AWSCloud Basics

Cloud Monitoring with AWS CloudWatch

This week, we’re looking at one of my favourite products within Amazon Web Services, and that is CloudWatch!  As usual we’re just going to cover the basics here, but if you need more help and advice on defining and deploying a cloud monitoring solution, just get in touch!

What is CloudWatch?

CloudWatch is a set of tools which can help you view the overall health of an environment.  The environment can be in the AWS cloud, in someone else’s cloud, or even on premises.  All you need is the CloudWatch agent running on a the server, and you’re half way there already!

Cloudwatch can poll specific metrics from your cloud resources every few minutes, depending on how you configure it, and record those metrics for you.  Dashboards can then be deployed super quickly, and can show trends and snapshots of how your cloud resources are performing over a given period.

The other big part of CloudWatch is CloudWatch Logs.  CloudWatch Logs connects an agent running on a cloud resource to the service running in CloudWatch, and streams the log data from your applications in real time.  For example, if you have a cluster of 5 web servers all doing the same job, you now only have to look in one place to see the logs for them all.

Integrations

But it’s better than just dashboards and logfiles.  Since CloudWatch is a serverless product from AWS, it seamlessly plugs into other AWS services.

  • Want an Email alert when the CPU utilisation breaches 90% for 5 minutes or more?  No worries, link it with Simple Email Service, SES.
  • Want to queue maintenance tasks when the platform is under-utilised?  Link up to Simple Queue Service, SQS.
  • Need to run a restart script if a specific string appears in a logfile?  Just trigger a Lambda function.

Alternatives

Of course monitoring and centralised logging solutions have been around for decades now.  But like most AWS services, the revolution here is not the technology, it is the accessibility of that technology.

Products like Microsoft’s System Centre, Spiceworks, and SolarWinds do an amazing job of graphing key server metrics, as well as having a host of other value-add features which are not available within CloudWatch.  But CloudWatch is there, ready and wating for you.  Indeed even if you only build a CloudWatch dashboard today, you will be able to graph metrics for your cloud estate going back up to 15 months.  The data is ready and waiting for you.

Cost

CloudWatch is also super-cheap!  You get up to 50 metrics across 3 dashboards, 10 alarms, and 5GB of log space absolutely free!

After that, prices move in line with the amount of infrastructure you are monitoring, and detailed pricing can be found at the AWS CloudWatch pricing page.

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