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Grunt tasks to create, terminate, and deploy Node applications to AWS EC2 instances, then proxy with nginx

Abstracts away aws-sdk allowing you to easily launch, terminate, and deploy to AWS EC2 instances.

Note: This is a very, very opinionated package. You're invited to fork it and produce your own flow, and definitely encouraged to create pull requests with your awesome improvements.

Jump to the task reference to see what it can do.


This is pretty feature packed

  • Launch EC2 instances and set them up with a single task. Look ma', no hands!
  • Shut them down from the console. No need to look up an id or anything.
  • Use individual SSH key-pairs for each different instance, for increased security
  • Deploy with a single Grunt task, using rsync for speed
  • Use pm2 to deploy and do hot code swaps!
  • Works after reboots, too
  • Introduced at Pony Foo
  • Put an nginx proxy server in front of Node
  • Get tons of Grunt tasks to manipulate your EC2 instances
  • Supports turning on ssl and spdy in your nginx server!


npm install --save-dev grunt-ec2

You'll need to set up the AWS configuration for the project. You'll also need to have a Security Group set up on AWS. Make sure to enable rules for inbound SSH (port 22) and HTTP (port 80) traffic.


    pkg: grunt.file.readJSON('package.json'),
    ec2: 'path/to/whatever.json'

Then, in your whatever.json file:

  "AWS_ACCESS_KEY_ID": "<redacted>",
  "AWS_SECRET_ACCESS_KEY": "<redacted>",
  "AWS_SECURITY_GROUP": "something"

You'll need to get an access key pair for AWS, as well as create a security group on AWS by hand. Creating security groups is not supported by this package yet.

The package.json entry is used to take the version number when deploying.

For the ec2 configuration, I don't take an object directly to encourage hiding away the deployment variables, granting them only to people who can actually perform deploys. You could provide an object directly, but it's strongly discouraged.


If you're confident enough, you can use the tool with just those options. Here is the full set of options and their defaults.

Variable Name Purpose
"AWS_DEFAULT_REGION" Passed to the CLI directly, defaults to "us-east-1"
"AWS_ELB_NAME" The default Elastic Load Balancer you want to use with ec2-elb-attach and ec2-elb-detach.
"AWS_IMAGE_ID" Used when creating a new instance with the ec2-create-instance task. Defaults to the "ami-c30360aa" Ubuntu AMI.
"AWS_INSTANCE_TYPE" The magnitude for our instance. Defaults to "t1.micro". Used when creating instances.
"AWS_RSYNC_USER" The user to SSH into the instance when deploying through rsync.
"AWS_SECURITY_GROUP" The security group used for new instances. You'll have to create this one yourself.
"AWS_SSH_USER" The user used to SSH into the instance when setting it up for the first time, after creating it.
"ELASTIC_IP" Assign an AWS Elastic IP to new instances, and release it when terminating them. Defaults to true.
"ENV" Provided as a JSON object. Variables to set in the local environment before the app starts. Useful for setting up DB credentials for example.
"NGINX_ENABLED" Whether to install and use nginx. If installed, the Node application must listen on port NGINX_PROXY_PORT. Keep in mind that since we're going to use pm2 to spin up a cluster, a single port won't be an issue anyways.
"NGINX_PROXY_PORT" This is the port where nginx will proxy requests to, when it won't handle them by itself. This is the same port you'll want to use to listen with your Node application.
"NGINX_SERVER_NAME" The server name for your static server, for example:
"NGINX_STATIC_ERRORS" The relative path to your error HTML views folder root. For example bin/views/error.
"NGINX_STATIC_ROOT" The relative path to your static folder root, for example: bin/public. Used to serve static assets through nginx.
"NGINX_USER" The user to configure and run nginx with.
"NGINX_WORKERS" The amount of workers processes used by nginx.
"NODE_SCRIPT" The path to your script. Defaults to app.js, as in node app.js. Relative to your cwd.
"NPM_INSTALL_DISABLED" If true, won't npm install --production after deployments
"NPM_REBUILD" If true, will npm rebuild after deployments
"PAGESPEED_API_KEY" If provided, will run Google PageSpeed insights on every deployment. Get an API Key here. Requires you to setup grunt-pagespeed locally, in your own Gruntfile.js.
"PROJECT_ID" Just an identifier for your project, in case you're hosting multiple ones, for some stupid reason, in the same instance. Defaults to ec2. This is used when creating folders inside the instance.
"RSYNC_EXCLUDE_FROM" Relative path to an rsync exclusion patterns file. These are used to exclude files from being uploaded to the server during rsync on deploys. Defaults to ignoring .git and node_modules.
"RSYNC_EXCLUDES" An array of file patterns to explicitly exclude during deploys. The %NODE_ENV% string will be replaced by the name tag. Unset by default.
"RSYNC_INCLUDE_FROM" Relative path to an rsync inclusion patterns file. These are used to include files for upload to the server during rsync on deploys. Unset by default.
"RSYNC_INCLUDES" An array of file patterns to explicitly include during deploys. The %NODE_ENV% string will be replaced by the name tag. Useful for uploading environment configuration.
"SSH_KEYS_FOLDER" The relative path to a folder where you want to use with tasks that create SSH key-pairs. It doesn't need to exist, mkdir -p will take care of that. This defaults to a folder inside this package, which is pretty lame if you want to look at the key-pairs yourself. Although you shouldn't need to, I've got you covered.
"SSL_CERTIFICATE" Relative path to your unified SSL certificate.
"SSL_CERTIFICATE_KEY" Relative path to your private certificate key.
"SSL_ENABLED" Enables SSL configuration on nginx. Learn how to set it up for free.
"SSL_STRICT" Whether to send a Strict-Transport-Security header.
"VERBOSITY_NPM" Determines the output verbosity for npm during deployments, values are limited to loglevel option values for npm. Defaults to info, just like npm does.
"VERBOSITY_RSYNC" Determines the output verbosity for rsync. Possible values limited to 'v', 'vv', and 'vvv'. Defaults to '' (not verbose at all, my friend).
"PM2_INSTANCES_COUNT" Set number processes to start with pm2. default is 2 and valid values are integers or 'max' for setting the maximum processes depending on avaible CPUs


Although this package exposes quite a few different tasks, here are the ones you'll want to be using directly.

Launch an EC2 instance ec2-launch:name

Launches an instance and sets it up.

  • Creates an SSH key-pair
  • Uploads the public key to AWS
  • Creates an AWS EC2 instance
  • Tags the instance with the friendly name you provided
  • Pings the instance until it warms up a DNS and provides SSH access (typically takes a minute)
  • Sets up the instance, installing Node, npm, and pm2


grunt ec2-launch:teddy


Shutdown an EC2 instance ec2-shutdown:name

Terminates an instance and deletes related objects

  • Looks up the id of an instance tagged name
  • Terminates the AWS EC2 instance
  • Deletes the key-pair associated with the instance


grunt ec2-shutdown:teddy


List running EC2 instances ec2-list-json

Returns a JSON list of running EC2 instances. Defaults to filtering by running state. You can use ec2-list-json:all to remove the filter, or pick another instance-state-name to filter by.


Describe an instance with ec2-lookup

Similar to ec2-list-json, but lets you get the properties of an instance by name, rather than state. Try it with grunt ec2-lookup:staging.

Get an SSH connection command for an instance ec2-ssh-text:name

Gives you a command you can copy and paste to connect to an EC2 instance through SSH. Useful to get down and dirty.

grunt ec2-ssh-text:teddy


Deploy to an EC2 instance ec2-deploy

Deploys to a running EC2 instance using rsync over SSH.

  • Connects to the instance through SSH
  • Uploads cwd to an rsync folder such as /srv/rsync/example/latest
  • Only transmits changes, similar to how git operates
  • Using pkg.version, creates a folder with the newest version, like /srv/apps/example/v/0.6.5
  • Creates a link from /srv/apps/example/v/0.6.5 to /srv/apps/example/current
  • Either starts the application, or reloads it with zero downtime, using pm2
  • Instance name can be accessed through process.env.NODE_ENV


grunt ec2-deploy:teddy


Deploy to multiple EC2 instances ec2-deploy-many

Queries EC2 for instances that match the given name and deploys to each on using ec2-deploy.


grunt ec2-deploy-many:teddy*

Reboot an instance with ec2-reboot

Reboots the instance by the specified name.

  • Looks up instance id for instance tagged name.
  • Reboots it


grunt ec2-reboot:teddy

Complete Task Reference

Task and Target(s) Purpose
ec2-assign-address:id Allocates an IP and assigns it to your instance
ec2-assign-existing-address:id:ip Assigns an IP address to an instance without allocating a new one
ec2-create-keypair:name Generates an RSA key pair and uploads the public key to AWS
ec2-create-tag:id:name Tags an instance with the provided name
ec2-delete-keypair:name Removes the remote and the local copies of the RSA key
ec2-delete-tag:id Deletes the associated name tag for an instance
ec2-rename-tag:old:replacement Tags an instance using a different name
ec2-deploy:name Deploys to the instance using rsync, reloads pm2 and nginx
ec2-deploy-many:name Gets instances filtered by name tag and deploys to the instance using rsync, reloads pm2 and nginx
ec2-elb-attach:instance-name:elb-name? Attaches an instance to an ELB
ec2-elb-detach:instance-name:elb-name? Detaches an instance from an ELB
ec2-launch:name Creates a new instance, giving it a key-pair, a name tag, and an IP. Then sets it up
ec2-list:state Lists instances filtered by state. Defaults to running filter, use all to disable filter.
ec2-list-json:state Lists instances filtered by state. Defaults to running filter, use all to disable filter. Prints results in JSON
ec2-logs-nginx-access:name Gets nginx access logs
ec2-logs-nginx-error:name Gets nginx error logs
ec2-logs-node:name Gets pm2 logs
ec2-lookup:name Gets instance filtered by name tag
ec2-lookup-json:name Gets instance filtered by name tag. Prints results in JSON
ec2-nginx-configure:name Installs nginx if necessary, updates its configuration files
ec2-nginx-reload:name Reloads nginx
ec2-nginx-restart:name Restarts nginx
ec2-nginx-start:name Starts nginx
ec2-nginx-stop:name Stops nginx
ec2-node-list:name Returns output for pm2 list
ec2-node-monit:name Runs pm2 monit
ec2-node-reload:name Reloads app using pm2 reload all
ec2-node-restart:name Restarts app using pm2 restart all
ec2-node-start:name Starts app using parameterized pm2 start
ec2-node-stop:name Stops app using pm2 stop all
ec2-pagespeed:ip Requests the Google PageSpeed API, prints insights
ec2-pm2-update:name Updates pm2 on an instance, using npm update -g pm2
ec2-reboot:name Reboots the EC2 instance
ec2-release-address:ip Releases an IP address
ec2-run-instance:name Spins up an EC2 instance, gives a name tag and assigns an IP
ec2-setup:name Sets up port forwarding, installs rsync, node, and pm2, enqueues ec2-nginx-configure
ec2-shutdown:name Terminates an instance, deleting its associated key-pair, IP address, and name tag
ec2-ssh:name Establishes an ssh connection to the instance, you can emit commands to your EC2 instance
ec2-ssh-text:name Displays a verbose command with which you can establish an ssh connection to the instance
ec2-terminate-instance:id Terminates an instance
ec2-version:name Get the version number currently deployed to EC2
ec2-wait:id Waits for an instance to report a public DNS and be accessible through ssh


Enjoy it. Submit any issues you encounter, and send any feedback you might have my way.

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