Targetting Automation Executions against Resource Groups

This blog explains targetting Systems Manager Automation Executions against Resource Groups.

Resource Groups

AWS Systems Manager introduces the concept of Resource Groups. Resource Groups are a way to create a logical group of resources. Resource Groups are living queries based on tag conditions. It is a query because it represents a filtered set of resource instances (of same or different resource types) from your environment based on a set of tag based conditions and it is living because the system periodically refreshes this filtered list.

For instance, if you create a Resource Group representing an Auto Scaling Group, then the Resource group will contain instances in the ASG at any given point in time. Depending on various factors the number of instances in an ASG will vary. This gets reflected in the number of instances in a Resource Group. A more complex example of a resource group can represent all resources in your HR application including EC2 instance, S3 buckets, EBS volumes, etc.

A Resource group can therefore be used to represent all resources associated with a particular workload such as different layers of an application stack, or production versus development environments, etc.

Executing Automation targetting Resource Groups

Target Type

Automation Documents can be executed against a Resource Group. When a resource group contains resources of different types (EC2 instances, S3 buckets, etc) what exactly does targetting a resource group mean. Let us take a closer look at the same.

Automation Documents now support defining a target type. This implies what type of resources the execution of this document targets. The target type can be viewed using the following AWS CLI

aws ssm list-documents --filters 'Key=DocumentType, Values=Automation'                

Here is a sample

  "TargetType": "/AWS::EC2::Instance", 
  "Name": "AWS-TerminateEC2Instance", 
  "PlatformTypes": [
  "DocumentVersion": "1", 
  "DocumentType": "Automation", 
  "Owner": "Amazon", 

The PowerShell equivalent of the same is

$Filter = New-Object Amazon.SimpleSystemsManagement.Model.DocumentKeyValuesFilter                
Get-SSMDocumentList -Filter $Filter 

Note TargetType is not a mandatory parameter and only one target type can be specified for an automation document.

The values for TargetType are the same as defined by AWS Cloudformation. All resource type definitions can be found here

Execution targetting Resource Groups

When an automation execution is targetted against a resource group, the Automation service will filter the resources from the resource group based on the target type of the automation document. It then applies rate control (execute against N at a time) for automation executions against these filtered set of resources. For instance, for the Automation document AWS-StopEC2Instance, the target type is /AWS::EC2::Instance. When this document is executed against a resource group, Automation service will filter all EC2 instances from the resource group, apply rate control and execute the automation.

Note that when no target type is defined on the document, there will be no filtering and the execution will be against all resources in the resource group.

Executing an automation document against a resource group can be invoked using the following AWS CLI

aws ssm start-automation-execution --document-name AWS-StopEC2Instance --targets Key=ResourceGroup,Values=resource-group-1 --target-parameter-name InstanceId
  • Key=ResourceGroup indicates that the targetting is against a Resource Group
  • Values=resource-group-1 indicates the value of the resource group that is being targetted
  • target-parameter-name InstanceId indicates the name of the parameter in the Automation document on which the targetting happens

The PowerShell equivalent of the same is below

$target = New-Object Amazon.SimpleSystemsManagement.Model.Target                                                                              

Start-SSMAutomationExecution -DocumentName 'AWS-StopEC2Instance' -Target $target -TargetParameterName 'InstanceId'
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