AWS CloudFormation Review

A stable solution with good ability to treat infrastructure's code and makes things automatable and reproducible


What is our primary use case?

CloudFormation drives most of our AWS configuration. It is the configuration engine for our whole footprint. Literally, everything that we configure in AWS is configured in CloudFormation. We are using its latest version.

What is most valuable?

Its ability to treat infrastructure's code is valuable. It makes things automatable and reproducible.

What needs improvement?

CloudFormation is not particularly good at handling cross-account dynamic references. If you try to refer to an object that CloudFormation has created in a separate AWS account, it tends to fall apart. That's because it is a byproduct of the multi-tenant configuration. This is the most glaring shortcoming in my perspective because you can't dynamically reference objects in other accounts that CloudFormation has created, but it is not a shortcoming that you can't overcome. This is the only pain point that I've come across that didn't have a workaround natively. Sometimes the confirmation is slow, and it could be faster.

The downside to CloudFormation when you're fully embracing it is that the AWS services do not get released immediately fully CloudFormation enabled. If you need to use the latest AWS service that just got announced or reinvented, you're not going to be able to continue with CloudFormation for the first X number of months. This is because they develop the products separately, and then they hand it to the CloudFormation team, which later on develops a CloudFormation integration. So, if you need to be on the newest thing AWS has, CloudFormation is often going to be a constraint that prevents you from doing that.

For how long have I used the solution?

I have been using this solution for four years.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

It is stable. Crashing is not really a concern. There are edge conditions that probably started off as bugs, but they're pretty well understood. There isn't an issue related to stability, reliability, or anything like that. 

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

It scales as well as AWS does. Scaling is not a consideration in CloudFormation. You scale the things that feed your templates. In the end, you let AWS itself handle the scaling. Therefore, CloudFormation itself is not under scaling considerations.

Our users of this solution are software engineers, DevOps engineers, and SecOps engineers.

How are customer service and technical support?

Their tech support is very good at addressing failures. I would rate them an eight out of ten.

Which solution did I use previously and why did I switch?

I have used other solutions but not in AWS. To solve this problem, CloudFormation is the only thing I've used in AWS.

How was the initial setup?

It all depends on how much you're trying to do with it. The more you're trying to do with it, the more initial load you have to do. If you're just trying to retrieve a single object, you just write a confirmation template to load it up in there. There's nothing else to be done.

It is very quick and almost instant to bootstrap from nothing. I have a confirmation template that does it for me, but obviously, in AWS, doing a thing is not all you do. You do many things layered on top of each other. To get to something truly functional takes some time, but I would say it is pretty quick.

What other advice do I have?

I would rate AWS CloudFormation an eight out of ten. It does what it is supposed to do, but there are certainly ways in which it could be extended, and there are certain ways using which it could be integrated earlier into their release cycle.

Which deployment model are you using for this solution?

Public Cloud
**Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
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