Cloud computing seems to be getting more and more popular these days. In fact, it has gotten so popular than many of the biggest players in the information technology industry have embarked. And Microsoft, with its Azure line of services, is definitely one of them. But how does one monitor cloud-based resources? The answer is simple: by using the proper tools. This is what this post is all about. We’ve assembled a list of some of the best monitoring services and tools that one can use to monitor Azure cloud environment. With so many products available out there, we hope that our list will help you see clearly through this maze.
We’ll start off by briefly describe what Microsoft Azure is. It will help greatly down the line if we all start on the same page. Next, we’ll discuss the monitoring of Azure resources. The fact that the servers are virtual and hosted who-knows-where doesn’t change that they still need to be monitored. We’ll have a quick look at some of the most important elements that benefit from monitoring. After that, we’ll talk about the monitoring tools. More precisely, we’ll explain the differences between locally installed monitoring tools and cloud-based monitoring services. Finally, we’ll get to the best part, the best Microsoft Azure monitoring services and tools.
About Microsoft Azure
Microsoft Azure is the name of the Redmond giant’s cloud computing service. It can be used for building, testing, deploying, and managing applications and services through a global network of Microsoft-managed data centers. Microsoft Azure provides software as a service (SaaS), platform as a service (PaaS) and infrastructure as a service (IaaS), supporting many different programming languages, tools and frameworks, including both Microsoft-specific and third-party software and systems.
Launched in early 2010, Microsoft Azure now offers a wide array of services. Some of the most important are its compute services which include virtual machines running Windows or Linux, application services or platform as a service (PaaS) environments allowing developers easily publish and manage websites, and web hosting, to name a few. Microsoft Azure also offers storage services as well as data management services.
Microsoft Azure is probably best described as a “cloud layer” on top of a number of Windows Server systems, which use Windows Server 2008 and a customized version of Hyper-V, known as the Microsoft Azure Hypervisor to provide virtualization of services. The platform’s scaling and reliability are controlled by the Microsoft Azure Fabric Controller, which ensures the services and environment do not fail if one or more of the servers fails within the Microsoft data center.
Monitoring Azure Resources
In a nutshell, Azure services are nothing more than remote virtual servers. Monitoring them is, therefore, quite similar to monitoring other virtual servers, which is similar to monitoring any server. And if your Azure setup includes more than file servers, they too will need to be monitored. Typical setups often include databases and other applications. Let’s have a quick look at the different types of monitoring which can be useful in an Azure context.
Availability monitoring is the most basic form of monitoring. It is often a simple matter of verifying that a given resource is responding. In an on-premises environment, this is the kind of test which is best done using ping. But with since Azure environments are typically only reachable via the Internet and knowing that ping is not always allowed on the Internet, other means of verification exist. But we want to verify that not only machines are running but that certain specific services are too. For instance, testing for a response on port 80 could validate that the web server component is running.
The next things one might want to monitor are the different devices operational metrics. The same basic techniques used of local monitoring can generally be used with Azure. As for what operational metrics are monitored, we can think of things such as CPU load and memory usage, for example. Other metrics that are closer to the physical system—such as CPU core temperature—are often left out as they pertain to the part of the environment that is managed by Microsoft.
The last element that is often monitored is performance. By that, we are referring to the end to end performance of the system as a whole. Some refer to this as user experience monitoring. The idea is to verify that all the various components are communicating correctly and that each one is responding in a timely manner, offering acceptable end-to-end performance.
Monitoring Services And Tool
Monitoring tools can be differentiated based on several factors. One of the most important is the data gathering method employed. Some tools simply rely on the Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP) to fetch operational parameters from the systems and devices they monitor. Other rely instead on the Windows Management Instrumentation, a somewhat similar technology this is reserved for Windows Operating systems. But for the ultimate in granularity and variety of monitored parameters, agent-based tools can hardly be beaten. They rely on a local agent that is always running on the monitored system and which is in charge of gathering data. There is one major drawback to agent-based monitoring, though. It tends to put an additional load on system resources which can sometimes be limited.
Another common distinguishing factor between various monitoring tools relates to their location relative to the resources they monitor. Some tools are locally installed on a server and will operate their monitoring from within your local networks. Other systems, which, by the way, are getting more and more popular, are cloud-based and offered on the Software as a Service (SaaS) model. Many people tend to prefer cloud-based monitoring services. In fact, some organizations run complex IT environments without owning a single server by moving all the services—including monitoring and management—to the cloud.
The Best Microsoft Azure Monitoring Services And Tools
We’ve researched the market and came up with this list of some of the best tools you can use to monitor you Microsoft Azure hosted environments. We’ve tried to include tools of different types to give you a better idea of what’s available. Our list has locally installed tools as well as cloud-based monitoring service.
SolarWinds is a well-known publisher of some of the very best network and system administration tools. It’s been around for about twenty years and its flagship product, called the Network Performance Monitor, consistently scores among the top SNMP monitoring tools. Like if this wasn’t enough, SolarWinds also makes a handful of great free tools, each addressing a specific need of network administrators. The Advanced Subnet Calculator and the Kiwi Syslog Server are two examples of those free tools.
The SolarWinds Server and Application Monitor was designed to help administrators monitor servers, their operational parameters, their processes, and the applications that are running on them. It can scale easily from very small networks to large ones with hundreds of servers—both physical and virtual—spread over multiple sites. The main reason why this tool made it to our list—other than being so feature-packed—is that it is perfectly suited to monitor cloud-hosted environments such as Microsoft Azure or Amazon Web Services.
- FREE TRIAL: SolarWinds Server and Application Monitor
- Download Link: https://www.solarwinds.com/server-application-monitor/registration
Among the best features of the SolarWinds Server and Application Monitor is the tool’s ease of setup. The initial configuration is just as easily done with the help of a two-pass auto-discovery process. The first pass discovers every server and the second one will find applications on each discovered server. Although this process can take time, it can be sped up by supplying a list of specific applications to look for. Once the tool is up and running, the user-friendly GUI makes using it a breeze. The tool’s dashboard can be personalized and it will let you display information in either a table or a graphic format.
Price for the SolarWinds Server and Application Monitor starts at $2 995 and is based on the number of components, nodes, and volumes monitored. A free 30-day trial version is available for download, should you want to try the product before purchasing it.
Next on our list is another product from SolarWinds called the Server Configuration Monitor or SCM. The specific type of monitoring it performs is quite unique: it monitors devices and applications configurations for changes and for compliance with various standards. It is also a powerful troubleshooting tool which can give you the necessary information about configuration changes and their correlations with performance slowdown. This can help you find the root cause of some performance problems caused by configuration changes.
- FREE TRIAL: SolarWinds Server Configuration Monitor
- Download Link: https://www.solarwinds.com/server-configuration-monitor/registration
The SolarWinds Server Configuration Monitor is an agent-based tool, with the agent deployed on each server being monitored. One advantage of such an architecture is that the agent keeps gathering data even when the server is disconnected from the network. The data is kept locally and then sent to the tool as soon as the server is back online.
Feature-wise, this product leaves nothing to be desired. The tool’s auto-discovery feature will automatically detect servers that are eligible for monitoring. It also comes with out-of-the-box configuration profiles for the most common servers. It can be used as a basic asset management tool and it will let you view hardware and software inventories and report on them. The SCM can be integrated into your system monitoring solution thanks to the Orion Platform on which most SolarWinds monitoring tools are based. It is a great tool to use in conjunction with the previous one for the ultimate monitoring of your Microsoft Azure environment.
Contrary to most other SolarWinds products, pricing information for the Server Configuration Monitor is not readily available. You’ll need to contact SolarWinds’ sales. However, a 30-day evaluation version is available for download.
3- AppDynamics IQ
The AppDynamics IQ platform provides cloud-based monitoring tools that you can use for integrated monitoring of several Infrastructure or Platform as a Service (IaaS/PaaS) from Microsoft Azure as well as most other providers. It provides real-time application and business visibility as well as actionable. It is made of six highly intelligent performance engines—called iQs—each lending its specific talents.
The Map iQ helps you see and understand the complete customer journey. The engine will automatically create and dynamically update visual flow maps. The Baseline iQ engine lets the AppDynamics monitoring platform automatically establish dynamic baselines your business transactions and metrics using self-learning, rather than static thresholds. The next engine, called Diagnostic iQ, isolates and resolves application performance issues efficiently by monitoring every line of code while activating deep diagnostic capabilities. The Signal iQ engine correlates massive amounts of metric data gathered from the performance monitoring solution and delivers an end-to-end view of application performance. The Enterprise iQ engine is used for application deployment and performance management. Last but not least, the Business iQ engine links all the other modules with the business requirements.
Pricing for the AppDynamics IQ platform is not readily available. You’ll need to contact AppDynamics sales for more details. However, a free 15-day trial and an online demo are available.
4- New Relic
New Relic offers a suite of several different monitoring tools which could satisfy most monitoring needs. Of particular interest in the context of this post are two products, New Relic APM, an application performance monitoring tool and New Relic Infrastructure, a more “traditional” infrastructure monitoring module.
When using New Relic APM and Infrastructure together, what you get is a comprehensive view of the health of your servers and hosts as well as the applications and services they depend on. As your applications scale and infrastructure changes, you can easily track the inventory configuration state and correlate changes with potential impacts on your system and application performance.
The New Relic platform is offered on Software as a Service model and it is particularly well-suited for the monitoring of cloud-based infrastructures such as Microsoft Azure or Amazon Web Services. The infrastructure monitoring component of New Relic is available in an Essentials version and a Pro version, the latter allowing integration with other New Relic modules. Prices are as low as $0.60/month per instance for the Essentials version and $1.20/month per instance for the Pro version. The pricing structure is actually rather complex but the New Relic website features a very good quote building tool.
5- LM Cloud
LM Cloud from LogicMonitor is a cloud-based service which provides in-depth monitoring of Microsoft Azure resources while providing comprehensive coverage for existing on-premise infrastructure. The strategy behind LM Cloud is unique because it goes beyond traditional resource level performance and availability data. This tool provides visibility into all of the components that have the potential to impact the health of your Azure-backed infrastructure and services.
LM Cloud simplifies cloud monitoring and delivers comprehensive visibility into Azure infrastructure health and performance, something which can otherwise be difficult to obtain. This visibility is achieved with a cloud monitoring strategy that includes the three components which are critical to assessing the overall health of cloud infrastructures: resource performance monitoring, Azure availability monitoring, and ROI Monitoring.
LM Cloud from Logic Monitor is available in three tiers of increasing features starting at $15 per device per month for the Starter version and at $23 per device per month for the top-tier Enterprise version. A free 14-day trial is available as is a demo.
6- BMC TrueSight
Last on our list is the BMC TrueSight platform, another cloud-based Software as a Service offering. You can use this platform to run, and optimize Azure, AWS, OpenStack and other cloud-based services and applications, accelerating innovation through greater operational efficiency.
TrueSight provides some control of IT infrastructure resources and costs, application performance, and end user experience for multi-cloud environments and applications. It provides visibility across the IT environment and uses algorithmic analytics. This lets application and infrastructure managers gain the insight to plan and manage services and cost based on business priority and operational requirements.
Pricing information for BMC TrueSight is not readily available and can be obtained by contacting BMC sales. A free trial can also be arranged.