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I have a JSON output from which I need to extract a few parameters in Linux.

This is the JSON output:

        "OwnerId": "121456789127",
        "ReservationId": "r-48465168",
        "Groups": [],
        "Instances": [
                "Monitoring": {
                    "State": "disabled"
                "PublicDnsName": null,
                "RootDeviceType": "ebs",
                "State": {
                    "Code": 16,
                    "Name": "running"
                "EbsOptimized": false,
                "LaunchTime": "2014-03-19T09:16:56.000Z",
                "PrivateIpAddress": "",
                "ProductCodes": [
                        "ProductCodeId": "aacglxeowvn5hy8sznltowyqe",
                        "ProductCodeType": "marketplace"
                "VpcId": "vpc-86bab0e4",
                "StateTransitionReason": null,
                "InstanceId": "i-1234576",
                "ImageId": "ami-b7f6c5de",
                "PrivateDnsName": "ip-10-120-134-248.ec2.internal",
                "KeyName": "Test_Virginia",
                "SecurityGroups": [
                        "GroupName": "Test",
                        "GroupId": "sg-12345b"
                "ClientToken": "VYeFw1395220615808",
                "SubnetId": "subnet-12345314",
                "InstanceType": "t1.micro",
                "NetworkInterfaces": [
                        "Status": "in-use",
                        "SourceDestCheck": true,
                        "VpcId": "vpc-123456e4",
                        "Description": "Primary network interface",
                        "NetworkInterfaceId": "eni-3619f31d",
                        "PrivateIpAddresses": [
                                "Primary": true,
                                "PrivateIpAddress": ""
                        "Attachment": {
                            "Status": "attached",
                            "DeviceIndex": 0,
                            "DeleteOnTermination": true,
                            "AttachmentId": "eni-attach-9210dee8",
                            "AttachTime": "2014-03-19T09:16:56.000Z"
                        "Groups": [
                                "GroupName": "Test",
                                "GroupId": "sg-123456cb"
                        "SubnetId": "subnet-31236514",
                        "OwnerId": "109030037527",
                        "PrivateIpAddress": ""
                "SourceDestCheck": true,
                "Placement": {
                    "Tenancy": "default",
                    "GroupName": null,
                    "AvailabilityZone": "us-east-1c"
                "Hypervisor": "xen",
                "BlockDeviceMappings": [
                        "DeviceName": "/dev/sda",
                        "Ebs": {
                            "Status": "attached",
                            "DeleteOnTermination": false,
                            "VolumeId": "vol-37ff097b",
                            "AttachTime": "2014-03-19T09:17:00.000Z"
                "Architecture": "x86_64",
                "KernelId": "aki-88aa75e1",
                "RootDeviceName": "/dev/sda1",
                "VirtualizationType": "paravirtual",
                "Tags": [
                        "Value": "Server for testing RDS feature in us-east-1c AZ",
                        "Key": "Description"
                        "Value": "RDS_Machine (us-east-1c)",
                        "Key": "Name"
                        "Value": "1234",
                        "Key": "cost.centre",
                        "Value": "Jyoti Bhanot",
                        "Key": "Owner",
                "AmiLaunchIndex": 0

I want to write a file that contains heading like instance id, tag like name, cost center, owner. and below that certain values from the JSON output. The output here given is just an example.

How can I do that using sed and awk?

Expected output :

 Instance id         Name                           cost centre             Owner
    i-1234576          RDS_Machine (us-east-1c)        1234                   Jyoti
share|improve this question
Pipe your CLI call into python, suggested because it's native to EC2 instances. Python can easily interpret JSON. See the answer below for an example. Of course, you could use any other SS language too, but they will require installs whereas Python is already there. – Robbie Averill Oct 31 '14 at 6:24

6 Answers 6

The availability of parsers in nearly every programming language is one of the advantages of JSON as a data-interchange format.

Rather than trying to implement a JSON parser, you are likely better off using either a tool built for JSON parsing such as jq or a general purpose script language that has a JSON library.

For example, using jq, you could pull out the ImageID from the first item of the Instances array as follows:

jq '.Instances[0].ImageId' test.json

Alternatively, to get the same information using Ruby's JSON library:

ruby -rjson -e 'j = JSON.parse("test.json")); puts j["Instances"][0]["ImageId"]'

I won't answer all of your revised questions and comments but the following is hopefully enough to get you started.

Suppose that you had a Ruby script that could read a from STDIN and output the second line in your example output[0]. That script might look something like:

#!/usr/bin/env ruby
require 'json'

data = JSON.parse(
instance_id = data["Instances"][0]["InstanceId"]
name = data["Instances"][0]["Tags"].find {|t| t["Key"] == "Name" }["Value"]
owner = data["Instances"][0]["Tags"].find {|t| t["Key"] == "Owner" }["Value"]
cost_center = data["Instances"][0]["SubnetId"].split("-")[1][0..3]
puts "#{instance_id}\t#{name}\t#{cost_center}\t#{owner}"

How could you use such a script to accomplish your whole goal? Well, suppose you already had the following:

  • a command to list all your instances
  • a command to get the json above for any instance on your list and output it to STDOU

One way would be to use your shell to combine these tools:

echo -e "Instance id\tName\tcost centre\tOwner"
for instance in $(list-instances); do
    get-json-for-instance $instance | ./ugly-ruby-scriptrb

Now, maybe you have a single command that give you one json blob for all instances with more items in that "Instances" array. Well, if that is the case, you'll just need to modify the script a bit to iterate through the array rather than simply using the first item.

In the end, the way to solve this problem, is the way to solve many problems in Unix. Break it down into easier problems. Find or write tools to solve the easier problem. Combine those tools with your shell or other operating system features.

[0] Note that I have no idea where you get cost-center from, so I just made it up.

share|improve this answer
i have installed jq on my machine. but i dont know how to get the information. i am updating the question – user3086014 Mar 27 '14 at 9:23
How to do that. the command ec2-describe instance gives reslut like this. this is data for 1 instance, there are 100 instance. How to do that in a script – user3086014 Mar 27 '14 at 9:25
i have aws cli tools that gives me the output. now how to parse the output and the required tags that i really dont know – user3086014 Mar 27 '14 at 9:59
@user3086014 I'm sorry, but I won't be putting more work into this answer. Take a look at the Ruby example I have there. It should give you a good place to start on how to get tags out of various parts of the JSON you want. – Steven D Mar 27 '14 at 10:02
In the moltitude of json tools available jq is my favorite Available in std distribution as well. A playground for testing filters is available at!%22 – lrkwz Sep 16 at 8:56

You can use following python script to parse that data. Lets assume that you have JSON data from arrays in files like array1.json, array2.json and so on.

import json
import sys
from pprint import pprint

jdata = open(sys.argv[1])

data = json.load(jdata)

print "InstanceId", " - ", "Name", " - ", "Owner"
print data["Instances"][0]["InstanceId"], " - " ,data["Instances"][0]["Tags"][1]["Value"], " - " ,data["Instances"][0]["Tags"][2]["Value"] 


And then just run:

$ for x in `ls *.json`; do python $x; done
InstanceId  -  Name  -  Owner
i-1234576  -  RDS_Machine (us-east-1c)  -  Jyoti Bhanot

I haven't seen cost in your data, that's why I didn't include that.

According to discussion in comments, I have updated script:

import json
import sys
from pprint import pprint

jdata =

data = json.loads(jdata)

print "InstanceId", " - ", "Name", " - ", "Owner"
print data["Instances"][0]["InstanceId"], " - " ,data["Instances"][0]["Tags"][1]["Value"], " - " ,data["Instances"][0]["Tags"][2]["Value"] 

You can try to run following command:

#ec2-describe-instance <instance> | python
share|improve this answer
but this is just one array there are similar arrays returned by the command. how to do that – user3086014 Mar 27 '14 at 10:32
and this data is generated by ec2-describe instance command at runtime. how to handle that – user3086014 Mar 27 '14 at 10:34
I have modified a bit this python script: import json from pprint import pprint jdata = open('example.json') data = json.load(jdata) print "InstanceId", " - ", "Name", " - ", "Owner" print data["Instances"][0]["InstanceId"], " - " ,data["Instances"][0]["Tags"][1]["Value"], " - " ,data["Instances"][0]["Tags"][2]["Value"] jdata.close() If you have all json data from arrays in files like array1.json, array2.json, ... and so on, you could try to run it like this: # for x in ls *.json; do python $x; done – Robert Jonczy Mar 27 '14 at 10:42
you can update the answer itself . its not readable – user3086014 Mar 27 '14 at 10:42
also i have arrays.100 of arrays like this – user3086014 Mar 27 '14 at 10:43

Others have provided general answers for your question which demonstrate good ways of parsing json however I, like you, were looking for a way to extract an aws instance id using a core tool like awk or sed without depending on other packages. To accomplish this you can pass the "--output=text" argument to your aws command which will give you an awk parsable string. With that you can simply get the instance ID using something like the following...

aws ec2 run-instances --output text  | awk -F"\t" '$1=="INSTANCES" {print $8}'
share|improve this answer

The following jq code:

.Instances[] | (.Tags | map(.value=.Value | .key=.Key) | from_entries) as $tags | "\(.InstanceId) | \($tags.Name) | \($tags["cost.centre"]) | \($tags.Owner)"

used like:

json_producer | jq -r '<jq code...>'

would output:

i-1234576 | RDS_Machine (us-east-1c) | 1234 | Jyoti Bhanot

A few pointers to understand the code:

  • from_entries takes an array of objects like {key:a, value:b} and turns it into an object with corresponding key/value pairs ({a: b});
  • The Key and Value keys in the Tags array had to be converted to lowercase;
  • The last string uses jq's string interpolation feature. You can tweak it as needed.

Fore more details, go see jq's tutorial and manual at

share|improve this answer

Jshon is available in several distributions :

$ echo your_JSON|jshon -e Instances -a -e InstanceId -u -p -e Tags -a -e Key -u -p -e Value -u
Server for testing RDS feature in us-east-1c AZ
RDS_Machine (us-east-1c)
Jyoti Bhanot

Poor explanation : -e uu will extract object uu, -a will make the array usable (not sure I correctly phrased this one but anyway…), -u will decode the string, -p will go back to previous item (seems that -i N, N being any number, has the same effect).

Depending on your case, the output may require some post-treatment (like yours, as you can see).

Jshon doesn's seem robust against JSON malformation, though (your "Tags" with commas before the closing curly bracket will raise an error).

Someone mentioned jsawk in another thread, but I have not tested it.

share|improve this answer

Here is one-liner suggestion:

pr -mt \
 <(grep -o ".*: .*," in.json | grep -iw InstanceId | cut -d: -f2) \
 <(grep -o ".*: .*," in.json | grep -iw Value      | cut -d: -f2) \
 <(grep -o ".*: .*," in.json | grep -iw Key        | cut -d: -f2)

Not perfect, but it'd work if you tweak it a bit.

It basically using pr to print each set result per column. Each result set is returned by process substitution which parse JSON file and return values based on the key.

This works similar as described in: Given key-value content, how do I group values by key and sort by value?

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