AWS Tags: What Makes Using Them So Important

Using AWS tags to control deployment sprawl

Adding AWS tags to your Amazon assets and resources is a simple, but potentially critical part of infrastructure management. Tags, when used intelligently, help IT teams streamline the way they manage deployment environments.

Possible structural profiles that can benefit from AWS tags

  • Environment-based tags can be used by customers with larger AWS footprints. These tags will help you quickly distinguish between resources that are part of your production, development, or staging infrastructure.
  • Application-based tags can be used to describe the set of disparate resources (or clusters) that work together to deliver a particular product or service. Such tags can also make sense for resource identification in smaller environments.
  • Role-based tags are used to describe either the function or owner of a particular node (web server, database server, load balancer, etc). Such tags are appropriate for smaller deployments.

How AWS tags help

Here’s one obvious scenario. Imagine an operation providing multiple separate applications served through dozens or hundreds of EC2 instances along with the accompanying environment infrastructure.

Just keeping track of your ongoing billing costs can be a headache. Ask yourself these questions: Which AWS resources (instances, volumes, snapshots…) are actually in use and which are currently lying idle or detached? Which Tiers or environments are incurring the highest costs? Should this be changed? Which business unit is exceeding their AWS cost allocations?

Tags can help. Being able to visually or programmatically identify resources by descriptive tags can make it much easier to understand both their purpose and provenance. If you know what a resource is supposed to be doing, then you’re in a much better position to quickly assess and, if necessary, adjust its costs. Tagging is a simple but essential feature that helps us reduce and control costs by improving the way we understand what’s really going on.

AWS Tags: in detail

Each AWS tag consists of a key and a value, both of which can be defined by the user. Not every AWS service permits customer-defined tags for every service, and some that do can only be tagged only using API Command Line access. The following Screen Shot shows the current tag-status of AWS resources. Resources with tagging restrictions of “None” can be tagged with API actions, the CLI, and the console.

AWS tags by service

The following diagram illustrates how tagging works:

AWS tags: EC2 & how tagging works

In this example, I am assigning two tags to each of my EC2 instances, one called Owner and another called Stack. Each of the tags also has an associated value.

Owner = Nitheesh, Stack = Production

You can define AWS tags from the EC2 console by selecting the relevant instance and selecting the “Tags” option.  Alternatively, you can select the instance, click “Actions” and select “Add/Edit Tags.”

AWS Tagging limitations and cost leakage

Currently, AWS Tags have important limitations. For example, a tag associated with a single AWS resource will apply only to that resource and is not automatically propagated to dependent attached resources.

For example, imagine an EC2 instance whose dependent resources include devices like EBS volumes, Security Groups, and Snapshots. A simple RAID configuration could involve as many as eight EBS Volumes and an unmanageable number of snapshots. But none of these dependent devices will automatically inherit their parent’s tags.

Now imagine how this might look if you’re running thousands of EC2 instances. You’ll have to find each EBS volume associated with a particular instance and individually tag it. Managing this is easier said than done, and the slightest typing error can lead to significant cost leakage.

What if there was a tool to automate tagging for dependent AWS resources? It will surely reduce a great deal of manual labor, and help us identify and, if necessary, remove all dependent resources along with a newly redundant EC2 instance. This would avoid leakages and reduce the cost of cloud operations in very dynamic AWS environments.

Welcome to Graffiti Monkey

There is just such a tool. Graffiti Monkey goes around tagging things automatically. By looking at the tags of an EC2 instance, it copies those tags to all attached EBS Volumes and copies those tags to the EBS Snapshots as well. This small automation reduces hours of manual labor on large AWS deployments, helping us efficiently manage our cloud infrastructure and reduce the cost leakages.

Step 1: Installing Graffiti Monkey 

The easiest way to install Graffiti Monkey is through the usual PyPI channels.
sudo pip install graffiti_monkey
AWS tags: Installing Graffiti Monkey

Step 2: Using Graffiti Monkey

graffiti-monkey --region ap-southeast-2 --verbose

AWS tags: Applying Graffiti Monkey
This will identify the tags associated with your existing EC2 instance, and apply them to dependent resources like EBS volumes and snapshots, saving hours of manual labor.

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

Avatar
Guy Hummel
— December 12, 2019

Google Cloud Platform Certification: Preparation and Prerequisites

Google Cloud Platform (GCP) has evolved from being a niche player to a serious competitor to Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure. In 2019, research firm Gartner placed Google in the Leaders quadrant in its Magic Quadrant for Cloud Infrastructure as a Service for the second consecuti...

Read more
  • AWS
  • Azure
  • Google Cloud Platform
Alisha Reyes
Alisha Reyes
— December 10, 2019

New Lab Challenges: Push Your Skills to the Next Level

Build hands-on experience using real accounts on AWS, Azure, Google Cloud Platform, and more Meaningful cloud skills require more than book knowledge. Hands-on experience is required to translate knowledge into real-world results. We see this time and time again in studies about how pe...

Read more
  • AWS
  • Azure
  • Google Cloud
  • hands-on
  • labs
Alisha Reyes
Alisha Reyes
— December 5, 2019

New on Cloud Academy: AWS Solution Architect Lab Challenge, Azure Hands-on Labs, Foundation Certificate in Cyber Security, and Much More

Now that Thanksgiving is over and the craziness of Black Friday has died down, it's now time for the busiest season of the year. Whether you're a last-minute shopper or you already have your shopping done, the holidays bring so much more excitement than any other time of year. Since our...

Read more
  • AWS
  • AWS solution architect
  • AZ-203
  • Azure
  • cyber security
  • FCCS
  • Foundation Certificate in Cyber Security
  • Google Cloud Platform
  • Kubernetes
Avatar
Cloud Academy Team
— December 4, 2019

Understanding Enterprise Cloud Migration

What is enterprise cloud migration? Cloud migration is about moving your data, applications, and even infrastructure from your on-premises computers or infrastructure to a virtual pool of on-demand, shared resources that offer compute, storage, and network services at scale. Why d...

Read more
  • AWS
  • Azure
  • Data Migration
Wendy Dessler
Wendy Dessler
— November 27, 2019

6 Reasons Why You Should Get an AWS Certification This Year

In the past decade, the rise of cloud computing has been undeniable. Businesses of all sizes are moving their infrastructure and applications to the cloud. This is partly because the cloud allows businesses and their employees to access important information from just about anywhere. ...

Read more
  • AWS
  • Certifications
  • certified
Avatar
Andrea Colangelo
— November 26, 2019

AWS Regions and Availability Zones: The Simplest Explanation You Will Ever Find Around

The basics of AWS Regions and Availability Zones We’re going to treat this article as a sort of AWS 101 — it’ll be a quick primer on AWS Regions and Availability Zones that will be useful for understanding the basics of how AWS infrastructure is organized. We’ll define each section,...

Read more
  • AWS
Avatar
Dzenan Dzevlan
— November 20, 2019

Application Load Balancer vs. Classic Load Balancer

What is an Elastic Load Balancer? This post covers basics of what an Elastic Load Balancer is, and two of its examples: Application Load Balancers and Classic Load Balancers. For additional information — including a comparison that explains Network Load Balancers — check out our post o...

Read more
  • ALB
  • Application Load Balancer
  • AWS
  • Elastic Load Balancer
  • ELB
Albert Qian
Albert Qian
— November 13, 2019

Advantages and Disadvantages of Microservices Architecture

What are microservices? Let's start our discussion by setting a foundation of what microservices are. Microservices are a way of breaking large software projects into loosely coupled modules, which communicate with each other through simple Application Programming Interfaces (APIs). ...

Read more
  • AWS
  • Docker
  • Kubernetes
  • Microservices
Nisar Ahmad
Nisar Ahmad
— November 12, 2019

Kubernetes Services: AWS vs. Azure vs. Google Cloud

Kubernetes is a popular open-source container orchestration platform that allows us to deploy and manage multi-container applications at scale. Businesses are rapidly adopting this revolutionary technology to modernize their applications. Cloud service providers — such as Amazon Web Ser...

Read more
  • AWS
  • Azure
  • Google Cloud
  • Kubernetes
Avatar
Stuart Scott
— October 31, 2019

AWS Internet of Things (IoT): The 3 Services You Need to Know

The Internet of Things (IoT) embeds technology into any physical thing to enable never-before-seen levels of connectivity. IoT is revolutionizing industries and creating many new market opportunities. Cloud services play an important role in enabling deployment of IoT solutions that min...

Read more
  • AWS
  • AWS IoT Events
  • AWS IoT SiteWise
  • AWS IoT Things Graph
  • IoT
Avatar
Cloud Academy Team
— October 23, 2019

Which Certifications Should I Get?

As we mentioned in an earlier post, the old AWS slogan, “Cloud is the new normal” is indeed a reality today. Really, cloud has been the new normal for a while now and getting credentials has become an increasingly effective way to quickly showcase your abilities to recruiters and compan...

Read more
  • AWS
  • Azure
  • Certifications
  • Cloud Computing
  • Google Cloud Platform
Valery Calderón Briz
Valery Calderón Briz
— October 22, 2019

How to Go Serverless Like a Pro

So, no servers? Yeah, I checked and there are definitely no servers. Well...the cloud service providers do need servers to host and run the code, but we don’t have to worry about it. Which operating system to use, how and when to run the instances, the scalability, and all the arch...

Read more
  • AWS
  • Lambda
  • Serverless