In the landscape of cloud computing, Amazon Web Services (AWS) has continued to maintain its dominance, now boasting an extensive portfolio of more than 200 cloud services.
Despite AWS' managed services and ease of use, you are still responsible for keeping your cloud deployments running smoothly and performing as expected. This necessitates the adoption of monitoring tools to help you identify performance bottlenecks, troubleshoot problems, optimize resources, and reduce costs.
Generally speaking, AWS monitoring involves collecting metrics, logs, and traces from the various services that constitute your cloud environment. Once you've collected this data, you can use it to create dashboards and alerts. Dashboards visualize your AWS data, while alerts help you take action quickly when anomalies are detected to prevent service outages or performance degradations.
In this article, we will discuss a variety of AWS monitoring tools, ranging from AWS native tools to third-party open source and commercial solutions. We will also discuss the features and benefits of each tool so you can decide which one is right for you.
Benefits of monitoring your AWS environment
The primary purpose of monitoring your AWS resources is to ensure that everything is working as expected within your budgetary constraints. A proper AWS monitoring strategy in place will help you achieve the following goals:
Track all your AWS resources, ensuring that they operate efficiently and meet performance expectations. Analyzing metrics like CPU utilization, memory usage, and response times will help you detect bottlenecks and opportunities for improvement.
Detect issues in your environment and take corrective actions swiftly to minimize downtime and service disruptions.
Access resource utilization trends so that you can identify periods of peak demand, plan for scalability, and allocate resources optimally to avoid overspending.
Detect unusual access patterns and unauthorized changes and take timely action to secure your environment and adhere to compliance requirements.
Adhere to Service Level Agreements (SLAs) by tracking metrics related to uptime, response times, and availability.
Identify the root cause of a problem during troubleshooting sessions to improve reliability and prevent recurrence.
Now that we've considered some of the key reasons to adopt an AWS monitoring tool, let's discuss 14 of the top AWS monitoring solutions out there.
AWS monitoring tools compared
|Criteria||AWS CloudWatch||AWS CloudTrail||AWS Config||AWS Inspector||Better Stack||Datadog||New Relic||Dynatrace||Site24x7||Zabbix||ManageEngine Applications Manager||OpsView||SolarWinds||Sumo Logic|
|Supported AWS Resources||Extensive||AWS Activity||All||EC2 instances, applications||AWS resources||Varies||Applications & Infrastructure||Applications & Infrastructure||Wide range||Infrastructure||Varies||Varies||Varies|
|Alerting and Notifications||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Ease of Use||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Integration with AWS Services||Native||Native||Native||Native||Limited||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||No||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Support and Community||AWS Support||AWS Support||AWS Support||AWS Support||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Community||Customer Support||Yes||Customer Support||Customer Support|
AWS native monitoring tools
When you're starting your AWS monitoring journey, you should definitely look into the native solutions provided for this purpose before considering third-party alternatives. Below are some of the key native monitoring tools that AWS provides:
1. Amazon CloudWatch
Amazon CloudWatch is the default and most comprehensive native observability tool for the AWS environment. It integrates seamlessly with various AWS resources, applications, and services, but it can also monitor custom applications and on-premises infrastructure.
With CloudWatch, you can collect logs and metrics from all your cloud applications and infrastructure resources and aggregate them in one place, providing you with a unified view of your AWS environment. Since CloudWatch is a native AWS service, it's easy to funnel data generated from the various components of your AWS infrastructure and applications into it. In fact, most AWS Services (EC2, S3, Kinesis, etc.) automatically send metrics to CloudWatch by default.
Once your AWS data is being tracked in CloudWatch, you can define various metric and event thresholds and set up actions to be taken when those thresholds are exceeded. CloudWatch also provides customizable dashboards that allow you to visualize your metric and log data as you see fit.
Since CloudWatch is part of the Amazon free tier, you can try it out for free with limited usage. Once you exceed the free tier limits, CloudWatch follows a pay-as-you-go pricing model that depends on your usage and requires no upfront commitment or minimum fee. However, note that CloudWatch costs can quickly spiral out of control if you're not careful, so its something to keep tabs on as your monitoring requirements scale.
Deep integration with various AWS services. Currently, over 30 AWS services publish logs and over 70 publish metrics to CloudWatch.
Automatically collects a wide variety of metrics from your AWS resources.
You can easily automate responses to events of interest through CloudWatch Alarms and Events.
It supports monitoring resources across different AWS accounts and regions, enabling comprehensive oversight of complex architectures.
While CloudWatch offers a free tier, it can quickly get expensive, especially if you are monitoring a large number of resources.
Its logging user experience is subpar compared to dedicated log management tools.
2. Amazon CloudTrail
Amazon CloudTrail is a service that helps you track user and API activity in your AWS environment so that all actions that are performed on any AWS resources are well accounted for. It can capture a record of all API calls made to your AWS account, including the source IP address, the user or role that made the call, its timestamp, request details, and much more.
Tracking such data allows you to see who is making API calls to your account and what those calls are doing, which is helpful for identifying unauthorized access and potential security risks. It also helps you meet a variety of compliance requirements, such as PCI DSS, HIPAA, and SOX which are crucial if your business is dealing with sensitive data such as financial, healthcare, or regulatory data.
CloudTrail is enabled by default on all AWS accounts and across all services, and you can access the most recent 90-day history of your account's control plane activity at no extra cost. While CloudTrail events are encrypted and stored in Amazon S3 by default, they can optionally be delivered to CloudWatch Logs, Amazon EventBridge, and other third-party solutions.
It is "always on" for certain activities across all AWS services at no cost.
Collected data can help you identify suspicious activity and comply with security regulations.
Encrypts and delivers logs to Amazon S3, ensuring file integrity with read-only access.
Supports SQL-based querying for auditing your logs and events.
Captures and stores events from multiple AWS regions or accounts in one place.
To view and monitor your logs, you must send them to CloudWatch or a third-party service.
It can quickly get expensive if you are tracking a large number of API calls and events.
3. AWS Config
AWS Config is a monitoring tool that keeps track of your AWS resources and their configurations. It records the details of changes to your resources and provides you with a configuration history so you can troubleshoot operational or compliance issues.
It helps you keep a secure cloud environment by defining what a compliant configuration looks like through built-in or custom rules. As it collects changes to configuration data in your AWS environment, any compliance violations will be flagged and you'll be alerted immediately so you can investigate the issue.
It also allows you to quickly and efficiently deploy a collection of rules and remediation actions (called "Conformance packs") across your entire organization so that a common baseline for resource configuration policies is established. These Conformance packs also provide compliance scores that are streamed to Amazon CloudWatch so that you can track them over time and visualize the impact of specific changes and deployments on your compliance posture.
Regarding pricing, AWS Config is a fairly cheap service at $0.003 per configuration item per AWS region. Additional costs are also accrued for rule evaluations and conformance packs. See their pricing page for more details.
It keeps change history, simplifying issue identification by showing modifying actions.
It connects with CloudTrail to link configuration changes with specific environment events.
It can store configuration snapshots in Amazon S3.
AWS Config setup, custom rules creation, and data interpretation are challenging to learn.
It can be cumbersome to manage as the configuration rules grow.
It is limited to resources and applications used within the AWS environment.
4. AWS Inspector
AWS Inspector is a security and vulnerability detection service that continuously scans your AWS environment for known vulnerabilities and unintended network exposure of EC2 instances, AWS Lambda functions, and container workloads running in the Elastic Container Registry.
It assesses your resources by analyzing their configurations and behavior, providing detailed findings and recommendations to enhance the security posture of your environment. It also calculates a risk score for each discovery so that the most critical vulnerabilities are apparent and you can prioritize your response accordingly.
Once a vulnerability is patched or remediated, Amazon Inspector detects the change and automatically resolves the finding without manual intervention. To avoid gaps in coverage, it highlights any resources that need to be actively monitored and guides how to include them.
AWS Inspector provides a free 15-day trial for new accounts for evaluation purposes. Afterward, your monthly costs are connected to the different workloads scanned. EC2 instances are charged at $1.2528 per instance, container images at $0.09 per image for the initial push and $0.01 per rescan, and Lambda functions at $0.30 for software package vulnerabilities and $0.60 for code vulnerabilities.
Automates AWS environment scanning for vulnerabilities and compliance.
You can customize scanning rules to focus on relevant security risks for your use cases.
Provides detailed reports on vulnerabilities, impacts, and recommended fixes.
AWS Inspector cons
It can sometimes generate false positives.
It doesn't cover all security issues, like web application vulnerabilities.
AWS third-party monitoring tools
Although AWS offers robust built-in monitoring tools, there are situations in which utilizing third-party monitoring solutions can provide unique benefits. This is particularly relevant when managing diverse cloud providers or maintaining a hybrid infrastructure that includes on-premises deployments.
Let's now consider some of the best third-party services for monitoring your AWS environment:
5. Better Stack
Better Stack is an observability platform that provides log management, uptime monitoring, and incident management for a variety of application environments. Thanks to its custom-built technology built on ClickHouse, you can work with your logs more efficiently and save funds compared to other tools. With Better Stack, you can search and filter petabytes of log data, visualize your data, and receive alerts when anomalies are detected.
Its unified dashboard also offers built-in uptime monitoring and incident management features. Each error is documented with a screenshot, an error log, a second-by-second incident timeline, post-mortem, coupled with advanced incident escalation rules. You can also benefit from its on-call scheduling and integrations to plan in advance and always have first-responders on the line. In case of downtime, you can create custom status pages with customizable designs that your users can subscribe to.
Better Stack is completely free for its basic uptime monitoring, log management, and incident management package. Its paid plans start at $24/month.
Better Stack pros
Supports SQL for log data querying, eliminating the need to learn a new query language.
Cost-effective for logging, uptime monitoring, and incident management.
Advanced on-call scheduling and incident management features are built in.
Offers a more modern user interface compared to its competitors.
Offers beautiful and branded status pages for keeping track of resource availability.
Better Stack cons
- Integrations are limited compared to some other tools.
- Application performance monitoring (APM) functionality is not available.
Datadog is a popular observability platform that offers a whole host of infrastructure monitoring tools for logs, metrics, events, application errors, and more. Its AWS monitoring capabilities allow you to collect, visualize, analyze, and alert on the aggregated data from your AWS resources and applications.
Once you connect your AWS account to Datadog, you can collect logs, metrics and events from over 100 AWS products, including all the major ones such as Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2), Relational Database Service (RDS), S3, AWS Lambda, and many others. You can also see CloudWatch alarms and view automatic status updates through its Events Explorer interface.
It also includes a Cloud Security Management solution that offers real-time threat detection and continuous configuration audits across your entire cloud infrastructure. These tools allow you to gain visibility into your configuration status, implement threat detection, and automate incident response. It also offers solutions for monitoring cloud costs, database health, and end-to-end visibility for hybrid or multi-cloud environments.
Feature-rich for monitoring applications and infrastructure, suitable for large, complex cloud setups.
Offers broad integrations with a wide variety of tools and services, simplifying data collection, correlation, and monitoring.
Integrates with tools like Terraform for embedding monitoring configurations during cloud resource provisioning.
Provides robust dashboard solutions for visualizing diverse data sources.
Datadog is a pricey monitoring platform, sometimes exceeding the cost of the monitored resources themselves.
Its features and customization lead to a notable learning curve, even for experienced users of monitoring tools.
New Relic's infrastructure monitoring offers a flexible and dynamic way to observe your entire infrastructure, from services running in the cloud or on dedicated hosts to containers running in Kubernetes. Its AWS integration provides comprehensive visibility into the services you use, including all the most popular ones such as EC2, SNS, S3, RDS, DynamoDB, and more.
One of New Relic's key features is its ability to provide an accurate view of all your EC2 instances so that you can dynamically adapt the instance count based on your ongoing needs, ensuring optimal resource allocation. Since some EC2 instances are typically more important than others, New Relic provides the ability to examine and sort your hosts using attributes like role, tier, availability zone, data center, or custom EC2 tags.
You can also use New Relic to keep tabs on your AWS costs which is especially handy if you use a wide variety of AWS services. Through its cost and forecasting dashboards, you can gain insights that enable you to precisely anticipate budgetary considerations, ultimately affecting your bottom line with greater accuracy.
New Relic pros
Provides full-stack monitoring for applications and infrastructure on both on-premises and cloud environments.
Its APM solutions are class-leading.
Offers a generous free trial with 100 GB data ingest per month and no credit card required.
Simpler pricing model relative to its competition.
New Relic cons
Their infrastructure monitoring and logging solutions are less robust than their APM solution.
Its query language (NRQL) is less sophisticated than SQL for querying.
Dynatrace provides a comprehensive infrastructure and full-stack monitoring solution encompassing a wide range of AWS services compatible with their OneAgent technology (such as Amazon EC2, AWS Lambda, and Kubernetes) or by ingesting logs, events, and metrics from Amazon CloudWatch.
AWS monitoring on Dynatrace comes with consistent out-of-the-box metrics, dashboards and alerts immediately after the monitoring is enabled. Additionally, you have the flexibility to opt for log monitoring, covering logs from both cloud services and your self-hosted services within virtual machines or containers.
Its alerting and incident management features are great and straightforward to use.
Supports multi-cloud and hybrid setups, and lets you trace your network and show interactions with minimal configuration.
Instrumenting your hosts is easy through its OneAgent technology.
It works well with elastic environments where auto-scaling is involved.
It does not have a free plan, and its free trial is only 15 days.
It is hugely expensive, especially for large cloud environments.
Site24x7 offers a comprehensive AWS monitoring solution that allows you to track the health, performance, and uptime of your cloud resources and application workloads. With Site24x7, you can monitor over 50 AWS resources and services, including EC2 instances, RDS databases, ELB load balancers, S3 buckets, and more. Its seamless integration with AWS CloudWatch means you can effortlessly access and visualize crucial performance metrics while setting up custom alerts and notifications based on these metrics.
The platform's auto-discovery capabilities ensure that new AWS resources are automatically incorporated into the monitoring regimen, reducing manual configuration efforts. A number of pre-built dashboards are provided to visualize the state of your AWS environment and how each resource type has evolved over a particular period.
It also helps you configure and deploy your cloud resources according to industry-accepted best practices through its Guidance Report checks which provide over 150 recommendations for closing security gaps, reducing costs, and increasing fault tolerance. When faults, incidents, and anomalies are detected, it can automatically remediate them by invoking pre-configured actions as needed.
Site24x7 offers real-time alerts for performance problems and outages, with highly customizable alerting channels.
Its user-friendly interface and intuitive dashboards cater to users with diverse technical backgrounds.
It offers fair and cost-effective pricing relative to the competition.
It performs website monitoring from various locations, ensuring a consistent user experience worldwide.
- Its features, integrations, and customization options are not as extensive as some competing platforms.
Zabbix is an open-source and completely free monitoring solution that offers robust capabilities for monitoring server infrastructure including cloud services like AWS. It is not a cloud-based solution, so it must be deployed on any Linux server of your choice or using any popular cloud platform.
Once you have Zabbix up and running, you need to import the "AWS by HTTP" template which will automatically discover the instances of those services so you don't have to configure each one of them manually. Zabbix's extensibility also permits the implementation of custom monitoring solutions, making it possible to gather specific metrics that might not be available through CloudWatch alone.
- Because it's free and open source, it's perfect for organizations aiming to reduce monitoring expenses.
- It supplies monitoring templates for different services, simplifying the instrumentation process.
- It is highly customizable and flexible enough to meet a wide range of monitoring requirements.
- Its initial setup is more complicated compared to managed solutions.
- Its user interface design is more primitive compared to commercial tools.
- Maintenance and upgrades require manual handling, but Long-Term Support (LTS) versions are available.
11. ManageEngine Applications Manager
Applications Manager's AWS monitoring solution helps you monitor essential key performance indicators (KPIs) across a range of Amazon services, thereby optimizing the performance and functionality of vital business applications operating within your cloud environment. It provides comprehensive visibility into a diverse array of AWS cloud metrics, encompassing resource consumption, cost analysis, request metrics, target statuses, and these insights are tailored to distinct Amazon services and instances like EC2, DynamoDB, Amazon RDS, and more.
It also offers a Root Cause Analysis feature that lets you identify the source of various performance bottlenecks and resolve them before they are noticed by end users. You can also configure automated cloud actions to reduce the amount of manual intervention required to administer your AWS resources when certain conditions are met.
Applications Manager pros
- Applications Manager offers a reasonable price point, making it more budget-friendly than other solutions.
- Installation and configuration of the tool for AWS resources (and other environments) is relatively straightforward.
- It provides a centralized and comprehensive view of all IT operations, enabling efficient monitoring and troubleshooting.
- Offers deployment flexibility with on-premises and cloud options.
Applications Manager cons
- Their user interface could be more intuitive.
- Support for multi-cloud monitoring is lacklustre.
- Database monitoring features are limited.
Opsview helps you gain increased clarity into your AWS operations by delivering a consolidated view of the operational status and efficiency of your AWS infrastructure and applications. It provides "Opspacks" for monitoring various services including Amazon EC2, S3, ELB, RDS, DynamoDB, and others.
Its Amazon EC2 integration includes comprehensive monitoring of metrics such as CPU utilization, CPU credit consumption, and other relevant data points. By default, you get metrics at a default 5-minute resolution without any charges. If you desire more granular insights, you have the option to activate 1-minute resolution metrics, although this choice may incur usage costs.
For AWS ELB, you can monitor backend connection errors, latency, request count, instance health, spillover count, and more. Its S3 plugin includes a variety of checks, such as bucket size, number of objects, request count, bytes downloaded, errors, and latency statistics. Over 18 checks are also included in its RDS monitoring service to help you identify problem areas in the database, such as storage space, IO, throughput, and latency issues.
- Live AWS monitoring with alerts is fully supported.
- It provides nice out-of-the-box visualizations and dashboards.
- It is cost-effective with dedicated small and medium-sized business plans on offer.
- It's accessible as both a SaaS and self-hosted service.
- It is less feature-rich for full-stack AWS monitoring than its competition.
SolarWinds offers a range of tools to monitor various aspects of AWS infrastructure, including application performance, server health, and log analysis. Its AppOptics solution lets you connect to AWS CloudWatch and import metrics for your various AWS services. After completing the initial setup, you should start seeing metrics flow into your account within 10-15 minutes, and you can navigate to a list of dashboards automatically created for each service.
It also offers the ability to monitor the health and performance of your on-premise and cloud application infrastructure through its Hybrid Cloud Observability solution which provides agent-based or agentless access to relevant metrics. This includes a metric correlation dashboard, database anomaly detection, dependency mapping tools, AI-based analysis and forecasting, and much more.
For AWS Logging, the PaperTrail service is available to centralize all your logs in one place and use its live tail feature to gain visibility into your AWS services. Its Log Velocity Analytics viewer can reveal patterns and detect irregularities within your AWS log information by charting log entries across a designated timeframe. If you discover an intriguing insight, you can delve deeper by interacting with the graph or seamlessly transition to the corresponding log messages.
- Offers a wide range of tools and features for infrastructure and application monitoring.
- Supports application dependency mapping for root cause analysis.
- Allows deployment flexibility with on-premise and cloud options.
- SolarWinds has been involved in several security incidents in recent years.
- The absence of agent-less integration with GCP and Oracle may make it less suitable for multi-cloud environments.
SumoLogic is another monitoring tool that makes AWS monitoring easier by offering a unified view of your AWS environment. It supports the following AWS resources and services: Amazon EC2, ECS, RDS, ElastiCache, API Gateway, Lambda, DynamoDB, Application ELB, Network ELB, Amazon SNS, and more. You can also satisfy your monitoring needs by installing individual apps for specific AWS services.
In minutes, you can channel data into Sumo Logic's AWS monitoring solution using either AWS CloudFormation or Terraform. This process is streamlined through Sumo Logic's ability to automatically assign tags such as AWS account details, regions, namespaces, and availability zones to the data. You also get ready-made dashboards and predefined alerts that offer contextual insights into your data.
Sumo Logic also provides a Root Cause Explorer interface that simplifies identifying the underlying reasons behind incidents and performance issues. By providing visual representations of unusual events spanning various AWS infrastructure services, this tool enables swift detection of anomalies. It achieves this by automating the identification of deviations from the established activity baseline, focusing on AWS cloud resources. Significant deviations are highlighted through this process, allowing for prompt attention to potential issues.
It is well suited to multi-cloud environments.
Utilizes ML/AI capabilities to identify normal and abnormal behavior across environments.
Their log management tools are more developed compared to its competitors.
- Its cost can escalate quickly.
- Its infrastructure monitoring tools are less mature than its log management features.
Before deciding on what AWS monitoring tool to adopt, ensure that you've assessed the specific monitoring needs of your AWS environment. Look for a tool that offers comprehensive monitoring capabilities for the AWS services you use, and evaluate the tool's alerting and notification capabilities.
Cost is another important factor, so compare pricing options and features to find a tool that aligns with your budget. Finally, read reviews and seek recommendations from other AWS users to gauge the tool's reliability, support, and overall reputation in the community.
Thanks for reading, and happy monitoring!
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