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AWS makes CloudFormation do-overs easier, CloudWatch adds custom widgets

Scott Pletcher
Scott Pletcher

What’s new with AWS? In this post, we’ll cover recent AWS news, including CloudFormation template debugging getting way easier, AWS’s IoT suite landing some handy new features, and how we can now add our own widgets to CloudWatch dashboards.

Want to know more? Read on!

CloudFormation do-overs get easier

Debugging CloudFormation templates always reminded me of that story in Greek mythology where the guy’s trying to push the boulder up the hill only to have it roll all the way back down. Even if the first 20 steps of my template are completed successfully, a failure at step 21 would roll everything back to zero.

Well, thankfully we now have an option to disable automatic rollback and keep all those successfully created resources intact while we figure out what went wrong with that step 21.

We could even change our template and parameters and then try again from the point of failure, such a welcome feature.

All you CloudFormation pros can now growl cynically to the junior cloud engineers about how back in my day the templates had to roll all the way back upon failure. And you liked it because that’s the way it was!


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CloudWatch adds custom widgets

CloudWatch Dashboards just got a lot more flexible because we can now add our own custom widgets.

We can add our own graphy or charty things from data sources outside AWS, and we can even create buttons and other controls that launch things.

For example, we can provide links to run books or automated remediation processes should our dashboards indicate something is amiss. We can even create a button that asks us if we have turned it off and turned it back on again.

To get us started, AWS has provided some sample custom widgets, including an RSS feed reader and a widget with an EC2 reboot button. (And you thought I was just kidding with that turn it off and back on again comment.)

AWS IoT gets new features

AWS IoT users are welcoming some new features across the suite this week. Greengrass version 2.4 introduces the ability to provision devices with claim certificates and allows us to set memory and CPU limits per process on our devices.

IoT device management now has a feature called “fleet metrics” that lets us send aggregated device information to CloudWatch for monitoring trends.

Additionally, IoT Core now supports retained messages for MQTT topics. This is a small but important feature when dealing with IoT devices that are only able to connect intermittently. The retained messages will now just hang out on the topic ready and waiting until the device once again connects. Without this feature to the device would either miss the message altogether or we’d have to rescind when the device is online.


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Speaking of IoT, be on the lookout for a soon-to-be-released ACG Project that let me dig in deep with AWS IoT Greengrass v2. I’ll show you how to build a remotely tasked off-grid image and data-collection station. I even got to break out the old soldering iron for this one.

Well, that, my friends, is all the AWS news that I have for this week. Stay safe, take care of one another, and keep being awesome, cloud gurus.

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