GEOG 865
Cloud and Server GIS

Introduction to ArcGIS Cloud Formation Templates


In the previous lesson, you used the AWS Management Console to set up an EC2 instance. When you build an ArcGIS Server site on Amazon EC2, you typically use a different approach, in our case, a resource called Cloud Formation. This consists of a text file that pre-defines all of the parameters of the site you intend to build on the AWS platform, which can be deployed to install everything in an unmanaged manner. Cloud Formation templates exist, which can be customized to deploy the precise system you need. ESRI has developed Cloud Formation Templates that are already set up to do the heavy lifting of installing ArcGIS Enterprise in AWS, leaving us to provide only a few parameters.

It's possible to build simple one-machine ArcGIS Server sites manually with the AWS Management Console. You can even put several of these "siloed" sites under a load balancer to get more computing power. However, to get the full benefit of the ArcGIS Server architecture, in which multiple GIS servers process and balance loads in a peer-to-peer fashion, Cloud Formation Templates are the way to go.

Getting access to the ArcGIS Enterprise AMIs

Cloud Formation uses some Esri-created Amazon Machine Images (AMIs) behind the scenes to create your ArcGIS site. These AMIs have ArcGIS Server, ArcGIS Pro and in some cases, a database installed on them.

The AMIs require that you "bring your own license" and apply it to any Esri software that you run on the EC2 instances. In other words, Esri pricing is not built into the hourly fees for the instance, like it is with Windows. The Esri AMIs are accessible by anyone in the AWS Marketplace, but you must log in with your Amazon account and accept the terms and conditions for using them.

  1. Go to the AWS Marketplace page for the Esri ArcGIS Enterprise 10.9.1 AMI.
  2. Click the Continue to Subscribe button and log in with your Amazon account.
  3. Click to Accept Software Terms.

This doesn't actually launch anything right now, it simply establishes that you agree to the terms of using the particular AMI, but if you don't perform this step and accept the terms, Cloud Formation will fail when you try to create a site. In fact, if you ever experience Cloud Formation failures in the future, you should check to make sure you have accepted the software terms for the exact AMIs that you are trying to use. There's nothing else you need to do on the AMI Marketplace page.

Security Requirements for ArcGIS Enterprise

Recent versions of ArcGIS Enterprise and Server now require that all communications be performed over a secure channel. This means that anyone making a request for a map service or web app from your ArcGIS Enterprise/Server machine must do so using the https protocol rather than traditional http. You may have noticed that many websites you visit now appear with an https URL. Https uses something called, Secure Socket Layer (SSL) to encrypt all traffic that is sent between clients and the web server. In this way, any text that's sent, including passwords, usernames, and other content, is protected from hackers who might try to intercept or monitor it. Implementing SSL on a web server is good practice, which is why many websites and web services are utilizing it. 

Enabling SSL on a web server isn't a trivial process, however, and it requires that an SSL Certificate be obtained and installed. SSL Certificates are issued by authoritative providers that verify the identity of your web server and provide an assurance that the communication channel clients establish with the server are properly encrypted. It makes sense that only authorized providers issue SSL Certificates, otherwise anyone could generate them and deploy them improperly. Further complicating this process is that SSL Certificates are attached to the fully-qualified domain name rather than the IP address of a web server.

Every web server has an IP number, which has the form, that uniquely identifies it on the Internet, but clients typically don't use that number to communicate with it. Instead, clients (like you in your web browser) use a fully-qualified domain name to call a server. A fully-qualified domain name is a URL you would enter to visit a website, for example, or Domain names are linked to IP addresses using a registry called DNS (Domain Name System). Anyone wanting to attach a domain name to their server's IP must make a request to a DNS server. This request is performed by authorized Internet service providers.

So, to enable SSL on our ArcGIS Enterprise/Server machines, we need to do two things: (1) assign a unique, fully-qualified domain name to our Elastic IP in DNS, and (2) generate and install an SSL Certificate that refers to our domain name. To facilitate the setup of our ArcGIS machines in AWS, I have performed these steps for you. I assigned you a domain name in the form,, and registered it in DNS by linking it to the Elastic IP you created in Lesson 1. I also generated SSL Certificates for you using the same domain name I assigned you. That being completed, the process of installing and configuring these on your ArcGIS machines is trivial using the Cloud Formation Template; all you need to do is reference your domain name and SSL Certificate in the template and Cloud Formation does the rest.