How can you use AWS CloudFormation to manage infrastructure as code?

12 June 2024

In the midst of digital transformation, managing your cloud infrastructure efficiently is crucial. Amazon Web Services (AWS) offers various tools to help you with this. One of them is AWS CloudFormation. This service allows you to manage your resources in an easy way through Infrastructure as Code (IaC). In this article, we will discuss how you can use AWS CloudFormation to manage your infrastructure as code.

What is AWS CloudFormation?

AWS CloudFormation is a service offered by Amazon Web Services that helps you model and set up your Amazon Web Services resources. It allows you to use programming languages or a simple text file to model and provision, in an automated and secure manner, all the resources needed for your applications across all regions and accounts.

When you use AWS CloudFormation, you manage your infrastructure as code. IaC is the process of managing and provisioning computer data centers through machine-readable definition files, rather than physical hardware configuration or interactive configuration tools.

With AWS CloudFormation, you can use JSON or YAML-formatted text files, known as CloudFormation templates, to describe your desired resources and their dependencies. This allows you to easily version control and replicate your infrastructure.

Understanding AWS CloudFormation Templates

AWS CloudFormation templates are the blueprint of your infrastructure. Templates are written in JSON or YAML and are used to create and manage AWS resources. In essence, they are used to describe your desired state of resources and services.

Each resource in the template is described by its resource type, such as AWS::EC2::Instance for an Amazon EC2 instance. Each resource type has a set of properties that you can set to configure the resource. The resource types, and their properties, map directly to the AWS service APIs. Therefore, any resource that can be created or managed through an AWS API can be managed by AWS CloudFormation.

The resources in the template are declared in the "Resources" section. Here's an example of a simple AWS CloudFormation template that declares an Amazon S3 bucket:

  "Resources": {
    "MyBucket": {
      "Type": "AWS::S3::Bucket",
      "Properties": {
        "BucketName": "MyBucket"

Creating and Deploying a Stack with AWS CloudFormation

A stack is a collection of AWS resources that you can manage as a single unit. You can create, update, or delete a collection of resources by creating, updating, or deleting stacks. All the resources in a stack are defined by the stack's AWS CloudFormation template.

To create a stack in AWS CloudFormation, you need to follow these steps:

  1. Prepare your AWS CloudFormation template. This could be creating a new template or using an existing one.
  2. Go to the AWS CloudFormation console.
  3. Choose "Create stack".
  4. In the "Specify template" section, upload your template file or specify the Amazon S3 URL where the template is located.
  5. In the "Specify details" section, input the stack name and any input parameters required by your template.
  6. Configure stack options as needed.
  7. Review and create the stack.

Once your stack is created, AWS CloudFormation will take care of provisioning and configuring the declared resources. You can monitor the status of your stack on the AWS CloudFormation console.

Updating and Deleting a Stack with AWS CloudFormation

Updating a stack allows you to make changes to the resources within your stack. It's as simple as modifying your AWS CloudFormation template and updating the stack with this new version. AWS CloudFormation compares this new version of your template with the one currently in use, and then updates the stack accordingly.

To update a stack, you need to follow these steps:

  1. Modify your AWS CloudFormation template.
  2. Go to the AWS CloudFormation console.
  3. Select the stack you wish to update.
  4. Choose "Update stack".
  5. Specify your updated template.
  6. Choose "Next" and proceed with the rest of the steps until you choose "Update".

If you no longer need your stack, you can delete it. When you delete a stack, all resources that were created by AWS CloudFormation are also deleted. However, any resources that you manually added to a stack are not deleted.

To delete a stack, you need to follow these steps:

  1. Go to the AWS CloudFormation console.
  2. Select the stack you wish to delete.
  3. Choose "Delete".
  4. In the confirmation box, choose "Yes, Delete".

As you can see, AWS CloudFormation offers a structured and scalable way to manage your AWS infrastructure. It allows you to treat your infrastructure as code, making it easy to version, replicate, and deploy resources across your environment. By using AWS CloudFormation, you can automate the provisioning and management of your AWS resources, saving you time and effort, and ensuring consistent configurations across your resources and environments.

Utilizing AWS CloudFormation with AWS CDK

In addition to creating and managing infrastructure as code directly with AWS CloudFormation, you can also use AWS Cloud Development Kit (AWS CDK) to define your cloud resources. This service allows you to use familiar programming languages to define your resources and apply best-practice defaults, helping you to start building quickly.

AWS CDK uses the same CloudFormation templates as the AWS CloudFormation service. However, instead of writing the templates in JSON or YAML, you define your resources in code using the AWS CDK. This code is then compiled into a CloudFormation template, which AWS CloudFormation uses to provision and manage resources.

In AWS CDK, a stack is a unit of deployment, similar to a stack in AWS CloudFormation. A stack can contain any number of AWS resources. At a minimum, a stack contains an AWS::CDK::Stack resource and any resources that you add to the stack in your AWS CDK app.

Here is an example of defining an Amazon S3 bucket in an AWS CDK app:

const cdk = require('@aws-cdk/core');
const s3 = require('@aws-cdk/aws-s3');

class MyCdkStack extends cdk.Stack {
  constructor(scope, id, props) {
    super(scope, id, props);

    new s3.Bucket(this, 'MyBucket', {
      versioned: true

module.exports = { MyCdkStack };

Using AWS CDK with AWS CloudFormation gives you additional flexibility and ease of use. You can leverage the benefits of programming languages and maintain the advantages of infrastructure as code.

Securing your AWS CloudFormation Operations with AWS IAM

When managing your AWS infrastructure as code using AWS CloudFormation, it's essential to ensure that your operations are secure. Amazon Identity Access Management (IAM) provides the tools to manage access control for your AWS resources.

You can define IAM roles that determine what actions are allowed and denied for your AWS CloudFormation operations. An IAM role is a policy that specifies what actions are allowed and who (or what) is allowed to perform them. By assigning the right IAM roles, you can ensure that your operations follow the least privilege principle, where each user or service is granted the minimum permissions necessary to perform their tasks.

In AWS CloudFormation, you can specify an IAM role that AWS CloudFormation assumes to create, update, or delete resources. You can specify an existing IAM role ARN (Amazon Resource Name), or you can let AWS CloudFormation create a service role with the necessary permissions.

By integrating AWS CloudFormation with AWS IAM, you can ensure that your infrastructure as code operations are secure, further enhancing the management of your AWS resources.

AWS CloudFormation is a powerful service provided by AWS that allows you to manage your infrastructure as code, enabling consistent and reliable provisioning and management of AWS resources. By leveraging CloudFormation templates, you can define your desired state of resources and services, and AWS CloudFormation takes care of the rest.

Furthermore, integrating AWS CloudFormation with services like AWS CDK and AWS IAM expands the possibilities, allowing you to write your infrastructure code in familiar programming languages and ensuring secure operations.

In a world of accelerating digital transformation, AWS CloudFormation is an invaluable tool that makes managing your AWS infrastructure more efficient and less time-consuming. Whether you have a small-scale or large-scale cloud environment, AWS CloudFormation can simplify and improve your infrastructure management.

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