A couple of weeks ago, the Application Insights ALM team announced availability of a new metrics widget for Visual Studio Team Services (VSTS) dashboards. We’re very pleased to say that there has been a lot of interest in this feature, resulting in fast adoption. We’ve received lots of feedback about the widget, most of it positive, but of course we’ve received a lot of enhancement requests as well.
The most popular ask that we received was to have the widget visually alert users when a threshold is crossed. We’ve listened to you, and I’m happy to announce that this functionality is now available in the updated version of the metrics widget.
How it works
If you’re using the Application Insights metric widget on your VSTS dashboard, the extension should have already auto-updated. If you’re using the extension on-premises with TFS, you’ll need to uninstall the old extension, download the new one, and install it.
In either case, when you go to configure an existing widget or add a new one, you’ll see an updated configuration dialog:
All of the top part works exactly the same as it did in the past. You’ll now notice that there are new fields at the end of the configuration dialog that allow you to define two optional thresholds for visually alerting you: one for warning and one for critical. Because these are completely optional, you can define both, one, or none. To define a threshold, simply check the box next to warning or critical as appropriate, select how you want the threshold to be determined (greater than/greater than or equal to/less than/less than or equal to), and enter the threshold value. When you’re done, hit the save button and the widget will react appropriately. That’s it. Note that the widget will display the appropriate unit type in parentheses at the end of the text description by each check box whenever this is applicable (some metrics don’t have units, and in these cases you won’t see any unit type listed). In the screen shot above, you’ll notice that it shows “in bytes per second,” so when you enter your threshold value, it needs to be expressed in bytes; this is true even if the preview of the widget shows KB or MB, because the widget auto-converts metric values for appropriate formatting and display.
How it looks
If you’re already familiar with the widget, then you’re used to seeing it look like this:
And, this continues to be the look of the widget if your metric returned by the widget is within expected bounds.
However, if a defined threshold is crossed, you’ll see either:
if there is a warning condition, or:
if there is a critical condition.
You should also note that not only does the color change (to orange for warning or red for critical), but the icon at the bottom right does as well (to either a warning triangle or critical circle). This is both to make the visual alert status more self-explanatory, and also to help out with accessibility for any of our users that may have impaired color vision.
We think that this was a great suggestion by the community, and we are very happy to have been able to turn it around quickly for everyone. Many thanks to all who have been so enthusiastic about installing and using the widget. We also know that there are a lot more opportunities for bringing your Application Insights telemetry into VSTS. We’ve heard your feedback about some of the ideas that I listed on my last blog post, and here are a couple of the next items in our backlog for this feature set:
- App Analytics (Kusto) widget: Create a widget with the same basic functionality as the metric widget, but based upon a Kusto (App Analytics) query, so users can invent and return their own (perhaps very specific) metric. There are a lot of engineering considerations to take into account here in terms of infrastructure, performance, etc. But this item is on the backlog and we will be starting work on it this week. We’d also like to add an option (or a second widget type) that can return a grid of query results to be displayed on the VSTS dashboard. Once we have the first, simpler version working, we can start looking at the second.
- Charts: Create a widget that can return a series of data and display it in a chart. We still have some internal challenges to sort out in order to offer this, but we’re working on it. I expect that this will take some time to resolve and will likely come after we have the App Analytics widget completed, but we believe in the value of this and will continue to pursue it.
We hope the updated widget helps you better monitor the health of your resources that you analyze with Application Insights. We have more coming for you very soon, so please keep an eye out for my Azure blog posts for new announcements!