Azure Monitor: consultation of data through Workbooks

Azure Monitor Log Analytics can collect large amounts of data and it is essential to have effective methods to make it easy to access and analyze it in a simple way. Among the various possibilities offered are the Workbooks, interactive documents that allow you to better interpret the data and do in-depth analysis, also designed for collaboration scenarios. This article lists the key features of the Workbooks and the indications to use them at best.

The Workbooks combine text, Log Analytics query, Azure metrics and parameters, this is an interactive report. Interestingly, they can be accessed and editable by anyone who has access to the same Azure resources. This makes them a powerful collaboration tool between members of a team.

Possible usage scenarios

The Workbooks can be used in different scenarios, for example:

  • Guide tool for troubleshooting and post-mortem incidents. Not only can you highlight the impact of an application or virtual machine outage, but it will also be possible to combine data and provide written explanations. This can become a guide tool to discuss the steps needed to prevent future service outages.
  • Explore the use of a particular application or virtual machine when you don't know the metrics of interest in advance. In fact, unlike other analysis tools, The Workbooks combine multiple types of visualizations and analysis, making them a great tool for freeform exploration.
  • Show your team the performance of a new application feature or the performance of a new virtual machine, giving visibility of key metrics of interest.
  • Sharing the results of experimentation work on an application with other team members. You have the ability to detail the objectives of text experimentation and to show the Log Analytics metrics and queries used to evaluate the items of interest.

Advantages of Workbooks

Among the main advantages of Workbooks it is possible to quote:

  • Support for metrics, logs and Azure Resource Graph data.
  • Parameter support that enables interactive reports, for example, selecting an item in a table will dynamically update the associated charts and visualizations.
  • Document-like flow.
  • Ability to have Workbooks personal or shared.
  • Experience of simple creation and always with a view to collaboration.
  • Ability to tap into a public template gallery on GitHub that contains several ready-to-use Workbooks.

Workbooks Limits

The Workbooks they also have the following limitations which should be taken into consideration:

  • There are no automatic refresh mechanisms.
  • They are not designed to have a denser layout like dashboards and to have a single centralized control panel. In fact, they are designed to gain insights through an interactive path.

Deploy and use Workbooks

The section Workbooks is accessible from the Azure portal from Azure Monitor Log Analytics that from Application Insights and a gallery is available with a series of Workbooks by default.

Figure 1 – Workbooks Gallery from Azure Portal

In this GitHub repository you can view numerous templates of Workbooks. You can of course contribute by adding new ones or by processing existing ones.

The Workbooks can be composed of different sections that show graphs, Tables, text and input controls, all independently editable.

Figure 2 – Adding section to a Workbook

In order to create Workbooks according to your needs it is useful to know which elements are supported, in this regard, references to the official Microsoft documentation are provided:

Figure 3 - Example of Workbook showing the key metrics of the VMs

Figure 4 - Example of Workbook showing the highest CPU usage of VMs by region

To deploy new Workbooks through ARM templates you can refer to Microsoft's official documentation.

Conclusions

Thanks to the adoption of Workbooks it is possible to consult the data collected using visually appealing reports, with advanced features that allow you to greatly enrich the analysis experience from the Azure portal. Interactivity based on user inputs, personalization and sharing are important elements that make very useful to adopt Workbooks in specific scenarios.