My day-to-day job focuses on enterprise integration between systems in the cloud and/or on-premises. Currently, it involves integration with D365 Finance and Operations (or Finance and Supply Change Management). One aspect of the integrations is monitoring. When a business has one or more Azure Integration Service running in production, the operation aspect comes into play. Especially integrations that support crucial business processes. The operations team requires the correct procedures, tools, and notifications (alerts) to run these processes. Procedures and receiving notifications are essential; however, team members need help identifying issues and troubleshooting. Azure provides tools, and so do third-party solutions. This blog post will discuss the value of having third-party monitoring in place, such as Serverless360.
Many of you who read blogs on Serverless360 know what the tool is. Moreover, it is a service hosted as a Software as a Service (SaaS). Therefore, operation teams can require access once a subscription is acquired or through a trial. Subsequently, they can leverage the primary business application, business activity monitoring, and documenter feature within the service. We will briefly discuss each feature and its benefits and value in the upcoming paragraphs.
A team can configure, and group integration components with the business applications feature a so-called “Business Application” to monitor. It does not matter where the resources reside – within one or more subscriptions/resource groups.
The overview shown above is the grouping of several resources belonging to an integration solution. In one blink of an eye, a team member of the operations team can see the components’ state and potential issues that need to be addressed. Can the same be done in Azure with available features such as Azure Monitor, including components like Application Insights? Yes, it can be done. However, it takes time to build a dashboard. Furthermore, when operations are divided into multiple tiers, first-tier support professionals might not be familiar with the Azure Portal. In a nutshell, an overview provided by Business Application is not present in Azure out-of-the-box.
As Lex Hegt, Lead Product Consultant at BizTalk360, points out:
Integration solutions can span multiple technologies, resource groups, tags, and even Azure subscriptions. With the Azure portal having the involved components in all those different places, it is hard to keep track of the well-being of those components. Serverless360 helps you utilize the concept of Business Applications. A Business Application is a container to which you can add all the components that belong to the same integration. Once you have added your components to a Business Application, you can set up monitoring for those components, provide access permissions, and administer them.
The Business Application brings another feature that provides an overview of the integration components and dependencies. You might be familiar with the service map feature in Application Insights on a more fine-grained level. The service map in Serverless360 is intended to show the state of each component and dependency on a higher level.
Within a business application, the configuration of monitoring components is straightforward. By selecting the component and choosing the monitoring section, you can set thresholds of performance counters and set the state.
The value of Business Applications is a quick view of the integrations state and the ability to dive into any issue quickly, leading to time-saving by spending far less time identifying the problem (see, for instance, Application Insights health check with Serverless360, and Integrating Log Analytics in Serverless360). With more time on their hand’s operations teams can focus on various other matters during a workday or shift. Furthermore, the ease of use of Business Applications doesn’t require support people in a first-tier support team to have a clear understanding and experience of the Azure portal.
Having a clear overview is one thing. However, it also helps operations teams get notifications or finetune metrics based on thresholds and only receive information when it matters. In addition, it’s essential to keep integrations operational when they support critical business processes, as any outage costs a significant amount of money.
Business Activity Monitoring
The second feature of Serverless360 is the end-to-end tracking capability called Business Activity Monitoring (BAM). The BAM feature organization can instrument their Azure resources that support integrations between systems. Through a custom connector and SDK, you can add tracking to Logic Apps and Azure Functions that are a part of your integration. A unique generated transaction instance-id in the first component will be carried forward to the subsequent stages in more functions and Logic Apps.
The operations team must do some work to leverage the BAM functionality. They need to set up the hosting of the BAM infrastructure, define the business process, instrument the business process and add monitoring (see, for instance, Azure Service Bus Logging with BAM – Walk-through). Once that is done, a clear view of the process and its stages are available.
The benefit of the BAM feature is a concise overview of the configured business processes. Moreover, you get an overview of the complete process and potentially see where things go wrong.
The final feature Serverless360 offers the Azure Documenter is intended to generate documentation. Operations teams can generate documentation for the subscription that contains the integrations with the documenter. It is good to have a dedicated subscription for integration solutions to govern better and manage Azure resources.
When operations teams like to generate documentation, they can choose between different templates, storing of the document, and billing range.
The benefit of having documentation of the integrations in a subscription is having a clear overview of the components, details, and costs (consumption). While the Azure portal offers a similar capability, you will have to go to the Cost management and billing to see consumption and cost, Azure Advisor, and other places. Furthermore, there is no feature to generate documentation to help report the Azure resources’ state.
The value of the Azure Documenter is the flexibility for generating documentation on a different level of granularity. Furthermore, by frequently running the documenter, you can spot differences like an unexpected increase in cost provide executive reports and information for your knowledge base for integrations.
Features and benefits of Serverless360 have been outlined in this blog post. Of course, there are many more features. Yet, we focused on the most significant one that provides Operations teams the most value. That is a clear overview of the state of integrations in a single-pane-of-glass and the ability to quickly drill down into integration components and spot issues at a fine-grained level. Furthermore, Business Activity Monitoring and Azure Documenter provide end-to-end tracking and generated documentation.
Serverless360 offers an off-the-shelf product for monitoring not directly available in the Azure Portal. As an organization, you can decide whether to buy a product or build a custom solution, or both to fulfill monitoring requirements for integration solutions. Serverless360 can be the solution for organizations looking for a product to meet their needs. It has unique features which are not directly available in Azure or require a substantial investment to achieve.
For more details and Serverless360 in action, see the webinar of Michael Stephenson: Support Strategy for Event-Driven Integration Architectures and the latest features blog.