How to provision an ECS cluster and deploy a webapp on it with load-balanced Docker containers, using Ansible

I wrote a suite of Ansible playbooks to provision an ECS (Elastic Container Service) cluster on AWS, running a webapp deployed on Docker containers in the cluster and load balanced from an ALB (Application Load Balancer), with the Docker image for the app pulled from an ECR (Elastic Container Registry) repository.

This is a follow-up to my project/article “How to use Ansible to provision an EC2 instance with an app running in a Docker container” which explains how to get a containerised Docker app running on an regular EC2 instance, using Docker Hub as the image repo. That could work well as a simple Staging environment, but for Production it’s desirable to easily cluster and scale the containers with a load balancer, so I came up with this solution for provisioning/deploying on ECS which is well-suited for this kind of flexibility. (To quote AWS: “Amazon ECS is a fully managed container orchestration service that makes it easy for you to deploy, manage, and scale containerized applications”.) This solution also uses Amazon’s own ECR for Docker images, rather than Docker Hub.

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How to use Ansible to provision an EC2 instance with an app running in a Docker container

I created this suite of Ansible playbooks to provision a basic AWS (Amazon Web Services) infrastructure on EC2 with a Staging instance, and to deploy a webapp on the Staging instance which runs in a Docker container, pulled from Docker Hub.

Firstly a Docker image is built locally and pushed to a private Docker Hub repository, then the EC2 SSH key and Security Groups are created, then a Staging instance is provisioned. Next, the Docker image is pulled on the Staging instance, then a Docker container is started from the image, with nginx set up on the Staging instance to proxy web requests to the container. Finally, a DNS entry is added for the Staging instance in Route 53.

This is a simple Ansible framework to serve as a basis for building Docker images for your webapp and deploying them as containers on Amazon EC2. It can be expanded in multiple ways, the most obvious being to add an auto-scaled Production environment with Docker containers and a load balancer. (For Ansible playbooks suitable for provisioning an auto-scaled Production environment, check out my previous article and associated files “How to use Ansible for automated AWS provisioning”.) More complex apps could be split across multiple Docker containers for handling front-end and back-end components, so this could also be added as needed.

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How to use Ansible for automated AWS provisioning

I’ve recently produced a series of articles aimed at startups, entrepreneurial solo developers, etc. wanting to take their first steps into Amazon Web Services (AWS) setups for app deployment:

I then wanted to move on from discussing manual setup via the GUI interface of the AWS web console, to DevOps-style command-line programmatic setup for automated provisioning of an AWS infrastructure for app deployment, i.e. infrastructure as code (IaC). I have therefore created a suite of Ansible playbooks to provision an entire AWS infrastructure with a Staging instance and an auto-scaled load-balanced Production environment, and to deploy a webapp thereon. The resulting set of Ansible AWS provisioning playbooks and associated files can be found in my GitHub repository, so go ahead and grab it from there if you want to try them out. Keep reading for information on how to set up and use the playbooks (and you can also refer to the README in the repo folder, which contains much of the same information).

With these playbooks, firstly the EC2 SSH key and Security Groups are created, then a Staging instance is provisioned, then the webapp is deployed on Staging from GitHub, then an image is taken from which to provision the Production environment. The Production environment is set up with auto-scaled EC2 instances running behind a load balancer. Finally, DNS entries are added for the Production and Staging environments.

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How to use Ansible for security hardening on RHEL 7 and CentOS 7 servers

My article Security hardening on CentOS 7, Red Hat Enterprise Linux 7 & Amazon Linux was seen by Red Hat guru Karoly Vegh, who helpfully suggested it would be a good idea to automate the process with Ansible.

So here in my GitHub repository are some Ansible playbooks and related support files that I’ve created, which can be used for hardening servers running RHEL 7, CentOS 7 and related Linux distributions such as Amazon Linux 2. With some tweaking these playbooks could be easily modified for use with Ubuntu, Debian and other types of distro.

To use these playbooks, check out the repo and you can run the playbooks in the Ansible_RHEL_CentOS_hardening folder with ansible-playbook in the usual way. They assume the target servers are defined in your Ansible inventory as centosservers, but of course you can modify that if needed.

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