In this interview, I speak with Dan Toomey Principal Consultant at Mexia and Azure MVP. Dan is an Enterprise Integration Consultant, Solution Architect, Application Developer, and Systems Analyst with over fifteen years’ experience. He is a Microsoft Certified Trainer, a member of the Microsoft Azure Advisors group, and a published Pluralsight author.
What is your function and in what manner are you confronted with monitoring issues?
I am a Principal Consultant for Mexia; a Microsoft Gold Partner in Enterprise Integration. We build integration solutions and always stress the importance of monitoring.
What do you often encounter in terms of monitoring / what do you notice when working with customers?
Tech-savvy customers are almost always worried about how to support a solution after go-live. The integration layer is typically considered “black magic” and they don’t know how to look after it.
What should every IT manager responsible for integration know within an organization (what do you often hear back from customers)?
They need to know what errors might occur, how they will be detected, and who will be responsible for addressing them.
With what purpose are monitoring tools often used (which customer requests are involved, is a goal always specific)?
Usually it is a matter of ensuring that SLAs are met, and/or that the business suffers no significant downtime.
In what scenario is monitoring most often used, first-line monitoring (functional) vs. second-line monitoring (technical)?
Customers need to know when something is broken because it usually interferes with a business process. A good monitoring tool will not only detect that but also record enough technical data to aid in troubleshooting.
What is missing in the current monitoring solutions?
Because we advocate good monitoring tools, the tool is generally not the problem. More likely it’s the configuration of the tool, choosing the right things to track and setting the alerts intelligently. This is not a trivial task, but too often it is treated as an after-thought.
How do you see Azure and the current development towards the cloud? BizTalk vs. Logic Apps?
It is plainly obvious that Microsoft wants organizations to move their integration solutions to iPaaS. This definitely makes a lot of sense – however some organizations will have challenges with this. I hope that Microsoft communicates a good clear answer soon about their support model for BizTalk, otherwise they may lose some customers to on-prem solutions from other vendors if they can’t move to the cloud fast enough.
How do you see the future of integration and how should monitoring solutions adapt to this?
Monitoring solutions need to span both the cloud and on-prem, as hybrid applications become more prevalent. The monitoring tools in Azure are getting better all the time and are very powerful, but still lack one central view of everything in a simple user interface.
The IT world is getting more complex, and IT managers need to cope: How do you see the demands on IT systems getting more complex, and how are you coping with this?
Integration solutions in Azure tend to span many different services (e.g. Logic Apps + Functions + Service Bus + Event Grid + … ) Tracking a transaction from end-to-end is challenging unless the developers have designed for it. For example, ensuring that a common unique identifier (InteractionID) is maintained across the board and is searchable in all services.
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