Log alerts in Azure Monitor

This article provides details of Log alerts are one of the types of alerts supported within the Azure Alerts and allow users to use Azure's analytics platform as basis for alerting.

Log Alert consists of Log Search rules created for Azure Monitor Logs or Application Insights. To learn more about its usage, see creating log alerts in Azure

Note

Popular log data from Azure Monitor Logs is now also available on the metric platform in Azure Monitor. For details view, Metric Alert for Logs

Log search alert rule - definition and types

Log search rules are created by Azure Alerts to automatically run specified log queries at regular intervals. If the results of the log query match particular criteria, then an alert record is created. The rule can then automatically run one or more actions using Action Groups. Azure Monitoring Contributor role for creating, modifying, and updating log alerts may be required; along with access & query execution rights for the analytics target(s) in alert rule or alert query. In case the user creating doesn't have access to all analytics target(s) in alert rule or alert query - the rule creation may fail or the log alert rule will be executed with partial results.

Log search rules are defined by the following details:

  • Log Query. The query that runs every time the alert rule fires. The records returned by this query are used to determine whether an alert is to be triggered. Analytics query can be for a specific Log Analytics workspace or Application Insights app and even span across multiple Log Analytics and Application Insights resources provided the user has access as well as query rights to all resources.

    Important

    cross-resource query support in log alerts for Application Insights and log alerts for Log Analytics configured using scheduledQueryRules API only.

    Some analytic commands and combinations are incompatible with use in log alerts; for more details view, Log alert queries in Azure Monitor.

  • Time Period. Specifies the time range for the query. The query returns only records that were created within this range of the current time. Time period restricts the data fetched for log query to prevent abuse and circumvents any time command (like ago) used in log query.
    For example, If the time period is set to 60 minutes, and the query is run at 1:15 PM, only records created between 12:15 PM and 1:15 PM is returned to execute log query. Now if the log query uses time command like ago (7d), the log query would be run only for data between 12:15 PM and 1:15 PM - as if data exists for only the past 60 minutes. And not for seven days of data as specified in log query.

  • Frequency. Specifies how often the query should be run. Can be any value between 5 minutes and 24 hours. Should be equal to or less than the time period. If the value is greater than the time period, then you risk records being missed.
    For example, consider a time period of 30 minutes and a frequency of 60 minutes. If the query is run at 1:00, it returns records between 12:30 and 1:00 PM. The next time the query would run is 2:00 when it would return records between 1:30 and 2:00. Any records created between 1:00 and 1:30 would never be evaluated.

  • Threshold. The results of the log search are evaluated to determine whether an alert should be created. The threshold is different for the different types of log search alert rules.

Log search rules be it for Azure Monitor Logs or Application Insights, can be of two types. Each of these types is described in detail in the sections that follow.

  • Number of results. Single alert created when the number records returned by the log search exceed a specified number.
  • Metric measurement. Alert created for each object in the results of the log search with values that exceed specified threshold.

The differences between alert rule types are as follows.

  • Number of results alert rules always creates a single alert, while Metric measurement alert rule creates an alert for each object that exceeds the threshold.
  • Number of results alert rules create an alert when the threshold is exceeded a single time. Metric measurement alert rules can create an alert when the threshold is exceeded a certain number of times over a particular time interval.

Number of results alert rules

Number of results alert rules create a single alert when the number of records returned by the search query exceed the specified threshold. This type of alert rule is ideal for working with events such as Windows event logs, Syslog, WebApp Response, and Custom logs. You may want to create an alert when a particular error event gets created, or when multiple error events are created within a particular time period.

Threshold: The threshold for a Number of results alert rules is greater than or less than a particular value. If the number of records returned by the log search match this criteria, then an alert is created.

To alert on a single event, set the number of results to greater than 0 and check for the occurrence of a single event that was created since the last time the query was run. Some applications may log an occasional error that shouldn't necessarily raise an alert. For example, the application may retry the process that created the error event and then succeed the next time. In this case, you may not want to create the alert unless multiple events are created within a particular time period.

In some cases, you may want to create an alert in the absence of an event. For example, a process may log regular events to indicate that it's working properly. If it doesn't log one of these events within a particular time period, then an alert should be created. In this case, you would set the threshold to less than 1.

Example of Number of Records type log alert

Consider a scenario where you want to know when your web-based App gives a response to users with code 500 (that is) Internal Server Error. You would create an alert rule with the following details:

  • Query: requests | where resultCode == "500"
  • Time period: 30 minutes
  • Alert frequency: five minutes
  • Threshold value: Greater than 0

Then alert would run the query every 5 minutes, with 30 minutes of data - to look for any record where result code was 500. If even one such record is found, it fires the alert and triggers the action configured.

Metric measurement alert rules

Metric measurement alert rules create an alert for each object in a query with a value that exceeds a specified threshold and specified trigger condition. Unlike Number of results alert rules, Metric measurement alert rules work when analytics result provides a time series. They have the following distinct differences from Number of results alert rules.

  • Aggregate function: Determines the calculation that is performed and potentially a numeric field to aggregate. For example, count() returns the number of records in the query, avg(CounterValue) returns the average of the CounterValue field over the interval. Aggregate function in query must be named/called: AggregatedValue and provide a numeric value.

  • Group Field: A record with an aggregated value is created for each instance of this field, and an alert can be generated for each. For example, if you wanted to generate an alert for each computer, you would use by Computer. In case, there are multiple group fields specified in alert query, user can specify which field to be used to sort results by using the Aggregate On (metricColumn) parameter

    Note

    Aggregate On (metricColumn) option is available for Metric Measurement type log alerts for Application Insights and log alerts for Log Analytics configured using scheduledQueryRules API only.

  • Interval: Defines the time interval over which the data is aggregated. For example, if you specified five minutes, a record would be created for each instance of the group field aggregated at 5-minute intervals over the time period specified for the alert.

    Note

    Bin function must be used in query to specify interval. As bin() can result in unequal time intervals - Alert will automatically convert bin command to bin_at command with appropriate time at runtime, to ensure results with a fixed point. Metric measurement type of log alert is designed to work with queries having up to three instances of bin() command

  • Threshold: The threshold for Metric measurement alert rules is defined by an aggregate value and a number of breaches. If any data point in the log search exceeds this value, it's considered a breach. If the number of breaches in for any object in the results exceeds the specified value, then an alert is created for that object.

Misconfiguration of the Aggregate On or metricColumn option can cause alert rules to misfire. For more information, see troubleshooting when metric measurement alert rule is incorrect.

Example of Metric Measurement type log alert

Consider a scenario where you wanted an alert if any computer exceeded processor utilization of 90% three times over 30 minutes. You would create an alert rule with the following details:

  • Query: Perf | where ObjectName == "Processor" and CounterName == "% Processor Time" | summarize AggregatedValue = avg(CounterValue) by bin(TimeGenerated, 5m), Computer
  • Time period: 30 minutes
  • Alert frequency: five minutes
  • Alert Logic - Condition & Threshold: Greater than 90
  • Group Field (Aggregate-on): Computer
  • Trigger alert based on: Total breaches Greater than 2

The query would create an average value for each computer at 5-minute intervals. This query would be run every 5 minutes for data collected over the previous 30 minutes. Since the Group Field (Aggregate-on) chosen is columnar 'Computer' - the AggregatedValue is split for various values of 'Computer' and average processor utilization for each computer is determined for a time bin of 5 minutes. Sample query result for (say) three computers, would be as below.

TimeGenerated [UTC] Computer AggregatedValue
20xx-xx-xxT01:00:00Z srv01.contoso.com 72
20xx-xx-xxT01:00:00Z srv02.contoso.com 91
20xx-xx-xxT01:00:00Z srv03.contoso.com 83
... ... ...
20xx-xx-xxT01:30:00Z srv01.contoso.com 88
20xx-xx-xxT01:30:00Z srv02.contoso.com 84
20xx-xx-xxT01:30:00Z srv03.contoso.com 92

If query result was to be plotted, it would appear as.

Sample query results

In this example, we see in bins of 5 mins for each of the three computers - average processor utilization as computed for 5 mins. Threshold of 90 being breached by srv01 only once at 1:25 bin. In comparison, srv02 exceeds 90 threshold at 1:10, 1:15 and 1:25 bins; while srv03 exceeds 90 threshold at 1:10, 1:15, 1:20 and 1:30. Since alert is configured to trigger based on total breaches are more than two, we see that srv02 and srv03 only meet the criteria. Hence separate alerts would be created for srv02 and srv03 since they breached the 90% threshold twice across multiple time bins. If the Trigger alert based on: parameter was instead configured for Continuous breaches option, then an alert would be fired only for srv03 since it breached the threshold for three consecutive time bins from 1:10 to 1:20. And not for srv02, as it breached the threshold for two consecutive time bins from 1:10 to 1:15.

Log search alert rule - firing and state

Log search alert rules work only on the logic you build into the query. The alert system doesn't have any other context of the state of the system, your intent, or the root cause implied by the query. As such, log alerts are referred to as state-less. The conditions are evaluated as "TRUE" or "FALSE" each time they are run. An alert will fire each time the evaluation of the alert condition is "TRUE", regardless of it is fired previously.

Let's see this behavior in action with a practical example. Assume we have a log alert rule called Contoso-Log-Alert, which is configured as shown in the example provided for Number of Results type log alert. The condition is a custom alert query designed to look for 500 result code in logs. If one more more 500 result codes are found in logs, the condition of the alert is true.

At each interval below, the Azure alerts system evaluates the condition for the Contoso-Log-Alert.

Time Num of records returned by log search query Log condition evalution Result
1:05 PM 0 records 0 is not > 0 so FALSE Alert does not fire. No actions called.
1:10 PM 2 records 2 > 0 so TRUE Alert fires and action groups called. Alert state ACTIVE.
1:15 PM 5 records 5 > 0 so TRUE Alert fires and action groups called. Alert state ACTIVE.
1:20 PM 0 records 0 is not > 0 so FALSE Alert does not fire. No actions called. Alert state left ACTIVE.

Using the previous case as an example:

At 1:15 PM Azure alerts can't determine if the underlying issues seen at 1:10 persist and if the records are net new failures or repeats of older failures at 1:10PM. The query provided by user may or may not be taking into account earlier records and the system doesn't know. The Azure alerts system is built to err on the side of caution, and fires the alert and associated actions again at 1:15 PM.

At 1:20 PM when zero records are seen with 500 result code, Azure alerts can't be certain that the cause of 500 result code seen at 1:10 PM and 1:15 PM is now solved. It doesn't know if the 500 error issues will happen for the same reasons again. Hence Contoso-Log-Alert does not change to Resolved in Azure Alert dashboard and/or notifications are not sent out stating the alert is resolved. Only you, who understands the exact condition or reason for the logic embedded in the analytics query, can mark the alert as closed as needed.

Pricing and Billing of Log Alerts

Pricing applicable for Log Alerts is stated at the Azure Monitor Pricing page. In Azure bills, Log Alerts are represented as type microsoft.insights/scheduledqueryrules with:

  • Log Alerts on Application Insights shown with exact alert name along with resource group and alert properties
  • Log Alerts on Log Analytics shown with exact alert name along with resource group and alert properties; when created using scheduledQueryRules API

The legacy Log Analytics API has alert actions and schedules as part of Log Analytics Saved Search and not proper Azure Resources. Hence to enable billing for such legacy log alerts created for Log Analytics using of Azure portal without switching to new API or via legacy Log Analytics API - hidden pseudo alert rules are created on microsoft.insights/scheduledqueryrules for billing on Azure. The hidden pseudo alert rules created for billing on microsoft.insights/scheduledqueryrules as shown as <WorkspaceName>|<savedSearchId>|<scheduleId>|<ActionId> along with resource group and alert properties.

Note

If invalid characters such as <, >, %, &, \, ?, / are present, they will be replaced with _ in the hidden pseudo alert rule name and hence also in the Azure bill.

To remove the hidden scheduleQueryRules resources created for billing of alert rules using legacy Log Analytics API, user can do any of the following:

Additionally for the hidden scheduleQueryRules resources created for billing of alert rules using legacy Log Analytics API, any modification operation like PUT will fail. As the microsoft.insights/scheduledqueryrules type pseudo rules are for purpose of billing the alert rules created using legacy Log Analytics API. Any alert rule modification should be done using legacy Log Analytics API (or) user can switch API preference for the alert rules to use scheduledQueryRules API instead.

Next steps