5 min.

Workload visibility on AWS

Overview of AWS workload visibility services and features

The term 'workload' is quite vast and encompasses a plethora of concepts. It includes your applications and associated data deployed on AWS, as well as resources and services running on AWS infrastructure. Thus, when using the phrase 'workload visibility on AWS,' we can think about the visibility of anything deployed and running within the AWS ecosystem. 


Given that there are more than 200 services that can be utilized on AWS, along with countless users' applications featuring diverse architectures, there are also many different services designed to track, control, analyze, and convey information about them to You. In the following paragraphs, key AWS services related to workload visibility are listed.


I start with the most general services, such as AWS Resource Groups, Amazon CloudWatch, and CloudWatch Logs (which are distinct components within CloudWatch), and AWS Config. These provide a broad overview and management capabilities for resources across AWS. 


Then, I move on to more specific services like AWS Systems Manager, AWS CloudTrail, AWS X-Ray, Amazon Inspector, and VPC Flow Logs, which offer detailed insights into operations, performance, security, and network traffic. Workflow Discovery on AWS is also instrumental in identifying and optimizing workflows. Finally, I focus on service strictly related to workload security visibility within a unified platform, such as Amazon GuardDuty.



AWS Resource Groups


Contrary to appearances, this is a key AWS feature responsible for workload visibility. You can tag any service deployed on AWS and thus easily track it through other services like CloudWatch. Apart from this, tags play an important role in security because you can reference them directly in IAM policies and even override the default Session Manager user on a per-IAM-user basis. In order to benefit from this feature, you have to tag your resources first. It's a must-have in every professional environment deployed on AWS.



Amazon CloudWatch


CloudWatch is a monitoring and observability service that offers a unified view of AWS resources and applications, both on AWS and on-premises servers. It aggregates logs, metrics, and events to facilitate the monitoring of system and application performance, providing essential data for operational insights.



AWS Config


AWS Config enables the assessment, auditing, and evaluation of AWS resource configurations, recording changes over time to elucidate the relationships between dependent resources. It offers a detailed inventory for compliance and security governance, enhancing visibility into your AWS environment.



AWS Systems Manager 


AWS Systems Manager offers a comprehensive solution for managing AWS resources at scale, providing an integrated user interface for enhanced visibility and control over your infrastructure. 


It facilitates the management of software inventory, configurations, changes, and compliance status of managed instances through SSM documents and automations. This service streamlines the automation of operational tasks and enables you to view operational data from multiple AWS services, simplifying the management of your AWS resources.



AWS CloudTrail


CloudTrail is essential for governance, compliance, operational auditing, and risk auditing within AWS, serving as a comprehensive audit log for all AWS service activities in an account. It meticulously records API calls made via the AWS Management Console, AWS SDKs, command line tools, and other AWS services, encompassing operations on resources such as EC2 instances, Lambda functions, API Gateway, and databases.


CloudTrail details include the event source, the identity of the user or role, resources accessed, and modifications made, ensuring a granular visibility into management and data plane operations. The service maintains a searchable history of activities for the past 90 days, with the option to configure trails for extended retention and analysis in CloudWatch Logs, S3, or CloudTrail's own log storage.





AWS X-Ray enhances workload visibility by collecting, viewing, filtering, and analyzing trace data from applications and their underlying components, including microservices, databases, and AWS services like Lambda and EC2. This service enables developers to instrument their applications for incoming and outgoing request tracing through SDKs, agents, or configuration adjustments.


With X-Ray, developers can troubleshoot performance issues, identify errors, and optimize application operations. It offers comprehensive tools to analyze and visualize trace data, facilitating the debugging of production and distributed applications across development and production environments. 


Additionally, X-Ray’s service maps illustrate dependencies, providing insights into application performance and aiding in the tracing and debugging of requests within complex microservices architectures on AWS.



Amazon Inspector


Amazon Inspector is an automated vulnerability management service designed to enhance workload visibility by scanning Amazon EC2 instances, AWS Lambda functions, and container images for software vulnerabilities and unintended network exposures. 


It initiates scans automatically upon detecting changes such as new package installations or patch applications, aiming to identify vulnerabilities. When issues are discovered, Amazon Inspector generates findings that detail the problem, the impacted resource, a severity rating, and guidance for remediation. 


Its risk score system offers a precise evaluation of vulnerability severity, incorporating factors like network accessibility. These findings can be reviewed within the Amazon Inspector console or through integration with other AWS services, with automatic rescans ensuring issues are addressed promptly. 


This service not only identifies security vulnerabilities but also checks for deviations from best practices, thereby aiding in the enhancement of security and compliance for applications on EC2.



VPC Flow Logs


VPC Flow Logs serve as a crucial workload visibility service, offering comprehensive insights into network traffic within AWS environments, including network interfaces, subnets, and VPCs. They continuously capture and record both accepted and rejected IP traffic, detailing elements such as source, destination, protocol, and ports. This functionality aids in understanding resource communication patterns, troubleshooting connectivity problems, and identifying potential security threats or anomalies. 


Flow logs can be integrated with AWS services like CloudWatch Logs, S3, and Kinesis Data Firehose for advanced analysis and long-term data retention, employing tools like Athena for in-depth examination. 


Additionally, the integration with the VPC console and AWS Config enhances visibility into network activities, supporting security and compliance management across AWS resources. 



Workflow Discovery


Workflow Discovery, also known as AWS Perspective, is a key service for enhancing workload visibility within AWS environments. It systematically collects data through AWS Config and API calls to map out the relationships and dependencies across AWS accounts, storing this information in databases such as Amazon Neptune and Amazon OpenSearch Service. The collected data is visualized through detailed architecture diagrams.


This service automates the discovery and documentation of AWS resources, facilitating optimization, security, and compliance efforts by providing a comprehensive view of application architectures and workload interactions.


By utilizing AWS Fargate tasks, Workflow Discovery regularly updates its inventory, ensuring that changes and new additions are promptly reflected. This enables users to access up-to-date visualizations and analyses of their AWS infrastructure through a user-friendly web UI, aiding in the identification of dependencies, the troubleshooting of issues, and the verification of compliance with best practices.


The service incorporates robust security measures through the use of AWS services like VPC, IAM, and Cognito, securing the process of data access and processing. This comprehensive approach not only simplifies the management of AWS resources but also aids organizations in maintaining a current and detailed understanding of their cloud environment, which is essential for enhancing performance, bolstering security, and optimizing costs.



Amazon GuardDuty 


Amazon GuardDuty serves as a crucial service for enhancing security visibility within AWS environments, focusing on identifying and monitoring for malicious or unauthorized activities across AWS accounts and workloads. By analyzing data from sources like VPC Flow Logs, CloudTrail event logs, and DNS logs, GuardDuty detects potential security threats, such as malware and vulnerabilities, providing actionable security findings to highlight compromised resources.


This service seamlessly integrates with AWS Security Hub, Macie, Inspector, and CloudTrail, offering a comprehensive overview of security across AWS accounts and workloads without affecting the performance or availability of production systems. Through detailed alerts, GuardDuty enables users to better understand security anomalies and potential issues, facilitating the integration of these insights with event management and workflow tools for improved response and remediation.


In essence, GuardDuty enhances the security posture of AWS workloads by offering continuous monitoring and visibility into unusual activities and threats, thus playing a pivotal role in the security management ecosystem of AWS by contributing to the broader goals of workload visibility from a security standpoint.





Amazon CloudWatch Logs concepts - Amazon CloudWatch Logs

Automated deployment - Workload Discovery on AWS

What are resource groups?

What is Amazon CloudWatch? - Amazon CloudWatch

What Is AWS CloudTrail? - AWS CloudTrail

What is AWS X-Ray? - AWS X-Ray


What is Amazon Inspector? - Amazon Inspector

Automated Vulnerability Management – Amazon Inspector – Amazon Web Services

How do I activate Amazon VPC Flow Logs?

How do I monitor traffic in my VPC with flow logs?

Processing VPC Flow Logs with Amazon EMR

Amazon VPC - Workload Discovery on AWS

Discovery component - Workload Discovery on AWS

Visualizing Resources with Workload Discovery on AWS

AWS service integrations with GuardDuty - Amazon GuardDuty

Amazon GuardDuty Service Level Agreement