This post will present one of the less popular features in the AWS CLI tool set, how to deal with EC2 instance volumes through the use of –block-device-mappings parameter. Previous post, Small Tip: Use AWS CLI to create instances with bigger root partitions already presents one of the common use cases, modifying the instance root partition size. However, use of ‘–block-device-mappings’ can go far beyond this simple feature.

Default documentation ( although a good start is somewhat limited. Several tips and tricks will be presented here.

The location of the JSON block device mapping specification can be quite flexible. The mappings can be supplied:

1. Using command line directly:

2. Using file as a source:

3. Using URL as a source:


Other common scenarios:

1. To reorder default ephemeral volumes to ensure stability of the environment:

NOTE: Useful for additional UserData processing or deployments with hardcoded settings.

2. To allocate additional EBS Volume with specific size (100GB), to be associated with the EC2 instance:

NOTE: Useful for cases where cheaper instance types are outfitted with big volumes (Disk intensive tasks run on low-CPU/MEM instance types).

3. To allocate new volume from Snapshot ID:

NOTE: Useful to pre-loading newly created instances with specific disk data and still retaining the ability to modify the local copy.

4. To omit mapping of a particular Device Name:

NOTE: Useful to overwrite default AWS behavior.

5. To allocate new EBS Volume with explicit termination behavior (Keep after instance termination):

NOTE: Useful to keep instance data after termination, additional cost may be significant if those volumes are not released after examination.

6. To allocate new, encrypted, EBS Volume with Reserved IOPS:

NOTE: Useful to set minimum required performance levels (I/O Operations Per Second) for the specified volume.

Outlined functionality should cover wide range of potentially use cases for DevOps engineers who want to use automation to customize their infrastructure. Flexible instance volume management is a key ingredient for successful implementation of the ‘Infrastructure-as-Code’ paradigm!