Azure Monitor (Part 5): Visualizing log analytics data with Azure Monitor

Azure Monitor (Part 5): Visualizing log analytics data with Azure Monitor

Join me on my Azure Monitor journey as I learn all there is to know about the platform. Check out my intro note here for a brief series overview and a bit about me (tl;dr former SCOM admin, avid tech bloggerSquaredUp tech evangelist). 

So far, we’ve learnt how to collect data (part 2) and pull it into Azure Log Analytics (part 3), as well as how to actually work with the data using Kusto (part 4). Now it’s time to explore how we can visualize this data, make dashboards, share them with other teams in our organizations and so on.

Unfortunately, dashboarding in Azure is not very sophisticated, and neither is it centralized. There are a few approaches you can take to visualize this data, and the visualization options you get depend on the approach you decide to go with.

Executive summary

  1. Default metrics and views
  2. Dashboards
  3. Dashboards from queries
  4. Pinning charts to dashboards
  5. Workbooks


How to visualize data with Azure Monitor

1. Default metrics and views

As we know by now, there are some host-level platform metrics that are available to us for each resource we create, out of the box. These metrics start collecting data from the time the resource is created, with no additional configuration. For example, if you navigate to the “Overview” option in a VM, you see a bunch of perf views there, already collecting data:

Default metrics and views in Azure Monitor for visualising data

Also, if you navigate to “Metrics” under the Monitoring section, there are a bunch more metrics available to you to simply select and view. I’ve highlighted some of the key options below:
 Here are the key metrics you can select and view in Azure Monitor, under the Monitoring section, if you want to visualise your data in Azure Monitor.

Of course, you can also do the same from Azure Monitor:

In Azure Monitor there are these metrics that you can select and view for visualising data.

I’d encourage you to take a look at this bit of documentation from Microsoft to better understand metrics and their types:

https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/azure/azure-monitor/platform/data-platform-metrics

Once you’re done with creating your charts, you can then pin these graphs to a dashboard, which we will discuss further below.

Also, remember how we said in part 2 of this series that the guest-level monitoring data you’re collecting using the agents is stored as logs in the workspace? To show graphs with that data, you’ll need to extract it using a query. An example of that is also discussed below.

 

2. Dashboards

We’ll start with the most obvious option. After logging in to your Azure portal, search “Dashboard” in the global search.

Search 'dashboard' in your Azure portal after logging in, in the global search.

Once you’re in, you’ll see a screen like the following:
 This is what you see in the Azure portal when you search for 'dashboard' in the global search.

Click on the “New dashboard” option to create a new dashboard. You’ll be presented with a canvas on the right and a gallery of “tiles” on the left. These tiles are basically different visualizations that you can select.

This is the canvas you are presented with in Azure when you click on 'new dashboard' to create a new dashboard. The tiles you see are different visualizations that you can select.

You can now give it a fitting name, and you can just go on adding the tiles that you’re interested in. Note that if you can’t see some specific data or can’t select the metrics, etc. you should check if you have the right permissions to access that data.

You’ll notice while adding tiles that you can move them around, change their size, etc. Note that while some of the tiles are ready-to-go, others will require you to write queries for the data you want to see.

So, after adding a bunch of tiles onto my dashboard, this is what I’ve put together:

Dashboard in Azure with different visualization tiles.

This dashboard is, for now, private to you. If you want to share it with others, hit the “Share” button at the top. Save it in the subscription you wish, and hit publish.

Learn how to share your Azure visualization dashboard with others.

You may be thinking – “okay cool, but I want to restrict access to only to a certain team.” Sure, you can do that. Like so:

This is how you restrict access to your Azure visualization dashboard to a certain team.

 



3.
Dashboards from queries 

Navigate to your workspace and go to the Logs section.

After you’ve written the query, you can pin the results of this query directly to your dashboard. For example, I have a query like this:

In the Azure Monitor Logs section, you can pin the results of your queries to your dashboard.

Great, that shows me the result I want, but this won’t look very appealing on the dashboard. So I will switch to the “Chart” section in the results pane below and see if I get a chart for my results.

In Azure Monitor Logs section switch to the 'chart' section to pin on your dashboard.

Oh cool, I do! As you can see, I can also switch between different chart visualizations to choose the one that works best. Let’s pin this to the dashboard instead. Hit the “Pin to dashboard” button at the top and it prompts you to select the dashboard you want to pin it to. If you don’t see the one you’ve created, make sure you’ve published that dashboard first.

This is how you pin charts to your Azure Monitor logs dashboards.

I’ve selected the dashboard we just published, named SMDemoDashboard. Let’s see how it is looking now!

Navigate to “shared dashboards” from the homepage and select the one you just created.

Check that you've published your Azure Monitor Logs dashboard.

There it is! I’ve changed the name of the chart to “% Processor time” so it’s easy to find.

4. Pinning charts to dashboards

There are actually a lot of things you can simply pin to dashboards directly. Remember the solutions we deployed earlier? You can also browse into them and simply pin those charts to dashboards as well. Like this Update management solution we talked about in part 3 of this series:

In Azure Monitor you can pin this update management solution to a dashboard.

5. Workbooks

Workbooks let you combine log analytics, metrics, text and parameters into reports with deeper insights.

Workbooks are fantastic because they let you present a lot of data in one visualization, which you can then pin to dashboards. To read more about workbooks from Microsoft, click here.

Let’s try and create our first workbook. Navigate to your log analytics workspace and look for “Workbooks”:

How to create a workbook in Azure Monitor. Workbooks allow you to combine log analytics, metrics, text and parameters in reports that offer deeper insights.

Once selected, you can create your workbook from a template, or choose from some pre-built workbooks.

Let’s create ours using the default template.

First thing you’ll notice is the sample query, it’s output and at the bottom, options to add more visualizations with a query, a metric, parameters, etc.

Create your workbook in Azure Monitor using the default template.

Right, let’s play around with this and see if we can add something shiny in here to see.

I added a sample plain text, a heartbeat query in the donut and the Disk read bytes metric in the workbook for example.

In an Azure Monitor workbook let's try adding sample plain text, a heartbeat query and the disk read bytes metric. 

Ideally, you’d use workbooks to make reports much more useful than this. The Microsoft documentation I linked earlier has a detailed set of instructions about that. You can pin this workbook to the dashboard (as always) for quick access.

And there you go! You are now familiar with ways to present your data from a log analytics workspace in easy to interpret visualizations, and share them with your teams.

Next, we are starting on another major component of the Azure Monitor – Application Insights. Just like we did for Log Analytics, we will talk about collecting data in Application Insights, working with the data collected and visualizing it for easy interpretation. Stay tuned!

 

We’ll discuss a new topic each week, so stay tuned. Drop your email address in the box below to get notified with each new post, or join our dedicated Slack channel to be a part of the discussion.

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