f1f51 vol-041fd3aa8c9435e7d completed 2017-02-06T20:49:11+0000 100% 239688353806 64 Not Encrypted ^C
Step 5: Register AMI Using Previously Created Volume Snapshot
Finally, now that we have the volume snapshot generated, we can use this
to register our new custom AMI using
$ ./ec2-api-tools-188.8.131.52/bin/ec2reg -s snap-01b80a642ef5f1f51 \ > -d "$AWS_AMI_DESC" -n "$AWS_AMI_NAME" -a x86_64 \ > --root-device-name /dev/xvda --virtualization-type hvm IMAGE ami-5b065a3b
Success! The new custom built AMI is
It should now be possible to use this AMI to create new Amazon EC2 instances.