Amazon EC2 and long restart delays

For the benefit of others either considering Amazon’s EC2, or who arealready there, I thought I’d point something out. I am not sure if this is an Ubuntu EC2 AMI issue, an EC2 issue, an EBS issue, or some combination of all of these, but we are experiencing some really erratic restart times. We run our EC2 instances with the following basic configration:

  • Size: small and medium high-cpu
  • Root device: EBS
  • Distro: Ubuntu 10.10 (the latest)


The behavior we are seeing is that even our simplest, no-extra-EBS-volumes instances periodically hang on boot when restarted. The restart can range anywhere from less than 60 seconds, to 5 minutes, to not at all. In the case of ‘not at all’, something bad happens to the point where we the instance fails to reach the point where we can even SSH in, and the syslog that the web-based management console shows looks to be out of date.

In the case of a complete hang on restart (it seems to be 50-50 right now), we have to reboot the machine again from the web-based AWS EC2 management console. This second reboot usually results in a full startup.

Our hunch

From what we can tell, this may be EBS-related. Even though we specifically have nobootwait on our swap partition (which is an included ephemeral drive that is standard with the Ubuntu AMI), it seems like Ubuntu may be freaking out when it can’t reach the root EBS drive. It’s also possible that even despite the nobootwait in the fstab, this same thing could be happening with the swap partition as well. We haven’t had a lot of time to try different combinations, as we’re insanely busy right now.

If anyone else has experienced something similar, please chime in.