Utility for making Spot Instance root disk persistence behave like On Demand instances.
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Latest commit 975fb21 Jul 8, 2018


Important News - 9/18/2017

Amazon EC2 Spot Can Now Stop and Start Your Spot Instances!


The change is welcome but does not render ec2-spotter completely obsolete: use this project if you want more control over the starts and stops.

About AWS EC2 Spot Instances

EC2 Spot Instances are cheaper than On Demand instances and even Reserved Instances.

BUT there are several challenges in trying to run a Spot Instance for "normal" Linux-based workloads:

  1. EC2 does not allow specifying an EBS volume as root of a Spot Instance, only an AMI image.
  2. Every time a Spot Instance is re-launched, a brand new EBS volume is created from the AMI (see point#1), which leads to the creation of a fresh new EBS volume wiped and restored from the AMI. [no longer true as of 9/18/2017]
  3. Spot Instances cannot be Stopped, they can only be Rebooted or Terminated, that exacerbates issue#1 as it means it's impossible to simply reattach your original EBS volume to /dev/xvda. [as of 9/18/2017, Spot Instances can be stopped by AWS, but not the customer]
  4. Important system information stored in /var/log, crontab, apt-get system files, etc, not to mention actual application config and data files, are LOST every time you restart a Spot Instance (directly caused by points #1 and #2 above).
  5. A Spot Instance may be Terminated by AWS at any time, with only a 2-minute warning, whenever the dynamic pricing exceeds your hourly budget.
  6. Essentially, the Spot Instance architecture requires a full redesign of your system to save everything of importance somewhere else (outside of the filesystem), but no Linux distribution exists which does this out of the box. [as of 9/18/2017 this is true only if you need the ability to stop spot instances outside of the AWS-controlled stop event]

Introducing ec2-spotter

EC2-Spotter is a utility that brings together the best of both worlds -- Spot Instance pricing with the simplicity (persistent EBS filesystem) of On Demand & Reserved Instances. This sounds like cheating, but apparently is not forbidden by the Amazon Terms Of Service.

Running ec2-spotter

Currently there are two different implementations of the ec2-spotter concept: 'classic' and '24x7'. Both implementations are present in the project, in different sub-directories. The '24x7' implementation works differently from the 'classic' implementation, so check the README in the respective sub-directory for details.

How does it work?

Each of the implementations works differently, so check the README in the respective sub-directory.

Which one should I use?

  • The 'classic' implementation is the one that fully solves the stated problem of root volume persistance, and it should be used for applications that require maximum statefulness but can tolerate occasional down-time, e.g. build servers, experimental or Proof Of Concept enviroments, automated continuous integration, hands-on dev servers, ETL servers, asynchronous processes, batch processing servers in general. Database servers can also be run on 'ec2-spotter classic' as long as they are supporting applications that can tolerate occasional down-time.
  • The '24x7' implementation gives up some of the root volume persistence, in exchange for 24x7 availability. It is for applications that have stateful configuration but create no critical run-time data. This option is adequate for typical Internet-facing web app servers in Production, if your database is remote and you can redirect your application logs to a remote location. It's also ok for caching servers.

Notable Forks

If you have any issues with the 'classic' implementation, check out Slav Ivanov's fork at https://github.com/slavivanov/ec2-spotter - it is fully productionalized, including more exhaustive documentation and active discussion at his blog, while removing support for the '24x7' concept.

Commercial Alternatives

ElastiGroup (https://spotinst.com/products/elastigroup/) appears to cover a lot of the same ground as ec2spotter, and more, in a commercial offering. We have no relationship with the company offering ElastiGroup, and have not evaluated their product.