Using the Application map and Alerts in Application Insights to detect errors in your API App

When you create a Web API or API App it's essential to monitor it while it is running. Most importantly, you want to detect failures before most of your customers do. You also want to discover and fix performance issues and want to know what the users are doing with your Web API like are they using the latest features for example.
Application Insights is an extensible Application Performance Management (APM) service for web developers that monitors your running Web API. It tells you about failures and performance issues, and helps you analyze how customers use your app.

Perform the following steps to use the Application map and Alerts in Application Insights:
1.    Add the Application Insights SDK to the API App
2.    Use the Application Insights API in the API App for custom events and metrics
3.    Use the Application Map in Application Insights to drill down errors
4.    Set Alerts in Application Insights


Step 1: Add the Application Insights SDK to the API App

Right-click your API app project in Solution Explorer, and choose Add, Application Insights Telemetry.
1 Add Application Insights in Visual Studio project
In Visual Studio 2015, there's also an option to add Application Insights in the New Project dialog.)

Continue to the Application Insights configuration page:

  - Select the account and subscription that you use to access Azure.
  - Select the resource in Azure where you want to see the data from your app. Usually you create a separate resource for each app.
  - Click Register to go ahead and configure Application Insights for your web app. Telemetry will be sent to the Azure portal, both during debugging and after you have published your app.

2 Register your app with Application Insights

Step 2: Use the Application Insights API in the API App for custom events and metrics

In Application Insights, a custom event is a data point that you can use to find out what users are doing with the API App, or to help diagnose issues. The Application Insights API for custom events and metrics is the same API that the standard Application Insights data collectors use.
Use the following lines of code in your application to send an event whenever a document is not found:

using Microsoft.ApplicationInsights;
private TelemetryClient telemetry = new TelemetryClient();
telemetry.TrackEvent("[OrderManager.GetOrderById] Document not found");

03 custom events

Step 3: Use the Application Map in Application Insights to drill down errors

There are plenty of ways to explore your telemetry data in Application Insights. One option is to use the Application Map in the Azure Portal. An Application Map is a visual layout of the dependency relationships of your application components. Each component shows KPIs such as load, performance, failures, and alerts, to help you discover any component causing a performance issue or failure.

To open the Application Map go to the Azure portal and then navigate to the API App that you created.

  - In the App Service blade, click Application settings.
  - In the overview panel click on VIEW MORE IN APPLICATION INSIGHTS

04 Azure Portal - Application Insights
Click on App map from the Application Insights blade to open the Application map.
05 Azure Portal - Application Insights
Click on the error or warning to further investigate.
06 Azure Portal - Application Insights - Application map
When you click on the error a new blade opens with an overview of the Failed Requests.
07 Azure Portal - Application Insights - Application map - Top Errors
Click on the error to see the properties of the failed HTTP request.
08 Azure Portal - Application Insights - Application map - 404 Errors
Click on the link “All available telemetry for this operation” to see the telemetry and custom events.
09 Azure Portal - Application Insights - Application map - 404 Errors - Detail

Step 4: Set Alerts in Application Insights

Application Insights can also alert you to changes in performance or usage metrics in your API App. You can use the Metric alerts tell you when any metric crosses a threshold value for some period - such as response times, exception counts, CPU usage, or page views.
Click on Alerts to open the Alert rules blade, and then click on the Add alert button.
10 Azure Portal - Application Insights - Alerts
Use the Failed request metric to set an alert if a HTTP request to the API App fails and returns an error to the client.
If you check the box "Email owners...", alerts will be sent by email to an administrator for example.
11 Azure Portal - Application Insights - Add Alert
You then get a Failed Request Alert email when an alert changes state between inactive and active.
12 Azure Portal - Application Insights - Email about Alert
The current state of each alert is also shown in the Alert rules blade.
13 Azure Portal - Application Insights - Fired Alert




Application Insights is really a very good way to monitor your API App. It’s easy to add to your code and it has many great features like for example Alerts and the Application map. It’s also very mature and with the Basic pricing option, you pay based on the volume of telemetry your application sends, with a 1 GB free allowance per month.  This free data allowance gives you a great way to try out Application Insights as you get started!

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About the author

Tomasso Groenendijk lives in Netherlands and is a Solution Architect at Insight. He has over 20 years experience in software development and software design. Tomasso is specialized in application integration with a strong interest in the Windows Azure cloud platform. From 2014, Tomasso has been awarded six times with the Microsoft Azure MVP award. He is an active contributor to the integration community through his work on his blog, GitHub samples, TechNet Wiki and speaking on events. Furthermore he is an official board member of the Dutch Microsoft Integration User Group.

MVP profile Tomasso Groenendijk
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