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Microsoft Partnership Brings Grafana Observability Service To Azure

Grafana Labs unveils alert management and trace data additions to its commercial product portfolio around the open-source Grafana platform.

Grafana Labs, developer of the popular Grafana open-source observability and data visualization software, has struck a strategic partnership with Microsoft to develop a Grafana managed service that runs on the Azure cloud platform.

Grafana Labs also has unveiled a number of monitoring and observability additions to its “Grafana stack” commercial offerings around the open-source platform, including the new OnCall alert management tool and Enterprise Traces for managing trace data.

The new Microsoft Azure partnership, similar to a deal Grafana Labs established with Amazon Web Services in late 2020, is expected to help expand adoption of the open-source Grafana platform and create market opportunities for Grafana Labs and its go-to-market partners.

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“The Microsoft agreement is a pretty big announcement for us,” Grafana Labs CEO and co-founder Raj Dutt said in an interview with CRN. “We want to partner with Amazon and Microsoft to help the open-source base Grafana offerings become ubiquitous and meet our customers where they are. That’s what we’re interested in.”

The Grafana observability and data visualization platform is used to build data dashboards and visualizations for metric, log and trace data generated by IT infrastructure, networks, cybersecurity tools and other systems, helping It and AppDev managers monitor IT system performance and track users and events.

Grafana Labs develops the Grafana platform and provides it as open-source software under the AGPLv3 license. The company also provides commercial enterprise and cloud service editions of Grafana with additional functionality, plug-in software, and training, professional and support services.

Dutt said observability software like Grafana has become more important as IT becomes more distributed and more complex

“We want to help developers, engineers, operators – everyone who’s involved with running web sites and applications that the world depends on more and more,” the CEO said. “We want to help these practitioners make their applications more performant, more reliable, more secure, more cost-effective – to run their applications better and with less risk.”

About 800,000 businesses and organizations use Grafana software – about 90 percent the free, open-source edition and the rest the commercial Grafana Enterprise Stack and Grafana Cloud editions. Grafana Labs, based in New York, raised $220 million in Series C funding in August that put the company’s valuation at $3 billion.

Under the new partnership Microsoft and Grafana Labs have developed a Microsoft Azure managed service that businesses and organizations use to run Grafana natively within their Azure cloud platform. That makes it easy to deploy secure, scalable Grafana instances, the two companies said, and connect to other open-source, cloud and third-party data sources for visualization and analysis.

The Azure managed service is based on the open-source edition of Grafana and users will have the option of upgrading to the commercial Grafana Enterprise through the Azure console. The service is currently in preview and is expected to be generally available in early 2022.

Dutt emphasizes that the Microsoft Azure alliance is a “first-party” offering and not just a case of Grafana Lab’s software being offered through the Azure online marketplace. It is the same as the partnership with AWS, which offers the Amazon Managed Grafana service. Grafana Labs also has partnerships with Chinese cloud giants Alibaba and Tencent.

“Grafana Labs develops some of the most adopted monitoring and visualization tools in the market today, and we’re looking forward to combining the power of Grafana with the scale of Microsoft Azure,” said Scott Hunter, Microsoft vice president and director of program management, in a statement. “This partnership provides a new option to run Grafana as a managed service for Azure and Grafana Labs customers and helps support the entire open-source community.”

Granafa Labs also unveiled a pair of new tools that work with Grafana including OnCall, a call and alert management tool, and Enterprise Traces for working with trace data.

OnCall is a call and alert management tool that DevOps and site reliability engineering teams use to manage and respond to alerts generated by the Grafana Cloud platform or other systems such as Prometheus and Alertmanager. Dutt said OnCall is Grafana Labs’ first foray into incident response management.

“We think there’s a whole lot of value here, since we’re generating all this intelligence and alerts through our observability platform, in letting the user seamlessly transition within our platform to managing the alert and making sure the right person gets the alert and the alert is escalated within the organization based on the severity of the alert,” Dutt said in the interview.

“We believe that by having this capability seamlessly integrated with the leading open-source observability platform, there’s a really nice workflow story for our customers,” Dutt added. “There is this whole area of issue response management that we’re getting into.”

OnCall is based on incident management technology from Amixr, a Russia-based company that Grafana Labs just recently acquired. OnCall is available in preview beta for Grafana Cloud users on both the free and paid plans, with general availability expected in 2022.

The introduction of OnCall puts Grafana Labs into a more competitive situation with companies such as PagerDuty, Splunk’s On-Call (from its 2018 acquisition of VictorOps) and Atlassian (through its 2019 acquisition of OpsGenie), Dutt said. But he emphasized that because of what he called the “composable” architecture of the Grafana Labs product portfolio, third-party products such as those will continue to work with the Grafana platform.

The new Grafana Enterprise Traces, part of the Grafana Enterprise Stack, is used to analyze and visualize trace data – information about the operation and performance of system components.

The addition of Grafana Enterprise Traces means that the Grafana platform can now be used with metric, log and trace data. The commercial product is based on the Grafana Tempo open-source software.

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