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Three new Azure monitoring services to add to IT toolkits

For some IT teams, the lines are blurry when it comes to the monitoring features of three new Azure tools. Learn when to use Azure Advisor, Monitor and Resource Health.

A good craftsman knows his tools, and you don't want to be the Azure administrator who tries to drive in a nail with a screwdriver.

Three new Azure monitoring services -- Azure Advisor, Azure Monitor and Azure Resource Health -- have names that provide a clue to their specific uses, but teams can easily mistake them as different ways to do the same thing.

These new Azure monitoring services, however, assist IT with different aspects of cloud infrastructure management and monitoring.

Azure monitoring services explained

Typically, an organization starts a cloud implementation with strategy and planning, proceeds to deployment and then must operate and manage the infrastructure, which involves troubleshooting. If you map these three new Azure monitoring tools to this process, you'd start with Azure Advisor, use Azure Monitor in day-to-day operations and use Azure Resource Health to diagnose and solve problems.

Here's a closer look at each.

Azure Advisor: The service scans Azure resource configurations, usage metrics and security policies. It flags questionable items and produces recommendations, with step-by-step instructions, to improve availability, security, performance and cost. Admins view recommendations on the Azure portal in a personalized dashboard. Azure Advisor makes hourly recommendations for VMs, availability sets, application gateways, platforms as a service, SQL servers, SQL databases and Redis Cache.

Azure Monitor: This service aggregates and analyzes usage metrics and logs for most Azure services and provides a centralized interface to monitor tasks and data analysis. It's akin to stand-alone log analysis tools, like Splunk and Sumo Logic. Azure Monitor collects three types of data: activity logs, performance metrics and diagnostic logs. The service then uses aggregated data to generate charts that summarize performance and to send alerts, which can trigger automated actions, such as an Azure Automation runbook script. Admins primarily use Azure Monitor via the Azure portal, but they can also use it with tools such as Azure Resource Manager templates, PowerShell scripts or the command-line interface via an API.

Azure Resource Health: Azure Resource Health addresses the last stage of the Azure deployment lifecycle -- maintenance and repair -- and provides a dashboard that shows the state of an organization's services. It shows the current and past health of resources -- including any time they were unavailable -- and complements the information provided by Azure Service Health, another service that provides a summary of service issues, planned maintenance and health advisories that affect the specific subset of Azure services you currently use. Azure Resource Health is a useful troubleshooting tool that identifies the source of application problems and whether they are the result of systemwide failures, administrative action or resource exhaustion.

The best tool for the job

Each of these new Azure monitoring services has a role to play to ensure the efficient, reliable, secure and cost-effective operation of Azure infrastructure. But there are still other options for admins to look into.

For example, if you need to diagnose and fix application performance problems, you need to understand what's going on within the application itself -- which is where Application Insights and the Azure Visual Studio debugger come in. In contrast, to debug problems with Azure Service Fabric, Azure Diagnostics is your tool.

Most organizations have a set of monitoring and problem analysis software for on-premises systems. Enterprises need to decide whether incorporating the features of the new Azure monitoring services into an on-premises portfolio makes sense. The choice hinges on the role of cloud services in the overall enterprise application strategy and the need to consolidate on-premises and cloud infrastructure analysis and troubleshooting. For most organizations, like those that treat Azure as a separate management domain rather than as part of a hybrid cloud, it's worth it to learn the nuances and usage scenarios for Azure Advisor, Azure Monitor and Azure Resource Health.

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