WavebreakMediaMicro - Fotolia

Native Azure monitoring tools cater to enterprise IT

New Azure monitoring tools add another layer of insights into workload performance on the public cloud as providers try to meet enterprise demands and increase transparency.

A new set of tools from Microsoft is the latest example of how the enterprise market has shaped the public cloud and pushed providers to meet its needs.

New native Azure monitoring tools -- Azure Advisor, Monitor and resource health -- give customers better insights into their application performance. These services, which the Azure team uses internally, improve the native monitoring capabilities on Azure and add alerts and customized recommendations based on best practices.

Taken in conjunction with Azure Log Analytics and Azure Application Insights, the latter of which became generally available last November, these tools provide the granularity and holistic insights into enterprise applications and platforms.

Cloud providers have tuned their platforms to be more amenable to enterprises, including expanded security features, private networking and redundancies to guard against downtime. Tools to track workload performance and manage access, in particular, have proliferated as more traditional IT customers demand a greater degree of transparency from providers.

"One thing that enterprises require is a very stable service and a very reliable application that they're trying to serve to their customers," said Nancy Gohring, senior analyst at 451 Research. "They don't like to be blinded."

Azure Monitor is a single pipeline for tracking data across Azure; it provides metrics with one-minute granularity and up to 1 million standard API calls for metric queries. Activity log alerts and notifications are available via SMS, email and webhook. There is a monthly cap on each of these Azure Monitor features, after which there is a nominal charge per use -- for example, once customers surpass the monthly query limit, there is a $0.01 charge per 1,000 standard API calls.

AvePoint, an independent software vendor in Jersey City, N.J., has a large commercial product built on Azure, but without native tooling to track workloads, the firm had to create its own monitoring tool. Azure Monitor looks good and amounts to what has become table stakes for cloud providers, but it's unclear whether it's compelling enough for AvePoint to switch over, said John Peluso, senior vice president of product strategy.

Microsoft owns the sandbox, so there are levels of depth about what is going on that no one will ever know better than they do.
John Pelusosenior vice president of product strategy, AvePoint

"We're pretty comfortable with our ability to understand the platform and make sure it's running with various components in multiple data centers," he said.

Peluso wants to use the Application Insights and Log Analytics, along with Azure Machine Learning, to bring intelligence into application performance and get better returns on what they spend on the cloud. "For us, the real value is going to be what we can glean from the applications themselves," he said.

Performance improvements push the public cloud

Azure Advisor is a free service that analyzes resource configuration and usage, and provides recommendations to improve availability, security, performance and cost. Azure resource health diagnoses issues and gets customers support when resources are affected.

Relying on a vendor to optimize workloads sounds counterintuitive, but Azure Advisor could have merits, Peluso said.

"Microsoft owns the sandbox, so there are levels of depth about what is going on that no one will ever know better than they do," he said.

Microsoft isn't exactly a pioneer with any of these Azure monitoring tools. A bevy of third-party providers have sought to fill the void in cloud management, and public cloud providers have all added deeper insights to their platforms to better track application performance.

These additions don't push Azure ahead of the competition, either. DigitalOcean added free VM monitoring this week and Amazon Web Services (AWS) has a relatively robust set of services in this space. Last December, AWS continued to set the pace in this area with the beta release of Amazon X-Ray, which analyzes and debugs distributed applications in production.

Eventually, all the cloud providers will offer more native monitoring tools because third-party vendors can't match the degree of privileged access to their infrastructures, Gohring said. That information will be combined with data collected on premises and on other clouds as enterprises become heavier users of disparate environments.

"I don't think AWS or Azure [is] going to be necessarily directly competing with third parties," she said. "They're going to play an important role with metrics and logs and other data that can be exported to the third-party monitoring tool of your choice."

Trevor Jones is a news writer with SearchCloudComputing and SearchAWS. Contact him at [email protected].

Next Steps

Kubernetes comes to Azure Container Service

What to expect from future Azure Stack features

Get started with Azure API Management

Dig Deeper on Open source cloud computing