Getting Started with CodeDeploy

22. December 2016 2016 0

Author: Craig Bruce
Editors: Alfredo Cambera, Chris Castle


While running a web site you need a way to deploy your application code in a repeatable, reliable and scalable fashion.

CodeDeploy is part of the AWS Developer Tools family which includes CodeCommit, CodePipeline, and AWS Command Line Interface. CodeCommit is for managed git repositories, CodePipeline is a service to help you build, test and automate while the AWS Command Line Interface is your best friend for accessing the API in an interactive fashion. They do integrate with each, more on that later.


Let’s start with the CodeDeploy specific terminology:

  • Application – A unique identifier to tie your deployment group, revisions and deployments together.
  • Deployment Group – The instances you wish to deploy to.
  • Revision – Your application code that you wish to deploy.
  • Deployment – Deploy a specific revision to a specific deployment group.
  • CodeDeploy service – The managed service from AWS which oversees everything.
  • CodeDeploy agent – The agent you install on your instances for them to check in with the CodeDeploy service.

Getting up and running is straightforward. Install the CodeDeploy agent onto your EC2 instances and then head to the AWS Management Console to create an application and a deployment group. You associated your deployment group with an Auto Scaling group or EC2 tag(s). One of the new features is that on-premise instances are supported as well now. As this resource is outside of AWS’ view you need to register them with the CodeDeploy service before it can deploy to them. Your resources must have access to the public AWS API endpoints to communicate with the CodeDeploy service. This offers some really interesting options for hybrid deployment (deploying to both your EC2 and on-premise resources) – not many AWS services support any non-AWS resources. CodeDeploy is now aware of the instances which belong to a deployment group and whenever you request a deployment it will update them all.

Your revision is essentially a compressed file of your source code with one one extra file, appspec.yml, which the CodeDeploy agent will use to help unpack your files and optionally run any lifecycle event hooks you may have specified. Let’s say you need to tidy up some files before a deployment. For a Python web application you may want to remove those pesky *.pyc files. Define a lifecycle event hook to delete those files before you unpack your new code.

Upload your revision to S3 (or you can provide a commit ID from a GitHub repository, although not CodeCommit – more on this later), provide a deployment group and CodeDeploy is away. Great job, you web application code has now been deployed to your instances.

Managing deployments

As is becoming increasingly common, most AWS services are best when used with other AWS services, in this case CloudWatch offers some new options using CloudWatch Alarms and CloudWatch Events. CloudWatch Alarms can be used to stop deployments. Let’s say the CPU utilization on your instances is over 75%, this can trigger an alarm and CodeDeploy will stop any deployments on these instances. The deployment status will update to Stopped. This prevents deployments when there is an increased chance of a deployment problem.

Also new is adding triggers to your deployment groups which is powered by CloudWatch Events. An event could be “deployment succeeds” at which point a message is sent to a SNS topic. This topic could be subscribed to a Lambda function which sends a Success! message to your Deployment channel in Slack/HipChat. There are various events you can use deployment start, stop, failed as well as individual instance states, like starts, failed or succeeds. Be aware of noisy notifications though, you probably don’t want to know about every instance, in every deployment. Plus just like AWS you can be throttled by posting too many messages to Slack/HipChat in a short period.

Deployments do not always go smoothly and if there is a problem the quickest way to restore service is to revert to the last known good revision, typically the last one. Rollbacks have now been added and can be triggered in two ways. Firstly by rolling back if the new deployment fails. Secondly by rolling back if a CloudWatch Alarm is triggered. For example after a deployment if CPU usage is over 90% for 5 minutes, automatically roll the deployment back. In either case you want to know a rollback action was performed – handy that your deployment groups have notifications now.

Integration with CodePipeline

Currently CodeCommit is not a supported entry point for CodeDeploy you provide your revision via an object in S3 or a commit ID in a GitHub repository. You can however use CodeCommit as the source action for CodePipeline, behind the scenes it drops it in S3 for you before passing onto CodeDeploy. So you can build a pipeline in CodePipeline that uses CodeCommit and CodeDeploy actions. Now you have a pipeline you can add further actions as well such as integration with your CI/CD system.


CodeDeploy is a straightforward service to setup and a valuable tool in your DevOps toolbox. Recent updates make it easier to get notified about the status of your deployments, avoid deployments where alarms are triggered and enabling automatic rollback if there is an issue with a new deployment. Best of all use of CodeDeploy for EC2 instances is free, you only pay for your revisions in S3 (so not very much at all). If you were undecided about CodeDeploy try it today!


Read the excellent CodeDeploy documentation to see learn about all the fine details. Three features were highlighted in this post, learn more about them:

If you are new to CodeDeploy then follow the Getting Started guide to setup your IAM access and issue your first deployment.

About the Author

Dr. Craig Bruce is a Scientific Software Development Manager at OpenEye Scientific. He is responsible for the DevOps group working on Orion, a cloud-native platform for early-stage drug discovery which is enabling chemists to design new medicines. Orion is optimized for AWS and Craig is an AWS Certified DevOps Engineer.

About the Editors

Alfredo Cambera is a Venezuelan outdoorsman, passionate about DevOps, AWS, automation, Data Visualization, Python and open source technologies. He works as Senior Operations Engineer for a company that offers Mobile Engagement Solutions around the globe.

Chris Castle is a Delivery Manager within Accenture’s Technology Architecture practice. During his tenure, he has spent time with major financial services and media companies. He is currently involved in the creation of a compute request and deployment platform to enable migration of his client’s internal applications to AWS.