Regentanz is a compiler and preprocessor for CloudFormation templates.
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If you're reading this on GitHub, please note that this is the readme for the development version and that some features described here might not yet have been released. You can find the readme for a specific version via the release tags (here is an example).

Regentanz is a compiler and preprocessor for CloudFormation templates. It allows you to split up a template into one file per resource, and also build custom resources that can decrease the complexity of templates.

Looking for Regentanz, Carsten Zimmermann's "Library to access the Google Weather API"? It can still be found at and if you install v0.3.3 from Rubygems, you'll get that gem.


Install it on the command line:

$ gem install regentanz --version '~> 1.0.0'

or add it to your Gemfile:

gem 'regentanz', '~> 1.0.0'

How to build and run the tests

The best place to see how to build and run the tests is to look at the .travis.yml file, but if you just want to get going run:

$ bundle
$ rake


The examples directory contains runnable example templates.


To compile a template you use the regentanz command like this:

$ regentanz compile path/to/template > path/to/compiled/template.json

Template validation

The compiler will validate the final template with CloudFormation, so you will need to run it with AWS credentials that permit cloudformation:ValidateTemplate.

For the validation to work with templates larger than 51200 bytes you need to specify an S3 bucket in a config file, and need AWS credentials that permit s3:PutObject in that bucket.

To configure a bucket to use for validation of large templates create a file called .regentanz.yml in the directory where you will run Regentanz, and add the following:

template_url: 's3://some-bucket-name/a_prefix/${TEMPLATE_NAME}.json'

You can use ${AWS_REGION} in the bucket portion, and ${TEMPLATE_NAME} and ${TIMESTAMP} in the key portion to create unique URLs. You can, for example, use the buckets that CloudFormation creates for template uploads, like this:

template_url: 's3://cf-templates-xyz-${AWS_REGION}/regentanz/${TEMPLATE_NAME}-${TIMESTAMP}.json'

Where "xyz" is the unique letter combination for your account.

Anatomy of a template

Just like a CloudFormation template, a Regentanz template consists of conditions, mappings, outputs, parameters, and resources. In contrast with CloudFormation these are not properties of one big JSON or YAML document, but exists as separate files in a directory structure. Each resource has its own file, and there is one file each for conditions, mappings, and parameters. If the template doesn't need conditions, mappings, or parameters these files can be left out.

The Regentanz compiler will take a directory and output a CloudFormation template in JSON format that can be used with CloudFormation.


Say you have an application with an auto scaling group, launch configuration, security group, an instance profile, and an IAM role for the instance profile. In a regular CloudFormation template you would declare five different resources in one big JSON or YAML file, but in Regentanz you would instead keep these in five separate files, something like this:


You're free to name the files whatever you want, and you can put them in subdirectories too. This is an alternative way to structure the same template:


If you have conditions, mappings, outputs, or parameters you put these in files at the top level:


You can use JSON or YAML for your files, and mix between these in the same template.

The contents of the files is the same thing you would put in a CloudFormation template. In other words, if your CloudFormation looks something like this:

    Type: Number
    Default: 2
    MinValue: 0

    Type: AWS::EC2::AutoScalingGroup
      DesiredCapacity: !Ref ServerCount
    Type: AWS::EC2::LaunchConfiguration

You would put the parameters in parameters.yml:

    Type: Number
    Default: 2
    MinValue: 0

The auto scaling group resource in resources/asg.yml:

Type: AWS::EC2::AutoScalingGroup
  DesiredCapacity: {Ref: DesiredCapacity}

Unfortunately CloudFormation's YAML syntax for intrinsic functions (e.g. !Ref) is not supported, you have to convert it to YAML/JSON (e.g. {Ref: …}), like above.

The launch configuration resource would go in a file called resources/lc.yml:

Type: AWS::EC2::LaunchConfiguration

And when you compile this with the Regentanz compiler you would get the same CloudFormation template back, but in JSON format.

Resource references

The Regentanz compiler will generate resource names based on the relative paths of the files in the template. Currently the scheme is to take the path relative to the root of the template and create a CamelCase with no underscores or slashes. You should however not rely on this convention since it could change in the future. Instead you should use two macros provided by Regentanz that work similar to CloudFormation's Ref function.

Wherever you would have used Ref in CloudFormation you should use ResolveRef, and use the relative path, minus file ending as argument. In the template in the example above you could for example refer to the IAM role with {ResolveRef: iam/role}, and the auto scaling group as {ResolveRef: asg}.

In places where you in CloudFormation would have used the name of a resource directly you should use ResolveName. For example {ResolveName: iam/role} and {ResolveName: asg}. Almost the only place you will need ResolveName is in GetAtt.

Continuing on the example above the auto scaling group needs to refer to the launch configuration. Using ResolveRef that would look like this:

Type: AWS::EC2::AutoScalingGroup
  LaunchConfigurationName: {ResolveRef: asg}

Custom Resources

If you've written a lot of CloudFormation templates you probably feel like you're constantly repeating yourself. The same patterns appear again and again in multiple templates. To help with this Regentanz lets you write custom resources that can be used in templates and that generate other resources, parameters, mappings, etc. when compiled.

A custom resource is a Ruby class that lives in the Regentanz::Resources module that has a #compile method that returns a partial template.

Anatomy of a custom resource

Custom resources will be instantiated by the template compiler and their #compile method will be called with the name of the resource and the resource template. The result of this call must be a "template fragment", which is a hash with a :resources key, and optionally :conditions, :mappings, :outputs, and :parameters. Each of these must be (when specified) a hash that looks like the corresponding CloudFormation structure

Say you used a custom resource like the following, in a file with the relative path app/sg.yml

Type: Regentanz::Resources::MySpecialSecurityGroup
  Name: special-sg
    - 22
    - 80

The compiler will, conceptually, do this (template_fragment is a the contents of the file):

resource = Regentanz::Resources::MyCustomResource
result = resource.compile('AppSg', template_fragment)

It will then take the result and merge it with the rest of the template.

This is how you could implement MySpecialSecurityGroup:

class Regentanz::Resources::MyCustomResource
  def compile(name, template)
    ingress_rules = template['Properties']['PortsOpenToEveryone'].map do |port|
      {'IpProtocol' => 'tcp', 'FromPort' => port, 'ToPort' => port, 'CidrIp' => ''}
      :resources => {
        name => {
          'Type' => 'AWS::EC2::SecurityGroup',
          'Properties' => {
            'GroupName' => properties['Name'],
            'SecurityGroupIngress' => ingress_rules

You are free to ignore the name parameter, but it is strongly recommended that you use it. It is the name Regentanz has generated from the relative path of the file the resource is declared in, so ignoring it will make it harder and more confusing to refer to the resource the custom resource generates. If you generate more than one resource in your template it is recommended that you use name as a prefix. For example if you generate an auto scaling group and a launch configuration from the a custom resource generating resources with names like "#{name}Asg", and "#{name}Lc" will make it possible to do {ResolveRef: my_resource/asg} in another resource.

If the template fragment returned by #compile contains ResolveRef or ResolveName these will be resolved as expected.

Adding custom resources to the load path

Custom resources must be available on the load path when the template compiler runs. The name of the file must also follow the standard Ruby naming convention, i.e. a resource called Regentanz::Resources::MyCustomResource must be declared in a file with the path regentanz/resources/my_custom_resource.rb, so that the compiler knows which file to load.

This can be achieved by manipulating environment variables like RUBYLIB, or by packaging your custom resources as a gem, but in most cases the easiest way is to add a config file that tells the template compiler how to modify the load path to be able to load your custom resources.

You can add a file called .regentanz.yml in any parent directory of the directory where you run the compiler. In the file you put a list of paths to add to the Ruby load path:

  - path/to/resources
  - /an/absolute/path

Relative paths will be resolved relative to the config file.

The config file above will allow the template compiler to find custom resources in files such as path/to/resources/regentanz/resources/my_custom_resource.rb (relative to the config file) and /an/absolute/path/regentanz/resources/my_custom_resource.rb.


  • Regentanz unfortunately does not support CloudFormation's YAML syntax for intrinsic functions.
  • The support for validating large templates is currently broken.


© 2015-2018 Burt AB, see LICENSE.txt (BSD 3-Clause).