AWS CloudFormation Cheat Sheet

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AWS CloudFormation Cheat Sheet for the AWS Certified Solutions Architect Associate (SAA-C02) exam. This AWS cheat sheet contains detailed exam-specific facts to help you pass your AWS Certified Solutions Architect exam.

AWS CloudFormation Cheat Sheet

AWS CloudFormation is a service that gives developers and businesses an easy way to create a collection of related AWS resources and provision them in an orderly and predictable fashion.

AWS CloudFormation provides a common language for you to describe and provision all the infrastructure resources in your cloud environment.

CloudFormation can be used to provision a broad range of AWS resources.

Think of CloudFormation as deploying infrastructure as code.

Elastic Beanstalk is more focussed on deploying applications on EC2 (PaaS).

CloudFormation can deploy Elastic Beanstalk-hosted applications however the reverse is not possible.

Logical IDs are used to reference resources within the template.

Physical IDs identify resources outside of AWS CloudFormation templates, but only after the resources have been created.

Concept of templates, stacks and change sets:

CloudFormation Templates Stacks and Change Sets


  • Architectural designs.
  • Create, update and delete templates.
  • Written in JSON or YAML.
  • CloudFormation determines the order of provisioning.
  • Don’t need to worry about dependencies.
  • Modifies and updates templates in a controlled way (version control).
  • Designer allows you to visualize using a drag and drop interface.


  • Deployed resources based on templates.
  • Create, update and delete stacks using templates.
  • Deployed through the Management Console, CLI or APIs.

Template elements:

  • Mandatory:
    • File format and version.
    • List of resources and associated configuration values.
  • Not mandatory:
    • Template parameters (limited to 60).
    • Output values (limited to 60).
    • List of data tables.

Check out this AWS Hands-On Labs video showing how to create an Amazon CloudFormation Stack with WordPress running on EC2:

Puppet and Chef integration is supported.

Can use bootstrap scripts.

Can define deletion policies.

Provides WaitCondition function.

Can create roles in IAM.

VPCs can be created and customized.

VPC peering in the same AWS account can be performed.

Route 53 is supported.

Stack creation errors:

  • Automatic rollback on error is enabled by default.
  • You will be charged for resources provisioned even if there is an error.

Updating stacks:

  • AWS CloudFormation provides two methods for updating stacks: direct update or creating and executing change sets.
  • When you directly update a stack, you submit changes and AWS CloudFormation immediately deploys them.
  • Use direct updates when you want to quickly deploy your updates.
  • With change sets, you can preview the changes AWS CloudFormation will make to your stack, and then decide whether to apply those changes.


  • AWS CloudFormation StackSets extends the functionality of stacks by enabling you to create, update, or delete stacks across multiple accounts and regions with a single operation.
  • Using an administrator account, you define and manage an AWS CloudFormation template, and use the template as the basis for provisioning stacks into selected target accounts across specified regions.
  • An administrator account is the AWS account in which you create stack sets.
  • A stack set is managed by signing in to the AWS administrator account in which it was created.
  • A target account is the account into which you create, update, or delete one or more stacks in your stack set.

Before you can use a stack set to create stacks in a target account, you must set up a trust relationship between the administrator and target accounts.

Best Practices.

  • AWS provides Python “helper scripts” which can help you install software and start services on your EC2 instances.
  • Use CloudFormation to make changes to your landscape rather than going directly into the resources.
  • Make use of Change Sets to identify potential trouble spots in your updates.
  • Use Stack Policies to explicitly protect sensitive portions of your stack.
  • Use a version control system such as CodeCommit or GitHub to track changes to templates.


  • There is no additional charge for AWS CloudFormation.
  • You pay for AWS resources (such as Amazon EC2 instances, Elastic Load Balancing load balancers, etc.) created using AWS CloudFormation in the same manner as if you created them manually.
  • You only pay for what you use, as you use it; there are no minimum fees and no required upfront commitments.

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