As it relates to cloud adoption and ongoing operational excellence, customers often want to understand what best practice looks like when deploying cloud native monitoring tooling. In this blog, we will explore Azure Monitor and its benefits.
Monitoring is a key part of optimising our IT resources. When applications stop performing, databases get corrupted, and servers start crashing, it’s vital for all organisations to be one step ahead and have a way to proactively track and notify the business on issues - whether it’s in the code or infrastructure - and address them before they happen.
Xello frequently speaks with customers who have previously leveraging on-premises monitoring solutions such as System Center Operations Manager (SCOM), and have since moved their services to the Azure Cloud - and want to understand the general benefits of moving their monitoring capabilities to Azure Monitor.
With plenty of misconceptions and outdated information to wade through, our team summaries Azure Monitor and why it is a worthy monitoring solution for your services in Azure.
What is Azure Monitor?
Image via Microsoft
Azure Monitor (AM) is a cloud-based, end-to-end monitoring solution that allows businesses to collect granular performance and utilisation data from both their cloud and on-premises resources, and analyse and act on that data to proactively prevent and solve issues. It is accessed via Azure Portal and is the best tool to monitor active subscriptions and environments.
As a full-stack monitoring data platform, Azure Monitor is a central plane to acquire an up-to-date, 360-degree view of your environments - applications, infrastructure, network - and get regular alerts and updates on its status with metrics and logs that convey the health and performance of all resources and set up automated actions based on automated processes like alerts and rules.
Many of Azure’s broader monitoring services and tools are inbuilt and accessed here, providing additional advanced analytics, dashboards and visualisation map capabilities to enhance how you analyse your tracked business-critical data. AM collects data from a number of sources, divided into tiers - starting from your application to the operation system it runs on, to the services it depends on, and the platform it’s hosted on.
- Application monitoring data: This tells businesses the performance and status of the application and the coding, regardless of the platform it’s hosted on.
- Guest operating system monitoring data: This tells businesses about the OS the application is running on, whether it’s in Azure, another cloud platform or on-premises.
- Azure resource monitoring data: This tells businesses about the operation of Azure resources.
- Azure subscription monitoring data: This tells businesses about the management of Azure subscriptions and the health of all resources in said subscription.
- Azure tenant monitoring data: This tells businesses about the operational status of tenant-level Azure services like Azure Active Directory (Azure AD).
Azure Monitor then organises the data it collects for monitoring into two types: metrics and logs.
- Metrics: Azure Log gives visualised metrics for every resource in Azure, categorised by subscription resource groups and resource type. Metrics represent system performance and status in handy numerical values, viewable in graphs. You can verify performance of apps and databases, from CPU usage, to average utilisation percentage, etc.
- Logs: Azure Monitor provides information on log events in the activity log or event view in Windows 10. Log events include resources changes in groups or subscriptions such as additions or deletions and when specific users performed the action, while an activity log lists any actions that have occurred like network interruptions.
Metrics are useful because they represent some aspect of your application or system at a specific point in time for historical reference and to set up with alerts fairly quickly, while logs are telemetry events organised into text records that provide additional context (such as when a particular resource was created or modified last or when an error was detected in an application), that, when combined with metrics, helps you analyse and ascertain the full picture for deeper analysis and trending over time.
How Azure Monitor benefits businesses
Azure Monitor doesn’t just handle data collection for passive performance and status review.
It’s essential to be able to monitor and analyse resources when you need to, and notify and respond to issues identified in collected data. Having ways to summarise and present monitored data in an accessible, efficient manner - all in the same solution -is essential to keeping ahead of potential challenges. Azure Monitor provides a number of capabilities that greatly enhance our business and IT teams’ ability to tackle issues proactively, productively and ahead of time.
- Alerts: Azure Monitor has in-built alerts to notify users when potential or ongoing issues are raised, filtered by past hour, past 6 hours or past 24 hours. You can search for specific resources within subscriptions or groups to pinpoint what you’re looking for. Alerts can be automated or handled manually - for example, you can set up automated emails to administrators to investigate a performance issue when it is identified, or set up an automatic process to take corrective action when issues arise and be notified of the action. Alert rules based on metrics give you close to real-time alerts based on numeric values, while alerts based on logs let you implement complex logic across your data from multiple sources - cloud, on-premises, etc.
- Autoscale: Azure Monitor enables businesses to always have the exact amount of resources they need to run an application and create rules that use metrics collected by the service to set when you need to add resources when increases in load occur or when you need to remove sources that sit idle. Businesses can set a minimum and maximum number of instances and the logic that dictates when AM increases or decreases resources automatically, and set up alerts to review the changes.
- Dashboards: AM comes with in-built dashboards that allow businesses to summarise metrics, usage charts (via the embedded Azure Application Insights tool), activity logs and event logs into a single visualised pane, which can be accessed and shared easily with other Azure users that handle monitoring and management of resources.
- Power BI: As Microsoft Azure’s self-service business intelligence tool, Power BI provides deeper, interactive visualisations of multiple data sources and helps make data dashboards and reports more accessible. Currently, you can automatically import log data from Azure Monitor into Power BI to leverage richer visualisations and share metrics with your business users outside your administrators handling Azure Monitor.
- Service Health: This is an overall at-a-glance overview of your Azure environment’s health to determine whether certain events have impacted the business negatively and require further attention.
- Third-party integration: Azure Monitor supports other analytics and monitoring tools that aren’t already integrated natively in the central pane, such as OMS Insight & Analytics, Application Insights and several third-party tools for analytics flexibility.
Ultimately, AM’s capabilities help businesses get the jump on a number of potential problems before they negatively impact your business, like identifying network glitches before they lead to errors, discovering CPU spikes that indicate performance issues, or unexpected resource shutdown. It provides a better understanding on how your applications are performing in Azure Cloud and proactively identifies issues affecting them and the resources they depend on.
For Azure based monitoring of resources and setting up powerful automated alerts and actions to handle potential challenges, Azure Monitor is the robust choice. It has advanced analytics, dashboards and visualisation map capabilities to help enhance how organisations track, analyse and act based on collected business-critical data.