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23 Mar
min read

Terraform ECS: The Ultimate Guide to Container Orchestration on AWS

Learn how to effectively manage containers on AWS using Terraform ECS with this ultimate guide. Simplify your container orchestration strategy.

Jack Dwyer

Platform Engineering + DevOps

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What Is Terraform ECS? This blog will explore the benefits of using Terraform ECS and provide insights into the key features of this popular container management service. If you’re looking to make the most out of AWS cloud computing and create efficient development environments, this blog is a must-read.

Introduction to Terraform ECS

man in 100 day of coding challenge - Terraform ECS

Terraform is a powerful open-source tool used for building, changing, and versioning infrastructure in a safe, efficient, and predictable way. It enables developers and operations teams to define infrastructure as code (IAC) using a simple, human-readable, declarative domain-specific language. This allows for the automatic provisioning of resources, making infrastructure management more efficient and scalable.

Significance of Amazon Elastic Container Service (ECS) for Managing Docker Containers in the Cloud

Amazon Elastic Container Service (ECS) is a highly scalable, fast, and secure container management service that makes it easy to run, stop, and manage Docker containers on a cluster. It simplifies the deployment, management, and scaling of containerized applications using Docker containers. By integrating with other AWS services, ECS simplifies the running of applications in a highly available and scalable manner.

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Zeet helps you to get more from your cloud, Kubernetes, and Terraform investments and helps your engineering team become strong individual contributors through our CI/CD & deployment platform. 

Contact Zeet to learn more about how Zeet can help you get seamless cloud deployments every time, and help your team to become a top-performing engineering team.

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Why Choose Terraform for ECS Deployment?

illustration of deployment - Terraform ECS

Managing ECS clusters manually comes with several challenges, such as a high level of overhead from managing the cluster's state. In a manual setup, you need to ensure that the resources are efficiently distributed and effectively used, which can be cumbersome due to the complexity in scheduling logic. This approach often results in inconsistency and is error-prone, leading to operational inefficiencies and deployment bottlenecks.

Luckily, Terraform offers a solution to these problems. By streamlining the deployment process, Terraform automates the creation, deployment, and management of ECS clusters. This ensures consistency and minimizes errors by allowing users to define their infrastructure as code. With Terraform, you can maintain a declarative configuration file that helps to establish a consistent environment. The Terraform workflow allows for easy modification and provides a clear audit trail for all changes.

Setting Up an ECS Cluster with Terraform

First, let’s take a look at the process of setting up an ECS Cluster with Terraform. The first step I will take is creating the VPC (Virtual Private Cloud). In this step, I define the VPC, add two subnets, create an internet gateway (IGW), create a route table, and associate it with the subnets, and finally create a security group with ingress and egress rules.

Creating EC2 for ECS Instances via Terraform

Following the VPC creation, I will demonstrate provisioning EC2 instances for ECS using Terraform. The process involves creating an EC2 launch template, creating an auto-scaling group (ASG), and configuring an Application Load Balancer (ALB).

ECS Cluster Configuration

Let’s dive into ECS-specific settings. I will discuss capacity providers, task definitions, and service definitions. These are additional configurations that are crucial for setting up an ECS Cluster with Terraform.

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Deploying Services on ECS Clusters

devop implementation - Terraform ECS

Fargate vs. EC2 Instances

Fargate is a serverless computing option that allows you to run containers without managing the underlying EC2 instances. This can be useful for workloads that need to be set up quickly and do not require complex infrastructure or require scaling based on the real-time demand. With Fargate, you pay only for the resources you use and not for the underlying instance's capacity.

Understanding EC2 Instance Flexibility and Control

EC2 (Elastic Compute Cloud) instances, on the other hand, give you more control and flexibility over the environment. You can configure the instances in different ways, such as operating systems, software, storage options, and network settings. This can be useful for workloads that require specific configurations or that need to run continuously or for a long time.

Workload Considerations

When choosing between Fargate and EC2 instances, consider the workload requirements. For example, for tasks that require scaling, speed, or workloads that have unpredictable demand, Fargate can be a better choice. For tasks that require consistent environments, long-term or continuous operation, or workloads that need more complex configurations, EC2 instances can be a better choice. 

Definitions and Service Deployment

Terraform ECS helps in deploying and managing workloads on AWS ECS (Elastic Container Service). It allows you to create a task definition and service that runs on ECS. The task definition is used to define the container's configuration, such as the Docker image, ports, and environment variables, and the service manages tasks based on the task definition configuration.

You can use Terraform ECS to define configurations in code, track changes in version control, and apply configurations consistently. It can help to manage the infrastructure and deploy services in a scalable way as your project evolves.

Streamlining Cloud Deployments and Empowering Engineering Teams

Zeet helps you to get more from your cloud, Kubernetes, and Terraform investments and helps your engineering team become strong individual contributors through our CI/CD & deployment platform. 

Contact Zeet to learn more about how Zeet helps you get seamless cloud deployments every time and helps your team to become a top-performing engineering team.

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Testing and Scaling ECS Deployments

dev testing system - Terraform ECS

Best Practices for Testing ECS Setup

1. Configuring Auto Scaling

To enable auto-scaling for an ECS service:

  • Configure it using the AWS CLI. 
  • Set up the auto scaling based on an Amazon CloudWatch metric. 

Through this process, my ECS service can automatically scale based on the predefined conditions, which helps in managing varying workloads efficiently.

2. Load Testing Your Web Application

Once the auto scaling is configured, I conduct load tests on my web application running in ECS. This step enables me to observe how the auto scaling process works in real-life scenarios using the Amazon ECS console. Load testing helps in gauging the system's responsiveness and performance under different loads.

3. Application Performance Testing

After completing the load tests, I identify how long it takes my application to complete its work. I ensure that my application properly handles the SIGTERM signal. This is crucial in enabling graceful shutdowns of tasks, ensuring that tasks are terminated properly and do not result in data loss or corruption.

4. Using a Lightweight Init Process

In cases where my application spawns worker processes, I ensure to use a lightweight init process such as tini. This process helps in managing zombie processes and also catches SIGTERM signals for proper termination. Using a lightweight init process contributes to the efficient handling of application processes.

5. Configuring Logging to stdout and stderr

To enhance logging efficiency within containers, I configure containerized applications to write logs directly to the stdout and stderr streams. Redirecting logs to these streams ensures that logs are handled effectively by Docker's logging drivers, making it easier to identify and troubleshoot issues within the application.

Scaling Best Practices for Amazon ECS

1. Application Scaling Mindset

When deploying containers, it is essential to adopt the right mindset towards scaling. This involves considering the architectural aspects of the application to ensure that it can efficiently scale based on changing demands.

2. Vertical Scaling

Choosing the appropriate vertical size for application containers is crucial for ensuring optimal performance. By selecting the right resource allocation, I can prevent resource bottlenecks and ensure that the application runs smoothly under different loads.

3. Horizontal Scaling

Building automation that can dynamically increase or decrease the number of running containers is essential for achieving efficient scalability. Automation enables quick adjustments based on traffic fluctuations, ensuring that the application meets performance expectations.

4. Cluster Capacity

To guarantee that I have sufficient underlying compute capacity to run all the containers, I regularly monitor and optimize the cluster's capacity. This practice helps in preventing resource shortages and ensures that all containers operate seamlessly.

5. Performance Envelope

Each application has a unique performance envelope that defines its resource needs. Continuously testing and fine-tuning this envelope is crucial as new features are added or when infrastructure upgrades are implemented. Tuning the performance envelope enhances application efficiency and scalability.

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