Cloud Skills for IT Pros - Hybrid Cloud Management with Azure Log Analytics
If you’re an IT Pro and have been trying to keep pace with the rapid-fire advancement at which the technologies you were trained on move into a new (and almost alien) cloud-platform environment, you’d be forgiven for wondering if you’ll still have a job in a few years.
One of my favourite phrases is, “keep moving forward”; and with cloud technologies, this phrase rings home for me from both an adoption and training perspective.
I started out in IT working with Microsoft Windows NT 4.0 and quickly progressed through certifying and working with all subsequent iterations of Windows Server, along with the enterprise application workloads that run on it. For the last number of years, my IT Pro career at Ergo has given me the opportunity to focus on and specialise in delivering Cloud and Datacenter Management solutions to our customers – mainly through Microsoft’s System Center suite.
Working with System Center, and in particular Operations Manager (the monitoring component of the suite), I get the opportunity to engage with customers and members of the IT Pro community on a daily basis. During these engagements, I’m regularly asked questions like “Do you think we’ll all have a job in a few years with this cloud thing?” or “Hey, what are you going to do for a career change when there’s no more on-premises workloads to manage or deploy?”.
My answer to these questions is quite simple. Learn everything you can about the cloud-based equivalents of the products you’re familiar with, then find a way to make it relevant to your job. You see, there’s a common misconception that once something moves to the cloud, it requires no input or management from the typical on-premises focused IT Pro/admin/consultant and, as a result, they’ll soon be out of work.
In the short-term, you will fill your time with projects that involve migrating all applicable on-premises workloads to the cloud and in the longer term you’ll end up managing your IT estate across a hybrid type of environment where some workloads are kept on-premises and others are based fully in the cloud. This is where Microsoft Azure Log Analytics, also known as Operations Management Suite (OMS) can help make your life easier.
What is Log Analytics?
Azure Log Analytics is a cloud-based event management and monitoring platform that delivers the ability to manage heterogenous hybrid-cloud workloads with ease. Whether your IT environment is based fully on-premises, fully in the cloud or simply a mixture of both, you can customise Log Analytics to be a tool that suits your specific business requirements all from one central location.
Browse the Azure Marketplace for Log Analytics Solutions
Using the Azure Marketplace, you can select from a long list of Log Analytics management and monitoring solutions for things like automation, IT service discovery, network management, system patching and backups to name just a few.
Each solution is uniquely configured and there’s plenty of guidance from Microsoft to help you easily onboard them to your Log Analytics workspace.
With Azure Log Analytics, you can deploy an agent to collect data from any machine (Windows/Linux) or you can target it at SaaS and PaaS services such as Office 365, Azure App Services and Application Insights. Log Analytics then uses the collected data to bring you deep-dive information on the health, performance and security of your IT systems and services.
Health Check and Security Solutions
You can enable the Active Directory, SQL and Anti-Malware Health Check solutions to have Log Analytics make recommendations to you based on best practice guidelines – not dissimilar from having an onsite Microsoft support engineer reviewing your environment.
Here’s an example of the Active Directory Health Check solution in action:
For deeper insight into your SQL environments, you can also use the SQL Health Check solution shown in the following image:
If your organisation needs a better understanding of IT security, then you can use the Security and Audit solution to deliver super-fast search and review capabilities of events such as failed logon attempts, missing security updates and password resets.
Automatic Application Discovery
One of my favourite Log Analytics solutions is Service Map. With this solution you can dynamically create a map of all the communication endpoints that your Windows or Linux servers are communicating with. In the following image, we can see how Service Map has mapped out all of the communication endpoints and processes of two servers in a group:
This solution is an excellent differentiator when you’re planning to migrate legacy servers and workloads to Azure or the soon-to-be-released Windows Server 2019.
System Center and Azure Log Analytics = Better Together
Like a lot of our customers, if you’ve already deployed System Center Operations Manager (SCOM) into your environment, then you can easily integrate it with Azure Log Analytics as an attached service. In this scenario, you won’t need to deploy any new agents as Log Analytics and SCOM both share the same agent and you can select which agents send data up to Azure and which ones keep their monitoring data on-premises.
Azure Log Analytics uses these SCOM agents to harvest health, performance and security event data across the environment. There’s also a handy SCOM Health Check solution in Log Analytics that you can deploy which will review your SCOM deployment and make recommendations based on configuration and performance as per Microsoft best practice guidelines. Think of this as a monitoring solution for your monitoring solution!
Whether your organisation has already moved some workloads to the cloud or are still in the planning phases of it, Azure Log Analytics can be used as an enabler tool to make that journey smoother. If you’ve deployed SCOM and are looking to super-charge your monitoring scenarios with a hybrid connection to Azure, then Log Analytics is the perfect fit there too. Partner with a provider like Ergo who have the experts and experience on hand to meet your requirements, who understand the depth of your business aims and who can equip you with what you need to “keep moving forward”.