InfoQ Homepage News AWS CloudWatch Adds Observability Tool for Visualizing Distributed Applications

AWS CloudWatch Adds Observability Tool for Visualizing Distributed Applications


AWS released ServiceLens, a fully managed observability solution built within CloudWatch. ServiceLens is designed to visualize and analyze the health, performance, and availability of distributed applications. Currently it is available in all commercial regions but requires the usage of AWS X-Ray, Amazon's distributed tracing system.

ServiceLens looks to improve visibility into AWS applications in two specific areas. The first is infrastructure monitoring by leveraging metrics and logs to troubleshoot the resources supporting the application. The second is transaction monitoring by using traces to investigate the dependencies between resources.

ServiceLens provides a Service Map feature that displays nodes representing the resources in the monitored application. This map visualizes the dependencies between resources and provides an interface to facilitate deep diving into the monitoring data and logs.

Within the map, the relative size of the nodes indicates the amount of traffic it is receiving. The lines between nodes have a similar visualization which is represented via the thickness of the lines. The map can be toggled between two views, requests mode and latency mode.

Service map feature detailing error state with API Gateway resources

Service map feature detailing error state with API Gateway resources (credit: AWS)


Each node in the map can be hovered over to provide additional information specific to that item. By clicking on the node itself, a drawer view will open which displays graphed data for that resource. This view allows for navigation into viewing the logs and traces for that node.

Additional information displayed when hovering on a node in the service map

Additional information displayed when hovering on a node in the service map (credit: AWS)


To begin leveraging ServiceLens the application will need to be instrumented with X-Ray. AWS indicates that the X-Ray SDK will need to be updated in order to take full advantage of ServiceLens. Currently ServiceLens supports log correlation for Lambda functions, API Gateway, Java-based applications running Amazon EC2, and Java-based applications running on Amazon EKS or Kubernetes with Container Insights deployed. Only the AWS X-Ray SDK for Java supports log and metric correlations with traces at this time.

For complex applications, the service map may become too busy. X-Ray groups can be used to break the application down into sub-groups that will each be displayed within their own service map. Groups within X-Ray are a collection of traces defined by a filter expression.

In addition to the release of ServiceLens, AWS released a preview of CloudWatch Synthetics. These allow for using canaries to monitor endpoints to provide insights into issues before end-user impact occurs. These are visualized on the service map and it is possible to drill into traces generated by the canary.

While there is no charge for ServiceLens, charges do apply for using X-Ray traces and CloudWatch metrics and logs. To learn more about ServiceLens please review the AWS provided documentation.

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