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AWS CloudTrail vs AWS X-Ray: What are the differences?
Developers describe AWS CloudTrail as "Record AWS API calls for your account and have log files delivered to you". With CloudTrail, you can get a history of AWS API calls for your account, including API calls made via the AWS Management Console, AWS SDKs, command line tools, and higher-level AWS services (such as AWS CloudFormation). The AWS API call history produced by CloudTrail enables security analysis, resource change tracking, and compliance auditing. The recorded information includes the identity of the API caller, the time of the API call, the source IP address of the API caller, the request parameters, and the response elements returned by the AWS service. On the other hand, AWS X-Ray is detailed as "An application performance management service". It helps developers analyze and debug production, distributed applications, such as those built using a microservices architecture. With this, you can understand how your application and its underlying services are performing to identify and troubleshoot the root cause of performance issues and errors. It provides an end-to-end view of requests as they travel through your application, and shows a map of your application’s underlying components.
AWS CloudTrail and AWS X-Ray are primarily classified as "Log Management" and "Performance Monitoring" tools respectively.
Some of the features offered by AWS CloudTrail are:
- Increased Visibility- CloudTrail provides increased visibility into your user activity by recording AWS API calls. You can answer questions such as, what actions did a given user take over a given time period? For a given resource, which user has taken actions on it over a given time period? What is the source IP address of a given activity? Which activities failed due to inadequate permissions?
- Durable and Inexpensive Log File Storage- CloudTrail uses Amazon S3 for log file storage and delivery, so log files are stored durably and inexpensively. You can use Amazon S3 lifecycle configuration rules to further reduce storage costs. For example, you can define rules to automatically delete old log files or archive them to Amazon Glacier for additional savings.
- Easy Administration- CloudTrail is a fully managed service
On the other hand, AWS X-Ray provides the following key features:
- End-to-end tracing
- AWS Service and Database Integrations
- Support for Multiple Languages
We would like to detect unusual config changes that can potentially cause production outage.
Such as, SecurityGroup new allow/deny rule, AuthZ policy change, Secret key/certificate rotation, IP subnet add/drop. The problem is the source of all of these activities is different, i.e., AWS IAM, Amazon EC2, internal prod services, envoy sidecar, etc.
Which of the technology would be best suitable to detect only IMP events (not all activity) from various sources all workload running on AWS and also Splunk Cloud?
For continuous monitoring and detecting unusual configuration changes, I would suggest you look into AWS Config.
AWS Config enables you to assess, audit, and evaluate the configurations of your AWS resources. Config continuously monitors and records your AWS resource configurations and allows you to automate the evaluation of recorded configurations against desired configurations. Here is a list of supported AWS resources types and resource relationships with AWS Config https://docs.aws.amazon.com/config/latest/developerguide/resource-config-reference.html
Also as of Nov, 2019 - AWS Config launches support for third-party resources. You can now publish the configuration of third-party resources, such as GitHub repositories, Microsoft Active Directory resources, or any on-premises server into AWS Config using the new API. Here is more detail: https://docs.aws.amazon.com/config/latest/developerguide/customresources.html
If you have multiple AWS Account in your organization and want to detect changes there: https://docs.aws.amazon.com/config/latest/developerguide/aggregate-data.html
Lastly, if you already use Splunk Cloud in your enterprise and are looking for a consolidated view then, AWS Config is supported by Splunk Cloud as per their documentation too. https://aws.amazon.com/marketplace/pp/Splunk-Inc-Splunk-Cloud/B06XK299KV https://aws.amazon.com/marketplace/pp/Splunk-Inc-Splunk-Cloud/B06XK299KV
While it won't detect events as they happen a good stop gap would be to define your infrastructure config using terraform. You can then periodically run the terraform config against your environment and alert if there are any changes.
Consider using a combination of Netflix Security Monkey and AWS Guard Duty.
You can achieve automated detection and alerting, as well as automated recovery based on policies with these tools.
For instance, you could detect SecurityGroup rule changes that allow unrestricted egress from EC2 instances and then revert those changes automatically.
It's unclear from your post whether you want to detect events within the Splunk Cloud infrastructure or if you want to detect events indicated in data going to Splunk using the Splunk capabilities. If the latter, then Splunk has extremely rich capabilities in their query language and integrated alerting functions. With Splunk you can also run arbitrary Python scripts in response to certain events, so what you can't analyze and alert on with native functionality or plugins, you could write code to achieve.
Well there are clear advantages of using either tools, it all boils down to what exactly are you trying to achieve with this i.e do you want to proactive monitoring or do you want debug an incident/issue. Splunk definitely is superior in terms of proactively monitoring your logs for unusal events, but getting the cloudtrail logs across to splunk would require some not so straight forward setup (Splunk has a blueprint for this setup which uses AWS kinesis/Firehose). Cloudtrail on the other had is available out of the box from AWS, the setup is quite simple and straight forward. But analysing the log could require you setup Glue crawlers and you might have to use AWS Athena to run SQL Like query.
In my personal experience the cost/effort involved in setting up splunk is not worth it for smaller workloads, whereas the AWS Cloudtrail/Glue/Athena would be less expensive setup(comparatively).
Alternatively you could look at something like sumologic, which has better integration with cloudtrail as opposed to splunk. Hope that helps.
I'd recommend using CloudTrail, it helped me a lot. But depending on your situation I'd recommed building a custom solution(like aws amazon-ssm-agent) which on configuration change makes an API call and logs them in grafana or kibana.
Pros of AWS CloudTrail
- Very easy setup7
- Good integrations with 3rd party tools3
- Very powerful2
- Backup to S32