Containerization Explained: Best Container Monitoring Tools & Solutions in 2020

Containerization in networking was, until recently, a relatively obscure technology that was only known and mastered by a few highly skilled specialists. Fast forward to today and things have changed—a lot. Containerization in networking—not to be confused with containerization in transportation although there are obvious similarities—has now become mainstream and each and every networking professional needs to have at least a basic understanding of this amazing albeit complex technology.

Our goal is by no means to make you containerization experts but rather to provide you with enough information to understand what the technology is, how it works, what products are available and how it can be monitored.

What is Containerization in Networking

We’ll start off by briefly describing containerization and how it differs from virtualization, another technology with similar goals. We’ll then discuss the pros and cons of the technology and have a quick look at how it can be used in the contexts of BYOD, Saas, and MDM. Next, we’ll explore what containerization software is available before we review some of the very best tools you can use to monitor your containerization environment.

Containerization In A Nutshell

Application containerization is an OS-level virtualization method that is used to deploy and run distributed applications without the need for launching an entire virtual machine for each application. Multiple, isolated applications or services can thus run on a single host and access the same OS kernel.

Application containers include the run-time components—such as files, environment variables and libraries—necessary to run the desired software. Application containers typically consume fewer resources than a comparable deployment on virtual machines because containers share resources without the need for a full operating system to support each environment. The complete set of information to execute in a container is called an image and container engines deploy these images on hosts. Containers can work on bare-metal systems, cloud instances, and virtual machines as well as across Linux, Windows and Mac OS systems.

Application containerization, as it is often called, works with microservices and distributed applications with each container operating independently of others and using minimal resources from the host. Each microservice communicates with others through application programming interfaces, with the container virtualization layer able to scale up microservices to meet the demand for an application component and distribute the load.

How Do Containerization Differ From Virtualization?

Although containerization and virtualization both serve a similar purpose, they are quite different in the way they operate. In virtualization, for instance, the essence of the operating system is made to run as an application while appearing as a distinct, virtual host. This operating system is, in turn, available to any application installed on the virtual host. Conversely, containers bundle the parts of the operating system with each application and only those elements, libraries, and modules that are needed by each application are bundled with it.

Another way to see it is that virtual machines set up separate identities for one host and enable it to appear as if it was several physical machines. Virtualization creates an abstraction of the hardware. With containerization, it is, instead, the applications that are abstracted. Overall, both technologies do provide some degree of isolation between environments, but they achieve it in a much different fashion.

In containerization, the container and its operating system essentially form a sort of network, allowing an application to be delivered to an otherwise incompatible machine. But contrary to what happens in virtualization, applications can share containers and only one instance of the operating system is required.

The Pros And Cons Of Containerization

One of the biggest advantages of containerization over virtualization is how there is no need to permanently install that extra layer of the virtual operating system on the receiving machine. Consequently, a containerized application is typically much more portable as it removes the requirements for pre-installed software, services, or operating systems on the target computer. Furthermore, containerized applications can be run on bare metal hosts and remote or cloud servers with unknown environments.

Another great thing about containerization is how the proximity of the operating system services to the applications that need them within the container often means that it can deliver faster response times to end users than a typical virtual machine. And there are also far fewer fetches across the network needed to deliver a containerized application than to operate a remotely accessed virtual machine. And last but certainly not least, containerization has several advantages over distributed software. In fact, it is that category of network service that has been the main reason for the recent boom in containerization.

But containers don’t only have advantages and there are a few cases where you might prefer to avoid them. For starters, while containerization works well for Linux operating systems, it is not supported nearly as well on Windows. Also, since containers share the kernel of the operating system, if it ever becomes vulnerable, all the containers will be vulnerable as well.

Networking is another area that can make it tricky to work with containers. For instance, you must constantly maintain a good network connection while actively trying to keep the containers isolated. Likewise, monitoring also comes with its set of challenges. Since containerization is typically used to build multi-layered infrastructures—with one application in one container, you have to monitor more things than you would if you were running all of your applications on one virtual machine.

Containerization And BYOD

Bring Your Own Device, or BYOD has gotten very popular lately and many organizations let their employees use their own smartphone or even laptops in the context of their work. Containerization can help with that as applications can be made available over the network for employees to access from their personal devices. In these situations, the container acts as an “immunizer”, creating a barrier between the corporate application and the user-owned device. This, however, has to be managed carefully since the container has access to the user device’s kernel.

Still, containerization offers an obvious security benefit for the organization delivering the application since it removes the need to give direct access to the network to the user, thereby reducing the risk of virus infection to the corporate infrastructure.

Another advantage of containerization with respect to BYOD has to do with software license control. For instance, an application can be easily withdrawn from use at any time. Since it was never actually installed on the user’s device, it can be suspended should the owner of the device leave the organization or if the device gets stolen, allowing its license to be reused.

And last but not least, since communication between applications running in separate containers can be enabled through APIs, the actual amount of integration and coordination or, at the other end of the scale, isolation, can be easily controlled.

Containerization And SaaS

Software as a Service (SaaS) is another area where containerization can bring obvious value. For instance, containers can be limited, making it easier to track and control access to software from remote devices. This can prove very useful for providers needing to make their software available from the cloud on a subscription basis. In such cases, the container creates a temporary partition on the host device and that partition can be suspended at will by the provider.

Furthermore, the possibility of delivering software to incompatible devices without the need to install supporting services is particularly useful to cloud services as it expands the method of delivery for an application beyond the use of browsers.

Containerization And Mobile Device Management

Mobile Device Management (MDM) is yet another area where containerization shines. In a nutshell, MDM is basically the same thing as BYOD except that the mobile devices are owned and controlled by an organization rather than its employees. But the challenges are the same. For instance, containerization can be a great option for the delivery of applications to mobile devices as they can easily be lost or stolen.

Containerization Software

Let’s have a brief look at some of the most common containerization software that is currently available.

Docker

Docker is, by far, the best-known containerization system. Unlike most containerization environments that will only run on the Linux platform, this one will also run on Windows. And to make things even more interesting, this is an open-source project that can be absolutely free to use although there are paid versions. The free version is known as the Community Edition or Docker CE. You can download the code for Docker CE from a GitHub repository. The software can be installed on Fedora, Ubuntu, CentOS, and Debian Linux and it is also available for Mac OS and Windows 10. In addition, if you have Windows Server 2016 and higher, you won’t even have to install Docker as it is already bundled with the operating system. On Windows and Windows Server, the Docker system relies on services from Hyper-V in order to run. These utilities get activated during the Docker setup process.

LXC

Next on our list is LXC, a short for Linux Containers, one of the oldest containerization systems that, to this day, still remain very influential despite having declined in popularity at the favour of Docker, which was launched some three years later. As you’d likely get from the name, this platform is only available for Linux. In fact, it is already bundled into Ubuntu. As a side note, you’ll need a Linux 3.8 kernel or newer in order to create LXC containers. This product is completely free to use. But with nothing but a command-line environment as its management interface, it is not as easy to learn and use as Docker. This most likely explains why Docker has become the star of the containerization world.

Kubernetes

As an up-and-comer, Kubernetes is likely the only alternative to Docker that may stand a chance of becoming the number one containerization system. It is another open-source project and it was created and is managed by Google. It is part of the Google Cloud family of products and you can count on its Google background to help the platform soar to great heights.

Containers are created using the Google Kubernetes Engine (GKE), a cloud-based environment. Alternatively, you can get an installed version to run on your own hosts. That one is called GKE On-Prem. This is also an open-source project so the code is available for anyone to create their own version of the tool. Surprisingly this has mostly occurred through various integrations with front end tools rather than through forks of the original code into competing platforms. There is, for instance, the Azure Kubernetes Service, which is available on the Azure cloud platform.

CoreOS rkt

CoreOS rkt (pronounced CoreOS rocket) is yet another open-source containerization project. This one was started up in 2014 with the aim of providing a replacement for Docker in the wider containerization system called Container Linux, which is not to be confused with Linux Containers we just talked about. The CoreOS rkt system installs on Linux and is designed as a method for delivering applications from cloud-based services. Container Linux was originally called CoreOS Linux. It is a lightweight operating system. As for CoreOS rkt, it is a containerization system that delivers Container Linux over networks. It can, however, also be used on ArchLinux, Fedora, NixOS, CentOS, Ubuntu, and OpenSUSE.

OpenVZ

Las on our list is OpenVZ, a short for Open Virtuozzo. This system was introduced in 2005, making it even older than LXC. It is a containerization package that runs on Linux. The Virtuozzo part of the name comes from the precursor of this system which is still available today. Virtuozzo was developed by a private company and released way back in 2000. It was the first real implementation of containers. A few years later, a free, open-source version of the technology was made available as OpenVZ and it is still available today.

Monitoring Containerized Systems

Monitoring containerized systems differs slightly from monitoring virtual machines yet the same tools can often be used. After all, a containerized system is, at its base, an application running on a server

1. SolarWinds Server & Application Monitor (FREE TRIAL)

The SolarWinds Server and Application Monitor was designed to help administrators monitor servers, their operational parameters, their processes, and the applications which are running on them. It can easily scale from very small networks to large ones with hundreds of servers—both physical and virtual—spread over multiple sites. The tool can also monitor cloud-hosted services like those from Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure as well as most variants of containerization platforms.

This product is particularly well-suited for monitoring Docker implementations. The solution is built to monitor any application that is using the Docker container architecture to help better understand its availability and performance. You can use the product’s Docker monitoring to validate the application is performing as expected and that necessary services have appropriate resources. It can also help you correlate and manage application performance metrics alongside Docker container monitoring and host metrics to visualize performance that can assist when troubleshooting performance issues.

SolarWinds Server and Application Monitor Dashboard

The SolarWinds Server and Application Monitor is very easy to set up and its initial configuration is just as easily done with the help of its auto-discovery process. It is a two-pass process. The first pass will discover servers, and the second one will find applications. This can take time but can be sped up by supplying the tool with a list of specific applications to look for. Once the tool is up and running, the user-friendly GUI makes using it a breeze. You can choose to display information in either a table or a graphic format.

Prices for the SolarWinds Server and Application Monitor start at $2 995 and vary based on the number of components, nodes, and volumes monitored. A free 30-day trial version is available for download, should you want to try the product before purchasing it.

2. ManageEngine Application Manager

ManageEngine may not be as well-known as SolarWinds yet it’s still another name that enjoys an excellent reputation among network and database administrators. The ManageEngine Application Manager deals with application management. You probably had figured it out by yourself. This is, however, a somewhat misleading name as it is as much a monitoring platform as it is a management tool.

This tool offers integrated application performance monitoring for all your server and application monitoring needs. It can also do that for the underlying infrastructure components such as application servers, databases, middle-ware and messaging components, web servers, web services, ERP packages, virtual systems and cloud resources. In a few words, this is an all-encompassing platform.

ManageEngine Applications Manager Oracle Screenshot

The ManageEngine Application Manager has a specific extension for monitoring Kubernetes and Docker containers. For instance, the tool’s Docker management not only offers insight into the health and performance of Docker containers, but it also enables Docker host monitoring through robust monitoring, alerting, and analytics engine. As for its Kubernetes cluster monitoring capabilities, they will let you auto-discover the parts and map relationships between objects in the cluster-Kubernetes nodes, namespaces, deployments, replica sets, pods, and containers. It will also monitor Kubernetes cluster stats and identify faults and their sources with ease. Using it, you’ll gain visibility into operational data such as the number of resources used, namespaces per cluster and per pod and track the capacity and resource utilization of your cluster and drill into specific parts of the cluster.

The ManageEngine Application Manager is available in several editions. There’s a feature-limited Free edition as well as a Professional and an Enterprise paid versions. Pricing starts at $945 and details can be obtained by contacting ManageEngine. A free 30-day trial version is also available.

3. PRTG Network Monitor

The PRTG Network Monitor from Paessler AG is another great product. While it is, at its base, an SNMP network analysis tool, it packs a lot more functionality, as we’re about to discuss. Its installation speed is another strength of the product. According to Paessler, it can be set up in a couple of minutes. And while your experience may vary, installation is generally faster than most competitor’s thanks in part to the tool’s auto-discovery engine. The product also offers a choice of user interfaces. You can choose between a native Windows enterprise console, an Ajax-based web interface and mobile apps for Android and iOS. Alerting and reporting are excellent and the product boasts a wide range of reports that can be viewed as HTML or PDF or exported to CSV or XML to be processed externally.

PRTG Dashboard - Datacenter Monitoring

Thanks to a rather unique concept called sensors—a type of functionality plug-ins that are already built into the product—additional metrics can be monitored with the PRTG Network Monitor. There are about two hundred sensors available with the product to monitor virtually any network parameter. When it comes to monitoring containers, especially Docker, PRTG has just what you need in its Docker Container Status Sensor which, unsurprisingly, monitors the status of a Docker container. This sensor will display several parameters such as the overall status of the container (create, running, paused, restarting, exited), its uptime, exit code, CPU usage and available memory both in bytes and percent.

The PRTG Network Monitor is available in a free version which is limited to monitoring no more than 100 sensors. Each parameter you want to monitor counts as one sensor. For example, monitoring bandwidth on each interface of a 4-port router will use up 4 sensors and monitoring the CPU and memory on that same router will use up 2 more. Each additional sensor you install also counts. For more than 100 sensors—which you will most likely need—you’ll need a license. Their prices start at $1 600 for up to 500 sensors, including the first year of maintenance. A free 30-day trial version is also available.

4. Dynatrace

Dynatrace is another cloud-based Software as a Service (SaaS) offering. It can detect, solve and optimize applications automatically. Discovering and mapping a complex application ecosystem is simply a matter of installing the Dynatrace OneAgent. The service will give you a high-fidelity view of your entire application stack, from the performance of applications, cloud infrastructure, and user experience. It will help you effortlessly detect problems along with their business impacts and root cause.

Dynatrace Screenshot

Dynatrace also claims to have the broadest coverage of any monitoring solution in terms of languages supported, application architectures, cloud, on-premise or hybrid, enterprise apps, SaaS monitoring, containerization, and more. The tool automatically discovers and monitors dynamic microservices running inside containers. It shows you how they’re performing, how they communicate with each other and it helps you quickly detect poorly performing microservices. Once it has finished discovering your infrastructure, you’ll be able to view the containerized processes through the tool’s dashboard in real-time. The software can also monitor the performance of applications and microservices located within the containers.

Log analytics is another useful feature provided with Dynatrace. You can view all the log messages associated with an application inside one log file. Every log entry provides you with additional information that can be used to filter your search. For example, log entries will show the container image, ID that logged the message, and the output used.

Pricing for Dynatrace is not readily available but it can be obtained by signing up for the free 15-day trial. Once you register for the trial, it’s only a matter of installing the agent on your servers and you could start monitoring within 5 minutes.

5. Sumo Logic

Sumo Logic is an application and log monitoring solution that’s compatible with containerization platforms such as Docker. The product was created to aggregate large volumes of log data from pretty much any source. But gathering log data is only the beginning. The service can also help you use the collected data to monitor performance, improve applications, and potentially even address security issues and compliance.

Sumo Logic Dashboard Screenshot

Sumo Logic can monitor containers in real-time. Its dashboard view is broken down into metric boxes and graphs. In one dashboard you can view a graph on the Top 10 Containers by CPU Consumption or the Top 10 Containers by Traffic Sent and Received as well as the number of containers created and the number of hosts. Advanced analytics is another feature that makes this a particularly strong product. Its analytics capability can automatically detect anomalies in your containerizing infrastructure and thereby automate the process of identifying performance issues.

Sumo Logic is available under three different plans. There’s the free plan which is targeting individuals and teams looking to try out Sumo Logic for smaller projects, for an unlimited period of time. Next is the Professional plan at $90/month per 1GB average daily log data. And at the top, you have the full-featured Enterprise plan at $150/month per 1GB average daily log data. Note that a 30-day trial is available on both paid plans.

Wrapping Up

Containerization might be somewhat difficult to conceptualize. It could, however, very well be the answer to your infrastructure requirements for the delivery of services to remote devices. We hope that we’ve been able to shed some light on this complicated topic. While we may not have made you experts, our goal was to give you enough background information to be able to get a better grasp of the technology as you start exploring it.

The post Containerization Explained: Best Container Monitoring Tools & Solutions in 2020 appeared first on AddictiveTips.

5 Best Alternatives to Microsoft Access (2020 Edition)

As popular—and as ubiquitous—as Microsoft Access can be, it is not the only product of its kind. In fact, there are several alternatives available and they are the subject of today’s post as we’re about to review some of the top Microsoft Access Alternatives.

Access is quite different from other relational database engines as it comes with a built-in user-friendly front end that lets users create and manage databases using an easy-to-use and easy-to-learn graphical user interface. This ease of use in one of the main reasons for the success of the almost 30 years old product and it is something that many vendors have tried to emulate with a varying degree of success.

We’ll begin by having an in-depth look at Microsoft Access. After all, it will help better understand what to look for in a replacement. More precisely, we’ll have a look at how Access differs from other database engines, what makes it stand out. We’ll also have a look at the pros and cons of the product. And since the cons are not necessarily the only reasons why one would look for an alternative, that will be our next order of business. Next, we’ll briefly review some of the best Microsoft Access alternatives we could find. And finally, since you might eventually have a need for monitoring the availability and performance of your access databases, we’ll review a couple of excellent products that you can use for that specific purpose.

Best alternatives to Microsoft Access

(Almost) Everything You Need To Know About Microsoft Access

Microsoft Access (now officially called Microsoft Office Access) is a relational database from Microsoft that is now distributed as part of its Microsoft Office suite. It is made up of several programs: the Microsoft Jet database engine, a graphic editor, a Query by Example interface for querying databases, and the Visual Basic for Applications programming language.

Since the first versions, the interface of Microsoft Access allows to graphically manage data collections in tables, to establish relations between these tables according to the usual rules of relational databases, to create queries with QBE (Query by Example, or directly in SQL), to create man/machine interfaces and to print reports. As with several other components of the Office suite, VBA—Visual Basic for Applications—allows users to create complete local network applications, including using, creating or modifying files (Word documents, Excel workbooks, Outlook instances, etc.) from other software in the suite without leaving Access.

The latest version is the 2018 version which is part of the Microsoft Office 2018 suite and is included in certain options for the subscription to Office 365. The subscription version, Microsoft Office Access 365, is automatically updated like that of Windows 10. The latest version of Access integrates new functionalities including new themes, modernization of the five most popular models and the export of information from linked data sources to Excel.

How Is Microsoft Access Different From Other Databases?

Unlike data management systems that operate on the client-server principle—such as MySQL or MariaDB, PostgreSQL, Microsoft SQL Server, Oracle Database, etc., Microsoft Access is a data management system for the office. This means that with MS Access, it is not necessary to have a server connected to the Internet to work on a database.

It is possible to fully create databases on a desktop application. It is also possible to work on a Web application, but it must be hosted on a Microsoft SharePoint Web application. Furthermore, this option has less functionality than a desktop application.

Regardless of whether you are working on a desktop application or on the Web, the data created in MS Access is saved in a single file—in .mdb or, more recently, in .accdf format. This is one of the places where desktop data management systems such as Microsoft Access differ from server data management systems such as MySQL or Microsoft SQL Server. Also, a typical database server does not usually create a single file for each database, but a complete folder, in which the content and form of a database are separated into several different files.

Pros And Cons Of Microsoft Access

Microsoft Access is particularly well-suited for beginners in database management. Since no programming knowledge is required, it is easy to create simple databases using the tool’s graphical interface. The task is made even easier by numerous assistants and models, for example, to manage contacts, assets and projects. It is, however, possible to freely define the fields and to adapt the characteristics of the models to specific objectives. Microsoft really makes it easy to create, modify and link data reports and tables. If you want to use the platform to create extensive applications, you can resort to using VBA (Visual Basic for Applications) programming. Access generally requires less effort than with other database management systems. And thanks to the use of macros, it is possible to automate many tasks relatively easily without any “real” programming.

Creating and managing a suite of data, but also analyzing it, is often easier than with other database management systems. And thanks to the help of numerous assistance features, it is indeed very simple to analyze existing databases, to extract data according to specific methods and to create reports.

Saving a Microsoft Access database to a single file makes it easy to share it with other users or store it on other media. If you want to use the database in another DBMS or open other files in Access, you can use different interfaces. Besides the different MS Office formats (like Excel for example), it is possible to import and export various file formats, in particular, ODBC databases (MySQL, Microsoft SQL Server, PostgreSQL, etc.), as well as HTML and XML documents, making it very simple to transfer files from one program to another.

The simplicity of the software has a price, however. A typical Microsoft Access database system is much less powerful than that of a server database. The tool is better suited to the implementation of light databases, not those with hundreds of thousands of entries, for which you’d be better off using a dedicated DMBS server. Performance is also not one of Access’s strong suits and processing a large amount of data can take quite a bit of time with Microsoft Access, particularly in terms of loading time. This is the drawback of a system based on a single file since each time you open the database, you have to load the entire file. And the larger the file is, the longer the waiting time. The program is also severely limited in terms of database size. Its single file cannot exceed 2 GB. While that might have been plenty when first released back in 1992. Despite that limitation, if you are not storing a large number of images or other large files, this limit might not be much of a problem.

Functionality is another area where a product such as Microsoft Access is somewhat limited compared to a full-fledged relational database. For example, standard SQL works with very different authorization concepts than what you’ll find in Microsoft Access. Also, Microsoft software can suffer from performance issues when used simultaneously by several people. It actually only takes a few users to make the software significantly slower, and it reaches its limits when you ramp up to ten simultaneous users.

Another drawback is that Access is only available on Windows-base computers. The software was once only available as part of the Microsoft Office suite but with the launch of a cloud version of the Office suite, it is now part of several Office 365 packages. Furthermore, it is possible to purchase Microsoft Access as a stand-alone product. Users who have installed a classic version of Microsoft Office on their Windows computer (not the cloud version of Office 365) are in luck as Microsoft has not made many major changes to the software for a long time. This means that any recent version, such as the 2016, 2010 and 2013 versions are perfectly suited to most database needs.

Why Look For An Alternative?

There are several reasons why you might be on the lookout for an alternative to Microsoft Access. The one that typically comes to mind is money. Microsoft Access tends to be relatively pricey and all Office versions that include the database component are relatively expensive. With the recent developments in free and open-source software, several very potent alternatives have seen the day and exploring them might be the way to go. In fact, even if you’d rather stay with the Microsoft suite for your day-to-day operations—a choice that many organizations make for compatibility reasons—you could still use an open-source product for your database as you normally won’t have to exchange its files with other organizations.

Microsoft Access still consistently features in the top 10 database-engines rankings. The “pro-Access” community points to its ease of use, the massive range of online resources available for users of all abilities, as well as its powerful querying, filtering, and table tools. However, Access detractors will often contest its lack of scalability, its frustrating 2 GB limit—more about that in a moment, its continued use of a solitary file for the database, and potential for database corruption in multiple-user databases.

Back to the 2 GB database size limit, this has gotten to be the main drawback of Microsoft Access. While such a limit wasn’t much of an issue back in 1992 when the software first came out and hard disks were rarely bigger than that anyways, things are different today. And while some will argue that a database of client contacts won’t take up 2 GB of space in all but the most extreme situations, there are more and more situations where big objects—such as images—need to be stored in databases. This can quickly make databases grow to impressive sizes and reach the limits of Microsoft Access.

The Best Microsoft Access Alternatives

There are many available options as a replacement for Microsoft Access. Since Price is often the main reason why people start looking for alternatives, we’ve included some of the best free options we could find. Not all products on our list are a feature-for-feature direct replacement for the Microsoft product but that all offer some of its functionality. Picking the best tool for you will largely depend on your needs.

1. LibreOffice Base

LibreOffice is a free and open-source office suite that rivals in functionality with Microsoft Office. Libre Office Base is the database component of the free suite. It is an excellent starting point for anyone looking for an alternative to Microsoft Access. LibreOffice It is considered by many to be the best Microsoft contender on the market and the latest version, 6.3.4, is the best one yet and it keeps getting better.

LibreOffice Base is an excellent product that is well-suited to both home and business needs. The product has a broad range of handy features, including cross-database support for multi-user databases such as MySQL, Adabas D, Microsoft Access, and PostgreSQL.

LibreOffice Base is likely the closest you can get to a direct Microsoft Access clone. Both are front-end, user-friendly database management tools well-suited for users of any levels. You can use LibreOffice Base to create good database applications or websites. The product also gives you the choice between two database engines: Firebird or HSQLDB for your embedded database framework.

2. DB Browser for SQLite

DB Browser for SQLite is not really a database engine. It is rather a front end to SQLite that will enable users to create and use SQLite database files without having to know complex SQL commands. In a nutshell, it adds Access-like functionality to SQLite. Add to that its spreadsheet-like interface and its pre-built wizards and you have an excellent combination for new database users without much background knowledge.

Throughout its life, the application has gone through several name changes, from the original Arca Database Browser to the SQLite Database Browser and finally to its current name in 2014, to avoid confusion with SQLite. Despite all its identity changes, the product has managed to stay true to its goal of being easy for users to operate.

The software’s wizards let users easily create and modify database files, tables, indexes, records, etc. It can also import and export data to common file formats and create and issue queries and searches. The product is available for Windows, macOS, and a variety of Linux versions. Documentation-wise, a rather complete wiki available on GitHub provides a wealth of information for users and developers alike.

DB Browser for SQLite licensed under a combination of the Mozilla Public License Version 2 and the GNU General Public License Version 3 or later and you can download the source code from the project’s website.

3. Kexi

Kexi is the database application in the Calligra Suite productivity software for the KDE desktop. The Caligra Suite being part of the KDE project, Kexi is purpose-built for KDE Plasma. It is not, however, limited to KDE users. Linux, BSD, and Unix users running GNOME can also run the database, as can macOS and Windows users. The product seamlessly integrates with the other applications in the suite, including Words (word processing), Sheets (spreadsheet), Stage (presentations), and Plan (project management).

Kexi’s website mentions that its development was “motivated by the lack of rapid application development (RAD) tools for database systems that are sufficiently powerful, inexpensive, open standards-driven, and portable across many operating systems and hardware platforms.” It has all the standard features you’d expect from an Access alternative such as designing databases, storing data, doing queries, processing data, and so forth.

Kexi is available under the LGPL open source license and you can download its source code from its development wiki. If you’d like to learn more, take a look at its user handbook, forums, and user base wiki.

4. nuBuilder Forte

NuBuilder Forte is different from other tools on this list. It is a browser-based, front-end tool for developing web-based database applications and it is designed to be as easy as possible for people to use. It’s got a clean interface and low-code tools (including support for drag-and-drop) that allow users to create and use a database quickly. And as a fully web-based application, data is accessible anywhere from a browser. Everything is stored in a MySQL database and can be backed up in one database file.

NuBuilder Forte uses industry-standard coding languages such as HTML, PHP, JavaScript, and SQL, making it easy for users and developers to get started. A great deal of help is available in the form of videos and other documentation for topics including creating forms, doing searches, building reports, and more.

NuBuilder Forte is licensed under GPLv3.0 and you can download it on GitHub. You can learn more by consulting the nuBuilder forum or watching its demo video.

5. Axisbase

If the price is your main reason for looking for an Access alternative, Axisbase might be just what you need. The product was created by a frustrated developer who was angered at the expense of forcing his clientèle to pay for Microsoft Access. While the product’s development seems to have stopped several years ago, it might still be a valid option, depending on your needs. This product is different from the other entries in this list in that it offers a complete database solution. It has a familiar front-end interface that feels similar to Filemaker, Microsoft Access or LibreOffice Base, but can also act as a database server like MySQL.

Ease of use is, unfortunately, not one of Axisbase’s strong suits. Axisbase databases are developed from “building blocks”. A building block can be “a data subset, list, graph, window, or report.” Although it may look like a highly flexible way of building databases, the building blocks can become overly complex due in part to the underlying depth of the product.

The best place to get started with Axisbase is to head to its documentation page where the developer provides an overview of how many of the systems work, how you can implement building blocks, and other vital information for the development of your database. If you’re willing to put in the time to learn how to use this product, you will be rewarded.

Tools For Monitoring Access And Other Databases

Whether you’re using Microsoft Access or any of the alternatives we’ve just reviewed, chances are that, at some point, your usage of the product will grow to a point where you’ll want to monitor the availability and performance of your database. This is where monitoring tools will come in handy. At its base, any Access-like database is an application running on a computer. As such, the best way to monitor it is to use application monitoring tools. There are way too many of these tools to list them all here but here’s a couple that we’ve found to be among the very best you can find.

1. SolarWinds Server And Application Monitor (FREE TRIAL)

At the top of our list is a tool form SolarWinds, the publisher of some of the very best network and system administration tools. The twenty-year-old company benefits from a solid reputation and its flagship product, the Network Performance Monitor, consistently scores among the top SNMP monitoring tools.

The SolarWinds Server and Application Monitor is a great example of a rather complete server monitoring tool. The platform will monitor your computers’ hardware, the operating system running on them as well as their applications, including—but not limited to—Microsoft Access. This is truly an all-inclusive server monitoring platform.

SolarWinds SAM - Dashboard Summary

This tool was designed to help administrators monitor servers, their operational parameters, their processes, and the applications which are running on them. It can easily scale from very small networks to large ones with hundreds of servers—both physical and virtual—spread over multiple sites. The tool can also monitor cloud-hosted services like those from Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure.

The SolarWinds Server and Application Monitor is very easy to set up and its initial configuration is just as easily done with the help of its auto-discovery process. It is a two-pass process. The first pass will discover servers, and the second one will find applications. This can take time but can be sped up by supplying the tool with a list of specific applications to look for. Once the tool is up and running, the user-friendly GUI makes using it a breeze. You can choose to display information in either a table or a graphic format.

Prices for the SolarWinds Server and Application Monitor start at $2 995 and vary based on the number of components, nodes, and volumes monitored. A free 30-day trial version is available for download, should you want to try the product before purchasing it.

2. ManageEngine OpManager

The ManageEngine OpManager is another all-in-one package that will monitor your servers’ (both physical and virtual) vital signs and those of the applications running on them as well as those of your networking equipment, and alert you as soon as something is out of its normal operating range. The tool boasts an intuitive user interface that will let you easily find the information you need. There is also an excellent reporting engine that comes loaded with pre-built reports while still supporting custom ones. The product’s alerting features are also very complete.

ManageEngine OpManager Dashboard

The tool runs on either Windows or Linux and is loaded with great features. One worth mentioning is its auto-discovery feature that can map your network, giving you a uniquely customized dashboard. The ManageEngine OpManager dashboard is super easy to use and navigate, thanks to its drill-down functionality. For those of you who are into mobile apps, client apps for tablets and smartphones are available, allowing you to access the tool from anywhere.

The ManageEngine OpManager is available in two versions. The Essential edition is intended for small and medium organizations with up to a thousand devices with prices starting at around $700 for 25 devices. For larger organizations, the Enterprise edition can scale up to ten thousand devices. Its price starts at under $20 000 for 500 devices. If you are interested in giving the tool a try, a free 30-day trial is also available.

In Conclusion

No matter what your reasons are for seeking an alternative to Microsoft Access, we’ve introduced several interesting replacement options. Some are very similar to the Microsoft product in their operation and in their look and feel. Others take a very different approach, but they still offer equivalent functionality, and they are targeting the same type of users and addressing the same needs, albeit differently. Have a look at the detailed specifications of the products and try them out before making your final decision. Doing so will ensure that you get the best possible replacement.

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HIPAA Compliance Checklist and Tools to Use

If you’re in the health industry or somehow involved with IT in that industry, chances are you’ve heard of HIPAA. The Health Insurance Portability Accountability Act has been around for a couple of decades to help safeguard the personal data of patients. Today, we’re going to have an in-depth look at HIPAA and review a handful of tools that may assist you with obtaining or maintaining your HIPAA certification.

HIPAA Compliance Checklist and Tools to Use

We’ll start off by briefly explaining what HIPAA is and then dig deeper into some of the most important aspects of the standard and discuss some of its primary rules. Next, we’ll introduce our HIPAA compliance checklist. A list of three steps you need to take to achieve and maintain HIPAA compliance. And finally, we’ll review some tools you can use to assist in your HIPAA compliance efforts.

HIPAA Explained

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, or HIPAA was introduced back in 1996 to regulate the handling of medical data. The underlying principle was to safeguard personal data about users of the health system. More precisely, it deals with protected health information (PHI) and electronically protected health information (ePHI). When enacted, industry-wide standards for data handling, cybersecurity, and electronic billing were put in place.

Its main goal was—and still is—to ensure that personal medical data is kept confidential and can only be accessed by those who need to access it. Concretely, it means that all patient records kept by a health organization must be protected from being accessed by unauthorized individuals or groups. While not the only rule associated with HIPAA, this is by far the most important and the idea behind it is to protect medical data from malicious or fraudulent use.

In our age of distributed systems and cloud computing, potential access point to medical data are numerous, thereby making its protection a complex issue. In a nutshell, all physical and virtual resources and systems must be thoroughly secured against potential attacks in order to fully protect patient data. The standard specifies what practices must be implemented but, more importantly, it requires the construction of a water-tight network infrastructure.

Furthermore, any organization that fails to keep protected data safe faces severe financial consequences. Fines of up to $50,000 per day for poor practices can be applied with an annual cap of $1.5 million. This is enough to put a gaping hole in any organization’s budget. And to make matters even more complicated, complying with the regulations isn’t just a matter of filling out a few forms. Concrete steps must be taken to effectively protect data. For example, the proactive management of vulnerabilities must be demonstrated.

In the following sections, we’ll go into greater detail on the main elements of HIPAA compliance with the goal to help you make as much sense as possible of this complex matter.

The Privacy Rule

In the context of information technology, the most important part of HIPAA is the Privacy Rule. It specifies how ePHI can be accessed and handled. For example, it mandates that all healthcare organizations, health plan providers, and business associates—more about this later—of covered entities have procedures in place to actively protect the privacy of patient data. This means that each and every entity from the original provider to the data centers that hold the data and the cloud service providers that process it must protect the data. But it doesn’t stop there, a business associate can also refer to any contractor offering services to the aforementioned organization must also be HIPAA-compliant.

While it is clear that the basic requirement of HIPAA is to protect patient data, there’s another aspect to it. Organizations also have to support the rights that patients have to that data. Concretely, there are three specific rights under HIPAA that must preserve. The first one is the right to authorize (or not) the disclosure of their sPHI. The second one is the right to request (and obtain) a copy of their health records at any time. And finally, there is the patients’ right to request corrections to their records.

To break it down further, the HIPAA Privacy Rule states that consent is required from the patient in order to disclose ePHI data. In the event that a patient requests access to their data, organizations have 30 days to respond. Failing to respond on time can leave an enterprise open to legal liabilities and potential fines.

The Security Rule

The HIPAA Security Rule is a subsection of the previous rule. It outlines how ePHI should be managed from a security standpoint. Basically, this rule states that enterprises should “implement the necessary safeguards” to protect patient data. What makes this rule one of the most complex to manage and comply with is the ambiguity that stems from the terms “necessary safeguards”. To make it somewhat easier to manage and to comply with, this HIPAA rule is further broken down into three primary sections: administrative safeguards, technical safeguards, and physical safeguards. Let’s see what each one entails.

Administrative Safeguards

Under the HIPAA Security Rule, administrative safeguards are defined as “administrative actions, and policies and procedures to manage the selection, development, implementation, and maintenance of security measures to protect electronic health information.” Furthermore, the rule states that managing the conduct of the workforce is also part of this responsibility. It makes organizations accountable for the actions of their employees.

Administrative safeguards indicate that organizations must implement administrative processes to control access to patient data as well as provide whatever training is to enable employees to interact with information securely. An employee should be appointed to manage HIPAA policies and procedures in order to manage workforce conduct.

Physical Safeguards

While administrative safeguards had to do with procedures and processes, the physical safeguard requirement is different. It is all about securing the facilities where patient data is handled or stored and the resources that access said data. Access-control is the most important aspect of this section of the HIPAA specification.

In a nutshell, what you need is to have measures in place to control the access to where patient data is processed and stored. You also need to protect those devices where data is processed and stored against unauthorized access—using methods such as two-factor authentication, for example—and you need to control and/or the movement of devices in and out of the facility.

Technical Safeguards

This section deals with the technical policies and procedures associated with protecting patient data. There are several ways this data can be protected including, but not limited to, authentication, audit controls, audit reports, record keeping, access control, and automatic logoffs, just to name a few of them. Furthermore, measures must be in place to make sure that data is always kept safe no matter if it’s being stored on a device or moved between systems or between locations.

In order to identify risk factors and threats to the security of the ePHI data, a risk assessment exercise should be completed. And not only that, concrete measures must be taken in order to address whatever risks and/or threats were identified. The technical safeguards aspect of HIPAA is probably the most complex and it is an area where the assistance of a qualified HIPAA compliance consultant can help any organization ensure that no stone remains unturned.

The Breach Notification Rule

The next important rule of the HIPAA specification is the breach notification rule. Its purpose is to specify how organizations should respond to data breaches or other security events. Among other things, it states that, in the event of a data breach, organizations must notify individuals, the media or the Health and Human Services Secretary.

The role also defines what constitutes a breach. It is described as “an impermissible use or disclosure under the privacy rule that compromises the security or privacy of the protected health information”. The rule also states that organizations have up to 60 days to notify the necessary parties. It goes even further by requiring that said notification states what personal identifiers were exposed, the individual who used the exposed data and whether the data was simply viewed or acquired. Furthermore, the notification must also specify whether the risk or damage has been mitigated and how.

Another integral part of the breach notification rule deals with reporting. Small breaches—those affecting less than 500 individuals—must be reported through the Health and Human Services website on a yearly basis. Larger breaches—those affecting more than 500 patients—must also be reported to the media. With such requirements, it quickly becomes obvious that the key to the success of your HIPAA compliance efforts is to monitor breaches closely.

Our HIPAA Compliance Checklist

OK. Now that we’ve covered the bases of what HIPAA is and what its main requirements are, we’ve compiled a checklist of the various steps an organization needs to take in order to achieve or maintain its compliance status. As we’ve indicated earlier, enlisting the assistance of an experienced HIPAA-compliance professional is strongly recommended. Not only would it make the process much easier and less stressful, but they should be able to thoroughly audit your security practices and processes and identify areas that may benefit from improvements.

1. Complete a Risk Assessment

The first item on this short checklist, the first thing anyone should do when getting ready for HIPAA compliance is a complete assessment of your current risks and state of readiness. The reason you should do that first is that your current status will dictate what further steps will need to be taken in order to achieve compliance. A global risk assessment that will determine how PHI and ePHI data is handled will let you uncover any gap in your security policies and procedures.

This is the first place where an external consultant would do wonders. First, he will typically come with vast expertise in HIPAA compliance readiness but, and perhaps more importantly, he will see things from a different point of view. Furthermore, that consultant will have a thorough understanding of the various requirements of HIPAA and how they apply to your specific situation.

Once the risk assessment phase is complete, you will be left with a list of recommendations to assist in achieving compliance. You can think of that list as a to-do list of the next steps. We just can’t stress enough how important this step is. It will, more than anything be the most determinative factor of success.

2. Remediate Compliance Risks and Refine Processes

The second step is much simpler than the first. What you need to do next is to take all the recommendations from the first step and address them. This is the step where you’ll need to change your processes and procedures. This is likely where you’ll encounter the most resistance from users. The degree of resistance will, of course, vary depending on how close you were initially, how many changes have to be made and the exact nature of those changes.

It is a good idea to address the smaller compliance issue first. For instance, implementing such basic measures as training your staff on basic cybersecurity practices or teaching them how to use two-factor authentication should be easy and can get you started rather quickly and smoothly.

Once you’ve completed the easy tasks, you next need to set remediation targets as they will help you prioritize the remaining tasks. For instance, if the results from the first steps show that you need to put some form of compliance reporting in place, this is where you’d start shopping for a tool with automated compliance reporting. This is another area where an external consultant can save you a lot of grief by providing some valuable insight into what changes you need to implement in order to achieve compliance.

3. Ongoing Risk Management

You might be tempted to think that achieving HIPAA compliance is a one-time deal and that once you get it, you’ve got it. Unfortunately, this can’t be further from the truth. While achieving compliance is a one-time endeavour, maintaining it is an everyday effort. You will need to continually manage risk and make sure that patient data is safe and has not been accessed or tampered with in any unauthorized manner.

Concretely, you’ll want to run regular vulnerability scans. You will also need to keep a watchful eye on system logs to detect any sign of suspicious activity before it is too late. This is where automated systems will be most helpful. Whereas an external consultant was your best asset during the first two phases, software tools are now what you need. And talking about software tools, we have a few we’d like to recommend.

Some Tools To Assist With HIPAA Compliance

Various types of tools can assist with your HIPAA compliance efforts. Two of them are particularly helpful. First, configuration management and auditing tools can ensure that your systems’ configuration meets the requirements of HIPAA—or any other regulatory framework. But they can also keep a constant vigil on the configuration of your equipment and ensure that no unauthorized changes are performed of that whatever authorized change does not break the compliance. Our list features a couple of these tools.

Another useful type of tool in the context of HIPAA compliance deals with detecting data breaches. For that purpose, Security Information and Event Management (SIEM) systems will provide the peace of mind you deserve and ensure that you’ll be quickly notified should anything suspicious happen. Our list also includes a few SIEM tools.

1. SolarWinds Server Configuration Monitor (FREE TRIAL)

When it comes to monitoring and auditing server configurations, what you need it the SolarWinds Server Configuration Monitor or SCM. This is a powerful and easy-to-use product that is designed to provide tracking of server and application changes in your network. As a troubleshooting tool, it can give you the necessary information about configuration changes and their correlations with performance slowdown. This can help you find the root cause of some performance problems caused by configuration changes.

SolarWinds Server Configurtion Manager - Track Changes

The SolarWinds Server Configuration Monitor is an agent-based tool, with the agent deployed on each server being monitored. The advantage of this architecture is that the agent can keep gathering data even when the server is disconnected from the network. The data is then sent to the tool as soon as the server is back online.

Feature-wise, this product leaves nothing to be desired. In addition to what’s already been mentioned, this tool will automatically detect servers that are eligible for monitoring. It comes with out-of-the-box configuration profiles for the most common servers. The tool will also let you view hardware and software inventories and report on them too. You can easily integrate SCM into your system monitoring solution thanks to the Orion Platform from SolarWinds. This is a great tool that can be used to monitor your on-premises physical and virtual server as well as your cloud-based environment.

Prices for the SolarWinds Server Configuration Monitor are not readily available. You’ll need to request a formal quote from SolarWinds. However, a 30-day evaluation version is available for download.

2. SolarWinds Security Event Manager (FREE TRIAL)

When it comes to Security Information and Event Management, the SolarWinds Security Event Manager—formerly named the SolarWinds Log & Event Manager—is what you need. The tool is best described as an entry-level SIEM tool. It is, however, one of the best entry-level systems on the market. The tool has almost everything you can expect from a SIEM system. This includes excellent log management and correlation features as well as an impressive reporting engine.

SolarWinds Security Event Manager Screenshot

The tool also boasts excellent event response features that leave nothing to be desired. For instance, the detailed real-time response system will actively react to every threat. And since it’s based on behaviour rather than signature, you’re protected against unknown or future threats and zero-day attacks.

In addition to its impressive feature set, the SolarWinds Security Event Manager’s dashboard is possibly its best asset. With its simple design, you’ll have no trouble finding your way around the tool and quickly identifying anomalies. Starting at around $4 500, the tool is more than affordable. And if you want to try it and see how it works in your environment, a free fully functional 30-day trial version is available for download.

3. Netwrix Auditor for Windows Server

Next on our list is the Netwrix Auditor for Windows Server, a free Windows Server reporting tool that keeps you posted on all changes made to your Windows Server configuration. It can track changes such as the installation of software and hardware, changes to services, network settings and scheduled tasks. This toll will send daily activity summaries detailing every change during the last 24 hours, including the before and after values for each modification.

Netwrix Auditor Enterprise Overview

Netwrix claims that the Netwrix Auditor for Windows Server is the “free Windows Server monitoring solution you’ve been looking for”. The product complements native network monitoring and Windows performance analysis solutions. It has several advantages over the built-in audit tools available in Windows Server. In particular, it improves security and offers more convenient audit data retrieval, consolidation and representation. You’ll also appreciate how easily you can enable continuous IT auditing with far less time and effort and control changes more efficiently.

As good as the Netwrix Auditor for Windows Server is, it is a free tool with a somewhat limited feature set. If you want more functionality, you might want to try the Netwrix Auditor Standard Edition. It is not a free tool but it comes with a vastly extended feature set. The good thing is that when you download the free Netwrix Auditor for Windows Server, it will include all the features of its big brother for the first 30 days, letting you get a taste of it.

4. Splunk Enterprise Security

Splunk Enterprise Security—usually referred to as Splunk ES—is likely one of the most popular SIEM tools. It is particularly famous for its analytics capabilities and, when it comes to detecting data breaches, this is what counts. Splunk ES monitors your system’s data in real-time, looking for vulnerabilities and signs of abnormal and/or malicious activity.

Splunk - Health Score Screenshot

In addition to great monitoring, security response is another of Splunk ES’s best features. The system uses a concept called the Adaptive Response Framework (ARF) that integrates with equipment from more than 55 security vendors. The ARF performs automated response, speeding up manual tasks. This will let you quickly gain the upper hand. Add to that a simple and uncluttered user interface and you have a winning solution. Other interesting features include the Notables function which shows user-customizable alerts and the Asset Investigator for flagging malicious activities and preventing further problems.

Since Splunk ES is truly an enterprise-grade product, you can expect it to come with an enterprise-sized price tag. Pricing information is unfortunately not readily available from Splunk’s website so you will need to contact the company’s sales department to get a quote. Contacting Splunk will also allow you to take advantage of a free trial, should you want to try the product.

5. Quest Change Auditor

Quest Software is a well-known maker of network administration and security tools. Its server configuration monitoring and auditing tool is aptly called the Quest Change Auditor and it offers real-time security and IT auditing of your Microsoft Windows environment. What this tool gives you is complete, real-time IT auditing, in-depth forensics and comprehensive security monitoring on all key configuration, user and administrator changes for Microsoft Active Directory, Azure AD, Exchange, Office 365, Exchange Online, file servers and more. The Quest Change Auditor also tracks detailed user activity for logons, authentications and other key services across organizations, enhancing threat detection and security monitoring. It features a central console that eliminates the need for and complexity of multiple IT audit solutions.

Quest Change Auditor Screenshot

One of this tool’s great features is the Quest Change Auditor Threat Detection, a proactive threat detection technology. It can simplify user threat detection by analyzing anomalous activity to rank the highest-risk users in your organization, identify potential threats and reduce the noise from false-positive alerts. The tool will also protect against changes to critical data within AD, Exchange and Windows file servers, including privileged groups, Group Policy objects and sensitive mailboxes. It can generate comprehensive reports for security best practices and regulatory compliance mandates, including GDPR, SOX, PCI-DSS, HIPAA, FISMA, GLBA and more. It can also correlate disparate data from numerous systems and devices into an interactive search engine for fast security incident response and forensic analysis.

The pricing structure of the Quest Change Auditor is rather complex as each monitored platform must be purchased separately. On the plus side, a free trial of the product is available for each supported platform.

In Conclusion

While achieving HIPAA compliance is a serious challenge, it is by no means impossible. In fact, it’s just a matter of following a few simple yet elaborate steps and surrounding you with the right people and the right technology to make it as easy as possible. Just keep in mind that some of the requirements od HIPAA may seem quite ambiguous. This is why we can only recommend that you get some help in the form of an expert consultant and dedicated software tools. That should help make the transition as smooth as can be.

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Top 5 Apache Cassandra Monitoring Tools and Software (2020 Edition)

Although NoSQL databases are not as well-known as their relational counterparts, they are very popular with web applications. Apache Cassandra is likely one of the most popular of these databases. Just like any other type of database, these too, have to be monitored. And since it can be overwhelming to manually keep a constant watchful eye on things, monitoring tools are the way to go. Today, we’re going to have a look at five of the best tools you can use for monitoring Apache Cassandra databases.

Best Apache Cassandra Monitoring Tools

We’ll begin by introducing Apache Cassandra, in case you’re not already familiar with the product. Next, we’ll discuss NoSQL databases and what makes them different from more conventional types. Then we’ll go into great lengths into the subject of database monitoring, with a focus on what there is to be monitored in databases. This will take us to the core of our discussion, the very best tools for monitoring Apache Cassandra databases.

About Apache Cassandra

Apache Cassandra is a free and open-source NoSQL database management system designed to handle large amounts of data across many commodity servers, providing high availability with no single point of failure. This distributed, wide column store database system offers robust support for clusters spanning multiple data centers with asynchronous masterless replication. This allows for low latency operations. It has been used by big organizations such as Apple, Spotify, Netflix, and Uber. It is widely used in part because of its fault-tolerant, scalable and decentralized characteristics.

Cassandra was initially developed at Facebook by Avinash Lakshman, one of the authors of Amazon’s Dynamo, and Prashant Malik to power the Facebook inbox search feature. Facebook released the product as an open-source project on Google code in July 2008. A few months later, in March 2009, the project became an Apache Incubator project and about a year later, on February 17, 2010 it graduated to a top-level project. The name is a direct reference to the Trojan mythological prophet Cassandra, with classical allusions to a curse on an oracle.

Being a NoSQL database, Cassandra uses Cassandra Query Language, a simple interface for accessing Cassandra. CQL, as it is usually referred to, provides an abstraction layer that hides implementation details of this structure and offers native syntax for collections and other common encodings. Language drivers are available for Java, Python, Node.JS, Go, and C++.

The best tools for monitoring Apache Cassandra

So, now that we are all on the same page as to what it entails to monitor Apache Cassandra databases, here’s our pick of some of the best tools you can use for that purpose. Many of the tools on our list are actually application monitoring tools. That should not come as a surprise as Apache Cassandra is, in fact, just another application running on a server. Other tools are rather dedicated database monitoring tools but that does not necessarily mean they are better tools. It all depends on what your exact needs are.

1. SolarWinds Server & Application Monitor (FREE TRIAL)

The SolarWinds Server and Application Monitor was designed to help administrators monitor servers, their operational parameters, their processes, and the applications which are running on them. It can easily scale from very small networks to large ones with hundreds of servers—both physical and virtual—spread over multiple sites. The tool can also monitor cloud-hosted services like those from Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure. This powerful tool also lets you monitor the performance and availability of Apache Cassandra servers on Linux or Unix. It will provide details on service health, node statistics, and network tracking, letting administrators view all relevant parameters on a unified dashboard.

SolarWinds Server and Application Monitor Dashboard

The SolarWinds Server and Application Monitor is very easy to set up and its initial configuration is just as easily done with the help of its auto-discovery process. It is a two-pass process. The first pass will discover servers, and the second one will find applications. This can take time but can be sped up by supplying the tool with a list of specific applications to look for. Once the tool is up and running, the user-friendly GUI makes using it a breeze. You can choose to display information in either a table or a graphic format.

Prices for the SolarWinds Server and Application Monitor start at $2 995 and vary based on the number of components, nodes, and volumes monitored. A free 30-day trial version is available for download, should you want to try the product before purchasing it.

2. SolarWinds AppOptics (FREE TRIAL)

Next on our list is another great platform from SolarWinds. It is radically different from the previous entry, though. SolarWinds AppOptics is a cloud-based, Software as a Service (SaaS) offering for infrastructure or performance monitoring. This service is made up of two components.

  • AppOptics Infrastructure is a traditional infrastructure monitoring service that will let you monitor the health of all of your critical systems with a highly scalable, cost-effective platform, giving you continuous visibility into hosts, containers, and your serverless environment.
  • The other component is AppOptics Application Performance Monitoring and it offers full-stack monitoring of metrics, traces and logs.

Appoptics Screenshot

Among other things, SolarWinds AppOptics offers distributed tracing, a functionality that allows it to measure and monitor the performance of application stacks in each component layer, including network, database, API, UI, etc. For example, to help troubleshoot Apache Cassandra database performance problems, developers can use a feature called “Traced Queries”. Using them, SolarWinds AppOptics can drill down on any database query and identify the application calls that are causing poor performance.

SolarWinds AppOptics provides a unified dashboard, alerting, and management for application performance and infrastructure monitoring. It virtually removes the division between application performance and infrastructure monitoring, letting you cross-reference application performance, server, and infrastructure metrics side by side in the same dashboard. It can help streamline your troubleshooting efforts and dramatically decrease time to resolution.

The cost of the SolarWinds AppOptics APM service is $2 999/year. This is an all-inclusive price that will let you monitor up to 10 hosts, 100 containers, 100 traces per minute, and 1 000 custom metrics. You can optionally add additional traces for high-traffic websites at the cost of $1 000/year for an additional 100 traces per minute or custom metrics at the cost of $599/year for a 1 000 metrics. If you’d rather try the service first, a free, no-credit-card-needed 14-day trial is available.

3. ManageEngine Applications Manager

ManageEngine may not be as well-known as SolarWinds yet it’s still another name that enjoys an excellent reputation among network and database administrators. The ManageEngine Application Manager deals with application management. You probably had figured it out by yourself. This is, however, a somewhat misleading name as it is as much a monitoring platform as it is a management tool.

This tool offers integrated application performance monitoring for all your server and application monitoring needs. It can also do that for the underlying infrastructure components such as application servers, databases, middle-ware and messaging components, web servers, web services, ERP packages, virtual systems and cloud resources. In a few words, this is an all-encompassing platform.

ManageEngine Applications Manager Oracle Screenshot

The ManageEngine Applications Manager provides comprehensive Cassandra performance monitoring and administration of all nodes in a cluster from a centralized console. It lets you collect statistical data from all JVMs in a cluster as well as key performance metrics like memory utilization metrics, task metrics of thread pools, storage metrics, CPU usage, operation performance, latency and pending tasks. The tool can also track operating system metrics on your Cassandra nodes like the number of processors, exceptions, CPU utilization and time trends.

This tool also monitors distinct Cassandra thread pools to provide statistics on the number of tasks that are active, pending, completed and blocked. Monitoring trends on these pools for increases in the pending tasks column can help you plan add additional capacity. It can also can help you deal with overload scenarios in your Cassandra environment by keeping a lookout for dropped messages. You can receive a log summary of dropped messages along with the message type as well as establish thresholds and configure alarms to notify you of dropped messages.

The ManageEngine Application Manager is available in several editions. There’s a feature-limited Free edition as well as a Professional and an Enterprise paid versions. Pricing starts at $945 and details can be obtained by contacting ManageEngine. A free 30-day trial version is also available.

4. Dynatrace

Dynatrace is another cloud-based Software as a Service (SaaS) offering. It can detect, solve and optimize applications automatically. Discovering and mapping a complex application ecosystem is simply a matter of installing the Dynatrace OneAgent. The service will give you a high-fidelity view of your entire application stack, from the performance of applications, cloud infrastructure, and user experience. It will help you effortlessly detect problems along with their business impacts and root cause.

Dynatrace Screenshot

When tasked with monitoring Apache Cassandra databases, Dynatrace will automatically detect them in less than five minutes. It lets you monitor various metrics including CPU, connectivity, garbage collection time, suspension, and re-transmissions. On the “Further details” tab, you can have a deeper look at statistics such as disk usage, cache, hints, load, thread pools, and Java managed memory. The platform also features root cause analysis. It can automatically highlight the root cause of performance issues on individual nodes, allowing you to respond to server problems much faster and giving you all the necessary information to craft an informed response.

Dynatrace also claims to have the broadest coverage of any monitoring solution in terms of languages supported, application architectures, cloud, on-premise or hybrid, enterprise apps, SaaS monitoring, and more. The tool automatically discovers and monitors dynamic microservices running inside containers. It shows you how they’re performing, how they communicate with each other and it helps you quickly detect poorly performing microservices.

Pricing for Dynatrace is not readily available but it can be obtained by signing up for the free 15-day trial. Once you register for the trial, it’s only a matter of installing the agent on your servers and you could start monitoring within 5 minutes.

5. AppDynamics APM

Last on our list is AppDynamics APM, an excellent application performance management tool from Cisco. This tool will automatically discover, map, and visualize your critical customer journeys through each application service and infrastructure component. It provides management teams with a single source of information to focus on end-to-end performance in the context of the customer experience, instead of monitoring individual services.

AppDynamics APM Screenshot

With Apache Cassandra databases, AppDynamics APM will discover them and add them to your monitoring environment. Once added, there are various metrics you can monitor. For instance, monitoring Cassandra back-end communications will let you collect data on average response time, errors per minute, and calls per minute, giving you an overview of how the service is performing.

This tool uses machine learning to learn what normal performance is, effectively building its own baseline of application performance. It allows the tool to alert you whenever performance is not normal. There is direct integration with ServiceNow, PagerDuty, and Jira so that you can be immediately alerted and fix problems before customers notice them.

Another great feature is the tool’s immediate, automated, code-level diagnostics. Its deep diagnostic capabilities enable you to identify root-cause down to the individual line of code. Your team won’t have to go sifting through log files, saving valuable developer time.

AppDynamics APM is available in several versions. The most basic is called APM Pro. APM Advanced adds server visibility and network visibility features. The top-level is called APM Peak and it includes all the features from APM Advanced plus business performance monitoring, transaction analytics, and business journeys. Pricing can be obtained by contacting AppDynamics and a 30-day trial version is available.

Introducing NoSQL databases

A NoSQL database is a type of database that provides a mechanism for storage and retrieval of data that is modelled in means other than the tabular relations used in relational databases. These databases have been around since the late 1960s, yet they did not get referred to as “NoSQL” until a surge of popularity triggered by the needs of Web 2.0 organizations in the early 21st century. NoSQL databases are increasingly used in big data and real-time web applications. And while they do not use SQL per se—hence their name—some people prefer to call them “Not only SQL” to emphasize the fact that they may support SQL-like query languages—such as the CQL for Cassandra, or sit alongside SQL databases in polyglot persistent architectures.

There are various types of NoSQL databases, with different categories and subcategories. In the case of the Apache Cassandra database, it is what is often called a wide column store. This specific type of NoSQL database uses tables, rows, and columns, but unlike a relational database, the names and format of the columns can vary from row to row in the same table. Furthermore, wide column stores such as Apache Cassandra are not column stores in the original sense of the term. In genuine column stores, a columnar data layout is adopted such that each column is stored separately on disk. AS for wide column stores, they often support the notion of column families that are stored separately, with each such column family typically containing multiple columns that are used together, similar to traditional relational database tables. All data within a given column family is stored in a row-by-row fashion, such that the columns for a given row are stored together instead of storing each column separately.

The Ins And Outs Of Database Monitoring

A great thing about Cassandra is how it comes with features like fault tolerance built-in. That, however, doesn’t mean it is a set-and-forget solution. It still needs to be managed and monitored. For instance, the availability, performance, and security of a database system are all important concerns for any database administrator. This is why system administrators typically make use of various database monitoring tools.

Adequately set up database monitoring systems can bring several benefits. For instance, proactive monitoring is always better than a reactive approach as it is always preferable to identify any warning signs before they become major incidents. Also, a proper database monitoring solution can help quickly pinpoint and resolve any possible issues. Whenever a system experience unexplained slowdowns, the first place people start investigating is often the database. But monitoring is not just about performance. We’re also talking about keeping an eye out for security-related events. Verifying backups is another common benefit of a good database monitoring tool.

There is no universally accepted model for building a database monitoring environment. This is in part due to the fact that different businesses use different databases. And since each type of database may expose different types of metrics with varying levels of granularity, an important metric on one platform may not be important on another.

For instance, let’s consider a few important differences between various types of databases that can impact your monitoring strategy. Relational databases are mostly used in online transaction processing systems. Data warehouse systems host large volumes of low-velocity data. NoSQL databases are most often used in mobile or web apps to host metadata or status information. In-memory databases are used for fast performance. It is clear that the monitoring need in each of these cases could be very different.

Furthermore, no matter what category of database you’re using, other factors will affect the important metrics. The most important is certainly the software vendor. The important metrics on a Cassandra database, of instance, could be very different from those of a MySQL database or an Oracle database. Likewise, on-premise and cloud-hosted databases could have different monitoring needs with some metrics being important in one but not in the other. In the case of cloud-hosted databases, managed and non-managed database solutions will have different monitoring needs. Likewise, on-premise databases will have different monitoring needs depending on whether they run on physical or virtual hardware.

What To Monitor

With so many metrics that can be monitored, it can be overwhelming. And deciding what to monitor—and hat not—can be a daunting endeavour. We’ve assembled a list of some metrics that we feel are important to monitor. They are listed below under different categories of monitoring. Together, these metrics can paint a rather detailed picture of the state of any database environment.

Infrastructure

The first category of monitoring metrics is infrastructure. It deals with the underlying hardware that your databases are running on. Any variation of these metrics above of below acceptable thresholds will most likely adversely affect other database metrics. For example, network overutilization could trigger performance alerts in metrics from other categories.

Availability

Database availability is, of course, another category of metrics that is among the most important. After all, you’ll usually want to make sure that the database is available and accessible before looking at any other metrics. There are several ways that database availability can be monitored but among the most popular are the accessibility of database nodes using common protocols such as ping or telnet, the accessibility of database endpoints and ports or failover events for master nodes and upgrade events for slave/peer nodes in multi-node clusters. Any of these parameters can be used to alert you of an availability issue but combining them will give you the best protection.

Throughput

Throughput often refers to the network data-carrying capacity. This is different in the context of monitoring databases, and we’re really talking about the throughput of the database itself. Ideally, throughput metrics would initially be used to create a performance baseline or, even better, several baselines during different workload periods. For example, collecting metrics during month-end batch processing or Black Friday sale events over several cycles will provide insight into a system’s performance during those periods. And it may be quite different from after-hours operations or weekday sales events. Baselines can then be used to create acceptable thresholds for alarms. Any large deviation from usual values would then need investigation.

Performance

The available performance counters could vary between different databases. They are typically reported on a specific time scale (per minute or per second, for instance). These metrics can provide a tell-tale sign of potential bottlenecks. Just as it was with throughput, creating baselines for these metrics is also recommended.

Scheduled Tasks

Database engines often automatically run repetitive tasks or scheduled jobs. Some systems, like Microsoft SQL Server or Oracle, have a built-in job scheduling facility but others use the operating system’s scheduler—such as cron—or third-party schedulers. Regardless of what the actual jobs are or how they are scheduled, what you need to monitor is not only that they ran but, more importantly, what their outcome (success or failure) was.

Security

Security is often the most important aspect of IT administration and this is just as true with databases as it is with other systems. As such, it is important to keep an eye on the security of your databases. And while you may not need to monitor every single security event, you might want to look at their aggregated meaning. Let’s explain. Suppose you’re monitoring failed login attempts. A single failed login is most likely a sign of someone mistyping a password. On the other hand, if you see hundreds of them within a relatively short time frame, it could be the sign of an intrusion attempt.

Failed logins are certainly not the only security element you want to monitor. Database configuration change events are just as important. And so are new user account creations or password changes. Again, a single instance of these events is usually normal by if repeated, they could be cause for concern.

Logs

Logs are the place where most database engines record various types of information. They can be made of a single file or of several ones. Some systems log to text files while others log to a database. But no matter how, where or what your database logs, your monitoring tools can help you with that too. The problem with logs is their quantity. Most systems will create hundreds of log entries every hour, too much for a human to cope. Some monitoring tools will capture the logs, parse and analyze them and create metrics dashboard from the data they contain. In fact, log management is one of the core requirements of database monitoring. There are several reasons for that but the most important is the breadth of information they contain.

Wrapping Up

All the tools we’ve just reviewed are great for monitoring your Apache Cassandra databases. But I’d like to let you in on a secret. They’re also great for all sorts of monitoring. All tools and services will monitor quite a few things besides databases. In fact, this is probably what you should consider the most when selecting your monitoring solution. Pick one that will not only monitor your databases but also all your other applications and servers. After all, you’ll save quite a bit of effort by having only one tool to deploy and you’ll enjoy having a unified user interface for most of your monitoring needs.

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Best 9 AWS Monitoring Tools and Services in 2020

Part hosting, part virtualization, part content distribution, Amazon Web Services is a complex beast. It all started when, in order to support its phenomenal growth, Amazon had to become a master at deploying IT infrastructures. They quickly succeeded and it wasn’t too long before it made sense for them to rent unused parts of their oversized infrastructures to clients having a need for them. This is—highly simplified—how Amazon Web Services came to life. It is now a ubiquitous service and, more than ever, organizations using the service are seeking ways to monitor their AWS environment.

This is the subject of today’s post as we explore the top 9 AWS monitoring tools and services.

Best AWS Monitoring Tools and Software

We’ll begin by trying to better describe what Amazon Web Services are. It will let you better appreciate our product reviews and will ensure we’re all on the same page. We’ll then dig a bit deeper and discuss AWS monitoring. Then, we’ll talk about the different types of monitoring services and tools. And once we’re all familiar with AWS and how to monitor it, we’ll review nine some of the best services and tools available for monitoring Amazon Web Services

What is AWS

The Amazon Web Services (AWS) were launched back in 2006 by Andy Jassy as a platform offering online services to third-party websites and client applications. Originally, most services that were hosted on AWS were back-end services that were not directly exposed to end users but instead, offered functionalities that can be used by developers through APIs. It is still the case to a certain extent and today, Amazon Web Services offers more than 90 services which include computing, storage, networking, database, data analysis, application services, deployment, system management, mobile application management, and tools for developers and for the IoT. The most popular services are called Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) and Amazon Simple Storage Service (S3).

You can think of AWS as a cloud-based virtualization platform. AWS offers its clients a virtual cluster of machines that are constantly available via the Internet. Those virtual machines emulate all the physical characteristics of a real computer including the physical hardware, a choice of operating systems, networks, pre-loaded applications such as web servers, databases, management tools, etc. Furthermore, Amazon ensures the security of its client’s systems. The AWS technology is implemented on server farms based throughout the world and maintained by AWS. Charges are based on usage, hardware and software features, network, and chosen operating system as well as availability, redundancy and security options.

The Ins And Outs of AWS Monitoring

As we’ve seen, AWS is not much more than cloud-hosted servers. It is then easy to imagine that monitoring it is quite similar to monitoring servers. More specifically, it is almost identical to monitoring virtual servers. But there are not only servers in a typical AWS setup. It will often include databases and other applications and might even include at least some networking components. Let’s look in greater detail at the different types of monitoring which can be applied to AWS environments.

Availability

Availability monitoring is the most basic form of monitoring. It is often a simple matter of verifying that a given resource is responding. In an on-premises environment, this is the kind of test that is typically done using ping. But with since AWS environments are typically only reachable via the Internet and considering that ping is often blocked by Internet routers and firewalls, other ways of verifying have emerged. With them also came the possibility to verify that machines are not only running but that certain specific services are too. For instance, testing for a response on port 80 could validate that the webserver component is running.

Operational Metrics

The next things one might want to monitor are the devices’ various operational metrics. The same basic techniques used for local monitoring can often be used and when they don’t, several alternatives exist. As for what operational metrics are to be monitored, we can think of things such as CPU load and memory usage, for example. Other metrics that are closer to the physical system—such as CPU core temperature—are often left out as they pertain to the part of the environment that is managed by AWS.

Performance

The last element that is often monitored is performance. By that, we are referring to the end to end performance of the system as a whole. Some will refer to this as user experience monitoring. It has to do with validating that all the various components are communicating correctly and that each one is responding in a timely manner, offering acceptable end-to-end performance.

Different Types Of Monitoring Services And Tool

Monitoring tools can be differentiated based on several criteria. One of the most important differentiating factors is the data gathering method employed. Some tools do rely on the Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP) to fetch operational parameters from the systems and devices they monitor. Others rely instead on the Windows Management Instrumentation, a somewhat similar technology that is only available on Windows Operating systems. But for the ultimate in granularity and variety of monitorable parameters, agent-based tools can hardly be beaten. They rely on a local agent that is always running on the monitored systems and that is responsible for the gathering of data. There is one major drawback to agent-based monitoring, though. It tends to put an additional load on system resources which can sometimes be limited.

Another common distinguishing factor between various monitoring tools related to their location. Some tools are locally installed on a server and will operate their monitoring from within your local networks. Other systems—and they are getting more and more popular—are cloud-based and offered in a Software as a Service model. Many people tend to prefer cloud-based monitoring services these days. In fact. Some organizations run complex IT environments without owning a single server by moving all the services—including monitoring and management—to the cloud.

The Best Monitoring Services And Tool

Let’s leave the theory behind and have a look at some of the best AWS monitoring services and tools we could find. We’ve included a mix of very different tools, each offering a different take on AWS monitoring. And since monitoring AWS is very similar to monitoring other types of systems, most of the tools on our list can also be used to monitor any type of virtual or physical, on-premises or cloud-based servers.

1. SolarWinds Server And Application Monitor (Free Trial)

The SolarWinds Server and Application Monitor was designed to help administrators monitor servers, their operational parameters, their processes, and the applications which are running on them. It can easily scale from very small networks to large ones with hundreds of servers—both physical and virtual—spread over multiple sites. The main reason why this tool made it to our list—other than being so feature-packed—is that it is perfectly suited to monitor cloud-hosted environments such as Amazon Web Services or Microsoft Azure.

SolarWinds Server and Application Monitor Dashboard

One of the features we love the most about the SolarWinds Server and Application Monitor is how easy it is to set up. The initial configuration is just as easily done with the help of its two-pass auto-discovery process. The first pass discovers every server and the second one finds the applications on each discovered server. Although this process can take time, it can be sped up by supplying a list of specific applications to look for. Once the tool is up and running, the user-friendly GUI makes using it a breeze. The tool’s highly customizable dashboard will let you display information in either a table or a graphic format.

Prices for the SolarWinds Server and Application Monitor start at $2 995 and are based on the number of components, nodes, and volumes you need to monitor. A free 30-day trial version is available for download, should you want to try the product before purchasing it.

2. SolarWinds Server Configuration Monitor (Free Trial)

Next on our list is another product from SolarWinds called the Server Configuration Monitor or SCM. This tool performs a somewhat unique type of monitoring: it monitors devices and applications configurations for changes and for compliance with various standards. It is also a powerful troubleshooting tool that can give you the necessary information about configuration changes and their correlations with performance slowdown. This can help you find the root cause of some performance problems caused by configuration changes.

SolarWinds Server Configuration Monitor Screenshot

The SolarWinds Server Configuration Monitor is an agent-based tool, with the agent deployed on each server being monitored. One advantage of such an architecture is that the agent keeps gathering data even when the server is disconnected from the network. The data is kept locally and then sent to the tool as soon as the server is back online.

Feature-wise, this product leaves nothing to be desired. The tool’s auto-discovery feature will automatically detect servers that are eligible for monitoring. It also comes with out-of-the-box configuration profiles for the most common servers. It can be used as a basic asset management tool and it will let you view hardware and software inventories and report on them. The SCM can be integrated into your system monitoring solution thanks to the Orion platform on which most SolarWinds monitoring tools are based. It is a great tool to use in conjunction with the previous one to monitor your AWS environment.

Contrary to most other SolarWinds products, pricing information for the Server Configuration Monitor is not readily available. You’ll need to contact SolarWinds’ sales. However, a 30-day evaluation version is available for download.

3. Amazon CloudWatch

Wouldn’t it make sense to use an Amazon tool to monitor AWS infrastructures? Amazon CloudWatch, our next tool, is a monitoring and management service built for developers, system operators, site reliability engineers (SRE), and IT managers. The tool provides you with data and actionable insights. You use them to monitor your applications, detect, understand, and respond to system-wide performance changes, optimize resource utilization, and get a unified view of operational health. It is a very thorough tool that offers pretty much all the monitoring you need.

Amazon CloudWatch Screenshot

Amazon CloudWatch collects monitoring and operational data using several techniques such as log collection and analysis as well as metrics and events monitoring. You are provided with a unified view of AWS resources, applications and services that run on AWS, and on-premises servers. You can use this tool to set alarms, visualize logs and metrics side by side, take automated actions, troubleshoot issues, and discover insights. The product is also well-suited for optimizing your applications, and ensuring they are running smoothly.

One of the biggest advantages of Amazon CloudWatch is how easy it is to get started. The product has no up-front commitment or minimum fee. Clients simply pay for what they use and are charged at the end of the month.

4. PRTG Network Monitor

The PRTG Network Monitor, from Paessler AG, is a Windows tool that is ideal for monitoring your AWS environment. It is one of the easiest and fastest tools to set up and Paessler claims you could be up and running within minutes. It is true that setting up the product is impressively fast, thanks in part to its auto-discovery feature which scans your network and automatically adds the components it finds.

The user interface (or rather interfaces) is another one of the software’s strong suits. You can choose between a native Windows console, an Ajax-based web interface, or mobile apps for Android, iOS, and Windows Phone. One of the unique mobile apps features will let you scan a QR code label affixed to your equipment to quickly view its status.

PRTG Dashboard - Datacenter Monitoring

PRTG can monitor almost anything—not just Amazon Web Services— thanks to its innovative sensor architecture. You can think of sensors are add-ons to the product. However, the sensors are already built into the product. And when it comes to monitoring AWS, PRTG works alongside Amazon CloudWatch and actually uses CloudWatch data to provide you with performance information on your Amazon Cloud environment. Several CloudWatch sensors are included with the PRTG Network Monitor. They include:

  • Amazon CloudWatch Alarm Sensor
  • Amazon CloudWatch EBS Sensor
  • Amazon CloudWatch E Sensor
  • Amazon CloudWatch ElastiCache Sensor
  • Amazon CloudWatch ELB Sensor
  • Amazon CloudWatch RDS Sensor
  • Amazon CloudWatch SNS Sensor
  • Amazon CloudWatch SQS Sensor

Each of these sensors has its own unique metrics and they combine to help you monitor the performance of your AWS environment. For example, if you’re using the AWS Elastic Cloud Computing (E) service, you would then use the Amazon CloudWatch E Sensor. This sensor would tell you the CPU utilization, disk I/O, network load, status, and read and write speed of your hosted resources.

The PRTG Network Monitor’s pricing is based on the number of sensors you’re using where a sensor is any parameter or metric you need to monitor. For instance, each HP device interface monitored via SNMP uses up one sensor. Similarly, each HP server uses a sensor. The product is available in a full-featured free version which is limited to monitoring 100 sensors. For more sensors, paid licenses are required. Their price varies according to sensor capacity starting at $1 600 for 500 sensors. A free, sensor-unlimited 30-day trial is available for download.

5. Dynatrace

Dynatrace is a cloud-based Software as a Service (SaaS) that can detect, solve and optimize applications automatically. Discovering and mapping a complex application ecosystem is simply a matter of installing the Dynatrace OneAgent. The tool will give you a high-fidelity view of your entire application stack, from the performance of applications, cloud infrastructure, and user experience. It will help you effortlessly detect problems along with their business impacts and root cause.

Dynatrace Screenshot

Dynatrace claims to have the broadest coverage of any monitoring solution in terms of languages supported, application architectures, cloud, on-premise or hybrid, enterprise apps, SaaS monitoring, and more. The tool automatically discovers and monitors dynamic microservices running inside containers. It shows you how they’re performing, how they communicate with each other and it helps you quickly detect poorly performing microservices.

Dynatrace allows you to thoroughly monitor the performance of your AWS resources. You can use the service to view their performance data and health status. A big advantage of this tool is that Dynatrace is actually affiliated with AWS as an AWS APN Advanced Technology Partner. Another of the product’s strong suits is how it uses machine learning to monitor AWS services and detect abnormal behaviour.

Pricing for Dynatrace is not readily available and can apparently only be obtained by first signing up for the free 15-day trial. Then, its only a matter of installing the agent on your servers and you could be monitoring within 5 minutes

6. AppDynamics iQ

AppDynamics was acquired by Cisco in early 2017 and its AppDynamics iQ platform provides cloud-based monitoring tools that you can use for integrated monitoring of several Infrastructure or Platform as a Service (IaaS/PaaS) offerings from AWS and many other providers. It provides real-time application and business visibility. It is made of six highly intelligent performance engines—called iQs, hence the name of the product—each lending its specific talents.

AppDynamics iQ Screenshot

The Map iQ helps you see and understand the complete customer journey. The engine will automatically create and dynamically update visual flow maps. The Baseline iQ engine lets the AppDynamics iQ monitoring platform automatically establish dynamic baselines your business transactions and metrics using self-learning, rather than static thresholds. The next engine, called Diagnostic iQ, isolates and resolves application performance issues efficiently by monitoring every line of code while activating deep diagnostic capabilities. The Signal iQ engine correlates massive amounts of metric data gathered from the performance monitoring solution and delivers an end-to-end view of application performance. The Enterprise iQ engine is used for application deployment and performance management. Last but not least, the Business iQ engine links all the other modules with the business requirements.

Pricing for the AppDynamics iQ platform is not readily available. You’ll need to contact AppDynamics sales for a detailed quote. However, a free 15-day trial and an online demo are available.

7. New Relic

New Relic offers a suite of several different monitoring tools that would satisfy most monitoring needs. Of particular interest in the context of this post are two products, New Relic APM, an application performance monitoring tool and New Relic Infrastructure, a more “traditional” infrastructure monitoring module.

New Relic Infrastructure Screenshot

When using New Relic APM and Infrastructure together, what you get is a comprehensive view of the health of your servers and hosts as well as the applications and services they depend on. As your applications scale and infrastructure changes, you can easily track the inventory configuration state and correlate changes with potential impacts on your system and application performance.

The New Relic platform is offered in a Software as a Service model and it is particularly well-suited for the monitoring of cloud-based infrastructures such as AWS or Microsoft Azure.

The infrastructure monitoring component of New Relic is available in an Essentials version and a Pro version, the latter allowing integration with other New Relic modules. Prices are as low as $0.60/month per instance for the Essentials version and $1.20/month per instance for the Pro version. The pricing structure is actually rather complex but the New Relic website features a very good quote building tool.

8. Logic Monitor

LogicMonitor is a cloud-based service that provides in-depth monitoring of AWS resources while providing comprehensive coverage for existing on-premise infrastructure. It supports most AWS options such as EC2, RDS, ELB, EBS, SQS, and more. It will pull application-level metrics from EC2 instances running Nginx, MySQL, Kafka, and hundreds of other applications. You can use the tool’s built-in AWS SDK to get custom metrics, EC2 scheduled events, and Amazon’s service health statuses.

LogicMonitor LM Cloud Screenshot

The tool features automated discovery of all AWS resources and also discovers and monitors all your on-premise infrastructure. It also has pre-configured monitoring templates, compatible with over 1000 technologies. It can pull OS-level and application-level metrics which are unavailable using Amazon’s CloudWatch tool alone. It is a comprehensive platform with built-in alerting, reporting, and dashboards which consolidates the need for multiple tools, allowing you and your team to do more with fewer resources.

Logic Monitor is available in three tiers of increasing features starting at $15 per device per month for the Starter version and at $23 per device per month for the top-tier Enterprise version. A free 14-day trial is available and so is a demo.

9. BMC TrueSight

Next on our list is the BMC TrueSight platform, another cloud-based Software as a Service offering. You can use the platform to run, and optimize AWS, Azure, OpenStack and other clouds, applications, and services, accelerating innovation through greater operational efficiency.

BMC TrueSight Screenshot

BMC TrueSight provides control of IT infrastructure resources and costs, application performance, and end-user experience for multi-cloud environments and applications. It provides visibility across the IT environment and uses algorithmic analytics. This lets application and infrastructure managers gain insight to plan and manage services and cost based on business priority and operational requirements.

As it is often the case with this type of service, pricing information for BMC TrueSight is not readily available and can be obtained by contacting BMC sales. A free trial can also be arranged.

In Conclusion

There are many tools you can choose from to monitor your AWS environment and any of those we’ve just reviewed are excellent options. They are all very different tools, though, and trying comparing them can be challenging. Have a look at the detailed features of several tools and perhaps try one or two before you select one and you’ll be rewarded with a tool that is best for your specific needs.

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