Quick Start

Troposphere closely follows CloudFormation, so there isn’t much documentation specific to Troposphere. In this documentation there are various examples but for the most part the CloudFormation docs should be used.

CloudFormation Basics

  • Template Anatomy - structure of a CloudFormation template.

  • Resources are the basic blocks and required in any template.

  • Outputs are optional but can be used to create cross-stack references. Having everything in one stack will make it very hard to manage the infrastructure. Instead, values from one stack (for example, network setup) can be exported in this section and imported by another stack (for example, EC2 setup). This way a stack used to set up a certain application can be managed or deleted without affecting other applications that might be present on the same network.

  • Intrinsic Functions should be used to manipulate values that are only available at runtime. For example, assume a template that creates a subnet and attaches a routing table and network ACL to that subnet. The subnet doesn’t exist when the template is created, so it’s ID can’t be known. Instead, the route and network ACL resources are going to get the ID at runtime, by using the Ref function against the subnet.

Basic Usage

The following two pieces of code are intended to demonstrate basic usage of Troposphere and CloudFormation templates. First template will create two subnets and export their IDs. The second one will create an EC2 instance in one of the subnets. The comments explain how it works and where to find documentation regarding the use of CloudFormation and Troposphere.

#!/usr/bin/env python3
# learncf_subnet.py
# Generate a CloudFormation template that will create two subnets. This
# template exports the subnet IDs to be used by a second template which
# will create an EC2 instance in one of those subnets.
from __future__ import print_function

from troposphere import ec2
from troposphere import Tags, GetAtt, Ref, Sub, Export
from troposphere import Template, Output

# Create the object that will generate our template
t = Template()

# Define resources that CloudFormation will generate for us
# https://docs.aws.amazon.com/AWSCloudFormation/latest/UserGuide/resources-section-structure.html

# Define the first subnet. We know that 'Subnet()' is in the ec2 module
# because in CloudFormation the Subnet resource is defined under EC2:
# https://docs.aws.amazon.com/AWSCloudFormation/latest/UserGuide/aws-resource-ec2-subnet.html
net_learncf_1a = ec2.Subnet("netLearnCf1a")

# Information about the possible properties of Subnet() can be found
# in CloudFormation docs:
# https://docs.aws.amazon.com/AWSCloudFormation/latest/UserGuide/aws-resource-ec2-subnet.html#aws-resource-ec2-subnet-properties
net_learncf_1a.AvailabilityZone = "eu-west-1a"
net_learncf_1a.CidrBlock = ""            # ADJUST THIS VALUE
net_learncf_1a.VpcId = "vpc-abcdefgh"                    # ADJUST THIS VALUE
# Tags can be declared in two ways. One way is
# (1) in AWS/boto format, as a list of dictionaries where each item in the
# list has (at least) two elements. The "Key" key will be the tag key and
# the "Value" key will be the tag's Value. Confusing, but it allows for
# additional settings to be specified for each tag. For example, if a tag
# attached to an autoscaling group should be inherited by the EC2 instances
# the group launches or not.
net_learncf_1a.Tags = [
        {"Key": "Name", "Value": "learncf-1a"},
        {"Key": "Comment", "Value": "CloudFormation+Troposphere test"}]

# The subnet resource defined above must be added to the template

# The same thing can be achieved by setting parameters to Subnet() function
# instead of properties of the object created by Subnet(). Shown below.
# For the second subnet we use the other method of defining tags,
# (2) by using the Tags helper function, which is defined in Troposphere
# and doesn't have an equivalent in CloudFormation.
# Also, we use GetAtt to read the value of an attribute from a previously
# created resource, i.e. VPC ID from the first subnet. For demo purposes.
# The attributes returned by each resource can be found in the CloudFormation
# documentation, in the Returns section for that resource:
# https://docs.aws.amazon.com/AWSCloudFormation/latest/UserGuide/aws-resource-ec2-subnet.html#aws-resource-ec2-subnet-getatt
# GetAtt documentation:
# https://docs.aws.amazon.com/AWSCloudFormation/latest/UserGuide/intrinsic-function-reference-getatt.html
net_learncf_1b = ec2.Subnet(
        CidrBlock="",                   # ADJUST THIS VALUE
        VpcId=GetAtt(net_learncf_1a, "VpcId"),
            Comment="CloudFormation+Troposphere test"))


# Outputs section will export the subnet IDs to be used by other stacks
# https://docs.aws.amazon.com/AWSCloudFormation/latest/UserGuide/outputs-section-structure.html
out_net_learncf_1a = Output("outNetLearnCf1a")

# Ref is another CloudFormation intrinsic function:
# https://docs.aws.amazon.com/AWSCloudFormation/latest/UserGuide/intrinsic-function-reference-ref.html
# If pointed to a subnet, Ref will return the subnet ID:
# https://docs.aws.amazon.com/AWSCloudFormation/latest/UserGuide/aws-resource-ec2-subnet.html#aws-resource-ec2-subnet-ref
out_net_learncf_1a.Value = Ref(net_learncf_1a)
# Append the subnet title (Logical ID) to the stack name and set that as the
# exported property. Importing it in another stack will return the Value
# we set above to that stack.
# Sub stands for 'substitute', another CloudFormation intrinsic function.
out_net_learncf_1a.Export = Export(Sub(
    "${AWS::StackName}-" + net_learncf_1a.title))

# Similar output for the second subnet
out_net_learncf_1b = Output("outNetLearnCf1b")
out_net_learncf_1b.Value = Ref(net_learncf_1b)
out_net_learncf_1b.Export = Export(Sub(
    "${AWS::StackName}-" + net_learncf_1b.title))

# Add outputs to template

# Finally, write the template to a file
with open('learncf-subnet.yaml', 'w') as f:

And the EC2 instance template:

#!/usr/bin/env python3
# learncf_ec2.py
# Generate a CloudFormation template that creates an EC2 instance in a
# subnet which was created previously by another template (learncf-subnet)
from __future__ import print_function

from troposphere import ec2
from troposphere import Tags, ImportValue
from troposphere import Template

# create the object that will generate our template
t = Template()

ec2_learncf_1a = ec2.Instance("ec2LearnCf1a")
ec2_learncf_1a.ImageId = "ami-e487179d"                 # ADJUST IF NEEDED
ec2_learncf_1a.InstanceType = "t2.micro"
# We set the subnet to start this instance in by importing the subnet ID
# from the other CloudFormation stack, which previously created it.
# An example of cross-stack reference used to split stacks into
# manageable pieces. Each export must have a unique name in its account
# and region, so the template name was prepended to the resource name.
ec2_learncf_1a.SubnetId = ImportValue("learncf-subnet-netLearnCf1a")
ec2_learncf_1a.Tags = Tags(
        Comment="Learning CloudFormation and Troposphere")


# Finally, write the template to a file
with open('learncf-ec2.yaml', 'w') as f:

After the .yaml files are generated using the code above stacks can be created from the command line like this:

aws cloudformation create-stack --stack-name learncf-subnet --template-body file://learncf-subnet.yaml
aws cloudformation create-stack --stack-name learncf-ec2    --template-body file://learncf-ec2.yaml