The best Azure monitoring tools compared

https://network-king.net/wp-content/uploads/2022/11/azure-monitoring-tools.jpg

Today, cloud computing is a crucial part of the IT infrastructure of many companies, helping them to provide their services in a more distributed, cost-effective, and secure way. And currently, there are three big players in this segment. According to Synergy Research, as of Q1 2022[1], Amazon Web Services (AWS) was the leader with 33% market share, followed by Microsoft in second place with 22% and Google Cloud with 10%. 

Curiously, Microsoft managed to grab twice the market share of Google Cloud despite being the last provider to arrive on the market: AWS launched in 2006, Google Cloud in 2008 and Azure only in 2010.

One strength of Microsoft’s offering is its deep integration with other services provided by the company, like Azure Virtual Desktop and Office 365, which allow you to deploy apps, or a whole virtualized desktop environment, with a few clicks.

Of course, Azure is much more than that, offering a content delivery network (CDN); compute, identity, storage, and communication services; media encoding, streaming, and analytics; an Artificial Intelligence Platform, an IoT Hub, and much more.

No matter the reasoning for choosing Azure as your provider, the performance and reliability of your cloud infrastructure will only be as good as the tools you use to manage your services and applications. In this article, we will present some of the main options available, and hope to help you chose the best one for your needs.

FAQ

What is Azure?

Microsoft Azure is Microsoft’s cloud computing platform. It supports many operating systems (including Windows 10, Windows Server, and many Linux distributions), programming languages, tools, and frameworks, and provides software as a service (SaaS), platform as a service (PaaS), and infrastructure as a service (IaaS).

Azure went through a few name changes since it was introduced in 2008, when it was known as Project Red Dog. Upon release, in 2010, it was called Windows Azure, before being rebranded to Microsoft Azure in 2014, likely to reduce the association with the Windows family of operating systems and to highlight its multiplatform nature.

What is Azure monitoring?

Azure monitoring is the concept of using specialized tools to monitor the status and performance of your virtual machines (VMs), applications, and services running in the Azure cloud.

Why monitor Azure services?

You need an Azure cloud monitoring tool for the same reasons you already use a network monitoring tool: to increase the availability of your services by proactively identifying issues and quickly reacting to events, and to ensure they are running at their best by monitoring their resource usage and behavior through time.

How to do Azure monitoring?

There are many suitable Azure monitoring services and tools, developed by Microsoft itself or by third parties, which may cover the whole spectrum of features offered by Azure, or just a specific subset. We present a few of them below, in no particular order.

What to look for in an Azure monitoring tool?

In our opinion, there are five main characteristics you need to look out for when choosing an Azure monitoring tool. They are:

  1. The ability to natively extract data from the Azure platform.
  2. Both infrastructure (VMs, containers) and application (databases, services) monitoring.
  3. Customizable alerts and automated notifications when alerts are triggered.
  4. Native (and preferably automated) reporting features
  5. A suitably long trial period, so you can test how the tool works with your infrastructure.

The best Azure monitoring tools

Paessler PRTG

Paessler PRTG is an all-in-one monitoring tool that can monitor everything from your local network to your cloud infrastructure, including your Azure VMs. This tool provides a centralized dashboard with all the metrics about your Azure services, customizable alerts based on threshold values, and an automatic reporting feature so you can keep management and coworkers informed.

Paessler PRTG is based on basic monitoring elements called “sensors”. One sensor typically monitors one measured value in your network such as the traffic of a switch port, the CPU load of a server, or the free space of a disk drive.

The main sensor for Azure in Paessler PRTG is the built-in Microsoft Azure Virtual Machine sensor, which monitors the status of each VM in your Microsoft Azure account and displays CPU usage as well as used and remaining CPU credits.

The Microsoft Azure Subscription Cost sensor can monitor the cost of an Azure subscription. More specifically, it monitors the overall cost of the current and previous period. The sensor provides the possibility to choose whether to get information regarding each budget (used amount and percentage of used amount) in the specified subscription as well as the forecast.

An overview of the Microsoft Azure Subscription Cost sensor in PRTG.

The Microsoft Azure SQL Database sensor monitors the metrics of an Azure SQL Database (single database or elastic pool) in a Microsoft Azure subscription, and the Microsoft Azure Storage Account sensor, monitors the storage account. All Azure-related sensors in Paessler PRTG support the IPv6 protocol and have a very low performance impact.

Besides those built-in sensors, AutoMonX, a Paessler Partner, offers a sensor pack for Paessler PRTG with support for 32 Microsoft Azure services. The pack is offered as an annual subscription or as perpetual licenses with maintenance included for single Azure tenants, or special pricing for multi-tenant environments.

Those extra sensors can monitor SQL databases, certificates, websites, storage accounts, database accounts, network interfaces, connections, virtual network gateways, Kubernetes cluster metrics and deployments, batch accounts, search services, and more.

They connect via a REST API to the Azure management environment and collect metric values and information, which are reported in a way that is understandable by the EXE/Script Advanced sensor.

Paessler PRTG offers a 30-day free trial, with all features available during this period, no credit card needed. The extra AutoMonX sensors can be used during the free trial.

Azure Monitor

This is the official Azure monitoring tool, developed by Microsoft itself. It offers visualization tools, a powerful data platform for diagnostics and troubleshooting, near real-time alerts for events and curated insights on a particular service or set of services, including application insights for Azure performance monitoring and VM insights, container insights, and network insights for infrastructure monitoring.

According to Microsoft, a feature called the Azure Monitor Agent, alongside samples and recommendations, allow your team to get started quickly with the tool, which can be combined with Azure Arc to monitor on-premises, edge, and cloud environments.

The Microsoft tool can also do Azure Queue Storage monitoring and Azure Front Door monitoring, to help you avoid those “503 errors”. Azure Monitor Logs collects and organizes log and performance data from monitored resources, and Azure Monitor Alerts help you detect and address issues before users notice them.

The manufacturer also touts integration with Azure Managed Grafana for a single-pane-of-glass visualization across multicloud environments and support for Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF) projects with a managed service for Prometheus and a Logstash output plugin, alongside integration with solutions from other companies like Datadog and Elastic.

azure_monitor
An overview of the Azure Monitor dashboard, including an application map, resource utilizations and a security metric.

Azure Monitor is one of the “always free” services included with a free Azure account, but there are per-feature limits on the amount of “free” data you can analyze. And this is the main pitfall in Azure Monitor: pricing.

Microsoft says that “billing is primarily based on the volume of data ingested into Azure Monitor” and that “some functionalities of Azure Monitor such as alerts, notifications, web tests, and data export have additional charges”.

In plain English: the more you use, the more you pay. However, the company offers capacity reservation tiers that may provide savings in comparison with pay-as-you-go pricing.

Serverless360 Azure Management Platform

Developed by Integration360 Limited, Serverless360 presents itself as more than Azure monitoring: instead, it is billed as an application performance management (APM) solution, designed to monitor the health, availability, performance, and operational metrics of Azure-hosted applications.

According to the developer, Serverless360 helps you save money “by giving you the tools to allow a support team to manage the day-to-day operations of your Serverless solutions built on Azure and reduce the number of times that your support team needs to escalate support calls to developers, IT administrators and delivery team”.

serverless360
Monitoring Azure resources with Serverless360.

This includes features like the Server Map, which generates diagrams with the flow of your processes and the correlation between them, user management tools allowing operators to execute their tasks with the least amount of privilege (thus increasing security), customizable dashboards, and a monitoring system that allows you to view different Azure subscriptions on a single dashboard.

Serverless360 also provides you with end-to-end distributed tracing of the business flow with business activity monitoring (BAM), where the user will be notified with transactions and stage details under each transaction. There is also task automation and a cost monitoring tool, that promises to uncover spending trends and offer suggestions to save costs.

There is a 15-day free trial of the Serverless360 Azure Management Platform available.

SolarWinds® Server & Application Monitor

The SolarWinds® Server & Application Monitor (SAM) promises complete monitoring of your infrastructure, be it on-premises servers, your Azure environment, or other cloud platforms.

Data is presented in an integrated, single-pane-of-glass dashboard, providing insights into systems, applications, and infrastructure performance, regardless of where they reside. This information can be visualized and correlated across the environment, with dynamic baselining to define what is normal operation and what should trigger an alert.

SAM is designed to provide a range of capabilities, including Azure virtual machine monitoring, Azure IoT Hub monitoring, Azure Service Bus monitoring, and Azure application monitoring capabilities.

sam
The SolarWinds® Server & Application Monitor can help you monitor your Azure instances alongside you private, on-premises infrastructure.

It can monitor IaaS services, like Azure VMs and Kubernetes pods, with an auto-discovery feature for Azure cloud VMs and containers. There is also PaaS monitoring, with data on CPU, memory, requests, and response time of Azure workloads, and metrics for the Azure App Service, Azure Event Hubs, and Azure SQL Database.

Besides Azure, SAM can also monitor a range of Microsoft products and services, such as Active Directory, Exchange, IIS server, SharePoint, Skype for Business, SQL Server, Windows, and others. It is also capable of monitoring and trending the performance of Office 365 applications.

SAM is available as a 30-day free trial.

Site24x7

Site24x7 is a full-stack Azure monitoring tool, capable of monitoring VMs, app services, apps, the Azure Gateway, the Azure SQL Database, the Azure Service Bus, Azure Virtual Desktop, virtual networks, disks, and more.

In fact, the developer claims it can monitor more than 100 Azure resources, including IaaS services like VMs and Kubernetes, and PaaS services like App Service and Event Hubs. AI- powered tools can detect deviations or spikes in performance and can trigger automated incident remediation.

site24x7
Site24x7 can monitor more than 60 metrics on your servers

The Inventory Dashboard offers visibility into the different types of Azure services at a glance, and the Guidance Report can highlight best practices and offer recommendations to optimize cost and increase performance and availability. There is also a forecasting tool that uses machine learning and time series forecasting models to predict trends for performance metrics.

You can try Site24x7 free for 30 days.

ControlUp Real-Time DX

This is not an “Azure monitoring tool” like the others mentioned. Instead, ControlUp Real-Time DX is presented as a “real-time digital experience monitoring tool” focused on virtual desktops and applications. These can run on top of Azure, hence the connection.

Using the Solve user interface (another ControlUp product), Real-Time DX offers a real-time view of the environment (virtual desktop infrastructure, servers, and more), with the capability of instantly making changes as needed, to solve problems as they arise.

This includes detailed user interface monitoring metrics such as CPU usage, user input delay, and latency average for each application running on a desktop, allowing the support staff to quickly find out why an application “feels sluggish” and to solve the issue with a few clicks.

controlup
ControlUp Real-Time DX is focused in ensuring the performance and user experience of your virtual desktops

There is also a customizable alert system which can be tailored to your specific needs, and automated actions like cleaning up temp directories, logging off idle users, or expanding disk size, that can be triggered to solve issues before they impact the productivity of your users.

ControlUp offer a 21-day free trial of Real-Time DX. There is also a live trial of the tool on the developer’s website, with nothing to download or set up. Those interested can also request a personalized live demo.

Progress WhatsUp Gold

Progress WhatsUp Gold seems to be geared toward resource management. This tool can track Azure resource usage, monitor costs, and optimize them by pointing out features that are being underutilized or not used at all. Alerts can be triggered if your Azure usage or billing exceeds pre-set parameters.

Besides that, WhatsUp Gold can also look at the rest of your network and is able to automatically discover cloud-based resources and display them on an interactive map, with a single dashboard.

whatsup
WhatsUp Gold lets you build custom and interactive network maps

This tool allows you to easily generate performance, health, and inventory reports for your cloud resources and infrastructure, letting you quickly determine if an issue is occurring on your Azure instances or on your premises.

There is a free trial of WhatUp Gold available on the manufacturer’s website, but we could not find out how long the trial period is.

Cerebrata

Cerebrata is another tool by Integration360 Limited, the same company behind the Serverless360 Azure Management Platform. However, Cerebrata is a cross-platform tool geared towards developers, allowing them to manage Microsoft Azure services in a code-free and secure way.

Nowadays, developers have a lot of responsibilities besides writing code, and Cerebrata can take up some tasks like data cleanup and migration, freeing time so that your developers can concentrate on increasing the performance and stability of your code base and on developing new features.

cerebrata
Cerebrata is the only tool on this list geared towards developers

This includes tools to manage the Azure Service Bus, allowing for instant operations like delete, resubmit, and send messages, Storage Account management, Azure Cosmos DB operations on databases, containers, and documents, Azure Redis Cache management, Azure Cognitive Search administration and management of all costs associated with your Azure Subscription.

You can try Cerebrata for free for 15 days.

Datadog

Behind the cute mascot lies a tool that advertises full observability and increased security for your Azure environment. Datadog has support for more than 40 Azure services and can collect metrics with a granularity down to one-second resolution.

This data is displayed on dashboards that offer not only a high-level view into the health of their infrastructure and applications but also deeper visibility into individual services, such as Azure Kubernetes Service (AKS) and Azure App Services.

The Cloud Security Management tool offers full-stack threat detection, posture management, workload security, and application security. There are tools that help track the migration of your apps and services to Azure (or other cloud providers) and, like other tools we mentioned, a machine-learning driven forecasting feature that can provide insights into resource usage before it becomes a problem.

datadog
Datadog offers “unified observability” of all your VMs and services

The Service Map unifies observability data from any VM and service, be it in the cloud or on-premises, offering comprehensive visibility into your applications and their dependencies. The tool can also monitor your resource usage and auto-scale your container instances as needed.

You can try Datadog free for 14 days. This is the shortest trial period of all the tools listed in this article.

ManageEngine Applications Manager

ManageEngine Applications Manager is another all-around tool for Azure monitoring, offering persistent, real-time monitoring of key performance indicators (KPIs), which can be aggregated for historical analysis and forecast reports that can help sysadmins predict infrastructure growth and usage.

Alerts can be set based on threshold values or dynamic baselines, and admins can be notified via the medium of their choice, like email, SMS messages, or Slack channels. It is also possible to automate corrective tasks and to automatically scale the cloud infrastructure based on system load, which can avoid outages due to resource bottlenecks and help save money during low usage.

manageengine
Detailed alarms are one of the many features of ManageEngine Applications Manager

There is a 30-day free trial of Applications Manager available, as well as a fully functional online live demo on the manufacturer’s website.

Dynatrace

Dynatrace offers full stack observability of your Azure infrastructure, including metrics, logs, and traces, with auto-discovery, continuous dependency mapping of Azure cloud services and visibility at scale of hosts, VMs, containers and orchestration, network, devices, logs, events, and more.

An AI system called Davis continuously analyzes billions of dependencies to determine the root cause of issues, promising resolution “in minutes”, before your business can feel the impact. This allows your team to focus on resolution, not alert storms, eliminating the need for war-rooms when critical issues arise.

dynatrace
An overview of an Azure infrastructure on Dynatrace

The tool integrates with popular Azure services like Azure App Service, Azure SQL Database, Azure Functions, Azure HDInsight, Azure Web Apps, and others, and can make Azure cloud migrations easier by providing a better understanding of your technology stack, and giving you better visibility of your hybrid cloud before completely moving to Azure.

Dynatrace offers a 15-day free trial.

Conclusion

As you can see, there are Azure monitoring tools for all kinds of needs, no matter how you use Microsoft’s cloud platform. However, we do have one favorite: Paessler PRTG, and for a few reasons.

First, it streamlines your workflow by enabling you to monitor all of your infrastructure, be it on-premises or in the Azure cloud, with a single tool. That means you can do away with having to rely on a variety of individualized solutions, which can carry potential risks such as incompatibility with your current workflow and even security issues.

Second, it comes with built-in sensors that cover many of the main use cases. Third, it is extensible, which means you can deploy third-party sensors, or even develop your own, to cover specific needs.

Besides that, it “ticks all the boxes” in our list of desired characteristics in an Azure monitoring tool, making it, in our opinion, the best choice overall.


FacebookTwitterLinkedIn