Automating EBS Volume Attach at Boot Time

A few years ago, I found myself attaching volumes to instances with some frequency. The volume often came from a snapshot which contained some test data. Like any lazy programmer, I didn’t want to do this work over and over again! I wrote this little utility which would examine the user data and mount a pre-existing volume, or create a new volume from a snapshot and attach that. Here’s the code;

import java.util.List;
import java.util.StringTokenizer;


public class AttachVolume {

	public static void main(String [] args) {
		try {
			String userData = EC2Utils.getInstanceUserdata();
			StringTokenizer st = new StringTokenizer(userData);
			String accessId = st.nextToken();
			String secretKey = st.nextToken();
			String volumeOrSnapId = st.nextToken();

			Jec2 ec2 = new Jec2(accessId, secretKey);
			String volumeId = null;
			if (volumeOrSnapId.startsWith("snap-")) {
				String zone = EC2Utils.getInstanceMetadata("placement/availability-zone");
				// create volume from snapshot and wait
				VolumeInfo vinf = ec2.createVolume(null, volumeOrSnapId, zone);
				volumeId = vinf.getVolumeId();
				List<VolumeInfo> vols = ec2.describeVolumes(new String [] {volumeId});
				while (!vols.get(0).getStatus().equals("available")) {
					try { Thread.sleep(2); } catch (InterruptedException ex) {}
					vols = ec2.describeVolumes(new String [] {volumeId});
			if (volumeOrSnapId.startsWith("vol-")) {
				volumeId = volumeOrSnapId;
			// attach volume and wait
			String instanceId = EC2Utils.getInstanceMetadata("instance-id");
			ec2.attachVolume(volumeId, instanceId, "/dev/sdh");
			List<VolumeInfo> vols = ec2.describeVolumes(new String [] {volumeId});
			while (!vols.get(0).getAttachmentInfo().get(0).getStatus().equals("attached")) {
				try { Thread.sleep(2); } catch (InterruptedException ex) {}
				vols = ec2.describeVolumes(new String [] {volumeId});
		} catch (Exception ex) {
			System.err.println("Couldn't complete the attach : "+ex.getMessage());


  • Java Runtime Environment (1.5 or greater)
  • Typica + and it’s dependencies
  • This utility (compiled)

A Few Words About the Code

The first thing you’ll notice is that user data is being parsed. The expectations are that the following items are passed via user data;

  • access id – AWS Access Id
  • secret key – AWS Secret Key
  • volumeOrSnapId – either a volume ID or snapshot ID

The code inspects the last parameter to see if it is a snapshot id. If so, it creates a volume and waits for it to become “available”. One that’s done, it gets the instance ID from meta data and attaches the volume at a hard-coded device.  (obviously, this could be in user data which is an exercise I’ll leave to the reader)

On a linux machines, I’d often call this from the /etc/rc.local script. I should also note that this works just as well with Eucalyptus due to its API fidelity with Amazon EC2

There you have it!

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