Rotating EBS Snapshots

If you use Elastic Block Storage (EBS) for storing your files on your ec2 instances you more than likely backup those files using the ec2 snapshots. If you don’t already do this you should probably start, as EBS volumes are not 100% fault tolerant, and can (and do) degrade just like normal drives. A good script for taking snapshots of data can be found on the website, called ec2-consistent-snapshot. You can find all the information for this script here:

How to Rotate EBS Snapshots

After using the ec2-consistent-snapshot script for a while I realized I would eventually need to find something to rotate these backups as they were growing out of control. Some of our volumes were having snapshots done every hour, and that was adding up quickly. Google provided me with no easy solution for rotating the snapshots, so I decided to write my own script.

Essentially what I wanted was to have a script that would rotate the snapshots in Grandfather-Father-Son type setup. I wanted to have hourly backups kept for 24 hours, daily kept for a week, weekly kept for a month, and monthly kept for a year. Anything older than that I don’t want, however the script can be tweaked to allow for older backups.

Basically what the script does is the following:

  • Gets a list of all snapshots and puts them into an array indexed by the volume and the date the snapshot was taken
  • For a given volume organize the snapshots so that there are only hourly snapshots for 1 day, daily snapshots for 1 week, weekly snapshots for 1 month, and monthly snapshots for 1 year and collect which snapshots require deleting.
  • Delete the snapshots that are set for delete.

I wrote the script in PHP, mainly because it is what I feel most comfortable using. I am also once again using the Amazon PHP library. Here is the script in it’s entirety.

 * rotate-ebs-snapshots.php
 * Author: Stefan Klopp
 * Website:
 * Requires: Amazon ec2 PHP Library

ini_set("include_path", ".:../:./include:../include:/PATH/TO/THIS/SCRIPT");

// include the amazon php library

// include our configuration file with out ACCESS KEY and SECRET
include_once ('');

$service = new Amazon_EC2_Client(AWS_ACCESS_KEY_ID,

// setup our array of snapshots
$snap_array = setup_snapshot_array();

// call to rotate (you can call this for every volume you want to rotate)

 * Used to setup an array of all snapshots for a given aws account
function setup_snapshot_array() {
    global $service;
    // Get a list of all EBS snapshots
    $response = $service->describeSnapshots($request);

    $snap_array = array();

    if ($response->isSetDescribeSnapshotsResult()) {
        $describeSnapshotsResult = $response->getDescribeSnapshotsResult();
        $snapshotList = $describeSnapshotsResult->getSnapshot();
        foreach ($snapshotList as $snapshot) {
            if ($snapshot->getStatus() == 'completed') {

                    // date is in the format of 2009-04-30T15:32:00.000Z
                    list($date, $time) = split("T", $snapshot->getStartTime());

                    list($year, $month, $day) = split("-", $date);
                    list($hour, $min, $second) = split(":", $time);

                    // convert the date to unix time
                    $time = mktime($hour, $min, 0, $month, $day, $year);

                    $new_row = array(
                    // add to our array of snapshots indexed by the volume_id
                    $snap_array[$new_row['volume_id']][$new_row['start_time']] = $new_row;

    // sort each volumes snapshots by the date it was created
    foreach ($snap_array as $vol=>$vol_snap_array) {
            $snap_array[$vol] = $vol_snap_array;


 * Used to rotate the snapshots
function rotate_standard_volume($vol_id) {
        global $snap_array, $service;

        // calculate the date ranges for snapshots
        $one_day = time() - 86400;
        $one_week = time() - 604800;
        $one_month = time() - 2629743;
        $one_year = time() - 31556926;

        $hourly_snaps = array();
        $daily_snaps = array();
        $weekly_snaps = array();
        $monthly_snaps = array();
        $delete_snaps = array();

        echo "Beginning rotation of volume: {$vol_id}\n";

        foreach($snap_array[$vol_id] as $time=>$snapshot) {

                echo "Testing snapshot {$snapshot['snapshot_id']} with a date of ".date("F d, Y @ G:i:s", $time)."... ";

                if ($time >=  $one_day) {
                        echo "Snapshot is within a day lets keep it.\n";
                        $hourly_snaps[$time] = $snapshot;
                elseif ($time < $one_day &#038;&#038; $time >= $one_week) {
                        $ymd = date("Ymd", $time);
                        echo "Snapshot is daily {$ymd}.\n";

                        if (is_array($daily_snaps[$ymd])) {
                                echo "Already have a snapshot for {$ymd}, lets delete this snap.\n";
                                $delete_snaps[] = $snapshot;
                        else {
                                $daily_snaps[$ymd] = $snapshot;
                elseif ($time < $one_week &#038;&#038; $time >= $one_month) {
                        $week = date("W", $time);
                        echo "Snapshot is weekly {$week}.\n";

                        if (is_array($weekly_snaps[$week])) {
                                echo "Already have a snapshot for week {$week}, lets delete this snap.\n";
                                $delete_snaps[] = $snapshot;
                        else {
                                $weekly_snaps[$week] = $snapshot;
                elseif ($time < $one_month &#038;&#038; $time >= $one_year) {
                        $month = date("m", $time);
                        echo "Snapshot is monthly {$month}.\n";

                        if (is_array($monthly_snaps[$month])) {
                                echo "Already have a snapshot for month {$month}, lets delete this snap.\n";
                                $delete_snaps[] = $snapshot;
                        else {
                                $monthly_snaps[$month] = $snapshot;
                        echo "Snapshot older than year old, lets delete it.\n";
                        $delete_snaps[] = $snapshot;

        foreach ($delete_snaps as $snapshot) {
                echo "Delete snapshot {$snapshot['snapshot_id']} with date ".date("F d, Y @ H:i", $snapshot['start_time'])." forever.\n";
                $request = new Amazon_EC2_Model_DeleteSnapshotRequest();
                $response = $service->deleteSnapshot($request);
        echo "\n";

You can either run the script by editing the call to rotate_standard_volume. You can call this method for each volume you wish to rotate snapshots for. Also feel free to change the values of the date ranges to keep snapshots for a given date range for longer or shorter periods.

Finally to make this script effective you should have it run at least once a day via cron.


If you are like me and utilize EBS snapshots for backups of your data you will likely need to rotate those snapshots at some point. With the script above you should be able to quickly and easily rotate your snapshots. With a few tweaks you should be able to easily customize the rotation schedule to suit your needs.

Resyncing a Slave to a Master in MySQL with Amazon Web Services

My latest blog post on Resyncing a Slave to a Master in MySQL made me think of how I could achieve the same result in the cloud using amazon web services (AWS). Of note, the previous guide would work just fine in the cloud to resync a slave and a master, however there is an alternative way using the tools the AWS provides.

Lets assume that in the cloud we had two ec2 instances setup running mysql in a master slave configuration, and that each server was using Elastic Block Storage (EBS). Essentially the procedure would be very similar, apart from the transfer of data from one machine to the other.

Amazon Web Services provides the ability to create snapshots of an EBS volume. Creating a snapshot is quick, and once it has been created, you can mount the snapshot on any of your instances. This makes the backup portion even easier.

From my previous article you would proceed with steps 1-6. Then instead of step 7 you would first create a snapshot of the slaves EBS volume. You can either do this via the firefox ElasticFox plugin or the command line tools as follows:

ec2-create-snapshot VOLUME_ID -d "Mysql snapshot for resync of slaves"

Once the snapshot is created you then need to create a new volume for the snapshot. Again in ElasticFox this is as easy as right clicking the snapshot and selecting “create a new volume from this snapshot”. From command line:

ec2-create-volume --snapshot SNAPSHOT_ID -z ZONE

Finally our last step is to attach this volume to the master MySQL instance and mount it. In ElasticFox you right click the new volume and select “attach this volume”. From command line you would run:

ec2-attach-volume VOLUME_ID -i INSTANCE_ID -d DEVICE

Once the volume is attached you can them mount it on the master server to a temporary folder, copy over all of the folders you need to the mysql directory, then proceed with step 8 of my previous guide. When everything is working correctly you can then unmount the newly created volume from the instance, and delete it.

Overall the two approaches are very similar, and both will work. File transfer between instances in the cloud is extremely quick, however so is creating new snapshots and attaching them to instances. Ultimately it is up to you to decide which route to take.