Azure Monitoring Tools Explained – Part 3: Application Insights

In the first part of this series, we introduced the confusion and complexity that tends to occur when looking at the long list of monitoring tools available for Azure.

We then provided a list of currently available tools that we will explore further.

  • Part 2: Activity Logs
  • Part 3: Application Insights
  • Part 4: Azure Advisor
  • Part 5: Azure Alerts
  • Part 6: Azure Diagnostics
  • Part 7: Azure Metrics
  • Part 8: Azure Monitor
  • Part 9: Azure Security Center (ASC)
  • Part 10: Network Watcher
  • Part 11: Operations Management Suite (OMS)
    • Note: Also known as Log Analytics
  • Part 12: Service Health
  • Part 13: System Center Operation Manager (SCOM)

We’ve already discussed Azure Activity Logs. The next tool on the list is Application Insights. 

 

Application Insights

Application Insights is an Application Performance Management (APM) service, that you use to monitor your application. It helps to detect performance anomalies, has analytic abilities, and can help you understand how users interact with your application.

Not only can it collect telemetry data from your application, but it can also collect information from the application host, Azure Diagnostics, or Docker logs. It’s also nice that you can use Application Insights to set up tests that send requests to your website/service to check for availability (and receive a notice if these fail).

One of the most powerful things that I’ve noticed in my use of Application Insights (which is monitoring this blog), is the Smart Detection feature. This feature proactively analyzes and detects changes in your application. So even if you hadn’t set up an Alert of monitoring of a specific metric, it can pick it up and react to it.

Here is the official documentation about What is Application Insights?

 

Real Word Example

So how can we use this in the real world?

We’ll take this blog as an example. It is running as an Azure Web App and is using WordPress. I have the Application Insights extension installed, and that gets me data like server response time, page load info, etc.

Application Insights – Health

I’ve also used Application Insights to perform recurring/regular availability tests. That way I can ensure it’s up and running, and also check from other locations. At the time of configuration, there are no Canadian based locations for tests, so I chose the USA locations.

Application Insights – Availability Tests

But by adding the Application Insights plugin to my WordPress installation and connecting it to my Application Insights, I get additional details around Users, like unique visits, top pages viewed, even what browsers are being used or countries they’re coming from.

That’s helpful especially if you’re developing a web-app since it can help you resolve issues that only occur for users on FireFox, or certain pages that are causing scripting errors, etc.

Application Insights – Users

 

Conclusion

That’s how you can use Application Insights to monitor applications. And, if you invest a little more time and effort into the integration components, and write elements into your code, you can even include custom telemetry and trace logs. It’s definitely a powerful tool, though designed around application monitoring and not entire environment monitoring.

Similar to Azure Activity Logs, you can also integration Application Insights into the Operations Management Suite (OMS).

The next tool in our series will be the Azure Advisor service.

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