Amazon CloudWatch

Amazon CloudWatch Alternative to SolarWinds

In today’s dynamic and fast-paced world, an increasing number of businesses rely on the extra resource capacity and opportunity providing by cloud computing. Cloud monitoring is a crucial process in cloud computing affecting every business that relies on cloud infrastructure. Cloud monitoring can overlook the security, performance, cost-effectivity, and scalability of cloud infrastructure and resources in your organization.

Cloud monitoring includes application performance management, database monitoring, virtual infrastructure monitoring, cloud-server monitoring, and end-user experience monitoring. So, your cloud monitoring tool should essentially have monitoring capability over all these functions.

SolarWinds Server & Application Monitor (SolarWinds SAM) gives you the tools to monitor private, public, and hybrid cloud environments, including IaaS, PaaS, SaaS applications, and servers, including cloud services like AWS, Azure, etc.

In this article, we wish to evaluate if Amazon CloudWatch can replace the SolarWinds SAM else Amazon CloudWatch is more beneficial than SolarWinds SAM in monitoring AWS cloud resources and applications you run on AWS.

AWS CloudWatch

Amazon CloudWatch is the AWS-built tool for monitoring and observability of AWS resources and applications. CloudWatch has visibility into 70+ AWS services, including Amazon EC2, Amazon S3, Amazon DynamoDB, Amazon RDS, Amazon EKS, etc. Amazon CloudWatch not only can monitor cloud environments but also can monitor hybrid cloud architectures, using CloudWatch Agents or APIs for your on-premises resources.

You can use CloudWatch to collect, track and visualize logs and metrics side-by-side. You can create events to create automated actions to respond to system-wide performance changes based on CloudWatch monitoring. (e.g., trigger a lambda function). You can set alarms to warn based on resource usage. You can troubleshoot issues and can discover insights to optimize your applications.

SolarWinds Server & Application Monitor (SAM)

SolarWinds SAM uses API requests to collect metrics and status of AWS resources and applications in the cloud, hybrid, and virtual systems. You can use SolarWinds SAM API requests to track end-user and business context for performance. You can dynamically monitor, allocate, and remove cloud instances and VMs to support scaling environments or performance peaks. You can troubleshoot issues, discover usage trends, and can use Orion alerts to warn of performance changes in your AWS resources and applications.

Amazon CloudWatch vs. SolarWinds SAM

Metrics

SolarWinds SAM sends API requests to retrieve status and metrics from AWS resources and applications. You can view and manage all these status and metrics through a single console on Orion Web Console. Go to Dashboard > Cloud > Cloud Summary Page to view the (AWS) cloud status and metrics. You can drill down to more details about the cloud instance or VM if you click on hyperlinks. Then hover over points to compare collected data. You can access the metrics related to your AWS resources and applications through the following sections in the Cloud Summary Page.

  • Cloud Instance Status Summary – Displays various metrics such as status, storage capacity, IP addresses, and memory usage.
  • Cloud Asset Summary – Displays the total in instances/ VMs, storage capacity, and attached volumes.
  • Cloud Server Infrastructure – Displays instances/ VMs by region and cloud account.

AWS CloudWatch publishes detailed 1-minute metrics by default. But you can even customize metrics to publish with up to 1-second granularity to drill down for additional context. CloudWatch offers two types of monitoring as Basic Monitoring and Detailed Monitoring. Basic monitoring offers data in 5-minute periods, whereas detailed monitoring offers data in 1-minute periods. The basic monitoring option gives you 10 metrics, 5GB of data ingestion, and 5GB of data storage.

You can view metrics in your CloudWatch Dashboard as graphs or text widgets. Metrics collecting by the CloudWatch are at the hypervisor level. So you can collect metrics such as CPU, Disk, Network, but not memory usage if monitoring with CloudWatch.

Alarms (Alerts)

SolarWinds SAM creates alerts to warn you of application or service slowness, possible downtimes, sub-optimal performance, and so on based on metrics. You can view linked alerts when you hover over metric points. The Active Cloud Alerts section on the Cloud Summary Page displays if any unacknowledged alerts are affecting your current instances/ VMs. Cloud Applications with Problems widget lists all applications with issues on cloud instances along the instances and nodes linked to investigate.

AWS CloudWatch also has an alarming feature to warn based on resource usage. You can easily set alarms on the ‘Alarms’ section on CloudWatch for different metrics to trigger an action. An example is to publish the alarm to an SNS topic that connects to an email or else send the alarm as an SNS topic to autoscale or launch an EC2 instance when CPU utilization is maxed out. Else you can even send alarms to EC2 actions such as reboot EC2 instances, shutdown instances, and restart instances.

Logs and Events

SolarWinds SAM uses Orion Log Viewer for you to display logs and events. You can view event messages, syslogs, trap messages, VMware events, and filter and search event logs through Orion Log Viewer.

AWS CloudWatch lets you create events based on CloudWatch monitoring. An example is, you can trigger a lambda function to archive the data on an EBS volume if the EBS volume fills up. You can also install agents in your EC2 instances to send logs of your instances to CloudWatch. So you can count exceptions in application logs or can monitor HTTP response codes.

Performance Analysis and Troubleshooting

SolarWinds SAM uses the Performance Analysis dashboard (PerfStack) to correlate time series data in a single view. PerfStack is useful to troubleshoot issues in real-time, review historical performance, and make data-driven decisions.

You can use Container Insights to quickly troubleshoot issues with Amazon CloudWatch. Container Insights correlate and deep link metrics, logs, and trace data in a single window. Additionally, Container Insights is focused on application monitoring, infrastructure, and performance monitoring of AWS resources and applications.

Pricing and Cost

Pricing for SolarWinds SAM starts from AUD2049 (subscription) or AUD3790 (perpetual). The pricing may increase based on the number of nodes. The aforementioned pricing is for up to 10 nodes.

Amazon CloudWatch has two pricing tries as the free tier (Basic Monitoring) and the paid tier (Detailed Monitoring). The paid tier pricing goes as per a pay-as-you-go model. There is no minimum fee or an upfront commitment for the paid tier. Calculate pricing for the Amazon CloudWatch Paid tier from here.

Final Thoughts for AWS CloudWatch as an Alternative to SolarWinds

Both Amazon CloudWatch and SolarWinds SAM offer similar monitoring capabilities. However, if you are using a long array of AWS services within your organization, AWS CloudWatch is a better monitoring tool as it has monitoring capability of over 70+ AWS services. However, if your organization is only using a few major AWS services like AWS EC2, AWS EKS, Amazon RDS, and Amazon DynamoDB there is no much benefit of moving on to Amazon CloudWatch from SolarWinds SAM. The other bold feature to note of Amazon CloudWatch is that it is an umbrella platform with all the monitoring functionalities under one single console. Whereas, SolarWinds SAM integrates and depends on Orion platform services for some monitoring features. Also, if you are focusing on automating operational functions of your AWS infrastructure and services, Amazon CloudWatch has more groove compared to SolarWinds SAM.