May 272014

In my last two posts, I described installing the Microsoft Monitoring Agent and how to enable Visual Studio Application Insights for a web application.

It seems like a lot of work, and as yet you haven’t seen what you gain by installing the agent on your web server and adding a strange configuration file to your web application. You might wonder why you should do all of that.

This is why:


With Visual Studio Application Insights you can see in almost real time how your application is performing. The Application Insights dashboard shows you at a glance what’s going on. It tells you the response time, number of exceptions returned, availability etc. of your application.

From the Application Insights dashboard – which you can customize to your own liking – you can click on all the graphs and counters to see further details about them.


When clicking the Exception Events box in the dashboard above it takes you to the Exception Events page which lists all exceptions your application has generated.


This particular application is quite simple, and has only generated one exception in the last four hours.

By clicking on the exception description below the graph you can see more details about that particular exception:


You can see the entire stack trace with parameter values, member variables etc. And you can download the IntelliTrace if you need to do point in time debugging.


Do you want to know why requests to your web service are slow? Look no further than the Server Performance page in Application Insights.


With a sample time of one minute you can see exactly what your application is doing, and which kinds of external dependencies are consuming time. In the example of my WCF service here, I can see it makes a call to another WCF Server (the purple color on the columns), and those calls apparently take a long time sometimes. If I had instrumented that service with Application Insights, I could gain further knowledge about what it is doing when it is slow to respond.


Since I am instrumenting a WCF service which doesn’t use IIS authentication or sessions, I don’t get user counts or page views etc. for free. For that to work, you need to add instrumentation code to your application. I will show that in my next blog post in this series.

Update 2014-09-09: As part of Visual Studio 2013 Update 3, the Application Insights platform is being moved from Visual Studio Online to Microsoft Azure. Microsoft Azure AI is not feature complete yet, so I will wait doing the next blog post until I can utilize the Azure Application Insights.

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