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We answer your questions about monitoring in AWS, what to monitor, why, and share some of the best AWS monitoring tools currently available.
Cloud computing offers several advantages over legacy on-premises systems, including cost, scalability, and performance.
Today, Amazon Web Services (AWS) offers over 200 cloud services that can integrate seamlessly with your existing workflows, making it one of the most popular public cloud platforms.
AWS strives to make its tools easy to use, but managing resources and services can be challenging. AWS environments require continuous monitoring, for example, to determine which changes to make to reduce costs, improve performance, and secure your systems.
Here's where AWS monitoring tools, services, and best practices can help.
In this AWS monitoring guide, you'll learn what monitoring in AWS is, some must-do best practices, and the best AWS monitoring tools to use today.
Table Of Contents
AWS monitoring involves continually observing, inspecting, and tracking the progress and quality of various AWS resources over time. It involves monitoring the AWS cloud’s dynamic environment in real-time to catch cost, security, performance, and other types of anomalies before they become a problem.
Continuous monitoring is one driver of the AWS Well-Architected framework for building an efficient and secure public cloud.
The primary goal of monitoring AWS is to ensure your infrastructure and applications work as expected at all times. Monitoring AWS is beneficial for several reasons:
Ultimately, monitoring your AWS environments can help you find out what you need to improve to maximize ROI, performance, and costs.
Credit: The AWS Shared Responsibility Model, where AWS handles some responsibilities, such as updates and performance optimization while you manage other responsibilities, such as additional application and data security.
The AWS platform offers many services that you should and can monitor.
To avoid overwhelm, you can follow the AWS Well-Architected Framework pillars to understand the right metrics to monitor. For pointers, those pillars include measuring metrics, logs, and traces to help optimize:
In the following image, you can see some examples of key AWS performance metrics, such as CPU and memory utilization data:
Credit: Amazon CloudWatch Container Insights on AWS console
Based on those guiding principles, here are some resources your engineers should monitor on AWS.
You can also use custom metrics for items not covered by native AWS monitoring tools. For example, CloudWatch does not display default memory utilization metrics. However, it supports additional AWS monitoring scripts for that.
Scripts let you report a combination of various metrics, such as memory used/available/utilization, disk used/available/utilization, and swap space used/utilization.
Now that you know what AWS monitoring metrics to watch, here are some key AWS monitoring best practices to help you mitigate risk and maintain optimal performance in the public cloud.
Identify the most important AWS components to monitor according to your business goals. Your plan will need to define:
Developing a clear monitoring plan helps your engineers to have the information they need to make the right decisions as needed.
Let nothing slip by. It is essential to have complete visibility into your AWS environment. The more data you collect from all of your AWS services, the easier it will be to detect, troubleshoot, and debug issues before they become costly failures.
How do you do that? This next best practice will make it easier for you.
Get started monitoring your AWS cloud by activating native AWS services like CloudWatch, CloudTrail, and VPC Flow Logs. This will give you time and space to digest how various data flows in and out of your AWS environments. Afterwards, you can adopt more advanced tools to measure far more detailed AWS metrics, like cost per customer or cost per feature.
Monitoring your AWS environment manually can be time-consuming, error-prone, and easy to overlook crucial metrics. Instead, you want to automate AWS monitoring to tools that do it programmatically with minimal errors.
Most organizations set up AWS monitoring but cannot follow up when they should be continuously doing so. Don't forget that your AWS environment is continuously changing, and you don't want those changes to adversely affect customer experience or application performance when you can prevent it.
Tagging the users who create instances in your organization will increase accountability. One way to accomplish this is to write a Lambda script that attaches owner tags to all instances. The script will have the instance creator’s value as IAM user-name and the key as owner.
In the event of an incident, the setup will create a notification with the following details:
In addition, you can configure the setup to collect other metrics as well. For example, you can create a Responsible, Accountable, Consulted, Informed (RACI) Matrix to determine who is responsible for what and what requires troubleshooting.
Companies that treat cost as a first-class metric are more likely to optimize their AWS cloud costs than those that don't. Monitoring costs proactively also promotes a cost-conscious culture, which encourages engineers to develop cost-saving solutions without compromising system performance.
Unless you monitor your AWS costs, you run the risk of receiving unexpected bills every billing cycle. Instead, consider using an AWS cost monitoring tool to track how your engineering choices lead to cloud waste so you can change that.
Link metrics generated from your AWS environment to the people, products, and processes that generate them. This will help you pinpoint exactly who, what, or why you are experiencing performance, cost, or other issues.
The result? By identifying root causes quickly, you can reduce the time to respond, to repair, and to optimize your AWS operations. In addition, you can work with those involved to prevent similar incidents from occurring in the future.
The tools section below shares some useful services that will help you achieve this level of granularity in AWS.
Monitoring in AWS isn't something you want to set up once and then forget about. Instead, you’ll want to continually monitor what recent changes are occurring in your AWS public cloud, and how they are affecting, among other things, customer experiences and cloud costs.
For example, monitoring Amazon EC2 instances continuously can help you determine whether Auto-Scaling boosts performance at peak usage to boost performance, and whether it scales down during off-peak periods to lower costs.
Logging refers to recording, tracking, and storing data about events and messages that occur in an operating system or between components and users in a system to support application availability. It also shows how state transformations affect app performance. Capturing logs can help monitor compliance with regulations and troubleshoot performance issues.
CloudWatch and CloudTrail both let you capture and report logs for further analyses. You can, however, use a log analysis tool like Loggly by SolarWinds if you want more robust search and aggregation capabilities.
Now, speaking of tools.
You can monitor your AWS resources natively or through third-party tools. By automating monitoring, you can save time, money, and effort that your team would otherwise spend doing it manually.
The best AWS monitoring tools leverage Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) models to monitor any app or stack, at any scale, and from any location. They also provide visual and well-organized dashboards to help you visualize, analyze, and understand your AWS stack without feeling overwhelmed.
The following tools can help engineers and FinOps teams gain greater visibility into their AWS cloud.
CloudZero is a cloud cost intelligence platform that empowers you to see exactly who and what drives your cloud costs and why. With CloudZero, you can view costs across all your services in real-time, including tagged, untagged, and untaggable resources.
Using CloudZero's real-time cost anomaly detection and alerts, your engineers can prevent budget overruns before they happen. By tracking if their cloud bill increases or decreases per deployment or development project, they can experiment and build cloud systems without worrying about overspending.
You can also set up CloudZero in your AWS account to automatically allocate and monitor workloads you orchestrate in Kubernetes.
CloudZero breaks down Kubernetes/container costs to the workload level. Besides:
Amazon CloudWatch enables you to monitor and manage your AWS, on-premises, and hybrid cloud applications and architecture. CloudWatch is Amazon's default observability service for developers, DevOps engineers, IT managers, and site reliability engineers (SREs).
It does this by collecting, visualizing, and reporting metrics, logs, and events from services, applications, and other resources running on the AWS platform and on-premises servers.
CloudWatch lets you monitor anomalous behavior, understand metrics and logs side-by-side, set alarms, troubleshoot issues, and take automated actions without disrupting your workflow.
CloudTrail helps you track API calls and user activity across your AWS infrastructure. That includes actions that a user, role, or an AWS service takes. CloudTrail records the activity as events.
Examples of CloudTrail Events include actions taken via the AWS Management Console, AWS SDKs, AWS Command-Line Interface, and APIs.
Some CloudTrail uses include recording policy changes on Amazon S3 storage, providing audit reports for compliance management, revealing state changes in EC2 instances, and identifying changes to Identity and Access Management users and groups.
This AWS native service provides a central place for aggregating security alerts and data from the entire range of AWS security services and apps. The AWS Security Hub can, for example, pull insights from AWS GuardDuty, Amazon Macie, and Amazon Inspector, inspect them, and automatically report any suspicious behavior.
Then you can use a custom dashboard to prioritize and organize the issues you find.
DataDog might be an ideal option if you are looking for a tracking tool that monitors AWS and Azure all in a single place. It can monitor servers, apps, metrics, clouds, and even teams across full DevOps stacks. DataDog can also monitor security, network, performance, and real users, as well as incidents in your AWS or hybrid environment.
With AWS Inspector, you get a native AWS tool to help you detect, prioritize, and automate vulnerability management at any scale. The tool does this by ingesting and analyzing data continuously from over 50 sources and scanning your workloads continually.
Also, Amazon Inspector scans support compliance standards and best practices for industry standards, such as PCI DSS and NIST CSF.
AppOptics by SolarWinds is a solid performance monitoring solution for applications and infrastructure. With AppOptics, you get continuous visibility into your serverless, host, and container environments.
The software can also monitor Windows, Linux, .NET, Kubernetes, and IIS performance. In addition, SolarWinds provides database and server monitoring tools for AWS customers.
With PRTG Network Monitor, you can monitor any device, system, app, or traffic across all your IT infrastructure. You can also monitor your local network and all cloud services from anywhere, determine how much bandwidth the apps are using, and identify sources of bottlenecks.
It can integrate with a variety of monitoring technologies and comes with great visuals to boost productivity.
ITRS Groups’s Opsview monitors apps, operating systems, virtual machines, databases, and even containers in AWS and Azure deployments. For AWS specifically, Opsview helps monitor eight AWS services, including Amazon EC2, Amazon ELB, and Amazon S3 resources.
Also, Opsview offers over 4,500 plugins that you can integrate to increase your AWS monitoring scope and depth.
Dynatrace is a real-time, hybrid cloud monitoring platform with built-in support for multiple AWS services. With Dynatrace OneAgent, you get to use byte-code instrumentation for Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2), Amazon Elastic Container Service (ECS), AWS Lambda, Amazon Elastic Kubernetes Service (EKS), and AWS Fargate.
Besides metrics, traces, and logs, Dynatrace also captures user experience data and tracks microservices, networks, infrastructure, application, and security indicators for full, end-to-end AWS visibility.
Sematext provides an all-in-one monitoring service for AWS customers. It includes tools to monitor your AWS infrastructure, applications, network, containers, database, and user activity.
It also combines metrics on your website’s user activity, process data, and events in one place for thorough analysis without leaving the Sematext platform.
If you employ a hybrid or multi-cloud strategy, Sematext Enterprise will let you monitor both your cloud and on-premises infrastructure seamlessly.
Cisco’s AppDynamics is a full-stack observability platform that you can deploy for your AWS environment, on-premises, or both. It provides real-time insights into the components that influence your application’s performance.
The goal is to help you pinpoint the root cause of application problems in real-time, down to the code level, so you can swiftly resolve them to maintain optimal customer experience.
Sumo Logic offers deep AWS integration and real-time monitoring to help you improve visibility across services like such as EC2, ECS, RDS, ElastiCache, API Gateway, Lambda, DynamoDB, Application ELB and Network ELB.
The platform’s Root Cause Explorer enables you to identify the root cause of application issues, so you can fix it quickly and reduce your Minimum Time To Resolve (MTTR).
While Motadata provides real-time AWS cloud insights (metrics, logs, and traces), it may be more ideal for users looking for a platform that also provides business process monitoring.
For example, the tool automates patch management, offers ServiceOps, and provides an AI-powered conversational tool to identify root causes of network, infrastructure, and application issues.
With EG Innovations' monitoring service, you can choose a SaaS, cloud-native, or the on-premises option.
The tool’s AWS monitoring platform can also be useful to you if you need a SaaS solution, on-premises tool, or to unify monitoring across a hybrid cloud setup (AWS and Azure).
In addition, it provides right-sizing and optimization to help you manage your AWS resource consumption.
You can completely transform the way you do business on the public cloud by using the right AWS monitoring tool. It can empower you to catch cost anomalies, allocate AWS costs fully, and with greater confidence, instead of holding your breath to see what comes up at the end of every billing cycle.
Tools and more tools won't solve what you can do on your own. To lay a solid foundation for the automation, you’ll want to first implement the AWS monitoring best practices we’ve covered here.
This AWS monitoring checklist is not exhaustive. But if you use these best practices and tools, your will be able to prevent minor issues from becoming big, costly problems real fast.
CloudZero enables engineers to understand how their architectural choices impact cloud costs, and finance to understand per-customer costs.
CloudZero’s cloud cost intelligence approach helps you collect, monitor, and understand your unit economics, with granular, actionable intel like cost per customer, per project, per feature, per product, and per environment.
You can also map your AWS costs to the people, products, and processes that generate those costs for simpler chargeback, showback, cost allocations, and forecasting. No tagging required.
CloudZero monitors cost-related metrics, traces, and events in real-time and alerts engineering and FinOps teams so they can address any issue before they cost thousands of dollars.
Cody Slingerland, a FinOps certified practitioner, is an avid content creator with over 10 years of experience creating content for SaaS and technology companies. Cody collaborates with internal team members and subject matter experts to create expert-written content on the CloudZero blog.
CloudZero is the only solution that enables you to allocate 100% of your spend in hours — so you can align everyone around cost dimensions that matter to your business.