A Quick and Dirty Review of AWS Diagramming Software
I’m trying out different services to import an AWS environment and turn it into a technically correct and aesthetically pleasing diagram. Surprisingly, although most of the services can correctly identify the resources, none of them are able to identify network connections. If you’re hoping for something to autogenerate detailed visual documentation of your AWS environment, well, sorry, but we’re not there yet. However, if you’re okay with copy/paste and making some manual tweaks, one of these services might be right for you.
By default, the import function doesn’t actually create a diagram for you. It just imports the elements and it’s up to you to arrange them.
If you use the auto layout feature (beta), each VPC gets put on a separate page, and the diagram doesn’t show VPC peerings.
Free for a single user
The auto layout feature (did I mention it’s in beta?) arranges resources for you, placing each VPC on a separate page. Copying and pasting from one page to another is seamless.
Clear instructions to help you setup an IAM user and policy for importing from AWS
Each VPC has its own diagram, and there doesn’t seem to be a way to edit them.
If you want to export diagrams, you have to pay $39/month.
The signup and login forms are quirky and make odd asynchronous requests to the far reaches of the interwebs for no apparent reason. If you use any sort of security software, you may have a problem even signing up.
They offer a free 2-week trial without requiring a credit card.
The diagrams are detailed and give you the option to show or hide resource names.
You can’t import from AWS unless you sign up for the Pro Solo plan ($49/month). They require a credit card up front before you can even try the service out.
The diagrams are 3-D and have a game board feel. As you add resources to the diagram, it tells you the monthly AWS cost based on usage.
The signup process is super easy, requiring only a name, email and password. You don’t even have to confirm your email before you can use the service.
Promising contenders that need work
VisualOps.io looked great, but the signup form wouldn’t submit.
Software/services that don’t offer an AWS import feature
Cacoo, ConceptDraw, Creately, and Solution Assembly Line do not offer an AWS import feature.
There is no winner yet. All of the services I reviewed more-or-less mimic Amazon’s own high-level documentation diagrams. Such diagrams are useful, but they’re too high-level to suffice as technical documentation. What’s needed are diagrams that reflect the underlying AWS architecture, and I recognize that’s not an easy task. Such diagrams are far more complex than “this box goes inside of that box.” For now, if you want an AWS diagram that meets your needs, someone is going to have to do it by hand.