AWS Tutorial wrangling, effort 2: HelloWorld via CodeDeploy

I’m taking a crash course in DevOps this winter, and our instructor assigned us a trivial task: get Hello World running in S3.

I found this tutorial (tantalizingly named “Deploy a Hello World Application with AWS CodeDeploy (Windows Server)”), figured it looked close enough (and if not, it’d keep me limber and help me narrow in on what I *do* need) so I foolishly dove right in.

TL;DR I found the tutorial damnably short on explicit clarity – lots of references to other tutorials, and plenty of incomplete or vague instructions, it seems this was designed by someone who’s already overly-familiar with AWS and didn’t realize the kinds of ambiguities they’d left behind.

I got myself all the way to Step 3 and was faced with this error – little did I know this was just the first of many IAM mysteries to solve:

Mac4Mike:aws mike$ aws iam attach-role-policy --role-name CodeDeployServiceRole --policy-arn arn:aws:iam::aws:policy:/service-role/AWSCodeDeployRole
An error occurred (AccessDenied) when calling the AttachRolePolicy operation: User: arn:aws:iam::720781686731:user/Mike is not authorized to perform: iam:AttachRolePolicy on resource: role CodeDeployServiceRole

Back the truck up, Mike

Hold on, what steps preceded this stumble?

CodeDeploy – Getting Started

Well, first I pursued the CodeDeploy Getting Started path:

  • Provision an IAM user
    • It wasn’t clear from the referring tutorials, so I learned by trial and error to create a user with CLI permissions (Access/Secret key authN), not Console permissions
  • Assigning them the specified policies (to enable CodeDeploy and CloudFormation)
  • Creating the specifiedCodeDeployServiceRole service role
    • The actual problem arose here, where I ran the command as specified in the guide

I tried this with different combinations of user context (Mike, who has all access to EC2, and Mike-CodeDeploy-cli, who has all the policies assigned in Step 2 of Getting Started) AND the –policy-arn parameter (both the Getting Started string and the one dumped out by the aws iam create-role command (arn:aws:iam::720781686731:role/CodeDeployServiceRole)).

And literally, searching on this error and variants of it, there appear to be no other people who’ve ever written about encountering this.  THAT’s a new one on me.  I’m not usually a trailblazer (even of the “how did he fuck this up *that* badly?” kind of trailblazing…)

OK, so then forget it – if the CLI + tutorial can’t be conquered, let’s try the Console-based tutorial steps.   [Note: in both places, they state it’s important that you “Make sure you are signed in to the AWS Management Console with the same account information you used in Getting Started.”  Why?  And what “account information” do they mean – the user with which you’re logged into the web console, or the user credentials you provisioned?]

I was able to edit the just-created CodeDeployServiceRole and confirm all the configurations they specified *except* where they state (in step 4), “On the Select Role Type page, with AWS Service Roles selected, next to AWS CodeDeploy, choose Select.”  Not sure what that means (which should’ve pulled me in the direction of “delete and recreate this role”), but I tried it out as-is anyway.  [The only change I had to make so far was to attach AWSCodeDeployRole.]

Reading up on the AttachRolePolicy action, it appears that –policy-arn refers to the permissions you wish to attach to the targeted role, and –role-name refers to the role getting additional permissions.  That would mean I’m definitely meant to attach “arn:aws:iam::aws:policy/service-role/AWSCodeDeployRole” policy to CodeDeployServiceRole.  (Still doesn’t explain why I lack the AttachRolePolicy permission in either of the IAM Users I’ve defined, nor how to add that permission.)

Instead, with no help from any online docs or discussions, I discovered that it’s possible to assign the individual permission by starting with this interface:

  • Click Create Policy
  • Select Policy Generator
  • AWS Service: Select AWS Identity and Access Management
  • Actions: Attach Role Policy
  • ARN: I tried constructing two policies with (arn:aws:iam::aws:policy/service-role/AWSCodeDeployRole) and (arn:aws:iam::720781686731:role/CodeDeployServiceRole)
    • The first returned “AccessDenied” and with the second, the command I’m fighting with returned “InvalidInput”

Then I went to the Users console:

  • select the user of interest (Mike-CodeDeploy-cli in my journey)
  • click Add Permissions
  • select “Attach existing policies directly”
  • select the new Policy I just created (where type = Customer managed, so it’s relatively easy to spot among all the other “AWS managed” policies)

As I mentioned, the second construction returned this error to the command:

An error occurred (InvalidInput) when calling the AttachRolePolicy operation: ARN arn:aws:iam::720781686731:role/CodeDeployServiceRole is not valid.

Nope, wait, dammit – the ARN is the *policy*, not the *object* to which the policy grants permission…

Here’s where I started ranting to myself…

Tried it a couple more times, still getting AccessDenied, so screw it.  [At this point I conclude AWS IAS is an immature dog’s breakfast – even with an explicit map you still end up turned in knots.]

So I just went to the Role CodeDeployServiceRole and attached both policies (I’m pretty sure I only need to attach the policy AWSCodeDeployRole but I’m adding the custom AttachRolePolicy-CodeDeployRole because f it I just need to get through this trivial exercise).

[Would it kill the folks at AWS to draw a friggin picture of how all these capabilities with their overlapping terminology are related?  Cause I don’t know about you, but I am at the end of my rope trying to keep these friggin things straight.  Instead, they have a superfluous set of fragmented documented and tutorials, which it’s clear they’ve never usability tested end-to-end, and for which they assume way too much existing knowledge & context.]

I completed the rest of the InstanceProfile creation steps (though I had to create a second one near the end, because the console complained I was trying to create one that already existed).

CodeDeploy – create a Windows instance the “easy” way

Then of course we’re on to the fun of creating a Windows Instance in AWS.  Brave as I am, I tried it with CloudFormation.

I grabbed the CLI command and substituted the following two Parameter values in the command:

  • –template-url:

    ttp:// (for the us-west-2 region I am closest to)

  • Parameter-Key=KeyPairName: MBP-2009 (for the .pem file I created a while back for use in SSH-managing all my AWS operations)

The first time I ran the command it complained:

You must specify a region. You can also configure your region by running "aws configure".

So I re-ran aws configure and filled in “us-west-2” when it prompted for “Default region name”.

Second time around, it spat out:

    "StackId": "arn:aws:cloudformation:us-west-2:720781686731:stack/CodeDeployDemoStack/d1c817d0-d93e-11e6-8ee1-503f20f2ade6"

They tell us not to proceed until this command reports “CREATE_COMPLETED”, but wow does it take a while to stop reporting “None”:

aws cloudformation describe-stacks --stack-name CodeDeployDemoStack --query "Stacks[0].StackStats" --output text

When I went looking at the cloudformation console (blame it on lack of patience), it reported my instance(s)’ status was “ROLLBACK_COMPLETE”.  Now, I’m no AWS expert, but that doesn’t sound like a successful install to me.  I headed to the details, and of course something else went horribly wrong:

  • CREATE_FAILED – AWS::EC2::Instance – API: ec2:RunInstances Not authorized for images: [ami-7f634e4f]

CodeDeploy – create a Windows instance the “hard” way

So let’s forget the “easy” path of CloudFormation.  Try the old-fashioned way of creating a Windows instance, and see if I can make it through this:

  • Deciding among Windows server AMI’s is a real blast – over 600 of them!
  • I narrowed it down to the “Windows_Server-2016-English-Full-Base-2016.12.24”
    • Nano is only available to Windows Assurance customers
    • Enterprise is way more than I’d need to serve a web page
    • Full gives you the Windows GUI to manage the server, whereas Core only includes the PowerShell (and may not even allow RDP access)
    • I wanted to see what the Manage Server GUI looks like these days, otherwise I probably would’ve tried Core
    • Note: there were three AMI all prefixed “Windows_Server-2016-English-Full-Base”, I just chose the one with the latest date suffix (assuming it’s slightly more up-to-date with patches)
  • I used the EC2 console to get the Windows password, then installed the Microsoft Remote Desktop client for Mac to enable me to interactively log in to the instance

Next is configuring the S3 bucket:

  • There is some awfully confusing and incomplete documentation here
  • There are apparently two policies to be configured, with helpful sample policies, but it’s unclear where to go to attach them, or what steps to take to make sure this occurs
  • It’s like the author has already done this a hundred times and knows all the steps by heart, but has forgotten that as part of a tutorial, the intended audience are people like me who have little or no familiarity with the byzantine interfaces of AWS to figure out where to attach these policies [or any of the other hundred steps I’ve been through over the last few weeks]
  • I *think* I found where to attach the first policy (giving permission to the Amazon S3 Bucket) – I attached this policy template (substituting both the AWS account ID [111122223333] and bucket name [codedeploydemobucket] for the ones I’m using):
    { "Statement": [ { "Action": ["s3:PutObject"], "Effect": "Allow", "Resource": "arn:aws:s3:::codedeploydemobucket/*", "Principal": { "AWS": [ "111122223333" ] } } ] }
  • I also decided to attach the second recommended policy to the same bucket as another bucket policy:
    { "Statement": [ { "Action": ["s3:Get*", "s3:List*"], "Effect": "Allow", "Resource": "arn:aws:s3:::codedeploydemobucket/*", "Principal": { "AWS": [ "arn:aws:iam::80398EXAMPLE:role/CodeDeployDemo" ] } } ] }
  • Where did I finally attach them?  I went to the S3 console, clicked on the bucket I’m going to use (called “hacku-devops-testing”), selected the Properties button, expanded the Permissions section, and clicked the Add bucket policy button the first time.  The second time, since it would only allow me to edit the bucket policy, I tried Add more permissions – but that don’t work, so I tried editing the damned bucket policy by hand and appending the second policy as another item in the Statement dictionary – after a couple of tries, I found a combination that the AWS bucket policy editor would accept, so I’m praying this is the intended combination that will all this seductive tutorial to complete:
     "Version": "2008-10-17",
     "Statement": [
     "Effect": "Allow",
     "Principal": {
     "AWS": "arn:aws:iam::720781686731:root"
     "Action": "s3:PutObject",
     "Resource": "arn:aws:s3:::hacku-devops-testing/*"
     "Action": [
     "Effect": "Allow",
     "Resource": "arn:aws:s3:::hacku-devops-testing/*",
     "Principal": {
     "AWS": [

CodeDeploy – actually deploying code

I followed the remaining commands (closely – gotta watch every parameter and fill in the correct details, ugh).  But thankfully this was the trivial part.  [I guess they got the name “CodeDeploy” right – it’s far more attractive than “CodeDeployOnceYouFoundTheLostArkOfTheCovenantToDecipherIAMIntricacies”.]


Success!  Browsing to the public DNS of the EC2 instance showed me the Hello World page I’ve been trying to muster for the past three days!


This tutorial works as a demonstration of how to marshall a number of contributing parts of the AWS stack: CodeDeploy (whose “ease of deployment” benefits I can’t yet appreciate, considering how labourious and incomplete/error-prone this tutorial was), IAM (users, roles, groups, policies), S3, EC2 and AMI.

However, as a gentle introduction to a quick way to get some static HTML on an AWS endpoint, this is a terrible failure.  I attacked this over a span of three days.  Most of my challenges were in deciphering the mysteries of IAM across the various layers of AWS.

In a previous life I was a security infrastructure consultant, employed by Microsoft to help decipher and troubleshoot complex interoperable security infrastructures.  I prided myself on being able to take this down to the lowest levels and figure out *exactly* what’s going wrong.  And while I was able to find *a* working pathway through this maze, my experience here and my previous expertise tells me that AWS has a long way to go to make it easy for AWS customers to marshall all their resources for secure-by-default application deployments.  [Hell, I didn’t even try to enhance the default policies I encountered to limit the scope of what remote endpoints or roles would have access to the HTTP and SSH endpoints on my EC2 instance.  Maybe that’s a lesson for next time?]



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