By Puneet Chaddah, CTO – Relevance Lab
By Ron Davis, Technical Business Development, AWS Management & Governance – AWS
By Anil Sriram, Head of Cloud Technology Services – Relevance Lab

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Many customers have multiple applications deployed in different regions that constitute sub-applications, underlying web services, and related infrastructure.

The dynamic nature of cloud assets and automated provisioning with infrastructure as code (IaC) makes the discovery process of the applications and their underlying infrastructure, as well as the ability to keep a configuration management database (CMDB) up to date, a non-trivial problem.

Challenges with the traditional CMDB approach are inefficient asset discovery tools, static CMDB, and infrastructure-centric views with no real-time operational insights. The missing piece until recently was application-centric metadata linking applications to infrastructure templates. This problem has been solved by the RLCatalyst AppInsights solution.

Together, Relevance Lab and Amazon Web Services (AWS) created the RLCatalyst AppInsights solution that achieves dynamic application CMDB with a solution built on an application-aware services foundation. The application is available at ServiceNow Store at no additional cost.

This innovative solution provides intelligent and modular dynamic discovery for CMDB that is application-centric. It provides details of aggregated health, vulnerabilities, and costs with the ability to analyze and take remediation actions.

In this post, we showcase how RLCatalyst AppInsights helps customers manage capacity tracking, health, compliance, security, and cost of all of their cloud assets in near real time. This solution can be adopted by enterprise customers to strengthen governance, reduce costs, and increase operational efficiencies.

Relevance Lab is an AWS Partner and platform-led services company specializing in cloud, DevOps and automation, analytics, and digital transformation.

Solution for AWS and ServiceNow Customers

Many customers use ServiceNow to provision, manage, and operate AWS resources natively through ServiceNow as a common pane of control based on ITSM best practices.

Customers using AWS and ServiceNow need a near real-time view of their infrastructure and applications spread across their distributed accounts. Although AWS provides an ITSM Service Management Connector for ServiceNow, it does not cover dynamic application-centric views.

Dynamic application CMDB allows customers to gain integrated and application-aware services visibility into their infrastructures, helping them to break down silos and facilitate better decision making.

The RLCatalyst AppInsights solution is built as a scoped application inside ServiceNow and uses the standard ITSM licenses. This makes it easier for customers to adopt and share the solution to business users without needing AWS access.

A typical implementation of RLCatalyst AppInsights can be rolled out for a new customer in four to six weeks. It provides significant business benefits for multiple groups, enabling better operations support, self-service requests, application-specific diagnostics, asset usage, and cost management.

The RLCatalyst AppInsights solution provides the following key features:

  • Application master for the enterprise.
  • Intelligent and modular dynamic discovery of assets.
  • Dynamic asset and CMDB updates; application-linked infrastructure currently deployed and in use.
  • Aggregated data on assets health, costs, and vulnerabilities.
  • Access to historical and real-time alerts and metrics to take corrective actions.
  • Cost allocation at application levels (useful for chargebacks).
  • Improved alignment with existing enterprise context of business units, projects, and cost codes for budget planning and tracking.

RLCatalyst AppInsights

AWS recently released a new feature called AWS Service Catalog AppRegistry to help customers natively build an AWS resources inventory that has insights into uses across applications.

These capabilities enable enterprise stakeholders to obtain the information they require for informed strategic and tactical decisions about cloud resources.

Traditional CMDB ApproachRLCatalyst AppInsights Solution
Inefficient asset discovery toolsIntelligent and modular dynamic discovery
Static CMDBDynamic CMDB
Infrastructure-centricApplication-centric
No operational insightsAppInsights of aggregated health, vulnerabilities, and costs
Information-only viewsIntelligent diagnostics and automated actions

Using AWS Service Catalog AppRegistry as the foundation for the application centric views, RLCatalyst AppInsights enhances the value proposition and provides an integration with ServiceNow.

Key benefits for the customer are an ability to achieve the following:

  • AWS multi-account application insights (ability to aggregate across accounts).
  • Cost allocations.
  • Detection of “orphaned” instances (not linked to AppRegistry resources).
  • Business Service Map (BSM) structure.
  • End-to-end life-cycle management of the AWS Cloud across plan, build, and run processes.

The following diagram shows the detailed architecture and building blocks of ServiceNow, AWS, and the custom components for RLCatalyst AppInsights.

Figure 1 – Solution architecture of RLCatalyst AppInsights.

Figure 1 – Solution architecture of RLCatalyst AppInsights.

  • The solution requires a ServiceNow ITSM licensed instance with version Orlando or later (Orlando, Paris, or Quebec versions of ServiceNow).
  • Works with AWS Service Management Connector version 3.7.1 or later.
  • Integration of infrastructure CMDB is through the service management connector.
  • Integration of AWS Service Catalog AppRegistry details is through the RL Data Bridge.
  • Applications with associated resources and attribute groups with attributes and AWS Cost Explorer details are fetched using AWS Lambda functions.
  • With a periodic sync or on-demand method, all application and cost details are pulled into RLCatalyst AppInsights.
  • Each application is modeled as an application Config Item (CI) and associated with an Infrastructure CI to create a Dependent Asset relationship topology.
  • All details are aggregated into a single pane to give a holistic view of application metrics, linked infrastructure metrics, and application consumption patterns.
  • Amazon CloudWatch enables alerts to generate incidents using AWS Systems Manager OpsCenter, and these incidents can be remediated using automation documents from ServiceNow.

Let’s review the steps for getting started with RLCatalyst AppInsights:

  1. Install and configure AWS Service Management Connector version 3.7.1 or later from the ServiceNow store.
  2. Install the RLCatalyst AppInsights app from the ServiceNow store along with Amazon API Gateway and Lambda functions from the Relevance Lab Git Repo.
  3. Define the AppRegistry data using AppRegistry.
  4. Link the app to infra templates – AWS CloudFormation template / AWS Service Catalog.
  5. Ensure all assets provisioned have app and service tagging (enforce with guardrails).
  6. Update the scheduler to Scheduled Sync or On-demand refresh from ServiceNow.
  7. Set up AppInsights Data Lake refresh with static and dynamic updates (aggregated across accounts).
  8. Get asset, cost, and health views from the main dashboard.

Sample RLCatalyst AppInsights Dashboard

Customers need to see the information across their AWS accounts with details of applications, infrastructure, and costs in a simple and elegant manner.

Let’s look at some key performance indicators (KPIs) tracked in the dashboard. The KPIs are aligned with ServiceNow with a Common Service Data Model and CMDB.

A dashboard is provided for every AWS account by aggregating applications, infrastructure, cost, and health details.

Figure 2 - Aggregated ability to look at data across AWS accounts.

Figure 2 – Aggregated ability to look at data across AWS accounts.

Customers can track an application view with active application instances, active resources, and associated costs. Details of orphaned resources (unassigned) helps track and map them to business units or terminate/retire them, thereby reducing costs.

Figure 3 - View applications, cost, and linked infrastructure KPIs for each AWS account.

Figure 3 – View applications, cost, and linked infrastructure KPIs for each AWS account.

Customers can also view aggregated data for the top 10 applications by resource and cost consumption to help identify consumers that spend the most. You can view trending charts of critical incidents by application to help identify the least stable applications.

The solution provides the drill-down ability to view all applications and associated active instances that are updated dynamically using a scheduled sync or on-demand refresh. Users can view the Impacted CIs with incidents as part of the dynamic asset topology, end-to-end lifecycle of cloud application management covering monitoring, alerting, notification, triage, and resolution through ServiceNow, which is enabled with out-of-the-box features.

Figure 5 - Act on a real-time incident to view the underlying business service map topology.

Figure 4 – Act on a real-time incident to view the underlying business service map topology.

Summary

RLCatalyst AppInsights is a product complementing the AWS Service Catalog AppRegistry to provide application-centric views of cloud resources combining infrastructure, applications, and services to support a dynamic CMDB for operational excellence and cost governance in ServiceNow.

This capability provides actionable intelligence for capacity tracking, health, compliance, security, and cost of all assets in near real time. The ability to track application metrics across multiple accounts to provide aggregated details for the organization helps in Total Cost of Application Management (TCAM).

The product is built on ServiceNow ITSM and integrates with the AWS Service Catalog AppRegistry and Service Management Connector. It provides dashboards and drill-down information for topology views with issue detection and resolution using automation runbooks and BOTs.

The solution provides capability to add additional functionality and customization of the user interface, functional features, and data integration to external third-party systems using RL DataBridge adapters.

Benefits include cost planning, tracking, and optimization across application-centric views aligned with business needs. The solution provides dynamic asset, health, security, and compliance-driven operational excellence. It also helps in detection of idle capacity and orphaned resources, helping to address cost and security leakages.

Customers can automate remediations using a single pane of control for Cloud Application Management with ServiceNow.

To download the solution, see RLCatalyst AppInsights at the ServiceNow Store. To learn more about the solution, watch a demo of RLCatalyst AppInsights build on AWS AppRegistry.

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