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MVP INSIGHTS: Azure Monitor – the best kept ’secret’ in the Cloud

The Azure Platform offers excellent services for Cloud monitoring and analytics – and many users do not even know that it exists. Magnus Mårtensson, CPO in Devoteam M Cloud Denmark, 11xAzure MVP, and Microsoft Regional Director, lifts the veil on the secrets to Azure Monitor.  

It is in the interest of any Cloud Provider to make it easy for their customers to be successful on their platform. Microsoft’s Azure is of course no exception. As a Cloud Provider, Microsoft continuously build more and better services for customers into the platform. Particularly, customers need understanding about and the ability to manage their cloud assets in Azure

Azure Monitor contains a vast and growing wealth of tools and services to make you successful in the Cloud and investing a few days in learning about these tools and services might be the very best Cloud longevity business investment you can make! 

ONE PLACE for all logs and metrics! 

In essence, what Microsoft has built is one engine to service any application logs and any infrastructure metrics needs, always using just the one endpoint. That solution is called Azure Data Explorer (originally code named Kusto). When you consume this service, the name you will come across is Azure Log Analytics, which is another service Microsoft runs and manages for you. The service is a massively scalable ingestion endpoint to which you direct all your logs and metrics. All that data is ingested and indexed at lightning speed and enormous capacity. Your infrastructure metrics become available for visualization within as few seconds as possible.  

When your estate holds large amounts of VMs that produce metrics, you will need to monitor those data in real time. I have nicknamed Azure Monitor metrics “remote perf. mon”, which means that you can look at all your VM metrics in one location – rather than remoting to each VM in turn to open the performance monitor, which would be practically impossible. Your VMs only need a standard agent to forward the data to Log Analytics and you are good to go! 


Digging in the logs… 

The VMs themselves can run on-premises, in Azure, or even in a competing Cloud. For your logging needs – forget about log files on local disks or log databases.  All logs go into the Azure Monitor service, as simply as pointing to it from your application configuration! Further, the Kusto query language enables you to write powerful queries to dig into your logs’ data for analysis. 

Speaking of your logged data: Azure Monitor is completely open – with an API for you to use. This means that if you want to ingest data from another service you can do that easily. If you prefer, you can filter all the data through Azure Monitor to forward a subset to another service – that is completely up to you! Your data in Log Analytics are yours, and what you do with them is at your own discretion. Once you learn its ins and outs, Azure Monitor provides an incredibly powerful, stable, and versatile service the likes of which you would be hard pressed to operate yourself

”Data is the new oil” 

Once you have lots of metrics and log data, you need to create value out of the wealth of data. As they say – data is the new oil, and the company that can refine more data faster wins! Insights into your data drives your business’ competitive edge. Azure Monitor comes equipped with specialized experiences called “Insights” on top of the logs and metrics engine. The most well-known Insights-service is Application Insights. To use it, you first instrument your application with a reference to and a configuration for Application Insights.

Then, simply view graphs, trends and much more for your application performance and logs in Azure Monitor. You can quickly and with no additional effort easily correlate any set of logs’ data that relate to a single request to your application. You can use Application Insights to follow how a specific user is interacting with your application over time. There is a long and growing list of other Insights solutions, including Network, Storage, Virtual Machines, SQL, CosmosDB, Containers Insights and so on. 

But wait, there’s more – Alerts, Service Health, Autoscaling, and… oh my! 

There is even more to explore in Azure Monitor. I have seen time and again that customers of mine are under-using the powerful service umbrella that is Azure Monitor, probably mostly because they do not know enough to appreciate the possibilities that lie there. Do not be one of those people – invest in Azure Monitor and learn how to use it to its full capacity! Start by going to the Azure Monitor “speedometer” icon in the Azure Portal and explore from there! 

In addition to what I have gone over in this article, Azure Monitor also has solutions for centralized Alerts management, centralized Auto Scaling, cost savings with Azure Advisor, Azure Platform Service Health systems, and much more! Bottom line: The sky is the limit with this service. Azure Monitor has the potential to completely change how you benefit from the Azure Platform, and how you best take advantage of Cloud computing.