About targets - AWS Systems Manager

About targets

The Targets parameter enables you to quickly define which resources in your fleet can run an Automation workflow. For example, if you want to run an Automation that restarts your managed instances, then instead of manually selecting dozens of instance IDs in the console or typing them in a command, you can target instances by specifying EC2 tags with the Targets parameter.

When you run an Automation that uses a target, Systems Manager creates a child Automation for each target. For example, if you target Amazon Elastic Block Store (Amazon EBS) volumes by specifying tags, and those tags resolve to 100 Amazon EBS volumes, then Systems Manager creates 100 child Automation workflows. The parent Automation is complete when all child Automations reach a final state.


Any input parameters that you specify at runtime (either in the Input parameters section of the console or by using the parameters option from the command line) are automatically processed by all child Automations.

You can target resources for an Automation execution by using tags, Resource Groups, and parameter values. Additionally, you can use the TargetMaps option to target multiple parameter values from the command line or a file. The following section describes each of these targeting options in more detail.

Targeting tags

Many AWS resources support tags, including Amazon EC2 and Amazon Relational Database Service (Amazon RDS) instances, Amazon Elastic Block Store (Amazon EBS) volumes and snapshots, Resource Groups, and Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3) buckets, to name a few. You can quickly run Automation workflows on your AWS resources by targeting tags. A tag is a key-value pair, such as Operating_System-Linux or Department-Finance. If you assign a specific name to a resource, then you can also use the word "Name" as a key, and the name of the resource as the value.

When you specify a tag as the target for an Automation, you also specify a target parameter. The target parameter uses the TargetParameterName option. By choosing a target parameter, you define the type of resource on which the Automation runs. The target parameter you specify with the tag must be a valid parameter defined in the Automation document. For example, if you want to target dozens of EC2 instances by using tags, then choose the InstanceId target parameter. By choosing this parameter, you define instances as the resource type for the Automation execution. The following screenshot uses the AWS-DetachEBSVolume document. The logical target parameter is VolumeId.

                            Using tags to target a Systems Manager Automation execution

The AWS-DetachEBSVolume document also includes a special property called Target type, which is set to /AWS::EC2::Volume. This means that if the tag-key pair Finance-TestEnv returns different types of resources (for example, EC2 instances, Amazon EBS volumes, Amazon EBS snapshots) then only Amazon EBS volumes will be used.


Target parameter names are case sensitive. If you run Automations by using either the AWS CLI or AWS Tools for Windows PowerShell, then you must enter the target parameter name exactly as it is defined in the Automation document. If you don't, the system returns an InvalidAutomationExecutionParametersException error. You can use the DescribeDocument API action to see information about the available target parameters in a specific document. Here is an example AWS CLI command that provides information about the AWS-DeleteSnapshot document:

aws ssm describe-document --name AWS-DeleteSnapshot

Here are some example AWS CLI commands that target resources by using tags.

Example 1: Targeting tags using a key-value pair to restart EC2 instances

This example restarts all EC2 instances that are tagged with a key of Department and a value of HumanResources. The target parameter uses the InstanceId parameter from the Automation document. The example uses an additional parameter to run the automation by using an Automation service role (also called an assume role).

aws ssm start-automation-execution --document-name AWS-RestartEC2Instance --targets Key=tag:Department,Values=HumanResources --target-parameter-name InstanceId --parameters "AutomationAssumeRole=arn:aws:iam::111122223333:role/AutomationServiceRole"

Example 2: Targeting tags using a key-value pair to delete Amazon EBS snapshots

The following example uses the AWS-DeleteSnapshot Automation document to delete all snapshots with a key of Name and a value of January2018Backups. The target parameter uses the VolumeId parameter.

aws ssm start-automation-execution --document-name AWS-DeleteSnapshot --targets Key=tag:Name,Values=January2018Backups --target-parameter-name VolumeId

Targeting AWS Resource Groups

You can specify a single AWS resource group as the target of an Automation. Systems Manager creates a child Automation for every object in the target Resource Group.

For example, say that one of your Resource Groups is named PatchedAMIs. This Resource Group includes a list of 25 Windows Amazon Machine Images (AMIs) that are routinely patched. If you run an Automation that uses the AWS-CreateManagedWindowsInstance document and target this Resource Group, then Systems Manager creates a child Automation for each of the 25 AMIs. This means, that by targeting the PatchedAMIs Resource Group, the Automation creates 25 instances from a list of patched AMIs. The parent Automation is complete when all child Automations complete processing or reach a final state.

The following AWS CLI command applies to the PatchAMIs Resource Group example. The command takes the AmiId parameter for the --target-parameter-name option. The command doesn't include an additional parameter defining which type of instance to create from each AMI. The AWS-CreateManagedWindowsInstance document defaults to the t2.medium instance type, so this command would create 25 t2.medium EC2 instances for Windows Server.

aws ssm start-automation-execution --document-name AWS-CreateManagedWindowsInstance --targets Key=ResourceGroup,Values=PatchedAMIs --target-parameter-name AmiId

The following console example uses a Resource Group called t2-micro-instances.

                            Using an AWS resource group to target a Systems Manager Automation

Targeting parameter values

You can also target a parameter value. You enter ParameterValues as the key and then enter the specific resource value where you want the Automation workflow to run. If you specify multiple values, Systems Manager runs a child Automation workflow on each value specified.

For example, say that your Automation document includes an InstanceID parameter. If you target the values of the InstanceID parameter when you run the Automation, then Systems Manager runs a child Automation for each instance ID value specified. The parent Automation is complete when the Automation finishes running each specified instance, or if the execution fails. You can target a maximum of 50 parameter values.

The following example uses the AWS-CreateImage Automation document. The target parameter name specified is InstanceId. The key uses ParameterValues. The values are two EC2 instance IDs. This command creates an Automation workflow for each instance, which produces an AMI from each instance.

aws ssm start-automation-execution --document-name AWS-CreateImage --target-parameter-name InstanceId --targets Key=ParameterValues,Values=i-02573cafcfEXAMPLE,i-0471e04240EXAMPLE

AutomationAssumeRole is not a valid parameter. Don’t choose this item when running Automation workflows that target a parameter value.

Targeting parameter value maps

The TargetMaps option expands your ability to target ParameterValues. You can enter an array of parameter values by using TargetMaps at the command line. You can specify a maximum of 50 parameter values at the command line. If you want to run commands that specify more than 50 parameter values, then you can enter the values in a JSON file. You can then call the file from the command line.


TargetMaps are not supported in the console.

Use the following format to specify multiple parameter values by using the TargetMaps option in a command:

aws ssm start-automation-execution —document-name name_of_document --target-maps “parameterA=parameterA1, parameterB=parameterB1, parameterC=parameterC1” “parameterA=parameterA2, parameterB=parameterB2, parameterC=parameterC2” “parameterA=parameterA3, parameterB=parameterB3, parameterC=parameterC3

If you want to enter more than 50 parameter values for the TargetMaps option, then specify the values in a file by using the following JSON format. Using a JSON file also improves readability when providing multiple parameter values.

[ {“parameterA”:”parameterValueA1”, “parameterB”:”parameterValueB1”, “parameterC”:”parameterValueC1”}, {“parameterA”:”parameterValueA2”, “parameterB”:”parameterValueB2”, “parameterC”:”parameterValueC2”}, {“parameterA”:”parameterValueA3”, “parameterB”:”parameterValueB3”, “parameterC”:”parameterValueC3”} ]

Save the file with a .json file extension. You can call the file by using the following command:

aws ssm start-automation-execution --document-name name_of_document –-parameters one_or_more_input_parameters --target-maps full_path_to_file/file_name.json

You can also download the file from an S3 bucket, as long as you have permission to read data from the bucket. Use the following command format:

aws ssm start-automation-execution —document-name name_of_document --target-maps http://bucket_name.s3.amazonaws.com/file_name.json

Here is an example scenario to help you understand the TargetMaps option. In this scenario, a user wants to create EC2 instances of different types from different AMIs. To perform this task, the user creates an Automation document named AMI_Testing. This document defines two input parameters: instanceType and imageId.

{ "description": "AMI Testing", "schemaVersion": "0.3", "assumeRole": "{{assumeRole}}", "parameters": { "assumeRole": { "type": "String", "description": "Role under which to run the automation", "default": "" }, "instanceType": { "type": "String", "description": "Type of EC2 Instance to launch for this test" }, "imageId": { "type": "String", "description": "Source AMI id from which to run instance" } }, "mainSteps": [ { "name": "runInstances", "action": "aws:runInstances", "maxAttempts": 1, "onFailure": "Abort", "inputs": { "ImageId": "{{imageId}}", "InstanceType": "{{instanceType}}", "MinInstanceCount": 1, "MaxInstanceCount": 1 } } ], "outputs": [ "runInstances.InstanceIds" ] }

The user then specifies the following target parameter values in a file named AMI_instance_types.json.

[ { "instanceType" : ["t2.micro"], "imageId" : ["ami-b70554c8"] }, { "instanceType" : ["t2.small"], "imageId" : ["ami-b70554c8"] }, { "instanceType" : ["t2.medium"], "imageId" : ["ami-cfe4b2b0"] }, { "instanceType" : ["t2.medium"], "imageId" : ["ami-cfe4b2b0"] }, { "instanceType" : ["t2.medium"], "imageId" : ["ami-cfe4b2b0"] } ]

The user can run the Automation and create the five EC2 instances defined in AMI_instance_types.json by running the following command:

aws ssm start-automation-execution --document-name AMI_Testing --target-parameter-name imageId --target-maps file:///home/TestUser/workspace/runinstances/AMI_instance_types.json

Targeting all instances

You can run an Automation on all managed instances in the current AWS account and Region by choosing All instances in the Targets list. For example, if you want to restart all managed instances your AWS account and the current Region, you can choose the AWS-RestartEC2Instance document and then choose All instances from the Targets list.

                            Targeting all instances for an automation document

After you choose All instances, Systems Manager populates the Instance field with an asterisk (*) and makes the field unavailable for changes (the field is grayed out). Systems Manager also makes the InstanceId field in the Input parameters field unavailable for changes. Making these fields unavailable for changes is expected behavior if you choose to target all instances.