Official Debian Images on Amazon Web Services EC2

Official Debian AMIs are now on Amazon web Services

Please Note: this article is written from my personal perspective as a Debian Developer, and is not the opinion or expression of my employer.

Amazon Web Service‘s EC2 offers customers a number of Operating Systems to run. There are many Linux Distributions available, however for all this time, there has never been an ‘Official’ Debian Image – or Amazon Machine Image (AMI), created by Debian.

For some Debian users this has not been an issue as there are several solutions of creating your own personal AMI. However for the AWS Users who wanted to run a recognised image, it has been a little confusing at times; several Debian AIMs have been made available by other customers, but the source of those images has not been ‘Debian’.

In October 2012 the AWS Marketplace engaged in discussions with the Debian Project Leader, Stefano Zacchiroli. A group of Debian Developers and the wider community formed to generated a set of AMIs using Anders Ingemann’s ec2debian-build-ami script. These AMIs are published in the AWS Marketplace, and you can find the listing here:

No fees are collected for Debian for the use of these images via the AWS Marketplace; they are listed here for your convenience. This is the same AMI that you may generate yourself, but this one has been put together by Debian Developers.

If you plan to use this AMI, I suggest you read, and more explicity, SSH as the user ‘admin and then ‘sudo -i‘ to root.

Additional details

Anders Ingemann and others maintain a GitHub project called ec2debian-build-ami which generates a Debian AMI. This script supports several desired features, an was also updated to add in some new requirements. This means the generated image supports:

  • non-root SSH (use the user ‘admin)
  • secure deletion of files in the generation of the image
  • using the Eucalyptus toolchain for generation of th eimage
  • ensuring that this script and all its dependencies are DFSG compliant
  • using the redirector service in APT’s sources.list to select a reasonably ‘close’ mirror site
  • and the generated image contains only packages from ‘main’
  • plus minimal additional scripts (nuder the Apache 2.0 license as in ec2debian-build-ami) to support:
    • fetching the SSH Public Key for the ‘admin’ user (sudo -i to gain root)
    • executing UserData shell scripts (example here)

Debian Stable (Squeeze; 6.0.6 at this point in time) does not contain the cloud-init package, and neither does Debian Testing (Wheezy).

A fresh AWS account (ID 379101102735) was used for the initial generation of this image. Any Debian Developer who would like access is welcome to contact me. Minimal charges for the resource utilisation of this account (storage, some EC2 instances for testing) are being absorbed by Amazon for this. Co-ordination of this effort is held on the debian-cloud mailing list.

The current Debian stable is 6.0.6 ‘Squeeze‘, and we’re in deep freeze for the ‘Wheezy‘ release. Squeeze has a Xen kernel that works on the Parallel Virtual Machine (PVM) EC2 instance, and hence this is what we support on EC2. (HVM images are a next phase, being headed up by Yasuhiro Akarki <ar@d.o>).

Marketplace Listing

The process of listing in the AWS Marketplace was conducted as follows:

  • A 32 bit and 64 bit image was generated in US-East 1, which was AMI IDs:
    • ami-1977f070: 379101102735/debian-squeeze-i386-20121119
    • ami-8568efec: 379101102735/debian-squeeze-amd64-20121119
  • The image was shared ‘public’ with all other AWS users (as was the underlying EBS snapshot, for completeness)
  • The AWS Marketplace team duplicated these two AMIs into their AWS account
  • The AWS Marketplace team further duplicated these into other AWS Marketplace-supported Regions

This image went out on the 19th of November 2012. Additional documentation was put into the Wiki at:

A CloudFormation template may help you launch a Debian instance by containing a mapping to the relevent AMI in the region you’re using: see the wiki link above.

What’s Next

The goal is to continue stable releases as they come out. Further work is happening to support generation of Wheezy images, and HVM (which may all collapse into one effort with a Linux 3.x kernel in Wheezy). If you’re a Debian Developer and would like a login to the AWS account we’ve been using, then please drop me a line.

Further work to improve this process has come from Marcin Kulisz, who is starting to package ec2debian-build-ami into a Debian: this will complete the circle of the entire stack being in main (one day)!

Thanks goes to Stefano, Anders, Charles, and everyone who  contributed to this effort.