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One of the awesome things about containers is that once you've written your code, running it locally is as easy as typing docker run. Copilot makes running those same containers on AWS as easy as typing copilot init. Copilot will build your image, push it to Amazon ECR and set up all the infrastructure to run your service in a scalable and secure way.

Creating a Service

Creating a service to run your containers on AWS can be done in a few ways. The easiest way is by running the init command from the same directory as your Dockerfile.

$ copilot init

You'll be asked which application you want this service to be a part of (or asked to create an application if there isn't one). Copilot will then ask about the type of service you're trying to build.

After selecting a service type, Copilot will detect any health checks or exposed ports from your Dockerfile and ask if you'd like to deploy.

Choosing a Service Type

We mentioned before that Copilot will set up all the infrastructure your service needs to run. But how does it know what kind of infrastructure to use?

When you're setting up a service, Copilot will ask you about what kind of service you want to build.

Internet-facing services

If you want your service to serve public internet traffic, you have three options:

  • "Request-Driven Web Service" will provision an AWS App Runner Service to run your service.
  • "Static Site" will provision a dedicated CloudFront distribution and S3 bucket for your static website.
  • "Load Balanced Web Service" will provision an Application Load Balancer, a Network Load Balancer or both, along with security groups, an ECS service on Fargate to run your service.

Request-Driven Web Service

An AWS App Runner service that autoscales your instances based on incoming traffic and scales down to a baseline instance when there's no traffic. This option is more cost-effective for HTTP services with sudden bursts in request volumes or low request volumes.

Unlike ECS, App Runner services are not connected by default to a VPC. In order to route egress traffic through a VPC, you can configure the network field in the manifest.

Static Site

An Amazon CloudFront distribution-served, S3-hosted static website. Copilot uploads your static assets into a new S3 bucket configured for static website hosting. Caching with the CloudFront Content Delivery Network (CDN) optimizes cost and speed. With each redeployment, the previous cache is invalidated.

Load Balanced Web Service

An ECS Service running tasks on Fargate with an Application Load Balancer, a Network Load Balancer or both, as ingress. This option is suitable for HTTP or TCP services with steady request volumes that need to access resources in a VPC or require advanced configuration.

Note that a Copilot-managed Application Load Balancer is an environment-level resource, and is shared by all Load Balanced Web Services within the environment. As of v1.32.0, you have the option to import an existing ALB at the service level by specifying it in your workload manifest. To learn more, go here. In contrast, a Network Load Balancer is a service-level resource, and hence is not shared across services.

Below is a diagram for a Load Balanced Web Service that involves an Application Load Balancer only.


Backend Service

If you want a service that can't be accessed externally, but only from other services within your application, you can create a Backend Service. Copilot will provision an ECS Service running on AWS Fargate, but won't set up any internet-facing endpoints. Load balancing is available for Backend Services. To learn about creating internal load balancers, go here.


Worker Service

Worker Services allow you to implement asynchronous service-to-service communication with pub/sub architectures. Your microservices in your application can publish events to Amazon SNS topics that can then be consumed by a "Worker Service".

A Worker Service is composed of:

  • One or more Amazon SQS queues to process notifications published to the topics, as well as dead-letter queues to handle failures.
  • An Amazon ECS service on AWS Fargate that has permission to poll the SQS queues and process the messages asynchronously.


Config and the Manifest

After you've run copilot init you might have noticed that Copilot created a file called manifest.yml in the copilot/[service name]/ directory. This manifest file contains common configuration options for your service. While the exact set of options depends on the type of service you're running, common ones include the resources allocated to your service (like memory and CPU), health checks, and environment variables.

Let's take a look at the manifest for a Load Balanced Web Service called front-end.

name: front-end
type: Load Balanced Web Service

  # Path to your service's Dockerfile.
  build: ./Dockerfile
  # Port exposed through your container to route traffic to it.
  port: 8080

  # Requests to this path will be forwarded to your service.
  # To match all requests you can use the "/" path.
  path: '/'
  # You can specify a custom health check path. The default is "/"
  # healthcheck: '/'

# Number of CPU units for the task.
cpu: 256
# Amount of memory in MiB used by the task.
memory: 512
# Number of tasks that should be running in your service.
count: 1

# Optional fields for more advanced use-cases.
variables:                    # Pass environment variables as key value pairs.
  LOG_LEVEL: info

#secrets:                         # Pass secrets from AWS Systems Manager (SSM) Parameter Store.
#  GITHUB_TOKEN: GH_SECRET_TOKEN  # The key is the name of the environment variable,
                                  # the value is the name of the SSM parameter.

# You can override any of the values defined above by environment.
    count: 2               # Number of tasks to run for the "prod" environment.
To learn about the specification of manifest files, see the manifest page.

Deploying a Service

Once you've set up your service, you can deploy it (and any changes to your manifest) by running the deploy command:

$ copilot deploy

Running this command will:

  1. Build your image locally
  2. Push to your service's ECR repository
  3. Convert your manifest file to CloudFormation
  4. Package any additional infrastructure into CloudFormation
  5. Deploy your updated service and resources to CloudFormation

If you have multiple environments, you'll be prompted to select which environment you want to deploy to.

Digging into your Service

Now that we've got a service up and running, we can check on it using Copilot. Below are a few common ways to check in on your deployed service.

What's in your service?

Running copilot svc show will show you a summary of your service. Here's an example of the output you might see for a Load Balanced Web Service. This output includes the configuration of your service for each environment, any rollback alarms you have configured, all the endpoints for your service, and the environment variables and secrets passed into your service. You can also provide an optional --resources flag to see all AWS resources associated with your service.

$ copilot svc show

  Application       my-app
  Name              front-end
  Type              Load Balanced Web Service


  Environment       Tasks               CPU (vCPU)          Memory (MiB)        Port
  -----------       -----               ----------          ------------        ----
  test              1                   0.25                512                 80

Rollback Alarms

  Name                              Environment  Description
  ----                              -----------  -----------
  my-app-test-front-end-CopilotRol  test         Roll back ECS service if CPU utilizat
  lbackCPUAlarm                                  ion is greater than or equal to 50% t
                                                 wice in 3 minutes.


  Environment       URL
  -----------       ---

Internal Service Endpoints

  Endpoint                          Environment  Type
  --------                          -----------  ----
  front-end:80                      test         Service Connect  test         Service Discovery


  Name                                Container  Environment  Value
  ----                                ---------  -----------  -----
  COPILOT_APPLICATION_NAME            front-end  test         my-app
  COPILOT_ENVIRONMENT_NAME              "        test         test
  COPILOT_LB_DNS                        "        test
  COPILOT_SERVICE_NAME                  "        test         front-end


  Name                   Container  Environment  Value
  ----                   ---------  -----------  -----
  GITHUB_WEBHOOK_SECRET  front-end  test         parameter/GH_WEBHOOK_SECRET
The output of copilot svc show varies depending on your service type. For example, the summary for a Static Site includes a tree representation of your S3 bucket's contents.
% copilot svc show
Service name: static-site

  Application  my-app
  Name         static-site
  Type         Static Site


  Environment  URL
  -----------  ---

S3 Bucket Objects

  Environment  test
├── error.html
├── index.html
├── Images
│   ├── SomeImage.PNG
│   └── AnotherImage.PNG
├── css
│   ├── Style.css
│   ├── all.min.css
│   └── bootstrap.min.css
└── images
    └── bg-masthead.jpg

What's your service status?

Often it's handy to be able to check on the status of your service. Are all the instances of my service healthy? Are there any alarms firing? To do that, you can run copilot svc status to get a summary of your service's status.

$ copilot svc status
Service: front-end
Task Summary

  Running   ██████████  1/1 desired tasks are running
  Health    ██████████  1/1 passes HTTP health checks
            ██████████  1/1 passes container health checks


  ID        Status      Revision    Started At     Cont. Health  HTTP Health  
  --        ------      --------    ----------     ------------  -----------
  37236ed3  RUNNING     9           12 minutes ago HEALTHY       HEALTHY


  Name                            Type          Condition                       Last Updated    Health
  ----                            ----          ---------                       ------------    ------
  TargetTracking-service/my-app-  Auto Scaling  CPUUtilization > 70.00 for 3 d  5 minutes ago   OK
  test-Cluster-0jTKWTNBKviF/my-a                atapoints within 3 minutes                      

  TargetTracking-service/my-app-  Auto Scaling  CPUUtilization < 63.00 for 15   5 minutes ago   ALARM
  test-Cluster-0jTKWTNBKviF/my-a                datapoints within 15 minutes                    
Just like with copilot svc show, the output of copilot svc status varies with service type. For instance, a Request-Driven Web Service's output includes system logs, and a Static Site's output includes the S3 bucket's object count and size.

Where are my service logs?

Checking your service logs is easy as well. Running copilot svc logs will show the most recent logs of your service. You can follow your logs live with the --follow flag.

$ copilot svc logs
37236ed 🚑 Health-check ok!
37236ed 🚑 Health-check ok!
37236ed 🚑 Health-check ok!
37236ed 🚑 Health-check ok!
37236ed 🚑 Health-check ok!


Logs are not available for Static Site services.