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Managing AWS-hosted VMs using EC2 Systems Manager

May 30, 2017 Leave a comment

I’ve been doing a lot of work recently with Linux VMs that are hosted on Amazon Web ServicesEC2 service. As part of this work, I’ve been working on two problems in parallel:

  • Enabling automation of certain management commands for the VMs
  • Securing SSH

Part of the issue was that I thought I needed to have SSH available to enable remote administration. If that was true, I also needed to secure SSH access so that I could use it and malicious third parties couldn’t. However, whatever method I chose also needed to be easily accessible to my team so that they could access the AWS-hosted VMs in case of an emergency where I wasn’t available.

I went through a few iterations of SSH solutions, including investigating multi-factor authentication and setting up SSH bastions. In the end though, I discovered a surprising solution that fixed both of my problems: AWS’s EC2 Systems Manager

Systems Manager allowed me to do the following:

  1. Manage my Linux VMs on EC2 without using SSH
  2. Block SSH access on my Linux VMs
  3. Run commands on multiple VMs at once
  4. Create a library of frequently used tasks and run those commands without needing to re-enter the scripts used to run those tasks.
  5. Not spend extra money on a management solution because AWS makes Systems Manager available at no cost to AWS customers.

For more details, please see below the jump.

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