Skip to main content

Monitoring AWS Infrastructure with CloudWatch

CloudWatch uses the mountains of data constantly being generated by your AWS resources to help you monitor and understand what’s really going on.

Closely monitoring your infrastructure is an integral part of any cloud deployment, and AWS CloudWatch offers a rich set of tools to help. The basic function of any monitoring tool is to collect and help you visualize data so you can take quick and effective action. We should give the same priority to application and server monitoring that we do to High Availability for our applications.

CloudWatch provides infrastructure level monitoring and, to some extent, application monitoring. You can access CloudWatch either from the AWS Console or through API and the command line.

CloudWatch monitors metrics describing the behavior of core AWS services within your account. These metrics give you the state of your AWS infrastructure and performance. Every Metric can be made to trigger an alarm, which sends notifications to specified end users through AWS’s Simple Notifications Service (SNS).

Cloudwatch offers two levels of monitoring: basic (no charge) and detailed. Basic metrics for some services are automatically applied, and seven pre-selected metrics are freely available for EC2 instances should you choose to enable them. Basic monitoring will generally provide checks every five minutes.

Detailed monitoring offers increased checking at a frequency of every minute, and costs $3.50 per instance per month. We will familiarize you with some of CloudWatch’s great features.

Cloudwatch main features

AWS resources covered by CloudWatch:

  • Amazon Ec2
  • EBS Volumes
  • AutoScaling Groups
  • Elastic Load Balancers
  • Amazon Route 53
  • RDS DB instances
  • DynamoDB tables
  • ElastiCache clusters
  • RedShift clusters
  • SQS queues
  • SNS topics
  • Storage Gateways
Cloudwatch-Enabled Services

CloudWatch features:

CloudWatch – Auto Scaling integration

Auto Scaling lets you automatically scale your servers up and down according to need. You can scale based on schedule, demand, or server hardware utilization. CloudWatch metrics like CPU usage and network utilization can be used to trigger scaling events. For example, suppose your application is running on two instances: you can, say, require one instance to terminate whenever your CPU utilization drops below 60%.

Reboot failed EC2 instances

We’ve shown how CloudWatch can send you notifications using AWS’s SNS. It can also be told to automatically reboot a failed EC2 instance on a failed status check due to loss of network connectivity, system power, or other software/hardware issues.

Integrate CloudWatch with third-party monitoring and logging tools

You can integrate CloudWatch with third-party monitoring tools like Copperegg, stackdriver, and New Relic. These third-party monitoring tools provide very fine performance monitoring, giving you a clear view of the status of your system processes. You can feed CloudWatch metrics to these services when can then be displayed on a custom dashboard.

Create Custom Metrics

Besides the default CloudWatch metrics like CPU Utilization, Network traffic, and disk read/writes, you may want to monitor more metrics, like memory utilization. You can easily define your own custom metrics. Once these metrics are available in CloudWatch, you can create alarms that trigger new actions.

AWS provides some additional monitoring scripts for adding custom metrics. When you install the scripts you can choose to report any desired combination of the following metrics:

  • Memory Utilization – Memory allocated by applications and the operating system, exclusive of caches and buffers, in percentages.
  • Memory Used – Memory allocated by applications and the operating system, exclusive of caches and buffers, in megabytes.
  • Memory Available – System memory available for applications and the operating system, in megabytes.
  • Disk Space Utilization – Disk space usage as percentages.
  • Disk Space Used – Disk space usage in gigabytes.
  • Disk Space Available – Available disk space in gigabytes.
  • Swap Space Utilization – Swap space usage as a percentage.
  • Swap Space Used – Swap space usage in megabytes.

VPC Flow Logs

Flow Logs have been available on AWS for only a couple of months. You can tell Flow Logs to track all inbound and outbound traffic moving through selected interfaces attached to your VPC. VPC flow Logs make it much easier to debug issues, like why you are not able to reach a particular instance.

You can also create CloudWatch metrics and alarms tied to network Flow Logs.

Get started with CloudWatch with Cloud Academy’s Amazon Web Services CloudWatch course

Avatar

Written by

Nitheesh Poojary

My professional IT career began nine years back when I was just out of my college. I worked with a great team as an infrastructure management engineer, managing hundreds of enterprise application servers. I found my passion when I got the opportunity to work with Cloud technologies: I'm addicted to AWS Cloud Services, DevOps engineering, and all the cloud tools and technologies that make engineers' lives easier. Currently, I am working as a Solution Architect in SixNines IT. We are an experienced team of engineers that have helped hundreds of customers move to the cloud responsibly. I have achieved 5 AWS certifications, happily helping fellow engineers across the globe through my blogs and answering questions in various forums.

Related Posts

Jeff Hyatt
Jeff Hyatt
— June 18, 2019

10 Steps for an Effective Reserved Instances Strategy

Amazon Web Services (AWS) offers three different ways to pay for EC2 Instances: On-Demand, Reserved Instances, and Spot Instances. This article will focus on effective strategies for purchasing Reserved Instances. While most of the major cloud platforms offer pre-pay and reservation dis...

Read more
  • AWS
  • EC2
Joe Nemer
Joe Nemer
— June 18, 2019

AWS Certification Practice Exam: What to Expect from Test Questions

If you’re building applications on the AWS cloud or looking to get started in cloud computing, certification is a way to build deep knowledge in key services unique to the AWS platform. AWS currently offers 11 certifications that cover major cloud roles including Solutions Architect, De...

Read more
  • AWS
  • AWS Certifications
Avatar
John Chell
— June 13, 2019

AWS Certified Solutions Architect Associate: A Study Guide

The AWS Solutions Architect - Associate Certification (or Sol Arch Associate for short) offers some clear benefits: Increases marketability to employers Provides solid credentials in a growing industry (with projected growth of as much as 70 percent in five years) Market anal...

Read more
  • AWS
  • AWS Certifications
Chris Gambino and Joe Niemiec
Chris Gambino and Joe Niemiec
— June 11, 2019

Moving Data to S3 with Apache NiFi

Moving data to the cloud is one of the cornerstones of any cloud migration. Apache NiFi is an open source tool that enables you to easily move and process data using a graphical user interface (GUI).  In this blog post, we will examine a simple way to move data to the cloud using NiFi c...

Read more
  • AWS
  • S3
Avatar
Chandan Patra
— June 11, 2019

Amazon DynamoDB: 10 Things You Should Know

Amazon DynamoDB is a managed NoSQL service with strong consistency and predictable performance that shields users from the complexities of manual setup.Whether or not you've actually used a NoSQL data store yourself, it's probably a good idea to make sure you fully understand the key ...

Read more
  • AWS
  • DynamoDB
Avatar
Andrew Larkin
— June 6, 2019

The 11 AWS Certifications: Which is Right for You and Your Team?

As companies increasingly shift workloads to the public cloud, cloud computing has moved from a nice-to-have to a core competency in the enterprise. This shift requires a new set of skills to design, deploy, and manage applications in cloud computing.As the market leader and most ma...

Read more
  • AWS
  • AWS Certifications
Sam Ghardashem
Sam Ghardashem
— May 15, 2019

Aviatrix Integration of a NextGen Firewall in AWS Transit Gateway

Learn how Aviatrix’s intelligent orchestration and control eliminates unwanted tradeoffs encountered when deploying Palo Alto Networks VM-Series Firewalls with AWS Transit Gateway.Deploying any next generation firewall in a public cloud environment is challenging, not because of the f...

Read more
  • AWS
Joe Nemer
Joe Nemer
— May 3, 2019

AWS Config Best Practices for Compliance

Use AWS Config the Right Way for Successful ComplianceIt’s well-known that AWS Config is a powerful service for monitoring all changes across your resources. As AWS Config has constantly evolved and improved over the years, it has transformed into a true powerhouse for monitoring your...

Read more
  • AWS
  • Compliance
Avatar
Francesca Vigliani
— April 30, 2019

Cloud Academy is Coming to the AWS Summits in Atlanta, London, and Chicago

Cloud Academy is a proud sponsor of the 2019 AWS Summits in Atlanta, London, and Chicago. We hope you plan to attend these free events that bring the cloud computing community together to connect, collaborate, and learn about AWS. These events are all about learning. You can learn how t...

Read more
  • AWS
  • AWS Summits
Paul Hortop
Paul Hortop
— April 2, 2019

How to Monitor Your AWS Infrastructure

The AWS cloud platform has made it easier than ever to be flexible, efficient, and cost-effective. However, monitoring your AWS infrastructure is the key to getting all of these benefits. Realizing these benefits requires that you follow AWS best practices which constantly change as AWS...

Read more
  • AWS
  • Monitoring
Joe Nemer
Joe Nemer
— April 1, 2019

AWS EC2 Instance Types Explained

Amazon Web Services’ resource offerings are constantly changing, and staying on top of their evolution can be a challenge. Elastic Cloud Compute (EC2) instances are one of their core resource offerings, and they form the backbone of most cloud deployments. EC2 instances provide you with...

Read more
  • AWS
  • EC2
Avatar
Nitheesh Poojary
— March 26, 2019

How DNS Works – the Domain Name System (Part One)

Before migrating domains to Amazon's Route53, we should first make sure we properly understand how DNS worksWhile we'll get to AWS's Route53 Domain Name System (DNS) service in the second part of this series, I thought it would be helpful to first make sure that we properly understand...

Read more
  • AWS