SSM Parameter Store

As part of my disaster recovery process, I make a daily AMI snapshot of the servers and copy it to my disaster recovery target region. As that AMI ID changes each day, I need a way to get the current day’s ID into my CloudFormation template so that AMI can be used when creating a copy of our server in the new region. Short of having to use python and Lambda to discover the AMI ID and recreate the template, there had to be a better way to do it.

Enter Parameter Store.

This is an AWS service that acts like a region bound scratchpad, where you can store data and have it retrieved from a few other services, one of which is CloudFormation.

My first step is to create the AMIs and store their IDs in SSM:

# snippet, local_ami_list is list of local instances and names with date pre-pended.
# this section creates the AMIs, tags them, and adds to a list for copying to DR
for line in local_ami_list:
    image_data_combined_list = line.split(',')
    local_instance_id = image_data_combined_list[0]
    local_instance_name = current_date_tag + '-' + image_data_combined_list[1]
    image = ec2_local.create_image(InstanceId=local_instance_id, Description=local_instance_name, DryRun=False,
                                    Name = local_instance_name, NoReboot=True)
    tag_image = ec2_local.create_tags(Resources=[image['ImageId']], Tags=[{'Key': 'Name', 'Value': local_instance_name},])
    entry = local_instance_name + ',' + image['ImageId']


# this snippet copies the AMIs to the DR region

for line in ami_list_to_copy:
    ami_list_combined_data = line.split(',')
    local_ami_name = ami_list_combined_data[0]
    local_ami_id = ami_list_combined_data[1]
        image_copy = ec2_dr.copy_image(Description=local_ami_name, Name=local_ami_name, SourceImageId=local_ami_id,
                                        SourceRegion=local_region, DryRun=False)
        entry = local_ami_name + ',' + image_copy['ImageId']
# this snippet is a bit of kludgy hack, but it gets me in the ballpark. Anonymized for my protection

# 5. lists amis in dr region and writes the current day to SSM parameters for further use in cf-scripts

sv1_ami_parameter = '/org/env/ec2/ServerName1/ami'
sv2_ami_parameter = '/org/env/ec2/ServerName2/ami'
sv3_ami_parameter = '/org/env/ec2/ServerName3/ami'
sv4_ami_parameter = '/org/env/ec2/ServerName4/ami'
sv5_ami_parameter = '/org/env/ec2/ServerName5/ami'
current_ami_list = []

ssm_dr = boto3.client('ssm',region_name=dr_region)
dr_amis = ec2_dr.describe_images(Owners=['self'])
for ami in dr_amis['Images']:
    match =, str(ami['Name']))
    if match:
        entry = str(ami['Name']) + ',' + str(ami['ImageId'])

for ami in current_ami_list:
    line = ami.split(',')

    match1 ='ServerName1', line[0])
    match2 ='ServerName2', line[0])
    match3 ='ServerName3', line[0])
    match4 ='ServerName4', line[0])
    match5 ='ServerName5', line[0])
    if match1:
        set_parameter = ssm_dr.put_parameter(Name=sv1_ami_parameter,
    elif match2:
        set_parameter = ssm_dr.put_parameter(Name=sv2_ami_parameter,
    elif match3:
        set_parameter = ssm_dr.put_parameter(Name=sv3_ami_parameter,

    elif match4:
        set_parameter = ssm_dr.put_parameter(Name=sv4_ami_parameter,

    elif match5:
        set_parameter = ssm_dr.put_parameter(Name=sv5_ami_parameter,

As you can see, the set_parameter function of the boto3 ssm client module puts the data as a plain text value. To retrieve it in a cloudformation script, you have to reference it:


    Description:  'pre-baked AMI copied from ops region, ID retrieved from SSM Parameter Store'
    Type: 'AWS::SSM::Parameter::Value<String>'
    Default: '/org/env/ec2/ServerName1/ami'

# then reference it in the Resources ec2 instance code block as the ImageId.

No more hard coded values, or a need to dynamically generate the script on a daily basis.

You can encrypt values and store them as SecureStrings. However, to retrieve them you will need an understanding of the version number, and I’ve yet to figure that out. Once I do that, then I can more securely store usernames and passwords and avoid hard coding them. So, very cool indeed! (And now I know the answer to an interview question that I bombed!)

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