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Microsoft Releases Azure Operational Insights Preview

Microsoft released a preview of its Azure Operational Insights service today.

The cloud-based service uses Microsoft's Azure HDInsight Big Data service to deliver operations data through a customizable HTML5-based portal page. The service can collect data from premises-based machines, mobile devices and cloud-based services. Microsoft showcased Azure Operational Insights late last month at its TechEd Europe keynote presentation.

Azure Operational Insights collects information about a computing environment's configuration, capacity, security state, software update status and SQL status. It also provides Windows event logs and software change inventory tracking. The service works via "Intelligence Packs," which are a set of rules preconfigured by Microsoft based on its Azure management experience. Microsoft provides a gallery of Intelligence Packs created by users and by Microsoft that users can leverage. However, Azure Operational Insights users also can also customize the data searched and drill down to examine specific data facets, according to Microsoft's announcement. Searches can be saved and reused.

It's possible to use Azure Operational Insights if an organization doesn't have System Center Operations Manager. However, the service will connect through Operations Manager if an organization is running the latest update rollup of System Center 2012 R2, according to Microsoft's FAQ on the topic.

The service sends an organization's operations data to the Microsoft Azure North America datacenter, but users can configure the agents to not send the data there, according to the FAQ. Microsoft stores its Azure Operational Insights customer data separately on its servers and it encrypts the data with unique keys that get changed every 90 days, according to Microsoft's description of the service's security features (PDF).  

The service connects back to Knowledge Base articles. It also includes the System Center Advisor service, according to the FAQ, which Microsoft rolled out as a free service last year. System Center Advisor aims to be a best-practices check on the use of Microsoft's server technologies. Update: Microsoft MVP Rod Trent has claimed that Azure Operational Insights is the same as System Center Advisor with some additional features.

Microsoft claims that Azure Operational Insights is an "easy add-on to all Azure, Windows Server, and System Center customers." It doesn't require an agent to read data from an Azure Storage account or IIS logs.

Microsoft offers two paid plans and one free plan for this Azure Operational Insights preview. The pricing is based on the amount of data stored for analysis each month. The Standard plan costs $1.15 per gigabyte stored per month and has a retention limit of one month. The Premium plan costs $1.75 per gigabyte stored per month with a retention span of 12 months. Those prices will go up, though, as they are half off during the preview release.

The free version of the service just retains data for seven days. It's limited to collecting 500MB of data per day. Once it reaches its limit per day, it stops collecting data and then resumes the next day.

At present, Microsoft lists the Azure Operational Insights service as just being available in the Azure U.S. East region. The sign-up page can be found here.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.

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