AWS Big Data Blog

Modernize your data observability with Amazon OpenSearch Service zero-ETL integration with Amazon S3

We are excited to announce the general availability of Amazon OpenSearch Service zero-ETL integration with Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3) for domains running 2.13 and above. The integration is new way for customers to query operational logs in Amazon S3 and Amazon S3-based data lakes without needing to switch between tools to analyze operational data. By querying across OpenSearch Service and S3 datasets, you can evaluate multiple data sources to perform forensic analysis of operational and security events. The new integration with OpenSearch Service supports AWS’s zero-ETL vision to reduce the operational complexity of duplicating data or managing multiple analytics tools by enabling you to directly query your operational data, reducing costs and time to action.

OpenSearch is an open source, distributed search and analytics suite derived from Elasticsearch 7.10. OpenSearch Service currently has tens of thousands of active customers with hundreds of thousands of clusters under management processing trillions of requests per month.

Amazon S3 is an object storage service offering industry-leading scalability, data availability, security, and performance. Organizations of all sizes and industries can store and protect any amount of data for virtually any use case, such as data lakes, cloud-centered applications, and mobile apps. With cost-effective storage classes and user-friendly management features, you can optimize costs, organize data, and configure fine-tuned access controls to meet specific business, organizational, and compliance requirements. Let’s dig into this exciting new feature for OpenSearch Service.

Benefits of using OpenSearch Service zero-ETL integration with Amazon S3

OpenSearch Service zero-ETL integration with Amazon S3 allows you to use the rich analytics capabilities of OpenSearch Service SQL and PPL directly on infrequently queried data stored outside of OpenSearch Service in Amazon S3. It also integrates with other OpenSearch integrations so you can install prepackaged queries and visualizations to analyze your data, making it straightforward to quickly get started.

The following diagram illustrates how OpenSearch Service unlocks value stored in infrequently queried logs from popular AWS log types.

You can use OpenSearch Service direct queries to query data in Amazon S3. OpenSearch Service provides a direct query integration with Amazon S3 as a way to analyze operational logs in Amazon S3 and data lakes based in Amazon S3 without having to switch between services. You can now analyze data in cloud object stores and simultaneously use the operational analytics and visualizations of OpenSearch Service.

Many customers currently use Amazon S3 to store event data for their solutions. For operational analytics, Amazon S3 is typically used as a destination for VPC Flow Logs, Amazon S3 Access Logs, AWS Load Balancer Logs, and other event sources from AWS services. Customers also store data directly from application events in Amazon S3 for compliance and auditing needs. The durability and scalability of Amazon S3 makes it an obvious data destination for many customers that want a longer-term storage or archival option at a cost-effective price point.

Bringing data from these sources into OpenSearch Service stored in hot and warm storage tiers may be prohibitive due to the size and volume of the events being generated. For some of these event sources that are stored into OpenSearch Service indexes, the volume of queries run against the data doesn’t justify the cost to continue to store them in their cluster. Previously, you would pick and choose which event sources you brought in for ingestion into OpenSearch Service based on the storage provisioned in your cluster. Access to other data meant using different tools such as Amazon Athena to view the data on Amazon S3.

For a real-world example, let’s see how using the new integration benefited Arcesium.

“Arcesium provides advanced cloud-native data, operations, and analytics capabilities for the financial services industry. Our software platform processes many millions of transactions a day, emitting large volumes of log and audit records along the way. The volume of log data we needed to process, store, and analyze was growing exponentially given our retention and compliance needs. Amazon OpenSearch Service’s new zero-ETL integration with Amazon S3 is helping our business scale by allowing us to analyze infrequently queried logs already stored in Amazon S3 instead of incurring the operational expense of maintaining large and costly online OpenSearch clusters or building ad hoc ingestion pipelines.”

– Kyle George, SVP & Global Head of Infrastructure at Arcesium.

With direct queries with Amazon S3, you no longer need to build complex extract, transform, and load (ETL) pipelines or incur the expense of duplicating data in both OpenSearch Service and Amazon S3 storage.

Fundamental concepts

After configuring a direct query connection, you’ll need to create tables in the AWS Glue Data Catalog using the OpenSearch Service Query Workbench. The direct query connection relies on the metadata in Glue Data Catalog tables to query data stored in Amazon S3. Note that tables created by AWS Glue crawlers or Athena are not currently supported.

By combining the structure of Data Catalog tables, SQL indexing techniques, and OpenSearch Service indexes, you can accelerate query performance, unlock advanced analytics capabilities, and contain querying costs. Below are a few examples of how you can accelerate your data:

  • Skipping indexes – You ingest and index only the metadata of the data stored in Amazon S3. When you query a table with a skipping index, the query planner references the index and rewrites the query to efficiently locate the data, instead of scanning all partitions and files. This allows the skipping index to quickly narrow down the specific location of the stored data that’s relevant to your analysis.
  • Materialized views – With materialized views, you can use complex queries, such as aggregations, to power dashboard visualizations. Materialized views ingest a small amount of your data into OpenSearch Service storage.
  • Covering indexes – With a covering index, you can ingest data from a specified column in a table. This is the most performant of the three indexing types. Because OpenSearch Service ingests all data from your desired column, you get better performance and can perform advanced analytics. OpenSearch Service creates a new index from the covering index data. You can use this new index for dashboard visualizations and other OpenSearch Service functionality, such as anomaly detection or geospatial capabilities.

As new data comes in to your S3 bucket, you can configure a refresh interval for your materialized views and covering indexes to provide local access to the most current data on Amazon S3.

Solution overview

Let’s take a test drive using VPC Flow Logs as your source! As mentioned before, many AWS services emit logs to Amazon S3. VPC Flow Logs is a feature of Amazon Virtual Private Cloud (Amazon VPC) that enables you to capture information about the IP traffic going to and from network interfaces in your VPC. For this walkthrough, you perform the following steps:

  1. Create an S3 bucket if you don’t already have one available.
  2. Enable VPC Flow Logs using an existing VPC that can generate traffic and store the logs as Parquet on Amazon S3.
  3. Verify the logs exist in your S3 bucket.
  4. Set up a direct query connection to the Data Catalog and the S3 bucket that has your data.
  5. Install the integration for VPC Flow Logs.

Create an S3 bucket

If you have an existing S3 bucket, you can reuse that bucket by creating a new folder inside of the bucket. If you need to create a bucket, navigate to the Amazon S3 console and create an Amazon S3 bucket with a name that is suitable for your organization.

Enable VPC Flow Logs

Complete the following steps to enable VPC Flow Logs:

  1. On the Amazon VPC console, choose a VPC that has application traffic that can generate logs.
  2. On the Flow Logs tab, choose Create flow log.
  3. For Filter, choose ALL.
  4. Set Maximum aggregation interval to 1 minute.
  5. For Destination, choose Send to an Amazon S3 bucket and provide the S3 bucket ARN from the bucket you created earlier.
  6. For Log record format, choose Custom format and select Standard attributes.

For this post, we don’t select any of the Amazon Elastic Container Service (Amazon ECS) attributes because they’re not implemented with OpenSearch integrations as of this writing.

  1. For Log file format, choose Parquet.
  2. For Hive-compatible S3 prefix, choose Enable.
  3. Set Partition logs by time to every 1 hour (60 minutes).

Validate you are receiving logs in your S3 bucket

Navigate to the S3 bucket you created earlier to see that data is streaming into your S3 bucket. If you drill down and navigate the directory structure, you find that the logs are delivered in an hourly folder and emitted every minute.

Now that you have VPC Flow Logs flowing into an S3 bucket, you need to set up a connection between your data on Amazon S3 and your OpenSearch Service domain.

Set up a direct query data source

In this step, you create a direct query data source which uses Glue Data Catalog tables and your Amazon S3 data. The action creates all the necessary infrastructure to give you access to the Hive metastore (databases and tables in Glue Data Catalog and the data housed in Amazon S3 for the bucket and folder combination you want the data source to have access to. It will also wire in all the appropriate permissions with the Security plugin’s fine-grained access control so you don’t have to worry about permissions to get started.

Complete the following steps to set up your direct query data source:

  1. On the OpenSearch Service domain, choose Domains in the navigation pane.
  2. Choose your domain.
  3. On the Connections tab, choose Create new connection.
  4. For Name, enter a name without dashes, such as zero_etl_walkthrough.
  5. For Description, enter a descriptive name.
  6. For Data source type, choose Amazon S3 with AWS Glue Data Catalog.
  7. For IAM role, if this is your first time, let the direct query setup take care of the permissions by choosing Create a new role. You can edit it later based on your organization’s compliance and security needs. For this post, we name the role zero_etl_walkthrough.
  8. For S3 buckets, use the one you created.
  9. Do not select the check box to grant access to all new and existing buckets.
  10. For Checkpoint S3 bucket, use the same bucket you created. The checkpoint folders get created for you automatically.
  11. For AWS Glue tables, because you don’t have anything that you have created in the Data Catalog, enable Grant access to all existing and new tables.

The VPC Flow Logs OpenSearch integration will create resources in the Data Catalog, and you will need access to pick those resources up.

  1. Choose Create.

Now that the initial setup is complete, you can install the OpenSearch integration for VPC Flow Logs.

Install the OpenSearch integration for VPC Flow Logs

The integrations plugin contains a wide variety of prebuilt dashboards, visualizations, mapping templates, and other resources that make visualizing and working with data generated by your sources simpler. The integration for Amazon VPC installs a variety of resources to view your VPC Flow Logs data as it sits in Amazon S3.

In this section, we show you how to make sure you have the most up-to-date integration packages for installation. We then show you how to install the OpenSearch integration. In most cases, you will have the latest integrations such as VPC Flow Logs, NGINX, HA Proxy, or Amazon S3 (access logs) at the time of the release of a minor or major version. However, OpenSearch is an open source community-led project, and you can expect that there will be version changes and new integrations not yet included with your current deployment.

Verify the latest version of the OpenSearch integration for Amazon VPC

You may have upgraded from earlier versions of OpenSearch Service to OpenSearch Service version 2.13. Let’s confirm that your deployment matches what is present in this post.

On OpenSearch Dashboards, navigate to the Integrations tab and choose Amazon VPC. You will see a release version for the integration.

Confirm that you have version 1.1.0 or higher. If your deployment doesn’t have it, you can install the latest version of the integration from the OpenSearch catalog. Complete the following steps:

  1. Navigate to the OpenSearch catalog.
  2. Choose Amazon VPC Flow Logs.
  3. Download the 1.1.0 Amazon VPC Integration file from the repository folder labeled amazon_vpc_flow_1.1.0.
  4. In the OpenSearch Dashboard’s Dashboard Management plugin, choose Saved objects.
  5. Choose Import and browse your local folders.
  6. Import the downloaded file.

The file contains all the necessary objects to create an integration. After it’s installed, you can proceed to the steps to set up the Amazon VPC OpenSearch integration.

Set up the OpenSearch integration for Amazon VPC

Let’s jump in and install the integration:

  1. In OpenSearch Dashboards, navigate to the Integrations tab.
  2. Choose the Amazon VPC integration.
  3. Confirm the version is 1.1.0 or higher and choose Set Up.
  4. For Display Name, keep the default.
  5. For Connection Type, choose S3 Connection.
  6. For Data Source, choose the direct query connection alias you created in prior steps. In this post, we use zero_etl_walkthrough.
  7. For Spark Table Name, keep the prepopulated value of amazon_vpc_flow.
  8. For S3 Data Location, enter the S3 URI of your log folder created by VPC Flow Logs set up in the prior steps. In this post, we use s3://zero-etl-walkthrough/AWSLogs/.

S3 bucket names are globally unique, and you may want to consider using bucket names that conform to your company’s compliance guidance. UUIDs plus a descriptive name are good options to guarantee uniqueness.

  1. For S3 Checkpoint Location, enter the S3 URI of your checkpoint folder which you define. Checkpoints store metadata for the direct query feature. Make sure you pick any empty or unused path in the bucket you choose. In this post, we use s3://zero-etl-walkthrough/CP/, which is in the same bucket we created earlier.
  2. Select Queries (recommended) and Dashboards and Visualizations for Flint Integrations using live queries.

You get a message that states “Setting Up the Integration – this can take several minutes.” This particular integration sets up skipping indexes and materialized views on top of your data in Amazon S3. The materialized view aggregates the data into a backing index that occupies a significantly smaller data footprint in your cluster compared to ingesting all the data and building visualizations on top of it.

When the Amazon VPC integration installation is complete, you have a broad variety of assets to play with. If you navigate to the installed integrations, you will find queries, visualizations, and other assets that can help you jumpstart your data exploration using data sitting on Amazon S3. Let’s look at the dashboard that gets installed for this integration.

I love it! How much does it cost?

With OpenSearch Service direct queries, you only pay for the resources consumed by your workload. OpenSearch Service charges for only the compute needed to query your external data as well as maintain optional indexes in OpenSearch Service. The compute capacity is measured in OpenSearch Compute Units (OCUs). If no queries or indexing activities are active, no OCUs are consumed. The following table contains sample compute prices based on searching HTTP logs in the US East (Virginia) region.

Data scanned per query (GB) OCU price per query (USD)
1-10 $0.026
100 $0.24
1000 $1.35

Because the price is based on the OCUs used per query, this solution is tailored for infrequently queried data. If your users query data often, it makes more sense to fully ingest into OpenSearch Service and take advantage of storage optimization techniques such as using OR1 instances or UltraWarm.

OCUs consumed by zero-ETL integrations will be populated in AWS Cost Explorer. This will be at the account level. You can account for OCU usage at the account level and set thresholds and alerts when thresholds have been crossed. The format of the usage type to filter on in Cost Explorer is RegionCode-DirectQueryOCU (OCU-hours). You can create a budget using AWS Budgets and configure an alert to be notified when DirectQueryOCU (OCU-Hours) usage meets the threshold you set. You can also optionally use an Amazon Simple Notification Service (Amazon SNS) topic with an AWS Lambda function as a target to turn off a data source when a threshold criterion is met.


Now that you have a high-level understanding of the direct query connection feature, OpenSearch integrations, and how the OpenSearch Service zero-ETL integration with Amazon S3 works, you should consider using the feature as part of your organization’s toolset. With OpenSearch Service zero-ETL integration with Amazon S3, you now have a new tool for event analysis. You can bring hot data into OpenSearch Service for near real-time analysis and alerting. For the infrequently queried, larger data, mainly used for post-event analysis and correlation, you can query that data on Amazon S3 without moving the data. The data stays in Amazon S3 for cost-effective storage, and you access that data as needed without building additional infrastructure to move the data into OpenSearch Service for analysis.

For more information, refer to Working with Amazon OpenSearch Service direct queries with Amazon S3.

About the authors

Joshua Bright is a Senior Product Manager at Amazon Web Services. Joshua leads data lake integration initiatives within the OpenSearch Service team. Outside of work, Joshua enjoys listening to birds while walking in nature.

Kevin Fallis is an Principal Specialist Search Solutions Architect at Amazon Web Services. His passion is to help customers leverage the correct mix of AWS services to achieve success for their business goals. His after-work activities include family, DIY projects, carpentry, playing drums, and all things music.

Sam Selvan
is a Principal Specialist Solution Architect with Amazon OpenSearch Service.