6 Best Microsoft Azure Monitoring Services And Tools

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

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.

Operational Metrics

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.

Performance

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.

1- SolarWinds Server And Application Monitor (Free Trial)

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.

SolarWinds Server and Application Monitor Dashboard

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.

2- SolarWinds Server Configuration Monitor (Free Trial)

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.

SolarWinds Server Configuration Monitor Screenshot

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.

AppDynamics iQ Screenshot

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.

New Relic APM Screenshot

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.

LogicMonitor LM Cloud Screenshot

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.

BMC TrueSight Screenshot

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.

Read 6 Best Microsoft Azure Monitoring Services And Tools by Renaud Larue-Langlois on AddictiveTips – Tech tips to make you smarter

10 Best Virtualization Management Tools and Software

Virtualization has definitely grown a lot in popularity over the past 10 years.  VMware used to be the only player but many other vendors have recently jumped in. And they’re no small players. We’re thinking about giants like Microsoft, Oracle, and Citrix. Even Novell, that many believed to be all but dead has joined the parade. In all honesty, though, VMware is still the number one and none of its competitors have managed to capture more than a 10% market share.

Today, virtualization is everywhere and with it come some management challenges. And while the different vendors are great at providing hypervisors and the virtualization underlying infrastructure, none of them propose very interesting management tools. This has given rise to a huge aftermarket of virtualization management tools and software. There are so many players that finding the best one for your needs can be challenging. This is why we’ve compiled this list of the best virtualization management tools and software.

Before we get the reviewing the different tools, we’ll start off by discussing virtualization management in general. We’ll then have a look at what typical virtualization management tools and software do and what their main features are. Only then will we have all the background information we need to better compare the different products that we’ll be later reviewing.

About Virtualization Management

Virtualization vendors such as VMware have traditionally focused their development efforts on their core products. While this was likely a sensible decision, it left the door open for third-parties to develop virtualization management tools that addressed some of the shortcomings in management and usability that existed in the virtualization vendors’ offering.

Today there are many third-party vendors delivering feature-rich virtualization management tools and software that pick up where the main vendor’s tool stop. They go well beyond the basic tools supplied by the virtualization vendors and include security, monitoring, reporting, backups, and automation. While some of the best virtualization management tools and software are expensive, there are also very interesting low(er)-cost ones and free tools which are available and that can help make virtualization management easier.

What Do Virtualization Managment Tools And Software Do?

This is a tough question to answer as there are about as many answers as there are products. And there are a lot of products. Generally speaking, some of the most essential tasks these tools perform are to ensure that all virtual machine software and hypervisor versions are up to date. Most will also establish and maintain connectivity across the environment and monitor the state and performance of each virtual machine. Some of the best tools will even ensure that everything runs smoothly by adjusting memory or processor allocation on the fly so that each machine get optimal performance.

Virtualization management tools and software can also often be used to help identify the root cause of problems. This task can be accomplished by analyzing the application, server, virtual and storage layers to troubleshoot issues. And lately–and it seems to be a trend in the market–virtualization management tools are made to handle more strategic management tasks. For instance, they can be used to identify usage patterns and help predict future virtualization infrastructure bottlenecks and resource limits. This makes them good capacity planning tools.

Main Features Of Virtualization Management Tools And Software

While each virtualization management tool is different, some features are found across a number of them, if not all. For instance, most products provide virtual machine administrator alerts. Many will also handle the allocation of processor and memory resources to virtual machines. The best ones will even do it on the fly, effectively offering dynamic resource allocation. Another feature that pretty much every product offer is performance monitoring. In fact, it is for many administrators, the main reason why they use such tools. Programmable APIs which allow the control of the management tools from you in-house products is also a popular feature of some tools, just as is the prediction of future resource requirement and capacity planning.

The Best Virtualization Management Tools And Software

As we’ve said previously, there are many packages available on the market and the number of virtualization management tools and software is impressive. Some are from major administration tools vendors, others are from hardware vendors and some are from lesser-known companies which by no means signifies they are not just as good. Let’s review the best features and functionalities of the tools that we’ve found.

1. SolarWinds Virtualization Manager (FREE Trial)

SolarWinds has been around for quite a while, focusing on providing network and system administrators with some of the best tools on the market. Its flagship product, the SolarWinds Network Performance Monitor, is recognized as one of the best network monitoring platform. And as if making some of the best tools wasn’t enough, SolarWinds also makes several great free tools. They are smaller tools, each addressing a specific need of network administrator. The Advanced Subnet Calculator or the Kiwi Syslog Server are two examples of these tools.

When it comes to virtualization management tools, SolarWinds offering is aptly called the SolarWinds Virtualization Manager. This broad product offers comprehensive virtual machine monitoring, performance management, capacity planning, and optimization. Using this tool, you can examine the performance, capacity, and current usage of your infrastructure. This includes hosts, virtual machines, clusters, containers, vSANs, and other datastores. In addition, the monitoring component of this tool can help remediate virtual machine issues without logging in to a hypervisor.

SolarWinds Virtualizaiton Manager - Summary Dashboard

Another interesting feature of the SolarWinds Virtualization Manager is that it can be used to monitor cloud infrastructures, as well as hybrid and on-premise virtualization environment. The tool will manage both Amazon EC2 instances and Microsoft Azure VMs from the same console as your on-premise devices. The product also has powerful capacity planning tools and it can predict CPU, memory, network, and storage needs for VMware vSphere, and Microsoft Hyper-V hosts. You can run modeling scenarios and learn how best to support new workloads.

The SolarWinds Virtualization Manager, which supports both VMware vSphere and Microsoft Hyper-V, features a powerful and easy to use dashboard which offers an intuitive presentation of alerts with drill-down capabilities. And corresponding virtual machine tools and VM monitoring dashboards allow for faster troubleshooting of issues.

Pricing for the SolarWinds Virtualization Manager is based on the total number of processor sockets in all your hosts and starts at $2 995 for up to eight sockets. Licenses are available for up to 640 sockets and larger licenses can be custom-arranged by contacting SolarWinds. If you’d rather try the tool before purchasing it, a free trial version can be obtained here.

2. vRealize Operations (vROps)

vRealize Operations is a tool from VMware itself. It delivers intelligent operations management across physical, virtual, and cloud infrastructures, supporting both VMware vSphere and Hyper-V as well as Amazon Web Services. It correlates data at all levels, from applications to storage, in a unified, easy-to-use management tool providing control over performance, capacity, and configuration. The tool offers predictive analytics driving proactive action, and policy-based automation.

vRealize Operations - Screenshot

Among the vRealize Operations‘ key benefits are the proactive identification and remediation of performance, capacity, and configuration issues, a broad visibility across applications and infrastructure in a single console, automated capacity optimization and planning, and enforcement of standards providing continuous compliance. All this in an open and extendable platform which leverages existing investments. Furthermore, third-party management packs for Microsoft, SAP, and more are available, allowing this tool to be your one and only tool, no matter what vendor(s) you’re dealing with.

3. Turbonomic

Our next entry, which used to be known as VM Turbo and is now called Turbonomic, is way more than just a virtualization management tool. It is rather a full-stack tool which handles everything from the applications through the infrastructure, including your virtualization environment. The tool has an innovative approach as it applies the economic principles of supply and demand to manage IT resources. It can control any type of workload on any cloud or infrastructure.

Turbonomic - Cloud Migration Sample

You can use Tubonomics to provide predictable performance by ensuring workloads get exactly what they need when they need them. The tool can also align policies, business, and IT constraints to workloads regardless of their location, and enforce them in real time. Furthermore, it can increase on-premises infrastructure utilization, without risking application performance, and it also optimizes public cloud costs.

4. Veeam ONE

Next on our list is Veeam ONE, a tool which provides complete visibility into your entire IT environment. That includes virtual, physical and cloud-based resources. It supports the management of VMware vSphere and Microsoft Hyper-V hosts. This tool also delivers proactive monitoring and alerting through interactive tools.  The system will ensure you are alerted to potential problems with VMs, physical servers, and cloud-based resources before there is an impact on your operations.

Veeam ONE Screenshot

Veeam ONE is truly a feature-rich product. It offers real-time monitoring, reporting, alerting and managing for virtual and physical environments. It will notify users of availability and performance issues within virtual infrastructures, physical servers, and cloud-based resources to avoid downtime, meet SLAs and maintain compliance. It also provides resource management functions and configuration tracking. You can evaluate the performance of your infrastructure and ensure your configurations follow the best practices. The tool also has capacity planning and forecasting. You can use it to forecast resource usage and utilization trends. You can also use what-if modeling and resource overcommit tracking for backup and virtual infrastructures.

5. Densify

Canadian vendor Densify mainly offers automated optimization for virtual and bare metal cloud infrastructure. The company also offers automated optimization for your on-premises virtual infrastructure. While most organizations combat risk in virtualized infrastructure by significantly over-provisioning hardware, Densify leverages machine-learning-based technology to optimize your virtual infrastructure, enabling you to operate with reduced costs, less infrastructure, and better performing applications. This approach reduces inefficiencies by optimizing workload placements and right-sizing VM allocations to simultaneously reduce both risk and capacity waste.

Densify - Executive Summary

Densify’s real-time capabilities provide intelligent, automated response, simultaneously increasing VM density & reducing resource contention. Densify provides users with the best of both worlds. It uses automated proactive optimization to avoid resource contention while increasing efficiency and real-time response to operational anomalies.

6. Opvizor

Our next entry, Opvizor might not be as full-featured as some other products on our list but it remains a very interesting choice for administrators with more limited requirements. This tool lets you stay on top of your virtual infrastructure and give you the pulse of your environment. It will monitor the vital metrics of your virtual machines, check the network utilization of your ESXi hosts and much more from a single point of management. This tool is excellent for capacity planning, it has wasted resources and right-sizing dashboards as well as capacity planning dashboards.

Opvizor Screenshot

Opvizor also has visual warnings and alerts for several key performance indicators. Predefined thresholds and alerts give you an instant view of potential performance or stability issues that exist in your environment based on point in time and historical data. Having access to long-term information about current, average and maximum values with visual warnings can provide assistance in keeping your virtual infrastructure running smoothly.

7. Quest Foglight For Virtualization

Quest Foglight for Virtualization is a hybrid Data Center Performance Management which optimizes the configuration, performance, and utilization of your cloud, hypervisors, virtual machines, and storage. It effectively gives you visibility across your entire hybrid infrastructure. The tool features real-time and historical data reporting capabilities which enable informed decision-making and provide critical insights into your future capacity needs. This tool can be used to Automate, optimize, monitor and forecast capacity for VMware, Hyper-V, Microsoft Azure, Amazon AWS, and physical servers.

Quest Foglight-for Virtualization Screenshot

Using Quest Foglight for Virtualization, you can eliminate unused resources, perform capacity planning to expose the impact of planned changes, and, more importantly, reduce costs. The tool can also be used to monitor applications such as Microsoft Active Directory, Exchange and Office 365. And it also allows the monitoring of all your physical and virtualized storage. As an added bonus, this tool will let you monitor and manage the operating systems behind every application, database, network device, and server in your environment. You’ll be able to control all parts of your environment from one centralized platform, visualize core physical and virtual metrics, and act upon them.

8. CloudPhysics

CloudPhysics is another tool which, despite not being a true virtualization management tool in the proper sense of the term, has functionality that will help you manage your virtual environment. This product boasts itself as a collaborative Intelligence platform, using shared information to create true collaborative partnerships that transform data centers. CouldPhysics‘ VM rightsizing tool will help you get a handle on your current workloads and potentially avoid unnecessary and costly expansions. The platform also includes tools to balance workloads between available cores, making the best use of your licenses.

CloudPhysics Screenshot

More concretely, CloudPhysics is a simple Software as a Service (SaaS) solution that monitors and analyzes your IT infrastructure and offers insights and reports that can help you upgrade, repair, and adapt data centers to changing needs. The platform also simulates possible migrations to the various cloud platforms, estimating costs and viability, in addition to modeling your exact infrastructure as a virtual environment, machine-by-machine, to provide the data you need to decide between cloud and on-premise infrastructures.

9. Dell OpenManage Integration For VMware vCenter

Dell OpenManage Integration for VMware vCenter (OMIVV) has been created to help you streamline the management processes of your data center environment by allowing you to use VMware vCenter Server to manage your full server infrastructure–both physical and virtual. Its features include monitoring system-level information, raising system alerts for action in vCenter, rolling out firmware updates for an ESXi or vSAN cluster. OpenManage Integration for VMware vCenter can expand and enrich your data center management experience with Dell EMC PowerEdge servers.

Dell Open Manage Integration Screenshot

Dell OpenManage Integration for VMware vCenter includes rights for a server management pack for vRealize Ops described above. This leverages the platform to provide hardware alerts and new dashboards, giving hardware relationship mapping into the vRealize Operations data for easier and faster troubleshooting as well as combined reporting.
As good as this product may be, it has a major drawback, though, It will only work with Dell PowerEdge servers. If this is what you’re using–and nothing else–the tool may be right for you but for those with other hardware, perhaps you’d better look at other options.

10. Savision

The Savision is another product with a non-conventional approach. And it’s also one which is not a true virtualization management tool. Instead, Savision is a powerful solution which can integrate and control all your existing monitoring, cloud, and service management tools. Using it, you get the advantages of each individual tool along with the benefit of unified dashboards. This tool can help you resolve issues by putting them right in front of you on a clean and personalized dashboard which can be accessed from anywhere and from any device.

Savision Service Map

From high-level dashboards to detailed performance trends, Savision enables you to visualize all IT data according to your requirements. And you can easily share information with all stakeholders while staying in control thanks to the tool’s advanced permission features. The tool also features a comprehensive alerting system and automated incident response workflows.

Read 10 Best Virtualization Management Tools and Software by Renaud Larue-Langlois on AddictiveTips – Tech tips to make you smarter