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You can use user data, but only at instance launch, not after the launch. Heat has several deployment options, perhaps some work on already running instances. And you can log on to the instance and deploy your system as if the instance were a physical server.

You can use user data, but only at instance launch, not after the launch. Heat has several deployment options, perhaps some work on already running instances. You can also install an agent on the image which performs the deployment (again Heat does that).

And of course you can log on to the instance and deploy your system as if the instance were a physical server.