Building Your Own AMI
Is fairly annoying. If you want to build a AMI for instances in your VPC, you need to build them in a VPC. If you want to build them without modifying your NAT setup, you need to be VPN'd into your VPC. Good thing I have a VPN set up I guess, though it was a bit of a pain even then. Looking back. I could've created a VPC just for AMI building. Whoops.
The other issue I ran into is the Go library I've been using to make VM images, packer. It enjoys to error out talking to EC2--for no good reason. It constantly times out or errors on creating and getting info about resources. I had to patch and build packer manually (not a fun process). It was my first experience with Go. I was not impressed.
Otherwise having my own AMI speeds things up slightly. All my base image is, is my salt configuration on disc, and the base salt configuration applied (install vim, hooray...). When I get to my next project, monitoring. This will be a lot more helpful.
CloudFormation Templating (Cloudforge)
I wrote a tool for myself called Cloudforge. It takes a yaml definition of stack(s) that can use and render templates for similar resources. In my use case, all of my instances are very similar so I abstracted them into a template that I pass variables into.
When I started using CloudFormation I found myself copy pasting many definitions. My library helps prevent me from forgetting to apply changes to all resources with the same type across my stacks.
I still need to add some unit testing I skipped while JFDI'ing, pretty up the logging output, and release it to pypi, but it's what I use to create and destroy my stacks now. I hope someone else ends up liking it.
I think I want to try out monitoring with sensu (even though it's ruby, bleh). Sounds a lot more interesting in Nagios, which is the only other option that seems like a good idea. Along with that I plan with getting a Soekris router to make having a VPN gateway easier/cooler. Physical toys are pretty fun.