Migrating an app to AWS without the use of a container — Utilizing Elastic Beanstalk Custom Platforms.

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Containers are awesome.

Being able to spin up an ephemeral copy of an application feels powerful.

Saving costs by significantly reducing CPU, memory and storage is phenomenal

The thing is, not all applications can be containerised, but there are options…

This post is going to look specifically at using custom platforms with Elastic Beanstalk.

AWS Elastic Beanstalk supports custom platforms. A custom platform is a more advanced customization than a custom image in several ways. A custom platform lets you develop an entire new platform from scratch, customizing the operating system, additional software, and scripts that Elastic Beanstalk runs on platform instances

Simply because elastic beanstalk does not provide a platform you require out of the box, you should not be put off.

You can still use a language, framework or some infrastructure that you require, and manage it transiently.

Beanstalk custom platforms are comparable to a custom image, where you modify an existing base AMI.

You may take something like Ubuntu, and install your software on the image.

Elastic Beanstalk can still provide hooks for scripts and can control the overall stack.

The Elastic Beanstalk platform can be used in conjunction with Packer, (an open-source tool for creating machine images).

Below is an example of running NodeJs on Ubuntu, built with packer for Elastic Beanstalk custom platform:

version: "1.0"provisioner:
type: packer
template: custom_platform.json
flavor: ubuntu1604
description: Sample NodeJs Container.
operating_system_name: Ubuntu
operating_system_version: 16.04
programming_language_name: ECMAScript
programming_language_version: ECMA-262
framework_name: NodeJs
framework_version: 13.0.1
app_server_name: "none"
app_server_version: "none"
- namespace: "aws:elasticbeanstalk:container:custom:application"
option_name: "NPM_START"
description: "Default application startup command"
default_value: "node application.js"

Example of the custom platform template:

"variables": {
"platform_name": "{{env `AWS_EB_PLATFORM_NAME`}}",
"platform_version": "{{env `AWS_EB_PLATFORM_VERSION`}}",
"platform_arn": "{{env `AWS_EB_PLATFORM_ARN`}}"
"builders": [
"type": "amazon-ebs",
"name": "HVM AMI builder",
"region": "",
"source_ami": "",
"instance_type": "m3.medium",
"ssh_username": "ubuntu",
"ssh_pty": "true",
"ami_name": "Beanstalk Custom Platform - Node on Ubuntu",
"tags": {
"eb_platform_name": "{{user `platform_name`}}",
"eb_platform_version": "{{user `platform_version`}}",
"eb_platform_arn": "{{user `platform_arn`}}"
"provisioners": [
"type": "file",
"source": "builder",
"destination": "/tmp/"
"type": "shell",
"execute_command": "chmod +x {{ .Path }}; {{ .Vars }} sudo {{ .Path }}",
"scripts": [

Example builder.sh script:

BUILDER_DIR="/tmp/builder". $BUILDER_DIR/CONFIGwait_for_cloudinit() {
echo "Waiting for cloud init to finish bootstrapping.."
until [ -f /var/lib/cloud/instance/boot-finished ]; do
echo "Still bootstrapping.. sleeping. "
sleep 3;
run_command () {
echo "Running script [$1]"
chmod +x $1
(cd $BUILDER_DIR/setup-scripts; BUILDER_DIR=$BUILDER_DIR $1 )
if [ $? -ne "0" ]; then
echo "Exiting. Failed to execute [$1]"
exit 1
install_jq() {
echo "Installing jq"
cd /tmp
wget https://github.com/stedolan/jq/releases/download/jq-1.5/jq-linux64
chmod +x jq-linux64
mv jq-linux64 jq
mv jq /usr/local/bin/
setup_beanstalk_base() {
echo "Creating base directories for platform."
mkdir -p $BEANSTALK_DIR/deploy/appsource/
mkdir -p /var/app/staging
mkdir -p /var/app/current
mkdir -p /var/log/nginx/healthd/
mkdir -p /var/log/tomcat/
apt-get -y install unzip
sync_platform_uploads() {
##### COPY THE everything in platform-uploads to / ####
echo "Setting up platform hooks"
rsync -ar $BUILDER_DIR/platform-uploads/ /
prepare_platform_base() {
run_setup_scripts() {
for entry in $( ls $BUILDER_DIR/setup-scripts/*.sh | sort ) ; do
run_command $entry
cleanup() {
echo "Done all customization of packer instance. Cleaning up"
set_permissions() {
echo "Setting permissions in /opt/elasticbeanstalk"
find /opt/elasticbeanstalk -type d -exec chmod 755 {} \; -print
chown -R root:root /opt/elasticbeanstalk/
echo "Setting permissions for shell scripts"
find /opt/elasticbeanstalk/ -name "*.sh" -exec chmod 755 {} \; -print
echo "setting permissions done."
echo "Running packer builder script"wait_for_cloudinit

More samples can be found in the AWS samples repo on github:

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Technologist who enjoys writing and working with software and infra. I write up all the things I learn as I go along to share the knowledge! beardy.digital

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