AWS Systems Manager – An Overview

Ever thought of automating repetitive administrative tasks of managing EC2 machines on AWS? Then it is time to start exploring the capabilities of AWS Systems Manager. Having said this, let us have a closer look at the service.

Systems Manager is an AWS service that lets customers centrally manage their EC2 instances to ensure security and compliance based on organizational policies. The important thing to note here is that it is not just limited to EC2 instances in AWS; customers can also use the service to manage on-premises VMs and the VMs hosted on hybrid cloud environments. In order to achieve persistent connectivity with the VMs under management, Systems Manager uses an SSM agent, a piece of software that can be installed and configured on virtual machines running Linux, Windows, MacOS, and Raspbian operating systems.

Now that we know what a Systems Manager is, let us explore some of the useful features it provides that can make administrative tasks easier:

1. Session Manager

This could be the most widely used feature of Systems Manager that provides the users with a completely secure and seamless way to access the instances under management. It can access the instances from a browser-based shell through a few button clicks from within the AWS console. This will reduce the effort of creating and managing a bastion instance for accessing the servers with no additional cost.

2. Run Command

This feature allows users to automate administrative tasks by remotely executing commands to a fleet of EC2 instances to achieve desired configuration changes at scale. The commands can be executed from within the AWS console or using the AWS CLI. Some common use cases include application installation, domain joining of newly launched instances, etc.

The Run command also provides logs for the commands executed so the user can easily troubleshoot in case of a failed execution. Similarly, for frequently used commands, users are also provided with an option to create SSM documents that can be stored and executed whenever required.

3. Patch Manager

This is one of the most important features of Systems Manager that lets users keep their environments updated with newly released patches. Patch Manager can be used to create patch baselines, and it will also provide a centralized view of instances that are compliant with the defined baseline. Patches can be set to update automatically during a predefined maintenance window to avoid the risk of downtimes.

4. Parameter Store

This is a super useful feature, especially for users relying on task automation. It provides a secure way to store and retrieve credentials and configuration data when required. It lets the user store the values as plain texts or encrypted data.

Users can seamlessly and securely store and retrieve data, such as DB passwords, DB strings, License details, etc.

5. Inventory

As more and more workloads will get added over time, it would be difficult for organizations to track the workloads to see if they comply with the organizational standards. Inventory is a valuable feature that can help capture the metadata to determine the software versions running on the instances so that users can plan the updates.

An important point to note here is that the Systems Manager does not use any data stored in the instances; it will only collect the metadata.

In this blog, we have only talked about a few of the important features Systems Manager provides, and a lot more can be explored. We at Rapyder as a Service Delivery competency partner, have done numerous implementations using Systems Manager to ease administrative tasks for our customers. Feel free to connect with us to learn more about the service and how it can be used to solve administrative challenges.

Written By,

Sandeep Harikumar

Cloud Architect, Rapyder Cloud Solutions

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