AWS CloudTrail vs Splunk

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AWS CloudTrail

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AWS CloudTrail vs Splunk: What are the differences?


In this article, we will compare AWS CloudTrail and Splunk, two popular platforms used for log management and analysis. Both of these platforms serve as essential tools for organizations in monitoring and securing their systems. However, there are significant differences between them that make each platform unique in its own way. Let's dive into the key differences between AWS CloudTrail and Splunk.

1. Scalability and Deployment Model:

AWS CloudTrail is a fully managed service provided by Amazon Web Services (AWS). It offers seamless scalability, allowing users to process and analyze logs from a vast number of AWS services. It follows a cloud-based deployment model, where the platform automatically scales resources based on the log volume, ensuring efficient log processing.

Splunk, on the other hand, provides both on-premises and cloud deployment options. While it offers scalability, it requires users to manually provision and manage the necessary hardware and resources for handling log processing. This may involve additional costs and efforts for maintaining the infrastructure.

2. Log Data Sources:

AWS CloudTrail specializes in capturing and logging API activity for AWS services. It provides detailed information about the API calls made within an AWS account, giving visibility into user actions, resource modifications, and system events. It is optimized for AWS-specific log data.

In contrast, Splunk is a versatile log management platform that can ingest and analyze logs from various sources, including infrastructure, applications, and devices. It supports not only AWS logs but also logs from on-premises infrastructure, third-party applications, and custom sources. This flexibility allows organizations to centralize log data from different environments into a single platform.

3. Integration with Other Tools:

AWS CloudTrail tightly integrates with other AWS services, making it an integral part of the AWS ecosystem. It seamlessly integrates with services like AWS Identity and Access Management (IAM) and AWS CloudWatch, providing enhanced security and monitoring capabilities. This integration allows organizations to leverage CloudTrail logs for advanced analysis and automation within the AWS environment.

Splunk, on the other hand, offers extensive integration capabilities with a wide range of third-party tools and technologies. It can integrate with various security tools, data sources, and IT operations management platforms, enabling comprehensive log analysis and correlation across different systems. This integration capability makes Splunk a powerful tool for holistic log management.

4. Administration and Security:

AWS CloudTrail simplifies the administration and security aspects by providing a managed service. It handles the underlying infrastructure, log storage, and monitoring, which reduces the operational burden on the users. AWS also ensures the security of CloudTrail logs by employing encryption and IAM-based access controls.

In contrast, Splunk requires users to manage the infrastructure and security measures themselves, especially in on-premises deployments. This includes securing the servers, implementing access controls, and configuring encryption for log data. While it provides flexibility for organizations with specific security requirements, it also adds additional responsibilities for the users.

5. Pricing Model:

AWS CloudTrail follows a pay-as-you-go pricing model, where users are billed based on the number of events recorded and the amount of data processed and stored. The pricing is transparent and predictable, allowing organizations to budget their log management costs effectively.

Splunk offers a more complex pricing structure. It includes various licensing options based on data volume, user access, and specific features. This complexity may make it challenging for organizations to estimate and control their log management costs accurately.

6. Ecosystem and Community Support:

AWS CloudTrail benefits from being part of the extensive AWS ecosystem, which consists of a vast number of services, documentation, and community support. This ecosystem ensures that CloudTrail remains up-to-date with the latest AWS features and innovations.

Splunk, on the other hand, has a strong community following and an active user base. It has a rich ecosystem of add-ons, apps, and integrations contributed by the community. This ecosystem provides additional functionalities and resources for extending the capabilities of Splunk.

In Summary, AWS CloudTrail and Splunk differ in terms of scalability and deployment model, log data sources, integration capabilities, administration and security, pricing model, and ecosystem support. Organizations should consider these differences while selecting a log management solution that best suits their requirements.

Advice on AWS CloudTrail and Splunk
Jigar Shah
Security Software Engineer at Pinterest · | 8 upvotes · 145.8K views

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?

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Replies (5)
Nati Abebe
AWS ConfigAWS Config

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

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:

If you have multiple AWS Account in your organization and want to detect changes there:

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.

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Isaac Povey
Casual Software Engineer at Skedulo · | 6 upvotes · 69.6K views

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.

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Matthew Rothstein
Security MonkeySecurity Monkey

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.

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Vijayanand Narayanasharma
DevOps/TechOps Consultant at Qantas Loyalty · | 3 upvotes · 60.7K views
AWS CloudTrailAWS CloudTrail

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.

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AWS CloudTrailAWS CloudTrail

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.

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Pros of AWS CloudTrail
Pros of Splunk
  • 7
    Very easy setup
  • 3
    Good integrations with 3rd party tools
  • 2
    Very powerful
  • 2
    Backup to S3
  • 3
    API for searching logs, running reports
  • 3
    Alert system based on custom query results
  • 2
    Dashboarding on any log contents
  • 2
    Custom log parsing as well as automatic parsing
  • 2
    Ability to style search results into reports
  • 2
    Query engine supports joining, aggregation, stats, etc
  • 2
    Splunk language supports string, date manip, math, etc
  • 2
    Rich GUI for searching live logs
  • 1
    Query any log as key-value pairs
  • 1
    Granular scheduling and time window support

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Cons of AWS CloudTrail
Cons of Splunk
    Be the first to leave a con
    • 1
      Splunk query language rich so lots to learn

    Sign up to add or upvote consMake informed product decisions

    What is AWS CloudTrail?

    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.

    What is Splunk?

    It provides the leading platform for Operational Intelligence. Customers use it to search, monitor, analyze and visualize machine data.

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    What companies use AWS CloudTrail?
    What companies use Splunk?
    See which teams inside your own company are using AWS CloudTrail or Splunk.
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    What tools integrate with AWS CloudTrail?
    What tools integrate with Splunk?

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