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AWS: Configuring a Geo-spatial stack in Amazon Linux


My usual geo-spatial stack includes CentOS, PostgreSQL, PostGIS, Apache HTTP Server, Apache Tomcat, GeoServer, and a front-end that uses OpenLayers, possibly with GeoExt and/or Google Web Toolkit. While this is not terribly complex to configure, it can be a daunting for task for individuals looking to get started. There are few good resources for getting parts of this configuration together, but I have not found a good collection from the ground up, so I thought I would give it a go. I hardcoded a lot of filenames, you should usually check the download directory to be sure you are grabbing the latest stable packages.

I am starting with a basic Amazon Linux EC2 instance (EBS backed). If you need help getting an instance up and running, check my earlier post on basic LAMP instances in AWS. The earlier post details the installation of Apache (HTTP Server), MySQL, and PHP. All of these are fine to have on your server, but we will not use MySQL or PHP for our Geo-spatial stack (although you may want them for supporting a web front-end). Note that the configuration we are building is fine for testing or VERY light-duty servers. It is NOT suitable for live services or large data sets. After some additional testing I may post instructions or just an AMI for geospatial, we'll see. One final note, this should work with minimal changes on CentOS, Fedora, Red Hat, etc. Debian/Ubuntu - you will need to replace yum with apt-get, change the "...-devel" packages to "...-dev" (in most cases), make small changes to a number of your paths (liberal use of 'sudo updatedb' and 'locate ' should work), and note that 'httpd' becomes 'apache2'. If you are installing on anything other than Amazon Linux, you should consider installing the Sun JDK and mod_jk from your OS repos - probably extras/testing/dev/universe/whatever, it will be easier to track that way. I would not recommend installing PostGIS from a repository, even though some have it available. I'm sure they work just fine, but they tend to be older releases, and library/dependency issues always come up. Besides, you should build things from source from time to time - it's like eating your GNU/Linux veggies.

OK, once your EC2 instance is up, and you are connected via ssh, we can start our installations.

Run yum update - we need this to get some of the build tools, and it's always good practice when you're building out the server to start with current packages.

yum update

Install postgresql, postgresql-devel, and postgresql-libs. Configure your data directory and start the service (as the postgres user).

sudo yum install postgresql postgresql-server postgresql-devel
sudo mkdir /usr/local/pgsql/
sudo mkdir /usr/local/pgsql/data
sudo chown postgres /usr/local/pgsql/data
sudo su postgres
initdb -D /usr/local/pgsql/data
postgres -D /usr/local/pgsql/data &

Install PostGIS. This requires some build tools, and also the GEOS and PROJ libraries. On a Micro instance, making the GEOS and PROJ libraries will take a while (about 5-10 minutes), and drive your server load average to the 1.00-2.00 range. I'm going to unnecessarily change directories to what should be the current working directory a few times, just to make sure we're in the same place. After GEOS, PROJ, and PostGIS are built, we will also need to update our libraries, so the server knows where to find them.

sudo yum install gcc make gcc-c++ libtool libxml2-devel
# make a directory for building
cd /home/ec2-user/
mkdir postgis
cd postgis

# download, configure, make, install geos
tar xjf geos-3.2.2.tar.bz2
cd geos-3.2.2
sudo make install
# download, configure, make, install proj
cd /home/ec2-user/postgis/
tar xzf proj-4.7.0.tar.gz
cd proj-4.7.0/nad
unzip ../../
cd ..
sudo make install

# download, configure, make, install postgis
cd /home/ec2-user/postgis/
tar xzf postgis-1.5.2.tar.gz 
cd postgis-1.5.2
./configure --with-geosconfig=/usr/local/bin/geos-config
sudo make install

# update your libraries
sudo su
echo /usr/local/lib >> /etc/
sudo ldconfig

Now that PostGIS is installed, we should create a template database for PostGIS. Anytime you are generating a new database that requires geospatial data, you can create it from this template.

createdb -U postgres template_postgis
createlang -U postgres plpgsql template_postgis
psql -U postgres -d template_postgis  /usr/share/pgsql/contrib/postgis-1.5/postgis.sql
psql -U postgres -d template_postgis  /usr/share/pgsql/contrib/postgis-1.5/spatial_ref_sys.sql

Install the Sun JDK, I'll note again that if you are using a non Amazon Linux, this is probably available from a repo. I didn't try, but as I'm reviewing this process, it occurs to me that you could likely install the sun-java6-jdk from the CentOS repositories, because I don't think it has any external dependencies. I'll check it next time through. For now:
Go here: Oracle Java downloads (I think I actually experienced physical pain putting the words "Go here" and "Oracle" in the same sentence. UPDATE: David Winslow (GeoServer Core Committer) noted in the comments that the current stable build runs fine on recent OpenJDK releases.
Select the "Download JDK" button.
Choose Linux x64, agree to the License agreement, and click continue.
Download the ...rpm.bin file.
SCP that file over to the /home/ec2-user/, then:

cd /home/ec2-user
sudo chmod 665 jdk-6u23-linux-x64-rpm.bin
sudo ./jdk-6u23-linux-x64-rpm.bin
# [Enter]
sudo ln -sf /usr/java/jdk1.6.0_23/bin/java /usr/bin/java

Install apache HTTP Server and Apache Tomcat

sudo yum install httpd httpd-devel tomcat6

Download the GeoServer web archive and move it to Tomcat's webapps directory

cd /home/ec2-user/
sudo chown tomcat:tomcat geoserver.war
sudo mv geoserver.war /var/lib/tomcat6/webapps/

Download, configure, make, and install mod_jk (Apache module for connecting apache web server to tomcat). This allows you to access web applications in tomcat through Apache HTTP Server over port 80. If you skip this, be sure that your security group allows access over the port on which tomcat is listening (default is 8080).

cd /home/ec2-user
mkdir mod_jk
cd mod_jk
tar xzf tomcat-connectors-1.2.31-src.tar.gz
cd tomcat-connectors-1.2.31-src/native
./configure --with-apxs=/usr/sbin/apxs
sudo make install

Once mod_jk is installed, we need to update the Apache HTTP Server config and create a file so that Apache HTTP Server and Apache Tomcat can communicate via mod_jk. This is a mediocre configuration; it is barely more than the minimum required (as documented by Apache here).

sudo vim /etc/httpd/conf/httpd.conf

 # Load mod_jk module
 # Update this path to match your modules location
 LoadModule    jk_module  /usr/lib64/httpd/modules/
 # Where to find
 # Update this path to match your conf directory location (put next to httpd.conf)
 JkWorkersFile /etc/httpd/conf/
 # Where to put jk shared memory
 # Update this path to match your local state directory or logs directory
 JkShmFile     /var/log/httpd/mod_jk.shm
 # Where to put jk logs
 # Update this path to match your logs directory location (put mod_jk.log next to access_log)
 JkLogFile     /var/log/httpd/mod_jk.log
 # Set the jk log level [debug/error/info]
 JkLogLevel    info
 # Select the timestamp log format
 JkLogStampFormat "[%a %b %d %H:%M:%S %Y] "
 # Send everything for context /geoserver and /geoserver/* to worker named geoserver_worker (ajp13)
 JkMount  /geoserver/* geoserver_worker
 JkMount  /geoserver   geoserver_worker

sudo vim /etc/httpd/conf/

 # Define the list of workers that will be used
 # Define geoserver_worker

Almost there. Start Apache HTTP Server and Apache tomcat.

sudo /sbin/service httpd start
sudo /sbin/service tomcat6 start

On a micro instance, it takes a minute or two for the GeoServer to initialize. Once it's ready, navigate in a browser to "[your ec2 ip]/geoserver" and login with the default credentials (admin/geoserver). GeoServer comes with a number of demonstrative layers, and at the bottom of the left menu, you can use "Layer Preview" to investigate some of the pre-packaged layers. Use the OpenLayers format, and don't forget to click on the map to request featureInfo for that location. Note that there is a bug in the 2.0.2 release that causes problems for some of the shapefiles, the following should be working: tiger:tiger_roads, nurc:Img_Sample, topp:tasmania_water_bodies, and topp:tasmania_state_boundaries. I usually delete all of the pre-loaded data to keep my GeoServer clean, but they can be a handy reference if you are just getting started. The OpenLayers preview page is a great page to get started with the html/javascript necessary to get your geospatial data on a web page.

Let's do one more thing. Since we went through the trouble of installing PostgreSQL and PostGIS, we should put some geospatial data in the database and display that too. Our steps will be to create a new PostgreSQL database (using the template_postgis database we created after the PostGIS installation), create a table in that database using a shapefile (shp2pgsql), and create a table manually using SQL. Once the tables are created, we'll load them into GeoServer and review our data.

For the sake of simplicity, we will use on of the preloaded shapefiles that comes with GeoServer. Since the tiger:poly_landmarks shapefile does not load correctly in GeoServer 2.0.2 (at least not for me), let's try injecting that shapefile into the database, and loading the data from there. The '-s' flag is for spatial projection, I'm not going to get into spatial projection here, other than to say it is important. Go to for more info, and useful details regarding spatial projections. If you want to use google maps as a background, you may also be interested in EPSG:900913 (, the PostGIS spatial_ref_sys INSERT statement will be handy. The '-I' instructs shp2pgsql to apply an index (of type GiST) to the geometry column. This won't be very noticeable for this particular data set, but on larger data sets it makes a huge difference.

Create a table form a shapefile, using shp2pgsql. For those not familiar, I will point out that all shp2pgsql does is create a file with sql insert statements that regenerate the shapefile in your database. The usual flow is to use shp2pgsql to generate the inserts in a *sql file, then inject that sql file in your PostGIS enabled database.

cd /home/ec2-user/
createdb  -U postgres -T template_postgis postgis_test
shp2pgsql -s 4326 -I /var/lib/tomcat6/webapps/geoserver/data/data/nyc/poly_landmarks.shp public.poly_landmarks > poly_landmarks.sql
psql -U postgres -d postgis_test  poly_landmarks.sql 

You can also manually create geospatial data using PostGIS functions. For me, this is often useful fo pre-existing lists of lat/lon values, but there are many possibilities.

psql -U postgres postgis_test
postgis_test=# CREATE TABLE some_points (id SERIAL, name VARCHAR(24), description VARCHAR(64), some_num INTEGER, lat NUMERIC(9,6), lon NUMERIC(9,6));
postgis_test=# SELECT AddGeometryColumn('public','some_points','the_geom',4326,'POINT',2);
postgis_test=# INSERT INTO some_points (name,description,some_num,lat,lon) VALUES 
('point a','the point at a',15,40.7879,-73.9567),
('point b','the point at b',14,41.1234,-73.7689),
('point c','the point at c',22,40.5645,-73.1145),
('point d','the point at d',54,40.9844,-73.1212),
('point e','the point at e',21,39.9889,-72.9554),
('point f','the point at f',93,41.2543,-73.6555);
postgis_test=# UPDATE some_points SET the_geom = ST_GeomFromText('POINT('||lat||' '||lon||')',4326);
postgis_test=# ALTER USER postgres WITH PASSWORD 'password';

Back to GeoServer. There is a great walk-through for adding PostGIS data to GeoServer in the GeoServer docs, I'll offer an abridged cut (There are some helpful screenshots in the docs, if you like those).

  1. On the left menu, select Workspaces, then at the top, "Add new workspace".
  2. Provide a Name ("postgis_test") and a Namespace URI ("postgis_test"), and submit.
  3. Back on the left menu, select "Stores" then at the top, "Add new store", then choose PostGIS.
  4. Choose the new "postgis_test" workspace, and provide a Data Source Name ("postgis_testDB").
  5. Use connection parameters host: localhost, port: 5432, database: postgis_test, schema: public, user: postgres, passwd: password (Password is whatever you set with the ALTER USER command), and select "Save".

After the save completes, you see the New layer chooser screen, which should have your poly_landmarks and some_points tables listed. Use the "Publish" option to publish poly_landmarks. The defaults are fine for our purposes, just be sure to select the "Compute from data" option and then the "Compute from native bounds" option under the Bounding Boxes section, then select "Save". Now you can preview the poly_landmarks layer, just be sure to select the layer from the postgis_test workspace. Follow the same process to publish the some_points layer.

I'll follow up with some basics for styling layers and displaying multiple layers using OpenLayers soon.

Further Reading:

PostgreSQL 8.4 docs

PostGIS 1.5 docs

GeoServer 2.0 docs


Apache HTTP Server

Apache Tomcat

Apache Tomcat Connectors

20 Responses to AWS: Configuring a Geo-spatial stack in Amazon Linux

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  • First of all, thank you VERY much for putting this together - it was incredibly helpful. I am just trying out Amazon EC2 (after switching from a VPS at a hosting company), and I would not have know where to begin.

    I did have one question regarding the JDK install. You mention it in your text that the repro may already exist for Amazon. I executed the following command on my instance:

    yum list | grep jdk
    java-1.6.0-openjdk.x86_64 1: installed
    java-1.6.0-openjdk-demo.x86_64 1: amzn
    java-1.6.0-openjdk-devel.x86_64 1: amzn
    java-1.6.0-openjdk-javadoc.x86_64 1: amzn
    java-1.6.0-openjdk-src.x86_64 1: amzn
    ldapjdk.noarch 4.18-5.1.5.amzn1 amzn
    ldapjdk-javadoc.noarch 4.18-5.1.5.amzn1 amzn

    As you can see the java-1.6.0-openjdk.x86_64 is already installed by default. Do you think that is enough, or should I still follow the steps of downloading the JDK from <gasp> Oracle?


    #634 | Comment by Seth on Jan 26, 2011 04:36pm
  • @Seth - Amazon Linux comes with a current openjdk release, and this is fine for a lot of your Java needs. If you are simply setting up an AWS instance for testing and trying out a few things, openjdk is likely sufficient.

    However, if you are configuring the full geo-spatial stack (including GeoServer), you will want to use the sun (now oracle) jdk. I think the main issues that require Sun JDK for GeoServer are font dependencies and 2D rendering libraries.

  • The recommendation of Oracle Java is just that- a recommendation. GeoServer runs fine on recent versions of OpenJDK... but not as well as it does using Oracle's JVM, mostly due to issues with rendering performance.

  • @David - Thanks for highlighting this, I'll update the post.

    I will also investigate some changes to the GeoServer wiki, since the first two dukgo results paint a different picture. As I am writing this, the premier result is to the legacy documentation which directs you the Sun site and warns explicitly that the GeoServer community will offer limited support for non-Sun JDKs. The second result specifically states that OpenJDK does not work with Geoserver.

  • Just to confirm, OpenJDK is supported by the latest GeoServer releases, but Sun/Oracle 1.6 achieves better performance metrics (haven't confirmed the performance distinctions myself, but it's on the todo list).

  • great guide thanks for sharing, however you need to add 'make' to the following line

    sudo yum install gcc make gcc-c++ libtool libxml2-devel

  • Thanks for the correction, I modified it in the content.

  • Great article. Can you add a bit at the start stating who you need to be logged in as. I assume ec2-user or postgres

    #8148 | Comment by Russ on Feb 17, 2012 12:42am
  • Ignore my last. I was trying to set it up on a local VM. I now have it running under EC2 and serving up pages.
    Excellent article

    #8151 | Comment by Russ on Feb 17, 2012 07:14am
  • While installing PostGIS 2.0.2 new stable version. There is an configuration error for GDAL driver.

    Is it okay to configure PostGIS without raster support?

    Like :

    ./configure --with-geosconfig=/usr/local/bin/geos-config --without-raster

    #10868 | Comment by geoserver_newbie on Dec 31, 2012 05:37pm
  • It's certainly ok, just be sure you aren't going to need it...

    I didn't use raster support much for basic mapping, but depending on your needs raster support may be nice to have.

  • Is there a configure command that works with PostGIS 2.0.2 that doesn't disable the raster supports.
    I don't need rasters now but I might in the future.

    #10915 | Comment by silas on Jan 14, 2013 10:29am
  • @silas - configure isn't a postgis-specific command, it just takes source and prepares it for 'make'.

    You can always re-install later, but eventually the conflict in GDAL will need to be ironed-out if you want to support raster. It's likely an issue with a dependency library or a missing dev package.

    I haven't installed the latest release yet, are you installing on Amazon Linux or some other RHEL-derivative?

  • Awesome direction, it worked perfectly for me. Saved me so much time and effort. I just swap in a couple of URL for the newest version of Apache, Geoserver, and PostGIS . . and everything still worked.

    One thing that took me a few second to figure out was after:
    sudo vim /etc/httpd/conf/httpd.conf

    #You have to press i to allow the insertions of the new text, then copy and past the text in. The press escape and the type in capital 'ZZ' to save and close the file.

    #13258 | Comment by azn4balla4life on Apr 6, 2013 08:53pm
  • @azn4balla4life - Glad it helped; you can swap out 'vim' for nano/pico/whatever your favorite text editor happens to be. It tends to be a safe bet that vi/vim are already on the Linux distro you're working with.

    Good luck with the stack!

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