EC2 monitoring is necessary, no matter the size of your cloud infrastructure. But it becomes absolutely crucial if you have medium to large sized instances running on Amazon Web Services.
Luckily, Amazon provides a very powerful monitoring service for AWS, called Amazon CloudWatch.
It is cheap, centralized, and very easy to use, offering you access to a variety of features like alerts, logging, and notifications. You can even add custom metrics to CloudWatch in order to keep tabs on all your instances from one single panel.
Can’t get better than that!
Before we take a look at how you can use CloudWatch to monitor your EC2 instances, let’s see why cloud monitoring is unlike traditional monitoring. And it all comes down to one fundamental, and very important, difference.
The long and short of EC2 monitoring
Cloud monitoring is a seriously complicated endeavor. Unlike traditional environments, cloud infrastructure can scale up and down in a matter of minutes. This means that most traditional server monitoring services simply cannot match up to this elastic requirement — they will trigger delayed responses, provide wrong information, or even throw out errors.
And that’s not even mentioning the mountains of data that cloud infrastructures generate. It takes something special to calculate all the sheer numbers!
CloudWatch to the rescue
This service monitors all your AWS resources and applications that you have running on the Amazon cloud. It collects and tracks the necessary metrics, monitors log files, and sets alarms whenever anything noteworthy happens. You can use it to gain insights of resource utilization, application performance, and operational health of your EC2 instances.
And the best part of it all is that you don’t even need to install or configure CloudWatch — it is available as a ready-to-use service, and you only pay for the amount of service that you use. Amazon even provides a basic level of monitoring for no additional cost.
Which means that CloudWatch is what most people will start with as they begin their cloud adventure.
But you may also want to go the third-party route for monitoring your EC2 instances. Neutral tools that prevent you from being locked-in to a single vendor, which in this case is Amazon. And although, pickings are slim, there are dedicated tools that provide an even more streamlined and granular level of monitoring for your cloud infrastructure.
Third-party EC2 monitoring services
Amazon tools may be great, but some of them come with a steep learning curve. CloudWatch is no exception. It is easy to get started, but if you want to dig deep, you need to have complete knowledge of the ins and outs of your cloud infrastructure, and it functions.
In this case, third-party EC2 monitoring services may be worth a gander.
These tools are easier to use out of the box, yet sophisticated enough to grow with you. Two of the best ones available on the market right now are those by Nagios and Server Density, which may actually be better options for your company, depending on its size and cloud presence.
Even Google has a hybrid monitoring solution called Stackdriver that works both on its own cloud, as well as the AWS platform, and provides fairly comprehensive performance and diagnostic data. This powerful solution is also regularly updated with new features, options and abilities.
They probably are not for the solo developer, or someone that is using EC2 to host a website or two.
But all three services are powerful enough to monitor, spot and diagnose almost pretty much all kinds of issues in the cloud. They also offer a variety of methods for you to tack, manage and monitor your cloud activities, and this sets them apart from the Amazon solution.