Hosting websites with Fargate ECS

Context - How my Websites have been Hosted in the Past

A very straight forward setup that lent itself well so keeping costs low and which may inspire you to also use a similar setup should you want to host your own website with a Fargate cluster:

Infrastructure Maintained with Terraform

  • Single EC2 machine
  • A security group for SSH and web ingress, as well as HTTPS egress
  • Elastic IP attached
  • A record’s in route53 pointing to the Elastic IP

Software Required for this Setup

  • Nginx as a reverse proxy which pointed to all the HTML/CSS/JS required for each website

The config for this was usually hand written then deployed with Ansible. Configuration for TLS was then deployed afterwards with Ansible as well. Worked well enough and it meant I had a decent solution to TLS cert renewals.

  • Gitlab pipelines for deploying static files

Since this required SSH access a service user was created and would usually setup SSH in Gitlab with the pipeline script below:

    - eval "$(ssh-agent -s)"
    - echo "${CI_USER_KEY}" |  tr -d '\r' | ssh-add - 
    - mkdir -p ~/.ssh/
    - chmod 700 ~/.ssh/
    - ssh-keyscan 2>&1 >> ~/.ssh/known_hosts
    - chmod 644 ~/.ssh/known_hosts

Technical Side of the Current Setup

  • 1 Fargate Cluster containing 1 service for each website

Technically the same could be achieved with 1 service for all websites but that will come in the next post.

  • 1 Load balancer for all websites

Basically just abusing the load balancer rules to direct traffic to the correct service target group in the desired cluster.

  • ACM managed certificates

Super easy renewal of certificates, be it through Terraform or manually.

Software/Docker Images used for Services

This image allows the usage of nginx to proxy private S3 buckets. This is basically how I am able to keep my S3 buckets totally locked down while still allowing the content to be cleanly viewable to the public.

Why the switch to the new setup

  1. Easier to manage tooling

Being that Project Athens is not my only project that requires attention in regards to infrastructure and upkeep so reducing the amount of tooling and documentation required to manage things is worth it for me personally.

  1. Updating content is much easier

The biggest benefit is that I have to maintain less code to deploy content to the websites themselves meaning less code per project’s pipeline. In many cases this also means I can remove Ansible entirely from a project which means much less to manage in terms of keys and pipeline code.

Plans for Future Technical Changes

  1. Making the buckets public to leverage a reguar Nginx container

The advantage of this is that I can use 1 container to balance all my websites just like before and still let the ACM + application load balancer do the heavy lifting for TLS. With some clever auto-scaling I can then reduce the average amount of containers I pay for while still retaining good availability to the sites themselves.


The old setup was definitely way cheaper. The load balancer alone runs me about 25-40$ USD + the two containers that I use for each site. Overall cost is slightly higher than just the single EC2 machine however you can minimize this cost by just running less containers.

Reason for the whack estimation is because I have’t looked too hard into how much this costs exactly as I have other clusters that I manage at the moment and things get lost in the noise.

Just know that if you’re looking to minimize price at all costs then EC2 machines + autoscaling is the way to go. Fargate does however make things much easier to deploy/manage.