AWS Systems Manager

AWS Systems Manager & Hybrid Cloud

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As more and more companies migrate to the cloud and hybrid environments, the necessity for proper environment management increases. Amazon is the forerunner in this race.

For those not in the know, this may come as a surprise. The average consumer recognizes Amazon as the world's leading online retailer, but that isn't where its skillset stops. As of 2020, Amazon's cloud platform, Amazon Web Services (AWS), has taken the lead in that industry, too.

AWS offers a wide variety of tools and add-ons to meet your cloud and hybrid needs. One of the most important of these is the AWS System Manager. If your organization is migrating from a purely on-premises environment to a hybrid or cloud environment, AWS System Manager is vital.

How Does AWS Systems Manager Work?

Before you decide about AWS Systems Manager, you need to know what AWS Systems Manager does.

In the most basic terms, AWS Systems Manager is both an analytics system and a run command tool. It investigates and monitors your environments for operational improvement areas and turns those findings into real actions. These actions optimize your environment(s), reduce manual processes, and lower costs.

AWS Systems Manager achieves this by creating a simple but unified User Interface (UI) that enables interaction between on-premises and cloud environments. This interaction is the foundation of the hybrid computing environment.

AWS Systems Manager Features

AWS Systems Manager boasts nearly 20 unique features, each designed to target a specific need of on-premises, hybrid, and cloud environments. You can research all of them on the official AWS Systems Manager site, but there are 5, in particular, you should know about:

  1. Application Manager
  2. AppConfig
  3. Change Manager
  4. Automation
  5. Run Command

Application Manager

The AWS Systems Manager Application Manager is the one-stop-shop for everything related to your applications. Application Manager lists all of your applications across every environment and coding language. This inventory enables you to analyze your applications for issues and optimization opportunities quickly.

The biggest draw of the Application Manager is that you can set the context for each application. In other words, you can define the components of each application, so the Application Manager will investigate optimization in only the areas in which you're interested. Suppose you've recently inherited an application or aren't sure what components to specify. In that case, you can also use the Application Manager's discovery feature to assist in identifying system requirements and application inventory in an on-premises VM.

Either way, the Application Manager is indispensable for streamlining workflows. Instead of managing multiple login instances or consoles for issue analysis and remediation, you can review all of your applications from a standard, centralized location.

AppConfig

Branching off of the Application Manager, you should also take some time to familiarize yourself with the AppConfig feature.

Like all deployment tools, AWS Systems Manager AppConfig allows you to implement updates, changes, and configurations. However, it includes the bonus of doing all of this without deploying the code yourself. Instead, AppConfig utilizes automated scalability that directly plans and deploys your modifications to all AWS and Amazon EC2 instances.

Even better, you can set workflows to enable staging environments for testing code deployments, rollbacks whenever AppConfig identifies errors, and rollouts once the code is fully deployed and correct.

Change Manager

Change management, like process management, is vital for accurate and efficient task completion. To help with this, AWS Systems Manager includes a Change Manager feature.

Change Manager provides users and admins alike with a simplified method for requesting, approving, and deploying code and application changes. Like every other AWS Systems Manager feature, it also provides centralization, enabling you to complete these actions for all of your environments, both on-premises and AWS.

You can also create connections and interfaces with Change Manager to rollout automated updates that reflect changes to your organization's processes and operations. Best of all, this facet makes for highly-specified workflows that send alerts with unintentional changes and errors occur. All of this expands the capabilities, visibility, and accountability of each segment of your operations.

Automation

Every feature of AWS Systems Manager implements some level of automation. It also has a feature that is specifically called Automation.

AWS Systems Manager Automation allows you to automate regular tasks via thoroughly-defined workflows and playbooks. You can create these playbooks from scratch, use AWS Systems Manager's preloaded wiki-playbooks, or import playbooks from other configuration tools.

Automation also enables Python and PowerShell script execution to automate API calls, approval requests, service desk tickets, and code deployment rollouts.

Run Command

One of the biggest challenges of hybrid environments is the need to monitor and manage all of your instances simultaneously and in such a way that ensures proper integration. AWS Systems Manager rises to this challenge by enabling scalability and allowing you to manage all of your application instances without manually logging in and out of each server.

Automated integration with AWS Identity and Access Management (IAM) allows secure and centralized instance management with specified user permissions and task workflows. It also enables you to audit any code deployment changes in your environment and create reports on them.

Other Uses for AWS Systems Manager

The possibilities for AWS Systems Manager are limitless. Trying to narrow them down, even by feature, is a difficult undertaking. If any of the above use cases don't seem pertinent to your business line, here are some other ways that AWS Systems Manager can come in handy.

Automating Patches and Configuration Across OS Instances

Another groundbreaking use case for AWS Systems Manager is its ability to coordinate between operating systems (OSs).

If your organization's programs run on various operating systems, establishing compatibility and easy data transfer can be difficult. Microsoft Windows doesn't always cooperate well with Linux, which doesn't always cooperate well with iOS, and so on. These interoperability challenges often mean that your organization needs a different instance of each program to successfully configure it across each platform.

As with on-premises, hybrid, and cloud environments, AWS Systems Manager serves as an accessible interface for these separate instances. Instead of jumping back and forth between accounts and logins, you can manage all of your instances from a single, centralized location. Even better, you can set automated processes that can remove the need for constant human monitoring.

Fleet and Server Management

Usually, fleet management refers to distribution and shipping. It can also apply to collections of servers.

If your organization has multiple servers, fleet management is a must. To that end, AWS Systems Manager includes a feature called Fleet Manager that centralizes and automates all of your servers.

AWS Systems Manager Fleet Manager enables you to manage and troubleshoot your servers through a consolidated GUI hub. You can get an overview snapshot of all of your servers in one go, or you can drill down into each server to investigate specific problems.

Automate your admin duties like disk drive optimization and file organization. Control user permissions without remotely connecting to your VM software. Collect data and organize it into a readable, digestible document with full server roles and system properties noted.

The opportunities are endless.

Interactions with Project Management Software

AWS Systems Manager has workflow and project management capabilities in its own right, but these aren't necessarily the tool's area of expertise. That title belongs to other industry giants like Jira, Slack, and Confluence.

You don't have to sacrifice one for the other, however. Like all aspects of the AWS system, AWS Systems Manager easily connects to and integrates with all major project management software. This integration further improves AWS Systems Manager's ability to optimize workflows and application interactions.

Likewise, AWS Systems Manager can also connect with IT Service Management (ITSM) tools and software. These integrations include all major commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) Service Desk programs and enable better communication between Service Desk admins and AWS Systems Manager product owners.

Pilotcore: AWS Support for Canadian IT

Canada-based IT companies can't always rely on American infrastructure for support. Besides regional unavailability, American compliance standards don't necessarily cover the requirements for Canada.

This is where Pilotcore comes in.

Pilotcore is an AWS consulting partner based out of Ottawa. We specialize in helping Canadian IT departments and organizations streamline their architecture, automate processes, reduce costs, and improve security by successfully adopting AWS cloud.

We also have significant experience with the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA) and other compliance standards unique to Canadian data privacy.

Learn more about our services a reach out to us for a free consultation.