AWS Compute Blog

Creating a Cost-Efficient Amazon ECS Cluster for Scheduled Tasks

Madhuri Peri
Sr. DevOps Consultant

When you use Amazon Relational Database Service (Amazon RDS), depending on the logging levels on the RDS instances and the volume of transactions, you could generate a lot of log data. To ensure that everything is running smoothly, many customers search for log error patterns using different log aggregation and visualization systems, such as Amazon Elasticsearch Service, Splunk, or other tool of their choice. A module needs to periodically retrieve the RDS logs using the SDK, and then send them to Amazon S3. From there, you can stream them to your log aggregation tool.

One option is writing an AWS Lambda function to retrieve the log files. However, because of the time that this function needs to execute, depending on the volume of log files retrieved and transferred, it is possible that Lambda could time out on many instances.  Another approach is launching an Amazon EC2 instance that runs this job periodically. However, this would require you to run an EC2 instance continuously, not an optimal use of time or money.

Using the new Amazon CloudWatch integration with Amazon EC2 Container Service (Amazon ECS), you can trigger this job to run in a container on an existing Amazon ECS cluster. Additionally, this would allow you to improve costs by running containers on a fleet of Spot Instances.

In this post, I will show you how to use the new scheduled tasks (cron) feature in Amazon ECS and launch tasks using CloudWatch events, while leveraging Spot Fleet to maximize availability and cost optimization for containerized workloads.

Architecture

The following diagram shows how the various components described schedule a task that retrieves log files from Amazon RDS database instances, and deposits the logs into an S3 bucket.

Amazon ECS cluster container instances are using Spot Fleet, which is a perfect match for the workload that needs to run when it can. This improves cluster costs.

The task definition defines which Docker image to retrieve from the Amazon EC2 Container Registry (Amazon ECR) repository and run on the Amazon ECS cluster.

The container image has Python code functions to make AWS API calls using boto3. It iterates over the RDS database instances, retrieves the logs, and deposits them in the S3 bucket. Many customers choose these logs to be delivered to their centralized log-store. CloudWatch Events defines the schedule for when the container task has to be launched.

Walkthrough

To provide the basic framework, we have built an AWS CloudFormation template that creates the following resources:

  • Amazon ECR repository for storing the Docker image to be used in the task definition
  • S3 bucket that holds the transferred logs
  • Task definition, with image name and S3 bucket as environment variables provided via input parameter
  • CloudWatch Events rule
  • Amazon ECS cluster
  • Amazon ECS container instances using Spot Fleet
  • IAM roles required for the container instance profiles

Before you begin

Ensure that Git, Docker, and the AWS CLI are installed on your computer.

In your AWS account, instantiate one Amazon Aurora instance using the console. For more information, see Creating an Amazon Aurora DB Cluster.

Implementation Steps

  1. Clone the code from GitHub that performs RDS API calls to retrieve the log files.
    git clone https://github.com/awslabs/aws-ecs-scheduled-tasks.git
  2. Build and tag the image.
    cd aws-ecs-scheduled-tasks/container-code/src && ls

    Dockerfile		rdslogsshipper.py	requirements.txt

    docker build -t rdslogsshipper .

    Sending build context to Docker daemon 9.728 kB
    Step 1 : FROM python:3
     ---> 41397f4f2887
    Step 2 : WORKDIR /usr/src/app
     ---> Using cache
     ---> 59299c020e7e
    Step 3 : COPY requirements.txt ./
     ---> 8c017e931c3b
    Removing intermediate container df09e1bed9f2
    Step 4 : COPY rdslogsshipper.py /usr/src/app
     ---> 099a49ca4325
    Removing intermediate container 1b1da24a6699
    Step 5 : RUN pip install --no-cache-dir -r requirements.txt
     ---> Running in 3ed98b30901d
    Collecting boto3 (from -r requirements.txt (line 1))
      Downloading boto3-1.4.6-py2.py3-none-any.whl (128kB)
    Collecting botocore (from -r requirements.txt (line 2))
      Downloading botocore-1.6.7-py2.py3-none-any.whl (3.6MB)
    Collecting s3transfer<0.2.0,>=0.1.10 (from boto3->-r requirements.txt (line 1))
      Downloading s3transfer-0.1.10-py2.py3-none-any.whl (54kB)
    Collecting jmespath<1.0.0,>=0.7.1 (from boto3->-r requirements.txt (line 1))
      Downloading jmespath-0.9.3-py2.py3-none-any.whl
    Collecting python-dateutil<3.0.0,>=2.1 (from botocore->-r requirements.txt (line 2))
      Downloading python_dateutil-2.6.1-py2.py3-none-any.whl (194kB)
    Collecting docutils>=0.10 (from botocore->-r requirements.txt (line 2))
      Downloading docutils-0.14-py3-none-any.whl (543kB)
    Collecting six>=1.5 (from python-dateutil<3.0.0,>=2.1->botocore->-r requirements.txt (line 2))
      Downloading six-1.10.0-py2.py3-none-any.whl
    Installing collected packages: six, python-dateutil, docutils, jmespath, botocore, s3transfer, boto3
    Successfully installed boto3-1.4.6 botocore-1.6.7 docutils-0.14 jmespath-0.9.3 python-dateutil-2.6.1 s3transfer-0.1.10 six-1.10.0
     ---> f892d3cb7383
    Removing intermediate container 3ed98b30901d
    Step 6 : COPY . .
     ---> ea7550c04fea
    Removing intermediate container b558b3ebd406
    Successfully built ea7550c04fea
  3. Run the CloudFormation stack and get the names for the Amazon ECR repo and S3 bucket. In the stack, choose Outputs.
  4. Open the ECS console and choose Repositories. The rdslogs repo has been created. Choose View Push Commands and follow the instructions to connect to the repository and push the image for the code that you built in Step 2. The screenshot shows the final result:
  5. Associate the CloudWatch scheduled task with the created Amazon ECS Task Definition, using a new CloudWatch event rule that is scheduled to run at intervals. The following rule is scheduled to run every 15 minutes:
    aws --profile default --region us-west-2 events put-rule --name demo-ecs-task-rule  --schedule-expression "rate(15 minutes)"

    {
        "RuleArn": "arn:aws:events:us-west-2:12345678901:rule/demo-ecs-task-rule"
    }
  6. CloudWatch requires IAM permissions to place a task on the Amazon ECS cluster when the CloudWatch event rule is executed, in addition to an IAM role that can be assumed by CloudWatch Events. This is done in three steps:
    1. Create the IAM role to be assumed by CloudWatch.
      aws --profile default --region us-west-2 iam create-role --role-name Test-Role --assume-role-policy-document file://event-role.json

      {
          "Role": {
              "AssumeRolePolicyDocument": {
                  "Version": "2012-10-17", 
                  "Statement": [
                      {
                          "Action": "sts:AssumeRole", 
                          "Effect": "Allow", 
                          "Principal": {
                              "Service": "events.amazonaws.com"
                          }
                      }
                  ]
              }, 
              "RoleId": "AROAIRYYLDCVZCUACT7FS", 
              "CreateDate": "2017-07-14T22:44:52.627Z", 
              "RoleName": "Test-Role", 
              "Path": "/", 
              "Arn": "arn:aws:iam::12345678901:role/Test-Role"
          }
      }

      The following is an example of the event-role.json file used earlier:

      {
          "Version": "2012-10-17",
          "Statement": [
              {
                  "Effect": "Allow",
                  "Principal": {
                    "Service": "events.amazonaws.com"
                  },
                  "Action": "sts:AssumeRole"
              }
          ]
      }
    2. Create the IAM policy defining the ECS cluster and task definition. You need to get these values from the CloudFormation outputs and resources.
      aws --profile default --region us-west-2 iam create-policy --policy-name test-policy --policy-document file://event-policy.json

      {
          "Policy": {
              "PolicyName": "test-policy", 
              "CreateDate": "2017-07-14T22:51:20.293Z", 
              "AttachmentCount": 0, 
              "IsAttachable": true, 
              "PolicyId": "ANPAI7XDIQOLTBUMDWGJW", 
              "DefaultVersionId": "v1", 
              "Path": "/", 
              "Arn": "arn:aws:iam::123455678901:policy/test-policy", 
              "UpdateDate": "2017-07-14T22:51:20.293Z"
          }
      }

      The following is an example of the event-policy.json file used earlier:

      {
          "Version": "2012-10-17",
          "Statement": [
            {
                "Effect": "Allow",
                "Action": [
                    "ecs:RunTask"
                ],
                "Resource": [
                    "arn:aws:ecs:*::task-definition/"
                ],
                "Condition": {
                    "ArnLike": {
                        "ecs:cluster": "arn:aws:ecs:*::cluster/"
                    }
                }
            }
          ]
      }
    3. Attach the IAM policy to the role.
      aws --profile default --region us-west-2 iam attach-role-policy --role-name Test-Role --policy-arn arn:aws:iam::1234567890:policy/test-policy
  7. Associate the CloudWatch rule created earlier to place the task on the ECS cluster. The following command shows an example. Replace the AWS account ID and region with your settings.
    aws events put-targets --rule demo-ecs-task-rule --targets "Id"="1","Arn"="arn:aws:ecs:us-west-2:12345678901:cluster/test-cwe-blog-ecsCluster-15HJFWCH4SP67","EcsParameters"={"TaskDefinitionArn"="arn:aws:ecs:us-west-2:12345678901:task-definition/test-cwe-blog-taskdef:8"},"RoleArn"="arn:aws:iam::12345678901:role/Test-Role"

    {
        "FailedEntries": [], 
        "FailedEntryCount": 0
    }

That’s it. The logs now run based on the defined schedule.

To test this, open the Amazon ECS console, select the Amazon ECS cluster that you created, and then choose Tasks, Run New Task. Select the task definition created by the CloudFormation template, and the cluster should be selected automatically. As this runs, the S3 bucket should be populated with the RDS logs for the instance.

Conclusion

In this post, you’ve seen that the choices for workloads that need to run at a scheduled time include Lambda with CloudWatch events or EC2 with cron. However, sometimes the job could run outside of Lambda execution time limits or be not cost-effective for an EC2 instance.

In such cases, you can schedule the tasks on an ECS cluster using CloudWatch rules. In addition, you can use a Spot Fleet cluster with Amazon ECS for cost-conscious workloads that do not have hard requirements on execution time or instance availability in the Spot Fleet. For more information, see Powering your Amazon ECS Cluster with Amazon EC2 Spot Instances and Scheduled Events.

If you have questions or suggestions, please comment below.

— Madhuri