How to run TensorFlow on S3

Tensorflow supports reading and writing data to S3. S3 is an object storage API which is nearly ubiquitous, and can help in situations where data must accessed by multiple actors, such as in distributed training.

This document guides you through the required setup, and provides examples on usage.


When reading or writing data on S3 with your TensorFlow program, the behavior can be controlled by various environmental variables:

  • AWS_REGION: By default, regional endpoint is used for S3, with region controlled by AWS_REGION. If AWS_REGION is not specified, then us-east-1 is used.
  • S3_ENDPOINT: The endpoint could be overridden explicitly with S3_ENDPOINT specified.
  • S3_USE_HTTPS: HTTPS is used to access S3 by default, unless S3_USE_HTTPS=0.
  • S3_VERIFY_SSL: If HTTPS is used, SSL verification could be disabled with S3_VERIFY_SSL=0.

To read or write objects in a bucket that is not publicly accessible, AWS credentials must be provided through one of the following methods:

  • Set credentials in the AWS credentials profile file on the local system, located at: ~/.aws/credentials on Linux, macOS, or Unix, or C:\Users\USERNAME\.aws\credentials on Windows.
  • Set the AWS_ACCESS_KEY_ID and AWS_SECRET_ACCESS_KEY environment variables.
  • If TensorFlow is deployed on an EC2 instance, specify an IAM role and then give the EC2 instance access to that role.

Example Setup

Using the above information, we can configure Tensorflow to communicate to an S3 endpoint by setting the following environment variables:

AWS_ACCESS_KEY_ID=XXXXX                 # Credentials only needed if connecting to a private endpoint
AWS_REGION=us-east-1                    # Region for the S3 bucket, this is not always needed. Default is us-east-1.  # The S3 API Endpoint to connect to. This is specified in a HOST:PORT format.
S3_USE_HTTPS=1                          # Whether or not to use HTTPS. Disable with 0.
S3_VERIFY_SSL=1                         # If HTTPS is used, conterols if SSL should be enabled. Disable with 0.


Once setup is completed, Tensorflow can interact with S3 in a variety of ways. Anywhere there is a Tensorflow IO function, an S3 URL can be used.

Smoke Test

To test your setup, stat a file:

from import file_io
print file_io.stat('s3://bucketname/path/')

You should see output similar to this:

<tensorflow.python.pywrap_tensorflow_internal.FileStatistics; proxy of <Swig Object of type 'tensorflow::FileStatistics *' at 0x10c2171b0> >

Reading Data

When reading data, change the file paths you use to read and write data to an S3 path. For example:

filenames = ["s3://bucketname/path/to/file1.tfrecord",
dataset =

Tensorflow Tools

Many Tensorflow tools, such as Tensorboard or model serving, can also take S3 URLS as arguments:

tensorboard --logdir s3://bucketname/path/to/model/
tensorflow_model_server --port=9000 --model_name=model --model_base_path=s3://bucketname/path/to/model/export/

This enables an end to end workflow using S3 for all data needs.

S3 Endpoint Implementations

S3 was invented by Amazon, but the S3 API has spread in popularity and has several implementations. The following implementations have passed basic compatibility tests: