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Go for AWS third-party tools if native options don't cut it

AWS users who can't find the service they need can turn to third-party tools for help, especially if they run on multiple clouds or want better integration options.

AWS doesn't always offer enough features or functionality for its enterprise users. As a result, those users often turn to third parties to find what they need -- for better or worse.

Amazon tries to provide a set of tools for every possible problem and use case, but often those products are too narrow in scope and are only loosely coupled to other services on its cloud. Enterprises get annoyed by the lack of end-to-end management and want an easier option, perhaps with a console to provide guidance, according to Marco Meinardi, research director at Gartner.

"There might be 10 or 20 different tools that you need to use, and every one of those does a specific job and doesn't know what the other tools are doing," Meinardi said. "So, the client has to build a pipeline and make the tools run in concert."

AWS will eventually have to connect the dots and provide a fuller approach, but it doesn't appear interested in doing so just yet, Meinardi said. In the meantime, this dynamic -- well-architected tools coupled with a lack of cohesion -- has created an opening in the marketplace for AWS third-party tools to fill.

Third-party vendors often combine underlying AWS functionality with an improved interface and some additional smarts for users who want that support. The market for these types of services is also bolstered by the lack of clear guidance for new AWS users who are unfamiliar with what's available.

"For example, if you want to do security, you will probably do a Google search and end up finding a startup that has built an AWS security tool," Meinardi said.

The basic functionality may not be much better than AWS alone, and it probably relies on AWS tools, but the additional features make it seem worthwhile, he added.

Enterprises have also driven growth in the AWS third-party tools market because they're drawn to offerings that support other clouds. This offers the promise of consistent management across platforms, but also reduces the functionality of each individual cloud.

When to go non-native

Still, enterprises can get more out of their AWS environments with the right third-party tool, especially for certain tasks.

Mark Runyon, a senior consultant at Innovative Architects, an information technology consulting firm, relies mostly on native tools, but does have several other vendors he uses extensively because "they really are heads above the standard AWS offering."

For example, he uses Okta for single sign-on rather than AWS Single Sign-On, which is closing the gap, but still isn't as good for user management. He also uses New Relic for monitoring and analytics because it provides better reporting and granularity than Amazon CloudWatch.

Runyon also uses TeamCity as a continuous integration service to monitor Git check-ins and automatically kick off builds. TeamCity provides logging depth and integrates with Octopus, which is his go-to deployment option because of how it helps with complexity.

"AWS CodeBuild and CodeDeploy aren't bad options by any means, but I've found their ease of use and versatility to be lacking in comparison," Runyon said.

Torsten Volk, an analyst at Enterprise Management Associates and a TechTarget contributor, also added some suggestions to the AWS third-party tools list. He cited Datrium, which offers built-in object storage and can write to S3 as a disaster recovery location.

Multiple vendors also attempt to tackle the challenge of unexpected consequences resulting from the reusability of individual microservices on AWS, Volk said. Thus, the concept of observability has come to the forefront, and tools such as CloudZero can monitor and enforce behavior, Volk said. "You should look for tools that really integrate in the Amazon environment to make sure you can continuously release your software," he added.

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Which gaps in AWS functionality do you fill with third-party options?
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I see many organizations turning to third party app platforms that are engineered to improve productivity around DevOps automation, external data abstraction and HIPAA over parsing through which collection of native services deliver compliance and requiring specific AWS expertise for operations.
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