Pilot your containers like a boss with AWS Copilot!

Pilot your containers like a boss with AWS Copilot!

Getting started with AWS Copilot


6 min read

Photo by Greg Rosenke on Unsplash

Copilot my friend

Everyone loves command line right?

Ok, at least if you regularly work with automation, pipelines, security... you do.

Everyone should love command lines!

It's the way to go to automate any strategic or boring task, removing the human factor from the equation and minimizing the error margin.

In this article, I will introduce you to AWS Copilot, and I'm sure you are going to become best friends in an instant!

Then we will prepare you to start the journey with a quick demo. Demos are like breakfast before hiking, right?

It prepares you just enough to be motivated enough to get started...

So, what are we waiting to prepare our hike?


Photo by Kelly Kiernan on Unsplash

What is Copilot?

You might (or might not) know about Amazon Elastic Compute Service (ECS), the AWS managed container orchestration system.

Thanks to Amazon ECS, running containerized application in a secure, observable and integrated way became really easy.

The idea of Amazon Copilot is to change the way you think about ECS. It's like going one step further...

No more manual management or lower-level infrastructure, with Copilot, you only think about your application.

We could say it's something like "ECS architecture design patterns and best practices" As A Service.

The only thing you need to do is to provide a container and Copilot will deploy and operate it following the ECS best practices to provide high availability, configuration and state of the art infrastructure.

Copilot can even handle the deployment pipeline for you.

How can you quickly start?


  • Install Copilot

Just install Copilot for your favourite OS from here

  • Install Docker

Copilot will use docker to package the application.

You will find all the installation details here

  • Configure your credentials

If you don't use it already, install the AWS CLI and configure your credentials using

aws configure

Deploy a demo app

AWS prepared something for you and me...

git clone https://github.com/aws-samples/amazon-ecs-cli-sample-app.git demo-app

This repository contains a ready-to-deploy application to quickly use copilot.

One more step and you will be done:

copilot init

Answer the questions: demo, Load Balanced Web Service, api, Dockerfile, 80.

You could also pass all those values as parameter but Copilot is kind enough to ask you if you forgot to give the information in the first time.

As Copilot is able to look inside your code (what a clever tool, isn't it?), it might be able to find the Dockerfile by itself (and port too).

Then choose to deploy a test environment.

When the deployment has completed, you will be able to check it.

Tips: You might use some commands from the "some helpful commands" section...

Here is what Copilot is doing underneath:


You know what's great news?

You don't even need to know how to manage any of the steps into this schema. Copilot is doing it for you, taking all the responsibilities.

Isn't this cool?

Clean up

In the mean time, maybe at some point you will want to clean up the environment:

copilot app delete

Super easy right?

Some helpful commands

To get familiar with the tool, try the following commands:

(You didn't think I was going to do all the work for you, right?)

copilot app ls   # list the applications managed by copilot
copilot app show   # describe environments and services
copilot env ls   # list the environments
copilot svc show   # describe service and will gather information to present it in one centralized place in the console
copilot svc ls   # list services
copilot svc logs   # show service logs
copilot svc status   # show service status


Beside this little selection, feel free to launch copilot --help to get more details and copilot docs to access the online documentation in your browser (very useful to dive deeper into the details)

Tailor made deployments

Copilot offers you some really useful built-in patterns to help you manage your containerized application.

copilot svc deploy is performing deployment of updates to the ECS clusters.

copilot svc exec allows you to securely run commands into the containers tasks. This is especially useful for troubleshooting.

Infra-As-Code passionate or just curious?

AWS Copilot didn't forgot you: copilot svc package will show you the cloud formation used to deploy the infrastructure. You can then explore it and even use it outside of Copilot context.

This way, your are not bound to AWS Copilot, you just leave whenever you want.

Tips: The manifest.yml file (copilot/<your service or job name>/manifest.yml) is a copilot-generated file converted to Cloudformation format, describing the architecture of the service.

Pipeline my love

When I said Copilot CLI was helping implementing good practices and pattern, I also though about CI/CD...

You can indeed build a pipeline based on AWS CodePipeline, AWS CodeBuild AWS CodeDeploy and GitHub.

copilot pipeline init

This will initialize some files to prepare the pipeline deployment.

If you specify some arguments, Copilot will create two files:

  • pipeline.yml: configuration options

  • buildspec.yml: the steps to deploy through AWS CodePipeline

# Some arguments you can give to copilot pipeline init command

Then you push these files to the repository and run the following:

copilot pipeline update

That's it! Your pipeline will be created into CodePipeline.

Tips: To add steps (testing) and get more details, have a look at the Copilot documentation

The latest cool features

AWS Copilot is still evolving quickly and the team just release some new features.

  • HTTP to HTTPS automated redirection for Load Balanced Services with domain name

  • Aurora Serverless support

  • NAT Gateway support for private workloads

  • Volume sharing between containers

More features are currently under development, check out the public roadmap here



Copilot will be your friend if you want to easily deploy your containerized application in a production-ready way.

Think about it again...

You are a few commands away from having an "Architecture patterns as a service" tool!

Be aware that Copilot is open source and that the repository can be found here. The team is sometimes releasing new versions several times per month and you are free to participate by opening issues or launching pull requests.

Feel free to reach me on Twitter (@FlolightC) to tell me about your AWS Copilot use case or to ask me questions ! I’m always happy to discuss with you!

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