Turning the table with Application Insights: part 1

Application Insights, what is that? Yes, that was the first response I had as well. It’s one of the hidden gem’s found in the Visual Studio Online announcement last week and it fundamentally changes how we should look at getting insights into applications. Really? Yes, and in the next couple of blogs I’ll provide you want a hands-on approach on why that I think that App Insights is turning the table.

So, what is it?

So let’s start with what it is. Microsoft describes it as follows: “Application Insights is a set of services that provide actionable insight into a production application. This data is then integrated back into the development tools and process. These services include: Out-side-in availability monitoring, Understanding application and system internals with Application Performance Monitoring, Data driven decisions with customer usage analytics”. It’s part of the Visual Studio Online offering and currently App Insights is in preview and you need an invitation to try it out. Here’s a sample screenshot of the overview page:

Application Insights

Interesting!

Indeed, that’s quite interesting, because it means that Microsoft is providing monitoring means from the cloud. And if you paid attention to the previous paragraph you might have noticed two things there: “Outside In” and “Application Performance Monitoring”. These two capabilities, plus more, are available today in System Center Operations Manager 2012 (R2). And yes, you guessed it right, this means that Microsoft is making those capabilities available from the Cloud directly, without having to run an Operations Manager infrastructure.

But why as part of Visual Studio Online?

Good question. You might think it would be a Service on it’s own, or for instance part of Windows Azure. But this is where Microsoft looks at this fundamentally different going forward. In the past you would develop your applications, put them through some testing in pre-prod, and then deploy in production after which you started to monitor the application and provide feedback/exceptions/etc back to the developer. Why not get these insights during development and pre-prod testing? You can find problems earlier on, repair those, and provide a Healthy application to production. From that perspective it makes sense to provide these capabilities as part of the Visual Studio Online offering.

I have a lot of questions on this APM from the Cloud

Me too. Luckily I got access to the preview and have been able to configure the capabilities succesfully for my testing app. I’ll write up a lot more blogs in the coming days and weeks to show you how Application Insights works. In the meantime: you might want to go to www.visualstudio.com and register for a VSO subscription (which is free up to 5 users for MSDN) and put yourself on the waiting list by hitting the blue “Try Application Insights” button.

– Maarten Goet