What Is EC2 Image Builder? - EC2 Image Builder

What Is EC2 Image Builder?

EC2 Image Builder is a fully managed AWS service that makes it easier to automate the creation, management, and deployment of customized, secure, and up-to-date “golden” server images that are pre-installed and pre-configured with software and settings to meet specific IT standards.

You can use the AWS Management Console, AWS CLI, or APIs to create “golden” images in your AWS account. When you use the AWS Management Console, the Image Builder wizard guides you through steps to:

  • Provide starting artifacts

  • Add and remove software

  • Customize settings and scripts

  • Run selected tests

  • Distribute images to AWS Regions

The images you build are created in your account and you can configure them for operating system patches on an ongoing basis.

For troubleshooting and debugging your image deployment, you can configure build logs to be added to your Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3) bucket. You can also configure an SNS topic to receive notifications of image build status, and associate an Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) key pair with your instance to perform manual debugging and inspection.

Along with a final image, Image Builder creates an image recipe, which is a combination of the source image and components for a build. You can use the image recipe with existing source code version control systems and continuous integration/continuous deployment pipelines for repeatable automation.

Features of EC2 Image Builder

EC2 Image Builder provides the following features:

Increase productivity and reduce operations for building compliant and up-to-date images

Image Builder reduces the amount of work involved in creating and managing images at scale by automating your build pipelines. You can automate your builds by providing your build execution schedule preference. Automation reduces the operational cost of maintaining your software with the latest operating system patches.

Increase service uptime

Image Builder allows you to test your images before deployment with both AWS-provided and customized tests. AWS will distribute your image only if all of the configured tests have succeeded.

Raise the security bar for deployments

Image Builder allows you to create images that remove unnecessary exposure to component security vulnerabilities. You can apply AWS security settings to create secure, out-of-the-box images that meet industry and internal security criteria. Image Builder also provides collections of settings for companies in regulated industries. You can use these settings to help you quickly and easily build compliant images for STIG standards. For a complete list of STIG components available through Image Builder, see EC2 Image Builder STIG Components.

Centralized enforcement and lineage tracking

Using built-in integrations with AWS Organizations, Image Builder enables you to enforce policies that restrict accounts to run instances only from approved AMIs.

Supported Operating Systems

Image Builder supports the following operating systems:

  • Amazon Linux 2

  • Windows Server 2019/2016/2012 R2

Supported Image Formats

You can choose an existing AMI as a starting point to build your images.


The following terminology and concepts are central to your understanding and use of EC2 Image Builder.


An Amazon Machine Image (AMI) is the basic unit of deployment in Amazon EC2. An AMI is a pre-configured VM image that contains the OS and preinstalled software to deploy EC2 instances. For more information, see Amazon Machine Images (AMI).

Image Pipeline

An image pipeline is the automation configuration for building secure OS images on AWS. The Image Builder image pipeline is associated with an image recipe that defines the build, validation, and test phases for an image build lifecycle. An image pipeline can be associated with an infrastructure configuration that defines where your image is built. You can define attributes, such as instance type, subnets, security groups, logging, and other infrastructure-related configurations. You can also associate your image pipeline with a distribution configuration to define how you would like to deploy your image.

Image Recipe

An Image Builder image recipe is a document that defines the source image and the components to be applied to the source image to produce the desired configuration for the output image. You can use an image recipe to duplicate builds. Image Builder image recipes can be shared, branched, and edited using the console wizard, the AWS CLI, or the API. You can use image recipes with your version control software to maintain shareable versioned image recipes.

Source Image

The source image is the selected image and OS used in your image recipe document along with the components. The source image and the component definitions combined produce the desired configuration for the output image.

Build Components

Build components are orchestration documents that define a sequence of steps for downloading, installing, and configuring software packages. They also define validation and security hardening steps. A component is defined using a YAML document format (as described in the following Document entry).

Test Components

Test components are orchestration documents that define tests to run on software packages. A component is defined using a YAML document format (see the following Document entry).


A declarative document that uses the YAML format to list the execution steps for build, validation, and test of an AMI on an instance. The document is input to a configuration management application, which runs locally on an Amazon EC2 instance to execute the document steps.


There is no cost to use EC2 Image Builder. There may be costs associated with launching an Amazon EC2 instance and storing logs on Amazon S3, for validating images with Amazon Inspector, and for AMI storage for Amazon EBS Snapshots, depending on the configuration of your image. If you enable Systems Manager Advanced Tier and run EC2 instances with on-premises activation, you may be charged for resources through Systems Manager.

EC2 Image Builder uses other AWS services to build images. Depending on your Image Builder image recipe configuration, the following services may be used.

AWS License Manager

AWS License Manager allows you to create and apply license configurations from an account license configuration store. For each AMI, you can use Image Builder to attach to a preexisting license configuration that your AWS account has access to as part of the Image Builder workflow. License configurations can be applied only to AMIs. Image Builder can use only preexisting license configurations and cannot directly create or modify license configurations. License Manager settings will not replicate across AWS Regions that must be enabled in your account, for example, between the ap-east-1 (HKG) and the me-south-1 (BAH) Regions.

AWS Organizations

AWS Organizations allows you to apply Service Control Policies (SCP) on accounts in your organization. You can create, manage, enable, and disable individual policies. Similar to all other AWS artifacts and services, Image Builder honors the policies defined in AWS Organizations. AWS provides template SCPs for common scenarios, such as enforcing constraints on member accounts to launch instances with only approved AMIs.

Amazon Inspector

Image Builder uses Amazon Inspector as the default vulnerability scanning agent to establish security baselines for Amazon Linux 2, Windows Server 2012, and Windows Server 2016. For more information, see What is Amazon Inspector?

AWS Systems Manager (SSM) Automation

A Systems Manager automation document defines the actions that Systems Manager performs on your managed instances and AWS resources. SSM documents use JSON or YAML and include steps and parameters that you specify. The steps you specify run in sequential order. Automation documents are Systems Manager documents of type Automation, as opposed to Command and Policy documents. For more information, see AWS Systems Manager Automation.

AWS Resource Access Manager

AWS Resource Access Manager (AWS RAM) lets you share your resources with any AWS account or through AWS Organizations. If you have multiple AWS accounts, you can create resources centrally and use AWS RAM to share those resources with other accounts. EC2 Image Builder allows sharing for the following resources: components, images, and image recipes. For more information about AWS RAM, see the AWS Resource Access Manager User Guide. For information about sharing Image Builder resources, see Resource Sharing in EC2 Image Builder.