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Microsoft Azure Service Can Now Check for Active Directory Problems

Microsoft's Azure Operational Insights service can now assess an organization's Active Directory performance.

Azure Operational Insights is a Microsoft Azure service that's still at the "preview" testing stage. First released in November, Azure Operational Insights is designed to collect data from an organization's premises-based servers and mobile devices, as well as any services used. It compares that data with Microsoft's best practices to issue recommendations for a given computing environment.

The new Active Directory assessment capability gets enabled by installing a so-called "Intelligence Pack" to System Center Operations Manager. Microsoft's newest addition, the "Active Directory Assessment Intelligence Pack," apparently was released late last month, per this announcement.

It's possible to use the Azure Operational Insights service without the System Center Operations Manager component, according to this Azure Operational Insights FAQ. However, using an Intelligence Pack requires configuring a connector between the Operations Manager and Virtual Machine Manager System Center components, according to the FAQ, which implies a requirement for using Microsoft's System Center suite of management products in order to use Intelligence Packs.

With the Active Directory Assessment Intelligence Pack in place, an organization's computing environment will get scanned every seven days. Microsoft charges for the Azure Operational Insights service based on the size of the data stored each month. There's a free plan that's just limited to collecting 500MB of data per day. Microsoft also has Standard and Premium plans, based on storage sizes, which are priced half off during the preview period, according to Microsoft's pricing page.

The Active Directory Assessment Intelligence Pack computes assessment scores for certain items in a computing environment. It flags the items that Microsoft considers noteworthy for IT pros to consider. Items get a higher score if they are deemed likely to cause problems for an organization. The assessment has six focus areas, according to Microsoft's description:

  • Security and compliance
  • Availability and business continuity
  • Performance and scalability
  • Upgrade, migration and deployment
  • Operations and monitoring
  • Change and configuration management

Azure Operational Insights is sometimes identified with System Center Advisor, a free service that Microsoft rolled out in 2013. However, Microsoft's FAQ explains that "System Center Advisor is now part of Azure Operational Insights." Organizations can use the free version of Azure Operational Insights instead of System Center Advisor, it seems.

Microsoft now has two Intelligence Packs for the Azure Operational Insights service: the Active Directory pack and an earlier one released for SQL Server, per this description.

About the Author

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

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