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Auto Scaling
User Guide

Dynamic Scaling

When you use Auto Scaling to scale dynamically, you must define how you want to scale in response to changing demand. For example, say you have a web application that currently runs on two instances. You want to launch two additional instances when the load on the current instances rises to 70 percent, and then you want to terminate those additional instances when the load falls to 40 percent. You can configure your Auto Scaling group to scale automatically based on these conditions.

An Auto Scaling group uses a combination of alarms and policies to determine when the conditions for scaling are met. An alarm is an object that watches over a single metric (for example, the average CPU utilization of the EC2 instances in your Auto Scaling group) over a specified time period. When the value of the metric breaches the threshold that you defined, for the number of time periods that you specified, the alarm performs one or more actions (such as sending messages to Auto Scaling). A policy is a set of instructions that tells Auto Scaling how to respond to alarm messages.

To set up dynamic scaling, you must create alarms and scaling policies and associate them with your Auto Scaling group. We recommend that you create two policies for each scaling change that you want to perform: one policy to scale out and another policy to scale in. After the alarm sends a message to Auto Scaling, Auto Scaling executes the associated policy to scale your group in (by terminating instances) or out (by launching instances). The process is as follows:

  1. Amazon CloudWatch monitors the specified metrics for all the instances in the Auto Scaling group.

  2. As demand grows or shrinks, the change is reflected in the metrics.

  3. When the change in the metrics breaches the threshold of the CloudWatch alarm, the alarm performs an action. Depending on the breach, the action is a message sent to either the scale-in policy or the scale-out policy.

  4. After the Auto Scaling policy receives the message, Auto Scaling performs the scaling activity for the Auto Scaling group.

  5. This process continues until you delete either the scaling policies or the Auto Scaling group.

Scaling Adjustment Types

When a scaling policy is executed, it changes the current capacity of your Auto Scaling group using the scaling adjustment specified in the policy. A scaling adjustment can't change the capacity of the group above the maximum group size or below the minimum group size.

Auto Scaling supports the following adjustment types:

  • ChangeInCapacity—Increase or decrease the current capacity of the group by the specified number of instances. A positive value increases the capacity and a negative adjustment value decreases the capacity.

    Example: If the current capacity of the group is 3 instances and the adjustment is 5, then when this policy is performed, Auto Scaling adds 5 instances to the group for a total of 8 instances.

  • ExactCapacity—Change the current capacity of the group to the specified number of instances. Note that you must specify a positive value with this adjustment type.

    Example: If the current capacity of the group is 3 instances and the adjustment is 5, then when this policy is performed, Auto Scaling changes the capacity to 5 instances.

  • PercentChangeInCapacity—Increment or decrement the current capacity of the group by the specified percentage. A positive value increases the capacity and a negative value decreases the capacity. If the resulting value is not an integer, Auto Scaling rounds it as follows:

    • Values greater than 1 are rounded down. For example, 12.7 is rounded to 12.

    • Values between 0 and 1 are rounded to 1. For example, .67 is rounded to 1.

    • Values between 0 and -1 are rounded to -1. For example, -.58 is rounded to -1.

    • Values less than -1 are rounded up. For example, -6.67 is rounded to -6.

    Example: If the current capacity is 10 instances and the adjustment is 10 percent, then when this policy is performed, Auto Scaling adds 1 instance to the group for a total of 11 instances.

Scaling Policy Types

When you create a scaling policy, you must specify its policy type. The policy type determines how the scaling action is performed. Auto Scaling supports the following policy types:

  • Simple scaling—Increase or decrease the current capacity of the group based on a single scaling adjustment.

  • Step scaling—Increase or decrease the current capacity of the group based on a set of scaling adjustments, known as step adjustments, that vary based on the size of the alarm breach.

Simple Scaling Policies

After a scaling activity is started, the policy must wait for the scaling activity or health check replacement to complete and the cooldown period to expire before it can respond to additional alarms. Cooldown periods help to prevent Auto Scaling from initiating additional scaling activities before the effects of previous activities are visible. You can use the default cooldown period associated with your Auto Scaling group, or you can override the default by specifying a cooldown period for your policy. For more information, see Auto Scaling Cooldowns.

Note that Auto Scaling originally supported only this type of scaling policy. If you created your scaling policy before policy types were introduced, your policy is treated as a simple scaling policy.

Step Scaling Policies

After a scaling activity is started, the policy continues to respond to additional alarms, even while a scaling activity or health check replacement is in progress. Therefore, all alarms that are breached are evaluated by Auto Scaling as it receives the alarm messages. If you are creating a policy to scale out, you can specify the estimated warm-up time that it will take for a newly launched instance to be ready to contribute to the aggregated metrics. For more information, see Instance Warmup.

Note

Cooldown periods are not supported for step scaling policies. Therefore, you can't specify a cooldown period for these policies and the default cooldown period for the group doesn't apply.

We recommend that you use step scaling policies even if you have a single step adjustment, because we continuously evaluate alarms and do not lock the group during scaling activities or health check replacements.

Step Adjustments

When you create a step scaling policy, you add one or more step adjustments, which enables you to scale based on the size of the alarm breach. Each step adjustment specifies a lower bound for the metric value, an upper bound for the metric value, and the amount by which to scale, based on the scaling adjustment type.

There are a few rules for the step adjustments for your policy:

  • The ranges of your step adjustments can't overlap or have a gap.

  • At most one step adjustment can have a null lower bound (negative infinity). If one step adjustment has a negative lower bound, then there must be a step adjustment with a null lower bound.

  • At most one step adjustment can have a null upper bound (positive infinity). If one step adjustment has a positive upper bound, then there must be a step adjustment with a null upper bound.

  • The upper and lower bound can't be null in the same step adjustment.

  • If the metric value is above the breach threshold, the lower bound is inclusive and the upper bound is exclusive. If the metric value is below the breach threshold, the lower bound is exclusive and the upper bound is inclusive.

If you are using the API or the CLI, you specify the upper and lower bounds relative to the value of the aggregated metric. If you are using the AWS Management Console, you specify the upper and lower bounds as absolute values.

Auto Scaling applies the aggregation type to the metric data points from all instances and compares the aggregated metric value against the upper and lower bounds defined by the step adjustments to determine which step adjustment to perform. For example, suppose that you have an alarm with a breach threshold of 50 and a scaling adjustment type of PercentChangeInCapacity. You also have scale out and scale in policies with the following step adjustments:

Scale out policy
Lower boundUpper boundAdjustmentMetric value

0

10

0

50 <= value < 60

10

20

10

60 <= value < 70

20

null

30

70 <= value < +infinity

Scale in policy

Lower boundUpper boundAdjustmentMetric value

-10

0

0

40 < value <= 50

-20

-10

-10

30 < value <= 40

null

-20

-30

-infinity < value <= 30

Your group has both a current capacity and a desired capacity of 10 instances. The group maintains its current and desired capacity while the aggregated metric value is greater than 40 and less than 60.

If the metric value gets to 60, Auto Scaling increases the desired capacity of the group by 1 instance, to 11 instances, based on the second step adjustment of the scale-out policy (add 10 percent of 10 instances). After the new instance is running and its specified warm-up time has expired, Auto Scaling increases the current capacity of the group to 11 instances. If the metric value rises to 70 even after this increase in capacity, Auto Scaling increases the desired capacity of the group by another 3 instances, to 14 instances, based on the third step adjustment of the scale-out policy (add 30 percent of 11 instances, 3.3 instances, rounded down to 3 instances).

If the metric value gets to 40, Auto Scaling decreases the desired capacity of the group by 1 instance, to 13 instances, based on the second step adjustment of the scale-in policy (remove 10 percent of 14 instances, 1.4 instances, rounded down to 1 instance). If the metric value falls to 30 even after this decrease in capacity, Auto Scaling decreases the desired capacity of the group by another 3 instances, to 10 instances, based on the third step adjustment of the scale-in policy (remove 30 percent of 13 instances, 3.9 instances, rounded down to 3 instances).

Instance Warmup

With step scaling policies, you can specify the number of seconds that it takes for a newly launched instance to warm up. Until its specified warm-up time has expired, an instance is not counted toward the aggregated metrics of the Auto Scaling group.

While scaling out, Auto Scaling does not consider instances that are warming up as part of the current capacity of the group. Therefore, multiple alarm breaches that fall in the range of the same step adjustment result in a single scaling activity. This ensures that we don't add more instances than you need. Using the example in the previous section, suppose that the metric gets to 60, and then it gets to 62 while the new instance is still warming up. The current capacity is still 10 instances, so Auto Scaling should add 1 instance (10 percent of 10 instances), but the desired capacity of the group is already 11 instances, so Auto Scaling does not increase the desired capacity further. However, if the metric gets to 70 while the new instance is still warming up, Auto Scaling should add 3 instances (30 percent of 10 instances), but the desired capacity of the group is already 11, so Auto Scaling adds only 2 instances, for a new desired capacity of 13 instances.

While scaling in, Auto Scaling considers instances that are terminating as part of the current capacity of the group. Therefore, we won't remove more instances from the Auto Scaling group than necessary.

Note that a scale in activity can't start while a scale out activity is in progress.