Today's business environment is shaped by many factors such as technological advancements, changes in consumer preferences, government legislation, political events, and of course, overarching situations such as the COVID pandemic.
All these mean that a business has to watch for changes and adapt to them to survive constantly. This entails collecting data across the internal and external environments and the analysis of the same to identify threats and opportunities at the earliest.
Since too many internal and external factors are involved, companies prefer to use advanced monitoring and observability platforms that collect data, analyze them, and present them in a visual format for easy understanding and quick decision making.
One such tool is Grafana, open-source analytics and monitoring solution that works well across platforms. This tool generates charts, graphs, and alerts when connected with appropriate data sources.
Let's now take a detailed look at Grafana's features to understand its capabilities.
Below are some of the salient features of Grafana.
- In-depth Observability Grafana specializes in providing detailed observability metrics that you can use to make sense of the issues in your infrastructure and the changes that have to be made to make your business more adaptable to the changing internal and external environments. Grafana combines data from logs and traces across devices, cloud-native applications, and microservices to give you a streamlined view of your infrastructure. It captures the hundreds of thousands of building blocks spread across your microservices architecture and analyzes every request and query to give you specific metrics. It also scales well both horizontally and vertically to meet your business growth.
- Visually-appealing Charts Grafana is well-known for its visually-appealing charts and graphs that give you a complete picture of the state of your infrastructure at any time. Further, you can query, analyze, sort, and configure these charts and graphs to suit your requirements and preferences. Such customization makes it easy to connect to any data source located in any part of the world.
- Works Well on all Platforms Grafana is a highly flexible tool that works well on all platforms. There are two broad offerings – Grafana Cloud and Grafana Enterprise. Grafana Cloud is an observability stack for metrics, logs, and traces. It also offers synthetic monitoring and even a composable stack for self-managed environments. Grafana Enterprise, on the other hand, is a good choice for your owned infrastructure, and it comes with support from Grafana's experts as well. So, regardless of whether you have an on-prem, cloud, or hybrid environment, Grafana will work for you.
- Scores High on Usability Grafana's user interface is intuitive and straightforward as you can seamlessly switch between logs, metrics, and traces to find the information you want. Its dashboard provides all the information you need to correlate data across your infrastructure, so you can get to the root cause at the earliest and fix the issue before it impacts your end-users.
- Integrates Across Most Tools Grafana is an open-source project with wide adoption, and hence, it integrates well with the most popular tools and platforms. You can also choose from its pre-configured alerts and dashboards to save time and effort on configuration. You can even use its REST APIs for integrating Grafana with your custom applications.
- Sends Smart Alerts Grafana sends intelligent alerts to notify teams of any issues. Based on existing configurations, it can use a single alert rule to send multiple messages to different sections. It can also label alerts for quick searchability and group notifications in a single email to reduce overload. You can manage alerts in Grafana through its simple UI.
Thus, these are some of the features of Grafana.
But are they suited for your business? What are the downsides of using Grafana? Let's get answers to these questions.
A Critical Review of Grafana
- Grafana is a popular tool used by businesses worldwide, as it is simple to set up and use and provides advanced insights in the form of easily-digestible charts and graphs. In addition, its ability to create visually stunning data representations is one of its most significant selling points, as users can make better decisions with such representations.
- Its access control features ensure that users see only those information and charts they are authorized to, thereby helping the organization meet stringent security requirements. This also protects its data-sensitive information from unauthorized viewing.
- Another plus is integrating Grafana with any database or app in your organization.
- One of the most significant shortcomings is you can't use template variables to customize your dashboards, and you may need third-party tools for them. Also, creating dashboards and customizing them requires some expertise, so you may have to hire someone to handle this for you.
- Similarly, generating custom notifications is not easy and requires a Grafana expert. Also, you need to use the command line to configure some metrics, which may need some expertise.
- Furthermore, Grafana provides metrics only at the infrastructure level and not the application level.
- Finally, note that most advanced features are available only in the Enterprise version, not the open-source one.
Thus, these are some of the advantages and disadvantages of Grafana. Before you decide if this is the right tool, make sure to look at its alternatives to make an informed decision.
We have compiled a list of top alternatives to Grafana, and feel free to check out detailed reviews about each of these tools.
- One of the most popular graphing tools available
- Massive community – great for patching and plugins
- Highly flexible – can chart many different data sources in multiple formats
- Completely open source
- Can a decent amount of time to learn
- Some features are only accessible with the Enterprise version
Here are the top alternatives to Grafana:
- Datadog An advanced monitoring tool that helps teams make sense of the large amounts of data generated by different devices and applications. It also converts this raw data into actionable insights, so you can make informed decisions and changes to boost the overall output and productivity in your organization.
- Splunk Specializes in gathering, indexing, and correlating data from different sources and representing them in the form of easy-to-read charts and graphs. Full-stack observability, integration with custom and vendor applications, and unified security practices are some of the other salient features of this tool.
- Instana This platform is a good choice if you have extensive microservices and cloud-native applications in your infrastructure, as Instana has the capability to monitor each of the hundreds or thousands of services contained in it.
- AppDynamics Analyzes your application's code to pinpoint optimization problems and their root causes. This eases the process of troubleshooting and fixes errors proactively before they impact end-users.
- Dynatrace This platform takes an AI-based approach to monitoring and using it, provides in-depth insights into the performance of individual applications and the entire infrastructure. It is fully automated and has advanced tools for optimizing performance and end-user experience.
- NewRelic One An observability platform that not just pinpoints problems but also identifies the root cause. It also correlates infrastructure health with application performance to provide the insights needed for improvement.