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AWS CloudFormation OverviewUNIXBusinessApplication

AWS CloudFormation is #14 ranked solution in top Configuration Management tools. PeerSpot users give AWS CloudFormation an average rating of 8 out of 10. AWS CloudFormation is most commonly compared to Red Hat Ansible Automation Platform: AWS CloudFormation vs Red Hat Ansible Automation Platform. The top industry researching this solution are professionals from a comms service provider, accounting for 30% of all views.
What is AWS CloudFormation?

AWS CloudFormation provides a common language for you to model and provision AWS and third party application resources in your cloud environment. AWS CloudFormation 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. This gives you a single source of truth for your AWS and third party resources.

AWS CloudFormation was previously known as CloudFormation.

AWS CloudFormation Buyer's Guide

Download the AWS CloudFormation Buyer's Guide including reviews and more. Updated: January 2022

AWS CloudFormation Customers
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AWS CloudFormation Video

AWS CloudFormation Pricing Advice

What users are saying about AWS CloudFormation pricing:
"This solution is free to use and does not require a license."

AWS CloudFormation Reviews

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Infrastructure - Presales & Solution Consultant at a tech company with 5,001-10,000 employees
Real User
Top 10
Templates help to get started quickly and the technical support is nice, but the interface is not intuitive
Pros and Cons
  • "There is a cost-benefit to using CloudFormation that comes about because of the automation that it provides."
  • "This tool is not intuitive and there are others that are easier to understand."

What is our primary use case?

We are a computer consulting company and AWS CloudFormation is one of the solutions that we provide to our customers.

CloudFormation is definitely an integral part of AWS Native solutions. It is used for setting up your environment, such as your DNS structure. If something happens in your current environment, such as a disaster, then you can bring up the environment in another region by using the CloudFormation template. Essentially, it is a tool that is used for automating cloud deployment.

What is most valuable?

The templates are helpful because they can help to get a quick start on a project. You can spin up your development environment immediately, do some jobs, and get it out of the way.

There is a cost-benefit to using CloudFormation that comes about because of the automation that it provides.

One really good thing is that you don't have to be specific when it comes to sequencing.

The automatically template creation feature is good, although it needs to be made a bit more extensive.

What needs improvement?

This tool is not intuitive and there are others that are easier to understand. It is very powerful but it can be developed to make it much easier to use. The learning curve is pretty steep. Unless you have been working with it for a long time, looking at a CloudFormation template is a tough job. The aim should be usability for a person with a non-coding background.

There is a lot of syntax and components that require you to look at the documentation, whereas with the inclusion of a few drop-down menus and choices, it would be much easier to work with.

You can have CloudFormation create a template based on your existing infrastructure, but not all of the services are included. For example, if you manually set up an environment and you have put in all of the scaling information then you can extract the entire infrastructure and get back a template. CloudFormation is then capable of recreating the environment but it might not have the scaling included automatically.

For how long have I used the solution?

We have been using AWS CloudFormation for six to seven months.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

This is a stable solution. It is a bit of a challenge because the learning curve is steep and it requires a lot of expertise, but it is stable.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

Our customers are a mix in terms of size. We have small, medium, and large-sized companies as clients.

How are customer service and technical support?

We have interacted with technical support at times and from my experience, it has been pretty nice. The support is okay.

Which solution did I use previously and why did I switch?

I have also used Terraform, which is a bit more user-friendly than CloudFormation. It is quite a bit more intuitive.

How was the initial setup?

CloudFormation doesn't require any installation. In fact, it is part of the services provided by AWS. The length of time for deployment depends on the type of infrastructure that you're deploying. For example, a simple three-tier, without scaling, with perhaps six or seven instances, will probably take ten or fifteen minutes. Speed-wise it is pretty good, although ultimately it depends on what services you want.

What about the implementation team?

When you are providing this solution to a customer there are a lot of things to consider because there are a lot of moving parts. You always have to get them validated from the AWS site. 

What's my experience with pricing, setup cost, and licensing?

This solution is free to use and does not require a license.

What other advice do I have?

When it comes to this solution, there are a lot of things that happen. New features can come out every week and down the line, there are a lot of new things that come very fast. Keeping up with the innovations or product services that are being introduced is a taxing job.

CloudFormation is not used on a daily basis. It is only used for specific purposes whenever there is a requirement. You use it to set up a certain environment.

My advice for anybody who is considering using this solution to implement their environment is to consider the complexity of what they want to do. If you want to bring up a simple environment and are familiar with coding using JSON or YAML then try it on your own. Importantly, however, it is not enough to be familiar with the scripting language. You need to understand AWS architecture. The combination of these things is required for the template. If you do build it on your own then I would still suggest having it validated by AWS.

If you are unfamiliar with coding or the infrastructure then I would suggest involving a third-party to assist. Not having the proper expertise internally will increase the time required for the project. I feel that it is not a bad idea to involve AWS, as well.

Overall, this solution is good but there is always room for improvement.

I would rate this solution a seven out of ten.

Which deployment model are you using for this solution?

Public Cloud

If public cloud, private cloud, or hybrid cloud, which cloud provider do you use?

Amazon Web Services (AWS)
Disclosure: My company has a business relationship with this vendor other than being a customer: Partner
Principal with 51-200 employees
Real User
Top 20
A stable fallback Infrastructure Automation solution that would be nice to have beyond AWS
Pros and Cons
  • "The nested stacks would be one of the more valuable features."
  • "As soon as they manage to parametrize the whole thing and to implement parameters at all levels, it will become automatically a lot more flexible."

What is our primary use case?

We use it for deploying all the Infrastructure: VPCs, EC2 instances, storage solutions, most managed services. Providing IAM configuration, providing group account configurations, role management within IAM.

CloudFormation is THE Infrastructure as Code (IaC) solution AWS recommends.

Almost everything should, according to AWS, be automated and managed using CloudFormation - whenever possible. 

Within our organization, mostly the DevOps engineers use AWS CloudFormation — around 42 of them.

How has it helped my organization?

I don't really care how my organisation is functioning; I care about the way that my client's organisation functions. That's what I'm after. We host workshops teaching people the DevOps transformation process, how to do infrastructure automation — almost everything. 

Of course we do the same internally, but our internal needs and use-cases don't, even, come close to our Clients'.

What is most valuable?

First off, It's fairly easy to work with, although a bit verbose. It is legible. You can understand what you're doing. The introduction of "nested stacks" allows a modular design and repeatable  structures. The nested stacks would be one of the more valuable features. I am waiting for them to become much better with parameters as this is not quite up there.

What needs improvement?

The one bit of a drawback is that CloudFormation is, only, available in AWS.

When I have to work on other clouds or somebody has a configuration to be done on-prem Data Center, there's no way for me to use it.

It is what it is, AWS does not apparently intend to make this available all over.

The three big players in this area are Ansible, Terraform, and CloudFormation — except CloudFormation can only be used on AWS !

I would like to see less verbosity and better isolation.

One area that may be improved would be using variables as parameters in templates. This would make it a lot more flexible.

I don't know how soon that's going to happen because I'm trying to think from a developer's point of view - the guys that actually have to write and support all these features that I dream about.

Frankly, to evolve it but also maintain compatibility with what's in place now, may be a serious challenge.

For how long have I used the solution?

I have been using AWS CloudFormation for just over one year.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

It's definitely stable. If it's not a long-running service, and this one's not, it's very easy to verify that you've got it where you want it. 

Just run a deployment, then it's very easy to look at the configuration and see exactly what came out. The easiest verification is the intuitive visual check-out.

There are ways to test around in the sense that you're not forced to use CloudFormation to see that it's correct. You can literally, visually inspect the configurations with the console and other means not using CloudFormation. There's always a way to verify, and the fact that you have a verification method available is convenient.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

If you want to deploy thousands of components - not only virtual machines, but, also, users, roles and services, in any of the AWS regions — it's not a problem.

How are customer service and technical support?

Frankly, I never had a problem, with AWS CloudFormation, per se.

Something advertised that doesn't work and to require support, that actually has never happened.

Which solution did I use previously and why did I switch?

I did use another solution, which is Ansible, but I didn't switch. I'm still using Ansible as a backup for those cases where CloudFormation does not cover. Also, outside AWS, where CloudFormation is not available.

How was the initial setup?

CloudFormation is setup by AWS by default. It's easy and it doesn't require you to do anything.

When you create your infrastructure, there is no need for you to deploy anything like agents; everything is already in there.

It's very convenient in the sense that you don't need to worry about updating, upgrading, patching or monitoring for liabilities. AWS takes care of all of that.

What other advice do I have?

There's probably a lot of people that are trying to work around it. Or, to avoid it. My advice would be: use it when Amazon says so because it's probably the most straightforward approach to your problem. Afterwards, then you can become creative, for it's worth putting in the effort.

On a scale from one to ten, I would give this solution a rating of seven.

That rating would, definitely, be higher if CloudFormation would be made available on other platforms, outside Amazon.

Which deployment model are you using for this solution?

Public Cloud
Disclosure: My company has a business relationship with this vendor other than being a customer: Consulting Partner
Learn what your peers think about AWS CloudFormation. Get advice and tips from experienced pros sharing their opinions. Updated: January 2022.
564,322 professionals have used our research since 2012.
Cloud Site Reliability Engineer and SecOps Lead at a wellness & fitness company with 51-200 employees
Real User
Top 20
A stable solution with good ability to treat infrastructure's code and makes things automatable and reproducible
Pros and Cons
  • "Its ability to treat infrastructure's code is valuable. It makes things automatable and reproducible."
  • "CloudFormation is not particularly good at handling cross-account dynamic references. If you try to refer to an object that CloudFormation has created in a separate AWS account, it tends to fall apart. That's because it is a byproduct of the multi-tenant configuration. This is the most glaring shortcoming in my perspective because you can't dynamically reference objects in other accounts that CloudFormation has created, but it is not a shortcoming that you can't overcome. This is the only pain point that I've come across that didn't have a workaround natively. Sometimes the confirmation is slow, and it could be faster. The downside to CloudFormation when you're fully embracing it is that the AWS services do not get released immediately fully CloudFormation enabled. If you need to use the latest AWS service that just got announced or reinvented, you're not going to be able to continue with CloudFormation for the first X number of months. This is because they develop the products separately, and then they hand it to the CloudFormation team, which later on develops a CloudFormation integration. So, if you need to be on the newest thing AWS has, CloudFormation is often going to be a constraint that prevents you from doing that."

What is our primary use case?

CloudFormation drives most of our AWS configuration. It is the configuration engine for our whole footprint. Literally, everything that we configure in AWS is configured in CloudFormation. We are using its latest version.

What is most valuable?

Its ability to treat infrastructure's code is valuable. It makes things automatable and reproducible.

What needs improvement?

CloudFormation is not particularly good at handling cross-account dynamic references. If you try to refer to an object that CloudFormation has created in a separate AWS account, it tends to fall apart. That's because it is a byproduct of the multi-tenant configuration. This is the most glaring shortcoming in my perspective because you can't dynamically reference objects in other accounts that CloudFormation has created, but it is not a shortcoming that you can't overcome. This is the only pain point that I've come across that didn't have a workaround natively. Sometimes the confirmation is slow, and it could be faster.

The downside to CloudFormation when you're fully embracing it is that the AWS services do not get released immediately fully CloudFormation enabled. If you need to use the latest AWS service that just got announced or reinvented, you're not going to be able to continue with CloudFormation for the first X number of months. This is because they develop the products separately, and then they hand it to the CloudFormation team, which later on develops a CloudFormation integration. So, if you need to be on the newest thing AWS has, CloudFormation is often going to be a constraint that prevents you from doing that.

For how long have I used the solution?

I have been using this solution for four years.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

It is stable. Crashing is not really a concern. There are edge conditions that probably started off as bugs, but they're pretty well understood. There isn't an issue related to stability, reliability, or anything like that. 

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

It scales as well as AWS does. Scaling is not a consideration in CloudFormation. You scale the things that feed your templates. In the end, you let AWS itself handle the scaling. Therefore, CloudFormation itself is not under scaling considerations.

Our users of this solution are software engineers, DevOps engineers, and SecOps engineers.

How are customer service and technical support?

Their tech support is very good at addressing failures. I would rate them an eight out of ten.

Which solution did I use previously and why did I switch?

I have used other solutions but not in AWS. To solve this problem, CloudFormation is the only thing I've used in AWS.

How was the initial setup?

It all depends on how much you're trying to do with it. The more you're trying to do with it, the more initial load you have to do. If you're just trying to retrieve a single object, you just write a confirmation template to load it up in there. There's nothing else to be done.

It is very quick and almost instant to bootstrap from nothing. I have a confirmation template that does it for me, but obviously, in AWS, doing a thing is not all you do. You do many things layered on top of each other. To get to something truly functional takes some time, but I would say it is pretty quick.

What other advice do I have?

I would rate AWS CloudFormation an eight out of ten. It does what it is supposed to do, but there are certainly ways in which it could be extended, and there are certain ways using which it could be integrated earlier into their release cycle.

Which deployment model are you using for this solution?

Public Cloud
Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
Multi-Cloud Consulting at a construction company with 5,001-10,000 employees
MSP
Top 5
Excellent initial setup, good integration capabilities and very good time to market
Pros and Cons
  • "The integration of the solution is very good."
  • "The solution needs to offer better support to other cloud vendors."

What is our primary use case?

We primarily use the solution for creating automated blueprints for deploying machines, infrastructure as a service, and platform as a service.

What is most valuable?

The integration of the solution is very good.

The time to market is really good, I would say. You can quickly set up a blueprint and deploy it.

The initial setup is simple.

What needs improvement?

The customization is weak. Whether it is good or not depends on the customer's use case.

The solution needs to offer better support to other cloud vendors.

The solution requires Kubernetes support including container ops and staging support.

For how long have I used the solution?

I've been using the solution for about a year.

How are customer service and technical support?

We've never had to contact technical support. So far, there haven't been any problems.

Which solution did I use previously and why did I switch?

I also use vRealize and find that it is better compared to CloudFormation. It has better features.

How was the initial setup?

The initial setup is very straightforward. It's not complex at all.

It only takes about 15-20 minutes to set up. After that, there's a bit of blueprinting that needs to happen, however, how long that takes really depends upon the person who's building it.

In terms of maintenance, our clients have three options: they could take a managed service from us, where our engineers will go and support the system, they can have some resident engineers in their own company, or, if there are technical problems, they can contact Amazon AWS to get support.

What about the implementation team?

We are system integrators. We help our clients during implementation.

What's my experience with pricing, setup cost, and licensing?

I don't know what the cost of the solution is.

Which other solutions did I evaluate?

We also use VMware's vRealize automation. vRealize has better orchestration workflows. We have prebuilt orchestration workflows available on vRealize and can build the blueprint and basically deploy in any public or private cloud vendor, so it's a cloud-agnostic product. This is something AWS lacks.

It also is created on YAML. It's an industry standard, which can, again, be compatible with multiple platforms.

What other advice do I have?

We are a solution provider and system integrator with AWS. We are also a solution provider with VMware.

We don't personally use the solution. Instead, we deploy it for our customers. The companies we work with range from small companies to large enterprises. Our clients use the solution daily.

I'd advise other organizations to definitely have an understanding of the AWS portfolio, and the product portfolio. It's also important to first understand the manual structure because it's basically automating manual tasks. It depends upon how repetitive those tasks are, because sometimes building a blueprint might take a sufficient amount of time and if those are not very repeatable and it's done once in a week or more, then it doesn't make sense to use CloudFormation to automate that.

I'd rate the solution seven out of ten.

Which deployment model are you using for this solution?

Public Cloud

If public cloud, private cloud, or hybrid cloud, which cloud provider do you use?

Amazon Web Services (AWS)
Disclosure: My company has a business relationship with this vendor other than being a customer: Partner