Amazon EC2 Container Service
Developer Guide (API Version 2014-11-13)

Service Load Balancing

Your Amazon ECS service can optionally be configured to use Elastic Load Balancing to distribute traffic evenly across the tasks in your service.

Elastic Load Balancing provides two types of load balancers: Application Load Balancers and Classic Load Balancers.

Application Load Balancer

An Application Load Balancer makes routing decisions at the application layer (HTTP/HTTPS), supports path-based routing, and can route requests to one or more ports on each container instance in your cluster. Application Load Balancers support dynamic host port mapping. For example, if your task's container definition specifies port 80 for an NGINX container port, and port 0 for the host port, then the host port is dynamically chosen from the ephemeral port range of the container instance (such as 32768 to 61000 on the latest Amazon ECS-optimized AMI). When the task is launched, the NGINX container is registered with the Application Load Balancer as an instance ID and port combination, and traffic is distributed to the instance ID and port corresponding to that container. This dynamic mapping allows you to have multiple tasks from a single service on the same container instance. For more information, see the Application Load Balancer Guide.

            Application Load Balancer

Classic Load Balancer

A Classic Load Balancer makes routing decisions at either the transport layer (TCP/SSL) or the application layer (HTTP/HTTPS). Classic Load Balancers currently require a fixed relationship between the load balancer port and the container instance port. For example, it is possible to map the load balancer port 80 to the container instance port 3030 and the load balancer port 4040 to the container instance port 4040. However, it is not possible to map the load balancer port 80 to port 3030 on one container instance and port 4040 on another container instance. This static mapping requires that your cluster has at least as many container instances as the desired count of a single service that uses a Classic Load Balancer. For more information, see the Classic Load Balancer Guide.

            Classic Load Balancer

Amazon ECS services can use either type of load balancer. However, Application Load Balancers offer several new features that make them particularly attractive for use with Amazon ECS services:

  • Application Load Balancers allow containers to use dynamic host port mapping (so that multiple tasks from the same service are allowed per container instance).

  • Application Load Balancers support path-based routing and priority rules (so that multiple services can use the same listener port on a single Application Load Balancer).

We recommend using Application Load Balancers for your Amazon ECS services so that you can take advantage of these latest features. For more information about Elastic Load Balancing and the differences between the two load balancer types, see the Elastic Load Balancing User Guide.


Currently, Amazon ECS services can only specify a single load balancer or target group. If your service requires access to multiple load balanced ports (for example, port 80 and port 443 for an HTTP/HTTPS service), you must use a Classic Load Balancer with multiple listeners. To use an Application Load Balancer, separate the single HTTP/HTTPS service into two services, where each handles requests for different ports. Then, each service could use a different target group behind a single Application Load Balancer.

Load Balancing Concepts

  • All of the containers that are launched in a single task definition are always placed on the same container instance. For Classic Load Balancers, you may choose to put multiple containers (in the same task definition) behind the same load balancer by defining multiple host ports in the service definition and adding those listener ports to the load balancer. For example, if a task definition consists of Elasticsearch using port 3030 on the container instance, with Logstash and Kibana using port 4040 on the container instance, the same load balancer can route traffic to Elasticsearch and Kibana through two listeners. For more information, see Listeners for Your Classic Load Balancer in the Classic Load Balancer Guide.


    We do not recommend connecting multiple services to the same Classic Load Balancer. Because entire container instances are registered and deregistered with Classic Load Balancers (and not host and port combinations), this configuration can cause issues if a task from one service stops, causing the entire container instance to be deregistered from the Classic Load Balancer while another task from a different service on the same container instance is still using it. If you want to connect multiple services to a single load balancer (for example, to save costs), we recommend using an Application Load Balancer.

  • There is a limit of one load balancer or target group per service.

  • Your load balancer subnet configuration must include all Availability Zones that your container instances reside in.

  • After you create a service, the target group ARN or load balancer name, container name, and container port specified in the service definition are immutable. You cannot add, remove, or change the load balancer configuration of an existing service. If you update the task definition for the service, the container name and container port that were specified when the service was created must remain in the task definition.

  • If a service's task fails the load balancer health check criteria, the task is killed and restarted. This process continues until your service reaches the number of desired running tasks.

  • If you are experiencing problems with your load balancer-enabled services, see Troubleshooting Service Load Balancers.

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