Application Insights – Getting Started…

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When System Center Operations Manager 2012 R2 was released, the SCOM agent name changed to Microsoft Monitoring Agent. Almost at the same time Microsoft released a standalone version of this agent called also Microsoft Monitoring Agent (MMA). Currently is a preview version of Microsoft Monitoring Agent UR1 available for download. But what does that mean having 3 different agents having the same name? Does that mean they are all the same?

There are currently only 2 flavors of Microsoft Monitoring Agent.

  • Microsoft Monitoring Agent (without UR1)
    • Compatibility: SCOM 2012 R2, SCOM 2012 SP1 UR 4 (APM), SCOM 2012
    • Visual Studio Ultimate 2013 / 2012 Update 2
  • Microsoft Monitoring Agent UR1 (preview)
    • Compatibility: SCOM 2012 R2, SCOM 2012 SP1, SCOM 2012, SCOM 2007 R2
    • Visual Studio Ultimate 2013 / 2012 Update 4

Microsoft Monitoring Agent (without UR1) available for download and Microsoft Monitoring Agent available on the SCOM 2012 R2 media are the same. You can install the agent either from the media, deploying it from the SCOM console or download it from Microsoft download center. Microsoft Monitoring Agent allows you to connect to SCOM directly for continuous collection of data OR you install the agent in a standalone mode on your application server a. In both cases, you can direct the agent to save application traces in an IntelliTrace log format that can be opened in Microsoft Visual Studio Ultimate. The log contains detailed information about application failures and performance issues. In the standalone version you need PowerShell to start and stop monitoring .NET web applications that are running on Internet Information Services (IIS) to collect IntelliTrace logs from.

Microsoft Monitoring Agent UR1 (preview) can be used to monitor on-premise applications and Windows Azure applications. In addition to the basic feature set of the first edition of Microsoft Monitoring Agent, MMA UR1 allows you to collect Application Performance Monitoring (APM) data and send this data to Application Insights. APM data can be collected from .NET applications AND Java applications. Application Insights is a Windows Azure SaaS solution that provides a portal within the recently released Visual Studio Online portal at http://www.visualstudio.com . In addition to the APM feature, external transactions are performed by Global Service Monitor to get availability and response time data from the “outside” of the application. One more feature that Application Insights offers is Client-side monitoring, which is less focused on alerting by exception or performance events as we are used to in SCOM 2012, it is more driven by monitoring the usage of the application e.g. what browsers are used, what region is the visitor coming from, what button are pressed etc. which is very interesting for developers. You are able to dual-home the Microsoft Monitoring Agent UR1 agent between your SCOM management group and Application Insights or use it only on either one. One thing I was curious about how the communication between the MMA UR1 agent and the Application Insights works. In SCOM the agent always initiates the connection to the management server. If you use Application Insights the agent also initiates the connection and according to Daniele Muscetta (Microsoft) the agent includes a brand new connector that can talk web-friendly protocols to report to the SaaS offering, which is a very different backend than an OpsMgr management server. The authentication to the service is thru an ‘application key’ (which represents the Application Insights tenant); the cloud service does not use the machine’s identity.

What does that all mean? When the first version of the MMA agent was released we could expect that Microsoft has a good plan to use it in some way with their cloud strategy in conjunction with DevOps. Microsoft provides with Application Insights mainly a platform for developers to analyze and troubleshoot their application on-premise or in Windows Azure in an early stage of development, but also in a later production stage without the need to deploy a Operations Manager infrastructure. Another question which comes up, should I use only MMA agent to monitor my applications or should I use SCOM to monitor my applications? Microsoft recommends, always to monitor your applications with System Center Operations Manager (continuous monitoring) because this gives you information about baseline performance and you will also be notified about any failures. If you need to start troubleshooting or analyzing your applications then you can use Microsoft Monitoring Agent to collect detailed traces and use Application Insights for more detailed data collection. Here a good overview on monitoring approaches for .NET applications from TechNet.

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If you want to try out Application Insights you can do this by going to http://www.visualstudio.com and after you logged in, you can click on the “Try Application Insights” button and apply for a trial.

Microsoft provides a good collection of videos to get started with Application Insights. I linked them right here…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you want to get more information on this topic, here some links I found very useful:

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