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Boto: using Python to automate AWS services

Boto allows you to write some scripts to automate things like starting AWS EC2 instances

Boto is a Python package that provides programmatic connectivity to Amazon Web Services.

BotoThe Amazon Cloud offers a range of services for dynamically scaling servers including the core compute service, the Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2), various storage offerings, load balancers, and DNS. You can control these services either through AWS console or by way of AWS’s extensive API. But there are a number of third-party libraries for using this API. for Python, we have Boto. Boto allows you to write some handy scripts to automate simple things like starting or stopping EC2 instances or taking regular snapshots of your servers.

Installing Boto on Linux (CentOS)

1. You’ll first use the yum package manager to install Python and the pip Python package installer:

yum install python python-devel python-pip

2. Now we will install the Boto package via pip:

python-pip install boto

3. Finally, we can test if everything has been successfully installed on our Linux box:

python -c "import boto; print boto.Version"

Configuring AWS credentials

On startup, the Boto library looks for configuration files in the following locations (in this order):

  • /etc/boto.cfg – for site-wide settings for all users on this machine
  • ~/.boto – for user-specific settings

Use cases

Lets start with a basic scenario:  launching an EC2 instance

import boto.ec2
conn = boto.ec2.connect_to_region("us-west-2")

The above python script will connect to Amazon’s us-west region and launch an instance using AMI id: ami-6ac2a85a.

Scheduling stop instances. Let’s say you now want to stop your test environment instances at a certain time each day. Run:

import boto.ec2
conn = boto.ec2.connect_to_region("us-west-2")

You can schedule this script to run every day at a particular time by creating a cron job.
CloudFront invalidation. AWS doesn’t provide a command line tool for CloudFront. Therefore, if you want to invalidate objects, you’ll need to log into the console and add the objects to invalidate. It’s a really long and tiresome process. Instead, you can make use of the Boto library:

import boto
dist_id = 'xxxxxxxxxxx'
invalidation_path = '/home/ec2-user/invalid.txt'
def main():
    paths = open(invalidation_path,"r+")
    conn = boto.connect_cloudfront()
    inval_req = conn.create_invalidation_request(dist_id, paths)
    print inval_req
    touch = open(invalidation_path,"w")
if __name__ == '__main__':

This script reads objects specified in a file, invalidates them, prints an invalidation ID, and clears the contents of invalid.txt.

AWS Services supported by Boto

At the moment, Boto supports more than fifty Amazon services, running the whole range from compute, database, application, and payments and billing. You can find a complete and current list on the website.


Boto lets you write scripts that manage complex set ups in the Amazon cloud. In addition, it provides support for other public services such as Google Storage, besides private cloud systems like Eucalyptus, OpenStack, and Open Nebula.
If you’re a python expert and value your time, go for it.
(For a different way of using Python on AWS, see our Amazon Machine Learning post.)

Written by

Nitheesh Poojary

My professional IT career began nine years back when I was just out of my college. I worked with a great team as an infrastructure management engineer, managing hundreds of enterprise application servers. I found my passion when I got the opportunity to work with Cloud technologies: I'm addicted to AWS Cloud Services, DevOps engineering, and all the cloud tools and technologies that make engineers' lives easier. Currently, I am working as a Solution Architect in SixNines IT. We are an experienced team of engineers that have helped hundreds of customers move to the cloud responsibly. I have achieved 5 AWS certifications, happily helping fellow engineers across the globe through my blogs and answering questions in various forums.

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