Managing applications deployments on Raspberry Pi can be cumbersome, especially in headless mode and at scale when placing the devices outdoors and out of reach such as in home automation projects, in the yard (for motion detection) or on the roof (as a humidity and temperature sensor). In these use cases, you have to remotely connect via secure shell to administer the device.

It can be complicated to keep physically connecting when you need a monitor, keyboard, and mouse. Alternatively, you can connect via SSH in your home local network, provided your client workstation is also on the same private network.

In this post, we discuss using Raspberry Pi as a headless server with minimal-to-zero direct interaction by using AWS CodePipeline. We examine two use cases:

  • Managing and automating operational tasks of the Raspberry Pi, running Raspbian OS or any other Linux distribution. For more information about this configuration, see Manage Raspberry Pi devices using AWS Systems Manager.
  • Automating deployments to one or more Raspberry Pi device in headless mode (in which you don’t use a monitor or keyboard to run your device). If you use headless mode but still need to do some wireless setup, you can enable wireless networking and SSH when creating an image.

Solution overview

Our solution uses the following services:

We use CodePipeline to manage continuous integration and deployment to Raspberry Pi running Ubuntu Server 18 for ARM. As of this writing, CodeDeploy agents are supported on Windows OS, Red Hat, and Ubuntu.

For this use case, we use the image ubuntu-18.04.4-preinstalled-server-arm64+raspi3.img.

To close the loop, you edit your code or commit new revisions from your PC or Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) to trigger the pipeline to deploy to Pi. The following diagram illustrates the architecture of our automated pipeline.

 

Solution Overview architectural diagram

Setting up a Raspberry Pi device

To set up a CodeDeploy agent on a Raspberry Pi device, the device should be running an Ubuntu Server 18 for ARM, which is supported by the Raspberry Pi processor architecture and the CodeDeploy agent, and it should be connected to the internet. You will need a keyboard and a monitor for the initial setup.

Follow these instructions for your initial setup:

  1. Download the Ubuntu image.

Pick the image based on your Raspberry Pi model. For this use case, we use Raspberry Pi 4 with Ubuntu 18.04.4 LTS.

  1. Burn the Ubuntu image to your microSD using a disk imager software (or other reliable tool). For instructions, see Create an Ubuntu Image for a Raspberry Pi on Windows.
  2. Configure WiFi on the Ubuntu server.

After booting from the newly flashed microSD, you can configure the OS.

  1. To enable DHCP, enter the following YAML (or create the yaml file if it doesn’t exist) to /etc/netplan/wireless.yaml:
network:
  version: 2
  wifis:
    wlan0:
      dhcp4: yes
      dhcp6: no
      access-points:
        "<your network ESSID>":
          password: "<your wifi password>"

Replace the variables <your network ESSID> and <your wifi password> with your wireless network SSID and password, respectively.

  1. Run the netplan by entering the following command:
[email protected]:~$ sudo netplan try

Installing CodeDeploy and registering Raspberry Pi as an on-premises instance

When the Raspberry Pi is connected to the internet, you’re ready to install the AWS Command Line Interface (AWS CLI) and the CodeDeploy agent to manage automated deployments through CodeDeploy.

To register an on-premises instance, you must use an AWS Identity and Access Management (IAM) identity to authenticate your requests. You can choose from the following options for the IAM identity and registration method you use:

  • An IAM user ARN. This is best for registering a single on-premises instance.
  • An IAM role to authenticate requests with periodically refreshed temporary credentials generated with the AWS Security Token Service (AWS STS). This is best for registering a large number of on-premises instances.

For this post, we use the first option and create an IAM user and register a single Raspberry Pi. You can use this procedure for a handful of devices. Make sure you limit the privileges of the IAM user to what you need to achieve; a scoped-down IAM policy is given in the documentation instructions. For more information, see Use the register command (IAM user ARN) to register an on-premises instance.

  1. Install the AWS CLI on Raspberry Pi with the following code:
[email protected]:~$ sudo apt install awscli
  1. Configure the AWS CLI and enter your newly created IAM access key, secret access key, and Region (for example, eu-west-1):
[email protected]:~$ sudo aws configure
AWS Access Key ID [None]: <IAM Access Key>
AWS Secret Access Key [None]: <Secret Access Key>
Default region name [None]: <AWS Region>
Default output format [None]: Leave default, press Enter.
  1. Now that the AWS CLI running on the Raspberry Pi has access to CodeDeploy API operations, you can register the device as an on-premises instance:
[email protected]:~$ sudo aws deploy register --instance-name rpi4UbuntuServer --iam-user-arn arn:aws:iam::<AWS_ACCOUNT_ID>:user/Rpi --tags Key=Name,Value=Rpi4 --region eu-west-1
Registering the on-premises instance... DONE
Adding tags to the on-premises instance... DONE

Tags allow you to assign metadata to your AWS resources. Each tag is a simple label consisting of a customer-defined key and an optional value that can make it easier to manage, search for, and filter resources by purpose, owner, environment, or other criteria.

When working with on-premises instances with CodeDeploy, tags are mandatory to select the instances for deployment. For this post, we tag the first device with Key=Name,Value=Rpi4. Generally speaking, it’s good practice to use tags on all applicable resources.

You should see something like the following screenshot on the CodeDeploy console.

CodeDeploy console

Or from the CLI, you should see the following output:

[email protected]:~$ sudo aws deploy list-on-premises-instances
{
    "instanceNames": [
        "rpi4UbuntuServer"
    ]
}
  1. Install the CodeDeploy agent:
[email protected]:~$ sudo aws deploy install --override-config --config-file /etc/codedeploy-agent/conf/codedeploy.onpremises.yml --region eu-west-1

If the preceding command fails due to dependencies, you can get the CodeDeploy package and install it manually:

[email protected]:~$ sudo apt-get install ruby
[email protected]:~$ sudo wget https://aws-codedeploy-us-west-2.s3.amazonaws.com/latest/install
--2020-03-28 18:58:15--  https://aws-codedeploy-us-west-2.s3.amazonaws.com/latest/install
Resolving aws-codedeploy-us-west-2.s3.amazonaws.com (aws-codedeploy-us-west-2.s3.amazonaws.com)... 52.218.249.82
Connecting to aws-codedeploy-us-west-2.s3.amazonaws.com (aws-codedeploy-us-west-2.s3.amazonaws.com)|52.218.249.82|:443... connected.
HTTP request sent, awaiting response... 200 OK
Length: 13819 (13K) []
Saving to: ‘install’
install 100%[====================================================================>]  13.50K  --.-KB/s    in 0.003s 
2020-03-28 18:58:16 (3.81 MB/s) - ‘install’ saved [13819/13819]
[email protected]:~$ sudo chmod +x ./install
[email protected]:~$ sudo ./install auto

 Check the service status with the following code:

[email protected]:~$ sudo service codedeploy-agent status
codedeploy-agent.service - LSB: AWS CodeDeploy Host Agent
   Loaded: loaded (/etc/init.d/codedeploy-agent; generated)
   Active: active (running) since Sat 2020-08-15 14:18:22 +03; 17s ago
     Docs: man:systemd-sysv-generator(8)
    Tasks: 3 (limit: 4441)
   CGroup: /system.slice/codedeploy-agent.service
           └─4243 codedeploy-agent: master 4243

Start the service (if not started automatically):

[email protected]:~$ sudo service codedeploy-agent start

Congratulations! Now that the CodeDeploy agent is installed and the Raspberry Pi is registered as an on-premises instance, CodeDeploy can deploy your application build to the device.

Creating your source stage

You’re now ready to create your source stage.

  1. On the CodeCommit console, under Source, choose Repositories.
  2. Choose Create repository.

For instructions on connecting your repository from your local workstation, see Setup for HTTPS users using Git credentials.

CodeCommit repo

  1. In the root directory of the repository, you should include an AppSpec file for an EC2/On-Premises deployment, where the filename must be yml for a YAML-based file. The file name is case-sensitive.

AppSpec file

The following example code is from the appspec.yml file:

version: 0.0
os: linux
files: - source: / destination: /home/ubuntu/AQI/
hooks: BeforeInstall: - location: scripts/testGPIO.sh timeout: 60 runas: root AfterInstall: - location: scripts/testSensors.sh timeout: 300 runas: root ApplicationStart: - location: startpublishdht11toshadow.sh - location: startpublishnovatoshadow.sh timeout: 300 runas: root

The files section defines the files to copy from the repository to the destination path on the Raspberry Pi.

The hooks section runs one time per deployment to an instance. If an event hook isn’t present, no operation runs for that event. This section is required only if you’re running scripts as part of the deployment. It’s useful to implement some basic testing before and after installation of your application revisions. For more information about hooks, see AppSpec ‘hooks’ section for an EC2/On-Premises deployment.

Creating your deploy stage

To create your deploy stage, complete the following steps:

  1. On the CodeDeploy console, choose Applications.
  2. Create your application and deployment group.
    1. For Deployment type, select In-place.

Deployment group

  1. For Environment configuration, select On-premises instances.
  2. Add the tags you registered the instance with in the previous step (for this post, we add the key-value pair Name=RPI4.

on-premises tags

Creating your pipeline

You’re now ready to create your pipeline.

  1. On the CodePipeline console, choose Pipelines.
  2. Choose Create pipeline.
  3. For Pipeline name, enter a descriptive name.
  4. For Service role¸ select New service role.
  5. For Role name, enter your service role name.
  6. Leave the advanced settings at their default.
  7. Choose Next.

 

  Pipeline settings

  1. For Source provider, choose AWS CodeCommit
  2. For Repository name, choose the repository you created earlier.
  3. For Branch name, enter your repository branch name.
  4. For Change detection options, select Amazon CloudWatch Events.
  5. Choose Next.

Source stage

 

As an optional step, you can add a build stage, depending on whether your application is built with an interpreted language like Python or a compiled one like .NET C#. CodeBuild creates a fully managed build server on your behalf that runs the build commands using the buildspec.yml in the source code root directory.

 

  1. For Deploy provider, choose AWS CodeDeploy.
  2. For Region, choose your Region.
  3. For Application name, choose your application.
  4. For Deployment group, choose your deployment group.
  5. Choose Next.

Deploy stage

  1. Review your settings and create your pipeline.

Cleaning up

If you no longer plan to deploy to your Raspberry PI and want remove the CodeDeploy agent from your device, you can clean up with the following steps.

Uninstalling the agent

Automatically uninstall the CodeDeploy agent and remove the configuration file from an on-premises instance with the following code:

[email protected]:~$ sudo aws deploy uninstall
(Reading database ... 238749 files and directories currently installed.)
Removing codedeploy-agent (1.0-1.1597) ...
Processing triggers for systemd (237-3ubuntu10.39) ...
Processing triggers for ureadahead (0.100.0-21) ...
Uninstalling the AWS CodeDeploy Agent... DONE
Deleting the on-premises instance configuration... DONE

The uninstall command does the following:

  1. Stops the running CodeDeploy agent on the on-premises instance.
  2. Uninstalls the CodeDeploy agent from the on-premises instance.
  3. Removes the configuration file from the on-premises instance. (For Ubuntu Server and RHEL, this is /etc/codedeploy-agent/conf/codedeploy.onpremises.yml. For Windows Server, this is C:\ProgramData\Amazon\CodeDeploy\conf.onpremises.yml.)

De-registering the on-premises instance

This step is only supported using the AWS CLI. To de-register your instance, enter the following code:

[email protected]:~$ sudo aws deploy deregister --instance-name rpi4UbuntuServer --region eu-west-1
Retrieving on-premises instance information... DONE
IamUserArn: arn:aws:iam::XXXXXXXXXXXX:user/Rpi
Tags: Key=Name,Value=Rpi4
Removing tags from the on-premises instance... DONE
Deregistering the on-premises instance... DONE
Deleting the IAM user policies... DONE
Deleting the IAM user access keys... DONE
Deleting the IAM user (Rpi)... DONE

Optionally, delete your application from CodeDeploy, and your repository from CodeCommit and CodePipeline from the respective service consoles.

Conclusion

You’re now ready to automate your deployments to your Raspberry Pi or any on-premises supported operating system. Automated deployments and source code version control frees up more time in developing your applications. Continuous deployment helps with the automation and version tracking of your scripts and applications deployed on the device.

For more information about IoT projects created using a Raspberry Pi, see my Air Pollution demo and Kid Monitor demo.

About the author

Ahmed ElHaw square

Ahmed ElHaw is a Sr. Solutions Architect at Amazon Web Services (AWS) with background in telecom, web development and design, and is passionate about spatial computing and AWS serverless technologies. He enjoys providing technical guidance to customers, helping them architect and build solutions that make the best use of AWS. Outside of work he enjoys spending time with his kids and playing video games.

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