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Cover image for AWS DevOps Pro Certification Blog Post Series: CloudWatch
Mark Sta Ana
Mark Sta Ana

Posted on • Originally published at on

AWS DevOps Pro Certification Blog Post Series: CloudWatch

Photo by Saffu on Unsplash

Caveat emptor

Using AWS costs money, some of these services may not be part of the AWS Free Tier. You can keep costs down by tearing down anything you've created whilst learning, but it's still possible to run up a hefty bill so pay attention to the instances you setup!

I'm very lucky to be able to use my employer's AWS account. You should ask your place of work if a similar arrangement can be made as part of your study.

Velocius quam asparagi conquantur

The format of the blog posts is liable to change as I try to refine my mental model of each domain, so be sure to revisit the blog posts on a regular basis.



  • is a service that allows you to collect, track and analyse metrics AWS resources and applications.
  • consists of:
    • Dashboards - this is a customisable web page that can display graphs, metrics, text and query results. DevOps engineers would use a dashboard to provide an at a glance view of the system/environment's health.
    • Metrics allow you to visualise your metrics and create alarms.
    • The following services (in scope for the exam) publish metrics to CloudWatch. A full list can be found in the User Guide.
      • Amazon CloudFront
      • CloudWatch Events and Logs
      • AWS CodeBuild
      • AWS EC2 / Auto Scaling
      • AWS ECS
      • AWS / EFS
      • ELB
      • AWS Kinesis
      • AWS Lambda / Step Functions
      • AWS OpsWorks
    • You can publish custom metrics from EC2 instances via the AWS CLI/API or applications by using the AWS SDK.
    • Alarms are generated off values from your metrics or a maths expression based around that value.
    • Common use cases for alarms are:
      • CPU/Memory utilisation
      • Load Balancer Latency
      • Storage Throughput
      • Billing (exceeding a spending threshold)
    • Alarms can even be used to stop, terminate, reboot or recover an instance
      • There are three states for an Alarm:
      • OK - The metric or expression is within a defined threshold
      • ALARM - The metric or expression is outside the defined threshold
      • INSUFFICIENT DATA - The alarm has just started, but the metric is not available or there is not enough data for the metric to define its alarm state
      • Alarms only invoke actions for sustained state changes. So you won't keep generating alarms because you're in a state ALARM.
    • Logs are aggregated by Log Groups, to drill down to the actual logs you need to pick a log stream.
    • Insights allow you to run SQL like queries over your log data. An example query might be to view the most expensive request for your Lambda function.
    • Events are a near real-time stream of system events around changes to your AWS resources
    • Rules match incoming events and route them to the target
    • Targets something that will process the events (SNS topic, Lambda)

Metric retention periods

  • High res (<60 seconds) is 3 hours. High resolution has to be activated and incurs an additional charge.
  • Data points of 60 secs (1 min) is 15 days
  • Data points of 300 secs (5 mins) is for 63 days
  • Data points of 3600 seconds (1 hour) is for 455 (15 months)

Additional resources:


CloudWatch enables you to aggregate your logging and metrics into a centralised location. You can then perform analysis or visualise the data. Furthermore, you can use Alarms and Events to notify your team or perform automatic reactive action.


You should use the CloudWatch Agent to gather metrics and logs from your EC2 instances or on-premises servers (Linux or Windows based).

You should use the AWS CLI if you only need to publish custom metrics from your EC2 instance or on-premises servers.


TODO: Unfortunately I've found these sections have been eating up a lot of my study time. I will try and revisit this during my revision stage.

Here's what I had planned for this section:

  • How to install the CloudWatch Agent log to capture logs from an EC2 instance, this would be based around this guide.
  • How to publish a custom metric and generate an alarm using the AWS CLI, this would be based around this guide.

API and CLI features and verbs

I'd hazard the guess the one API/CLI call you need to be familiar with is put-metric-data CLIAPI because it's got an immediate and practical use and isn't possible through the AWS Console.


  • Alarms
  • Dashboards
  • Metrics

Verbs (CRUD)

  • ??? oddly creation verbs are via Puts
  • describe (alarms)/get (dashboard/metric-data)/list (dashboard/metrics)
  • put (dashboard/metric-[alarm/data])
  • delete (alarms/dashboards)


  • describe-alarm-history
  • describe-alarms-for-metric
  • disable-alarm-actions
  • enable-alarm-actions
  • get-metric-statistics
  • get-metric-widget-image
  • list-tags-for-resource
  • set-alarm-state
  • tag-resource
  • untag-resource
  • wait

Unsplash path (what terms I used to get to the cover image): cloud watch (ikr)

To go to the next part of the series, click on the grey dot below which is next to the current marker (the black dot).

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