Using Azure Advisor to baseline your platform

This post is part of the Azure Spring Clean series being run by Joe Carlyle and Thomas Thornton, which is a monthly series focusing on Azure Management and best practice. Check out all the other articles at https://www.azurespringclean.com/.

You may have logged into the Azure portal and seen this pop-up for Azure Advisor and instantly closed the window, I know this is something I’ve done more than once. Project and support work always takes priority, over proactive management tasks, with work to improve the platform de-prioritise. I hope this gives an overview of how Azure Advisor can help reducing the cost of Azure, improve your security posture and provide awareness of the latest recommended practices from Microsoft.

Azure Advisor provides an executive high-level overview of your Azure platform, providing tailored recommendations, to improve your cloud governance.

In the early days of cloud there was a presumption Microsoft secured the resources deployed into Azure covered under the platforms many certifications, unfortunately, this isn’t the case. When deploying any resource we have shared responsibility with the cloud provider for an aspect of that resource. Maintaining and reviewing standards, forms a core part of platform administration and requires constant review and improvement. With higher demands from departments and teams to deploy services quicker to meet company requirements, having the time to understand the recommended practices is hard to come by, this is where Azure Advisor can help.

Azure Advisor provides a simple visualisation to understand your current governance posture. When you open the Advisor blade you can instantly see the categorisation of critical issues, allowing you to focus your time, to deliver the most impactful changes first.

Azure Advisor categorise all recommendations into the below categories;

  • Cost: Information on past usage of things like VMs generates cost-saving recommendations as well as sizing and other resource configurations that affect cost.
  • Security: Advice to help you prevent and detect threats or security vulnerabilities.
  • Performance: Recommendations that are tailored to the configurations of your resources
  • High Availability: Suggestions that are important for business-critical and production-worthy applications.
  • Operational Excellence: Advice on how to improve resource manageability and deployment best practices

Some of alerts Azure Advisor generates are ;

  • Create Azure Service Health alerts to be notified when Azure issues affect you
  • Use Managed Disks to improve data reliability
  • Protect your virtual machine data from accidental deletion
  • Reduce costs by deleting or reconfiguring idle virtual network gateways
  • Use Standard Snapshots for Managed Disks

The service is being constantly improved by Microsoft, to provide you with relevant and valuable improvements. Should you have a suggestion on how to improve this further, they can be posted on user voice.

Implementing a recommendation

  • From the Azure portal, search for Advisor
  • Open the Advisor recommendations dashboard
  • Advisor will take a couple of minutes to refresh

Platform changes take around 24 hours to be reflected within Advisor should there be any recommendations.

This is where you will see the overview summary of all the Advisor recommendations. Opening the cost recommendations blade, we can see I can make a small cost saving for these virtual machines. Advisor has done all the hard work gathering the data, evaluating the machines, ready for this to be presented to the finance team, which is very impressive. To take advantage of this saving I would need to purchase a reserved instance, which is a reservation of resource, for either one or three years.

For each recommendation, you’re provided with detail about why you are receiving this advice. This information can be evaluated to understand if a reserved instance should be purchased or the recommendation can be dismissed, to prevent future warnings.

Other recommendations lend themselves to implementing Azure policy to maintain a good known state in line with recommended practices.

This recommendation, for instance, warns the virtual machines should be protected by a Network Security Group. As this a configuration recommendation, and something I want to enforce going forward. For this recommendation, I’m going to use AzAdvertize to review all the Azure built-in policies and find a policy that will enforce a Network Security Group correctly on my subnets, so I’m in line with the recommendation and future noncompliance’s are prevented.

As you start working with Azure Advisor you will see many configuration recommendations that can be resolved with Azure policy, if you’re not familiar with policy check-out the Azurespring clean policy blog.

Alerting

To make sure you’re made aware of recommendations, rather than having to view them within the Azure portal, Microsoft has recently integrated alerting into Azure Advisor. You can now receive alerts direct into your ITSM Solution. Actions to optimise your Azure platform are now visible within your current working practices.

Alerts can be filtered so you can focus on specific areas of interest. Having these recommendation available outside of the portal is so important for awareness.

Continuous Cloud Optimization Power BI Dashboard

As Azure Advisor is accessible via REST API’s, PowerShell and SDKs. Which can be used to manipulate and consolidate your Advisor information further with other management data such as tags, VM types and the amount of storage consumed. After sometime trying to display this management data, I found this PowerBI dashboard and I think its a great tool that layers on top of the Advisor service.

The Continuous Cloud Optimization Power BI Dashboard pulls information directly from different Azure and Graph REST APIs. It presents the information in a simplified format to track potential recommendations from Azure Advisor or Azure Security Center allowing you to filter by subscriptions, resources groups, tags or particular resources. If you need an executive overview of your platform, I would recommend you give this a try.

Summary

This service is FREE and offers a wealth of information about your platform, which can be used to deliver cost savings and improvements with minimal administration. Enable the alerting so your aware of what the Advisor service can offer and try-out the PowerBI dashboard. If you haven’t used any of the other governance tools within Azure, this is a great place to start.

I hope you found this article helpful, please feel free to get in touch with me via Twitter or Linked In and make sure to follow #AzureSpringClean for your daily dose of Azure management throughout February.

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