Microsoft Boosts Data Center Visibility With New Azure Tool

By Pedro Hernandez  |  Posted 2014-11-14 Print this article Print
data center

Microsoft leverages its cloud-based HDInsight service to bring big data insights to the data center.

Microsoft wants to help enterprises keep an eye on their cloud environments and make informed, data-driven decisions.

The company has launched a preview of Azure Operational Insights, a software-as-a-service (SaaS) data center monitoring solution for Microsoft environments that is aimed at improving visibility into IT organizations' on-premises and public cloud resources. "Leveraging the power of Azure HDInsight, it gleans machine data across datacenter and cloud environments, and turns it into real-time operational intelligence to enable better-informed business decisions," explained Microsoft's Cloud and Enterprise Team in a company blog post.

Azure HDInsight is Microsoft's cloud-based big data processing platform. It enables organizations to quickly spin up Hadoop clusters and offload their business intelligence and analytics workloads to the cloud. Microsoft is now leveraging the technology to turn IT systems data into efficiency-boosting insights for data center operators.

The new cloud monitoring solution "provides powerful search capabilities that enable ad-hoc root cause analysis and automated troubleshooting across multiple data sources," claimed Microsoft. "Without instrumenting any code directly or having knowledge of any complex schema, IT admins quickly receive interactive results."

And in much the same way today's business analytics solutions are designed to help rank-and-file office workers explore data and unearth business-boosting insights, Operational Insights allows administrators to delve into their IT operations on their own terms, according to Microsoft. "Search also enables customers to form their own hypotheses and query data to find custom insights through proactive exploration or reactive troubleshooting," said the company.

As with many other Azure services, the Operational Insights dashboard displays IT monitoring information accompanied by charts, graphs and other visualizations, for at-a-glance tracking of server alerts, resource consumption, security information and other metrics. Prebuilt rules and algorithms, called Intelligence Packs, help administrators perform initial analysis for capacity planning and change tracking tasks, among others. The solution can also serve as a basis for smart alerts, SAN storage analytics and breach detection, asserts Microsoft.

Operational Insights "provides an easy add-on to all Azure, Windows Server, and System Center customers," added the company, suggesting that incorporating the service into customer environments should be a seamless one. It consists of the cloud-hosted Operational Insights Web service, along with a service that is attached to System Center Operations Manager or agents that customers directly connect to the aforementioned Web service.

It can analyze workloads running on Windows Server 2012, 2008 and 2008 R2, along with Hyper-V Server 2012. The service also supports SQL Server 2012, 2008 and 2008 R2; SQL Server Database Engine; SharePoint 2010; Exchange Server 2010; Lync Server 2013 and 2010; and System Center 2012 SP1 – Virtual Machine Manager, according to Microsoft's support documentation.

Currently, Operational Insights is being offered in three tiers. The Free plan supports up to 500MB of data analysis a day with a retention period of seven days. Standard costs $1.15 per GB and a monthlong retention period, while Premium is priced at $1.75 per GB with a 12-month retention period.

Daily limits do not apply to the Standard and Premium plans. Prices reflect a 50 percent discount during the preview period.


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