Deploying Neo4j on AWS Using CloudFormation

This page describes how to use CloudFormation to deploy Neo4j clusters on AWS, using Virtual Machines.

Basics

The Neo4j CloudFormation templates allow deploying causal clusters of any size, with almost any machine type, as Virtual Machines on AWS. The templates are based on top of the Neo4j Cloud VMs which have been made available for Amazon (AMIs).

AWS Marketplace

Neo4j Enterprise Causal Cluster is already available in AWS Marketplace and can be found under this link.

The CloudFormation templates discussed in this article are the same as those that drive this marketplace listing. As a result, if you do not require any modifications to the CloudFormation template, it may be even easier to simply use the Marketplace option, which is BYOL, meaning that it does not charge any additional money per hour.

This article is for those customers who need to customize the default deploy options.

Availability

Templates in JSON format have been made available in the public S3 bucket named s3://neo4j-cloudformation. Two types of templates are available; one for a stand-alone single instance Neo4j install, and one for a causal cluster setup. The remainder of this article will discuss the causal cluster setup. The stand-alone instance follows the same general set of rules and architecture, and differs only in that it creates a single VM instead of a configurable number of VMs.

Templates are made available for many, (but not all) versions of Neo4j. As an example, full public URL of CloudFormation template for 3.5.12 is https://s3.amazonaws.com/neo4j-cloudformation/neo4j-enterprise-stack-3.5.12.json.

The basics of template structure is the same from version to version, the primary difference is the Neo4j version of the AMI used.

Architecture

The deployment architecture that the CloudFormation templates follow can be seen here:

aws ec2 diagram

In general, a new AWS VPC is created, with cores and read replicas round-robined across three subnets, each placed in a different availability zone, all within the same region on AWS. A limitation of the CloudFormation template is that it can only be used in regions with >= 3 availability zones to allow for this spreading; in the event of an AZ outage, the database will remain available.

Customer VPCs

The most likely reason you may need to modify the template for your own needs is to place a Neo4j cluster into an existing VPC.

The CloudFormation template does not at present allow (by default) placement of new clusters into existing VPCs, because there are too many factors to consider to make this a reliable operation, including number of free IP addresses in subnets, existing routing rules, and other factors. It is absolutely possible to do this, it just requires your organization’s customization to ensure that these factors have been considered.

Here’s a short checklist of things to check in the template:

  • Association of Virtual Machines to subnets
  • Likely no need to create an internet gateway

Usage

To create a cloudformation stack from a JSON file, customize this command, substituting parameters as you see fit:

aws cloudformation create-stack \
   --stack-name StackyMcGrapherston \
   --template-body file://neo4j-enterprise-stack.json \
   --parameters ParameterKey=ClusterNodes,ParameterValue=3 \
                ParameterKey=InstanceType,ParameterValue=m3.medium \
                ParameterKey=NetworkWhitelist,ParameterValue=0.0.0.0/0 \
                ParameterKey=Password,ParameterValue=s00pers3cret \
                ParameterKey=SSHKeyName,ParameterValue=my-ssh-key-name \
                ParameterKey=VolumeSizeGB,ParameterValue=37 \
                ParameterKey=VolumeType,ParameterValue=gp2 \
  --capabilities CAPABILITY_NAMED_IAM

This command will create a 3-node causal cluster running on m3.medium machines, open to the entire internet (because we allowed a network whitelist of 0.0.0.0/0). It will initialize the database with the given neo4j user password, and allow direct SSH access with the specified SSH key. Each node will be allocated 37GB of GP2 storage.

For further parameters that are available, consult the parameters at the top of the template. Other options include the ability to create a number of read replicas.

Ongoing Management

CloudFormation does not automate operations of the cluster itself, or provide much in the way of autoscaling. As a result, once the infrastructure is deployed, management and custom configuration is left to operators with SSH access.

Backing Code

The code for building any version of Neo4j as an AMI or CloudFormation template is in a private GitHub repository. Customer access may be granted upon request, but the repository will not be made public.

The finished CloudFormation templates themselves can be hard to work with because of how CloudFormation operates. For example, CloudFormation does not natively support creating a variable number of resources (such as a user inputted number of core nodes in your cluster) and so the finished template contains code to create up to 9 core nodes, with conditionals depending on what the user selected. In the GitHub repository, we use a templating language called jinja to generate the CloudFormation templates, making them easier to read and manage in a modular way. If substantial modifications are needed, you may wish to consider working off of these Jinja templates rather than the raw CloudFormation templates. ”’

  • Last Modified: 2020-09-15 13:07:09 UTC by David Allen.
  • Relevant for Neo4j Versions: 3.4, 3.5.
  • Relevant keywords cloud, aws, deployment.