Azure Workbooks: Step-by-step guide to managing the basics

Azure Workbooks is a great tool for operations and DevOps teams because they can combine metrics and queries. They also help the process document any given workload running in Azure. They are also flexible to the point that we can pack them as part of the Azure DevOps process, build an application/service in Azure using infrastructure-as-code (IaC), and provision the workbooks. The application owner can receive its entire application with operations components in the same provision process. How cool is that?

We can gather information from several sources when working with Azure Workbooks. Some of the existing sources are logs, metrics, Azure Resource Graph, Azure Resource Health, Azure Data Explorer, and Alerts.

Keep in mind that we can combine several data sources in a single workbook, and we can display that information in several formats, something simple as text and grid. And there are more advanced forms of visualization we can employ, such as charts, tiles, graphs, and composite bars, to mention just a few.

There a couple of ways to interact with Azure Workbooks. The simple way is to search for Azure Workbooks in the portal, and a list of all existing workbooks will be listed. We can filter them by subscriptions and type, as well as resource group, location, and so forth.

This interface is good when you have your Azure Workbooks deployed and ready to roll. However, it does not allow the creation of Azure Workbooks from that blade. It is more a starting point for existing Azure Workbooks.

Starting from scratch

Since we are starting from scratch, we will park this interface for now and work on our initial workbooks first, and then we can come back here to use them as much as we want.

Azure Workbooks

The second method is through Azure Monitor and then selecting workbooks. That blade will show all public templates, workbooks, and templates. They have different colors to help separate them.

Azure Workbooks

An Azure Workbook template does not have a resource associated with the Azure platform, and the users can use it as a start to create their own workbooks or use it as a one-time thing. The goal of a template is to serve as a basis and be used by multiple users and teams, and they won’t be changed as part of the process.

The workbook is associated with an Azure Resource, which we can check using either Azure Portal or PowerShell.

Creating the first Azure Workbook

We will create a new workbook from scratch, which will help us to understand the options available. To make sure that we are on the page, logged on the Azure Portal, search or click on Monitor, click on Workbooks, and click on New.

In the new blade (as depicted in the image below), we have the option + Add (Item 1) to add some pieces of data to our workbook, including text, parameters, links/tabs, query, metric, and manage groups. We also have a menu to manage the workbook, where we can save it, share, configure settings, check the code, and so forth.

Azure Workbooks

We can start simply by adding text to the document and provide instructions for the users of this brand-new workbook that we are creating. It uses markdown language, and if you are not acquainted with that language yet, don’t worry. Check out this TechGenix article for more information.

After adding the required content, you can explore the other tabs, such as Advanced Settings or Style. There are plenty of options to accommodate your requirements, and it also allows some sophisticated options like visibility based on conditions. (We will cover that in a more advanced article.) When done with this portion, click on Done Editing, and you will return to the workbook where we can save it or be done with it to start using it.

Azure Workbooks

We can use several components to display the right information required for the given workbook. A simple one that is easy to implement and brings a lot of value is adding a query and displaying the Azure Health Services.

To get that done in a few steps, select Azure Health (Preview), then select Subscriptions (Item 2), and finally, which subscription you want to check (Item 3), click on done editing when complete.

The workbook has a brief description of the environment and all the given subscription resources, and their health status.

If you don’t like how the data is being presented, don’t be shy. Play around to find the best visualization for the user that will consume the workbook. The previous query was tweaked using the highlighted values, and now we have a beautiful graphical representation of the Azure Services health in the subscription.

The result will be a new Azure resource for this workbook in the Resource Group that we defined.

Azure Workbooks

Azure Workbooks: More to come

In this first article, we covered the basics of Azure Workbooks, where they are found in the wild, their types, and some basic components of a workbook. We also created one from scratch and saved it into our subscription for future use. Stay tuned for our next, more advanced Azure Workbooks article.

Featured image: Shutterstock

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