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 are in place based on the organizational policies. The important thing to note here is that it is not just limited to EC2 instances in AWS; customers can also make use of the service to manage on-premises VM’s as well as the VM’s hosted on hybrid cloud environments. In order to achieve persistent connectivity with the VM’s that are under management, Systems Manager makes use of 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 Systems Manager is, let us explore some of the useful features it provides that can make administrative tasks easier:
- 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 that are under management. It can be used to access the instances from a browser-based shell through few button clicks from within the AWS console itself. This will largely reduce the effort of creating and managing a bastion instance for accessing the servers with no additional cost.
- 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 of the 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 commands that are used frequently, users are also provided with an option to create SSM documents that can be stored and executed whenever required.
- Patch Manager
This is one of the most important features of Systems Manager that lets the user keep their environments up to date 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. To avoid the risk of downtimes, patches can be set to update automatically during a predefined maintenance window.
- Parameter Store
This is a super useful feature, especially for users who are relying on automation of tasks. 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 store and retrieve data such as DB passwords, DB strings, License details, etc. in a seamless and secure way.
As more and more workloads will get added over the time, it would be difficult for organizations to track the workloads to see if they are compliant with the organizational standards. Inventory is a very useful feature that can help capture the meta data 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 make use of 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 there are a lot more that 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.
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