User data that will be acted upon by cloud-init must be in one of the following types.

Gzip Compressed Content

Content found to be gzip compressed will be uncompressed. The uncompressed data will then be used as if it were not compressed. This is typically useful because user-data is limited to ~16384 [1] bytes.

Mime Multi Part Archive

This list of rules is applied to each part of this multi-part file. Using a mime-multi part file, the user can specify more than one type of data.

For example, both a user data script and a cloud-config type could be specified.

Supported content-types:

  • text/x-include-once-url
  • text/x-include-url
  • text/cloud-config-archive
  • text/upstart-job
  • text/cloud-config
  • text/part-handler
  • text/x-shellscript
  • text/cloud-boothook

Helper script to generate mime messages


import sys

from email.mime.multipart import MIMEMultipart
from email.mime.text import MIMEText

if len(sys.argv) == 1:
    print("%s input-file:type ..." % (sys.argv[0]))

combined_message = MIMEMultipart()
for i in sys.argv[1:]:
    (filename, format_type) = i.split(":", 1)
    with open(filename) as fh:
        contents =
    sub_message = MIMEText(contents, format_type, sys.getdefaultencoding())
    sub_message.add_header('Content-Disposition', 'attachment; filename="%s"' % (filename))


User-Data Script

Typically used by those who just want to execute a shell script.

Begins with: #! or Content-Type: text/x-shellscript when using a MIME archive.


$ cat

echo "Hello World.  The time is now $(date -R)!" | tee /root/output.txt

$ euca-run-instances --key mykey --user-data-file ami-a07d95c9

Include File

This content is a include file.

The file contains a list of urls, one per line. Each of the URLs will be read, and their content will be passed through this same set of rules. Ie, the content read from the URL can be gzipped, mime-multi-part, or plain text.

Begins with: #include or Content-Type: text/x-include-url when using a MIME archive.

Cloud Config Data

Cloud-config is the simplest way to accomplish some things via user-data. Using cloud-config syntax, the user can specify certain things in a human friendly format.

These things include:

  • apt upgrade should be run on first boot
  • a different apt mirror should be used
  • additional apt sources should be added
  • certain ssh keys should be imported
  • and many more...

Note: The file must be valid yaml syntax.

See the Cloud config examples section for a commented set of examples of supported cloud config formats.

Begins with: #cloud-config or Content-Type: text/cloud-config when using a MIME archive.

Upstart Job

Content is placed into a file in /etc/init, and will be consumed by upstart as any other upstart job.

Begins with: #upstart-job or Content-Type: text/upstart-job when using a MIME archive.

Cloud Boothook

This content is boothook data. It is stored in a file under /var/lib/cloud and then executed immediately. This is the earliest hook available. Note, that there is no mechanism provided for running only once. The boothook must take care of this itself. It is provided with the instance id in the environment variable INSTANCE_I. This could be made use of to provide a ‘once-per-instance’ type of functionality.

Begins with: #cloud-boothook or Content-Type: text/cloud-boothook when using a MIME archive.

Part Handler

This is a part-handler: It contains custom code for either supporting new mime-types in multi-part user data, or overriding the existing handlers for supported mime-types. It will be written to a file in /var/lib/cloud/data based on its filename (which is generated). This must be python code that contains a list_types function and a handle_part function. Once the section is read the list_types method will be called. It must return a list of mime-types that this part-handler handles. Because mime parts are processed in order, a part-handler part must precede any parts with mime-types it is expected to handle in the same user data.

The handle_part function must be defined like:

def handle_part(data, ctype, filename, payload):
  # data = the cloudinit object
  # ctype = "__begin__", "__end__", or the mime-type of the part that is being handled.
  # filename = the filename of the part (or a generated filename if none is present in mime data)
  # payload = the parts' content

Cloud-init will then call the handle_part function once before it handles any parts, once per part received, and once after all parts have been handled. The '__begin__' and '__end__' sentinels allow the part handler to do initialization or teardown before or after receiving any parts.

Begins with: #part-handler or Content-Type: text/part-handler when using a MIME archive.


# vi: syntax=python ts=4

def list_types():
    # return a list of mime-types that are handled by this module
    return(["text/plain", "text/go-cubs-go"])

def handle_part(data,ctype,filename,payload):
    # data: the cloudinit object
    # ctype: '__begin__', '__end__', or the specific mime-type of the part
    # filename: the filename for the part, or dynamically generated part if
    #           no filename is given attribute is present
    # payload: the content of the part (empty for begin or end)
    if ctype == "__begin__":
       print "my handler is beginning"
    if ctype == "__end__":
       print "my handler is ending"

    print "==== received ctype=%s filename=%s ====" % (ctype,filename)
    print payload
    print "==== end ctype=%s filename=%s" % (ctype, filename)

Also this blog post offers another example for more advanced usage.

[1]See your cloud provider for applicable user-data size limitations...