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Azure Monitoring Best Practices and Tools for Efficient Collaboration

January 25, 2021

Topics: Cloud Insights AzureElementary7 minute read

Azure monitoring best practices are generally accepted industry standards implemented for the purpose of ensuring optimal monitoring and easy collaboration between professionals. Azure monitoring implementations typically leverage practices with tooling, for the purpose of collecting, managing, analyzing data and deriving actionable insights.

In this post, we’ll explain native Azure monitoring services and third-party monitoring options. We will also show how NetApp Cloud Insights can help you implement Azure monitoring best practices, extend visibility, and leverage the power of insights to improve cloud performance and billing.

In this article, you will learn:

Which Monitoring Services Does Azure Provide?

Within Azure, you have many native options to choose from to monitor your services. These Microsoft Azure monitoring services integrate smoothly with a variety of existing Azure services, and some also provide support for external services.

Azure Monitor
Azure Monitor is a service you can use to aggregate, analyze, and visualize metrics and log data from Azure and external data sources. It combines two other services, Application Insights and Log Analytics and can integrate with a variety of machine learning and analytics tools.

Azure Sentinel
Azure Sentinel enables you to collect data on your infrastructure, devices, applications, and users for the purpose of threat detection. It includes built-in threat intelligence and you can use it to perform threat hunting or automate threat responses. You can use Sentinel with Azure and external data sources.

Azure Monitor Application Insights
Azure Application Insights enables you to monitor and manage application performance and respond to issues. You can use it to monitor your development and release pipelines or to trace issues. Application Insights is extensible through plugins and can integrate with App Service Diagnostics.

Azure Security Center
Azure Security Center is a service that enables you to centrally monitor and manage your infrastructure and system security on-premises or in Azure. It is based on agents that you deploy to your virtual machines and integrates with most Azure services. You can also use Security Center to analyze your security configurations and receive recommendations for optimization.

Third-Party Azure Monitoring Options

For organizations that are entirely or primarily based in Azure, native tools may be enough. However, organizations using multi or hybrid clouds or those who want to diversify their services may want to use third-party Azure monitoring tools.

NetApp Cloud Insights
NetApp Cloud Insights is an infrastructure monitoring tool that gives you visibility into your complete infrastructure. With Cloud Insights, you can monitor, troubleshoot and optimize both public cloud resources, including those on Microsoft Azure, and your private data centers.

Datadog is a monitoring tool that you can use with databases, servers, containers, applications, and virtual machines. It is available as a software as a service (SaaS) subscription or for self-hosting and supports all major OS’s. Datadog includes features for AI-powered testing, automated tagging and correlations, alerting, and request tracing.

New Relic
New Relic is a platform that enables you to monitor web apps, optimize performance, and proactively manage issues. You can use it to collect and correlate data from across your sources and visualize data on custom dashboards.

LogicMonitor (LM) Cloud
LM Cloud is a cloud-based service that enables you to monitor both cloud and on-premises data sources. You can use it to collect real-time data and apply data to predict performance. LM Cloud includes features for automated alerts, unified dashboards, service discovery, and detailed ROI analyses.

SolarWinds Web Performance Monitor (WPM)
SolarWinds WPM is a tool you can use to monitor your applications and sites and detect performance issues. It includes features for testing web apps, verifying user experience, and evaluating web element performance. With WPM, you can record transaction logs, collect load time metrics, and perform end-to-end tracing.

Dynatrace is an enterprise grade cloud monitoring solution suited for hybrid or multi-cloud strategies. It includes features for service discovery, environment mapping, behavior analysis, and root cause analysis. You can use Dynatrace to automate your alerting and centralize your monitoring tasks.

Stackify Retrace
Stackify Retrace is a cloud-based platform that enables you to monitor on-premises or cloud storage, servers, applications, and databases. You can use it to track service bus queues, user satisfaction, and performance metrics. Retrace also includes feature for investigating SQL queries and performing event tracing.

Azure Monitoring Best Practices

When monitoring your Azure environments, the following best practices can help you ensure continuous visibility and efficient workflows.

Enable monitoring for all apps
To maintain full visibility of your Azure resources you need to monitor any applications you develop and deploy. For those you can customize, consider instrumenting apps using the software development kits (SDKs) from Application Insights. These tools enable you to perform standard monitoring processes in addition to defining custom dashboard views, metrics, and events.

Integrate monitoring into your pipelines
One way to manage continuous monitoring is by including monitoring processes into your development pipelines. You can do this in the form of Quality Gates, at which metrics values are checked against defined thresholds. These gates can help you identify when metrics change drastically and provide a point in the pipeline to initiate automated responses.

When integrating your monitoring processes, you should also consider deploying separate tooling instances for each of your environments. This helps ensure that the data being evaluated is relevant and makes it easier to identify where issues are occurring. You can always combine data from these instances later with cross-resource queries in Log Analytics or through Metrics Explorer.

Unify your processes and workflows
If you are using Azure Monitor, leverage its customizable dashboard features to design functional and informative dashboards for your teams. These dashboards are interactive and can be shared, ensuring that everyone is accessing the same information when responding to issues.

Monitor also includes a feature for creating Workbooks. These are interactive reports that you can create and share to enable more thorough analysis of logs and metrics from multiple resources. Workbooks can be especially helpful for creating troubleshooting guides for teams, highlighting which data needs to be evaluated if an issue arises and how that data can be used.

Collect related resources with resource groups
Many Azure application deployments include a variety of services and dependencies, including connections to Service Bus, storage resources, Azure Kubernetes Service (AKS) clusters, and databases. While technically individual services, the functioning of all components affects the whole.

To make monitoring all relevant components simpler, you can group all of your various services and resources into a single resource group. You can then use this resource group to reliably identify app components and track the performance and health of your full application stack.

Retain logs for compliance and auditing
In general, you should retain your logs for at least 90 days and up to the life of the service you are monitoring. This ensures that if issues are discovered later on, you can look back to discover when the issue first started occurring and how. Retaining logs also provides historical data that can be useful for measuring progress or identifying unknown issues.

When storing log data, it is also important to ensure that your storage is encrypted. Logs often contain sensitive data and can be a target of attacks or data theft.

Monitor Azure Infrastructure with NetApp Cloud Insights

NetApp Cloud Insights gives you visibility into Azure infrastructure, along with all other environments, whether public cloud, private cloud or traditional data center.  

Cloud Insights helps organizations reduce mean time to resolution by 90%, prevent 80% of cloud issues from impacting end users, and reduce cloud infrastructure costs by an average of 33%. It can even reduce your exposure to insider threats by identifying risks to sensitive data.

In particular, Cloud Insights can help you optimize cloud costs and save money by identifying unused resources and right-sizing opportunities. With NetApp Cloud Insights, you can centrally manage Azure monitoring pipelines and create customized targeted and conditional alerts.

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