Grafana Plugins Explained

Grafana Plugins Explained

Table of Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Three categories of Grafana plugins
  3. Panel plugins
  4. Data source plugins
  5. Grafana app plugins
  6. Hosted infrastructure monitoring and visualization
  7. Grafana Worldmap panel plugin
  8. Savantly Grafana heatmap panel
  9. Kubernetes app plugin
  10. Prometheus Alertmanager plugin 
  11. Polystat panel plugin
  12. Sensu Grafana app plugin
  13. Conclusion

Introduction

Grafana is a powerful, open-source visualization solution for a wide range of data sources and formats. The monitoring solution provides businesses with useful visual insights into how their infrastructure, applications, servers, and other assets are performing.

In its simplest form, Grafana is a dashboard that provides visual insights into the data points, using customizable formats such as bar charts, line graphs, scatter plots, tables, heat maps, etc. The tool allows IT teams to collect and visualize various data points from a wide range of sources, including servers, web applications, smart devices, and more. It also supports different data sources and formats such as time-series and transactional databases, and other forms depending on the application.

Usually, the out-of-box Grafana supports a limited number of data sources, formats, and applications. However, it has a flexible and customizable design to accommodate a wide range of plugins that extends its functionalities. For this, there is a huge collection of official and community or third-party plugins that allows Grafana to support additional visualizations, data sources, and applications. 

There are also app plugins that enable Grafana to interact with web services and extract relevant data points for visualization. The apps can also configure the web services to produce the required data appoints.

MetricFire is a monitoring platform built on open source monitoring technology such as GraphiteGrafana, and Prometheus. You can build Grafana dashboards based on your hosted Prometheus and Graphite data stores directly in the app. Check out our free trial, or sign up for a demo and talk to the team directly.

     

Three categories of Grafana plugins

The Grafana open-source solution ships with basic features but is highly flexible and customizable. In its initial state, it does not have much functionality, but its plugin architecture makes it highly expandable. Adding the relevant plugins enables you to customize it to meet your specific needs. 

Although there are hundreds of plugins, most of them fall under the following three main categories.

  1. The panel plugins, 
  2. Data source plugins
  3. App plugins

      

Panel plugins

Panel plugins add visualization to the dashboards and include the Pie Chart, Worldmap, Clock, and others. The plugins help you to provide visuals for the responses from the data sources while enabling you to configure or manage the external systems such as applications, smart devices, IoT, etc. You can also navigate between dashboards or drill down to more detailed reports.

The panel plugins enable you to add new visualizations for both the time series and not-time series data. Other than the built-in table and graphs panel plugins, you can add others that address your unique requirements. Some of the features the panel plugins add include row coloring, data filtering, paging, and other functions that improve the visualization.

    

     

Data source plugins

These plugins extend Grafana to support other data sources and databases such as Azure Data Explorer, Google BigQuery, PostgreSQL, Oracle, MySQL, and more. The plugins enable Grafana to connect and communicate with the external data sources and then return data in a compatible format. 

Grafana usually ships with the support for the in-built Graphite and Prometheus data sources. However, you can add other external plugins such as Prometheus Alertmanager for alerts functions as well as others to support more data sources and functionalities.  

     

Grafana app plugins

The app combines the panel and data source plugins to provide a more custom and cohesive monitoring experience. It enables Grafana to easily integrate with other systems, additional data sources, and visualizations. Typical plugins include the Grafana App for Kubernetes, Sensu, Zabbix, and more.

Although the Grafana ships with several features, there is a huge collection of plugins to extend functionalities and support additional applications, panels, and data sources.  

      

Hosted infrastructure monitoring and visualization

MetricFire offers several hosted open-source monitoring solutions to provide you with useful insights into the performance of your infrastructure, servers, applications, and other systems such as smart homes, factories, IoT, and more.

The visualization creates an awareness that helps IT teams to troubleshoot issues or optimize to improve systems for performance and efficiency. Towards this, MetricFire provides the following hosted services;

Our customer enjoys a wide range of services, including free set up for Grafana as well as additional official and community plugins. Generally, Grafana has both simple and advanced visualization and customization options.

This allows you to easily visualize time series metrics through various easy to understand and actionable reports.

Although the basic installation provides the visuals mainly in graphs, its pluggable panel architecture supports the use of various plugins to extend capabilities hence visualizing data in many other forms.

Also, the out of box Grafana supports InfluxDB, OpenTSDB, Graphite, Prometheus data sources.

However, you can use plugins to add support for other data sources and applications that align well with your unique business requirements. 

In addition to the data sources for Graphite and Prometheus, MetricFire also installs and supports the following plugins for you.

       

Grafana Worldmap panel plugin

The Worldmap panel plugin visualizes the time-series metric over the world map and is suitable for organizations with operations in different geographical locations. This allows them to visualize the data based on countries, cities, regions, etc. along with the coordinates for the different endpoints. Usually, the size and color of the circle representing each monitored endpoint may vary based on the value of the data and other variables.

‍The World Map plugin requires data whose value determines the size on the circle on the map as well as associated location information such as the geohash or its latitude and longitude. The plugin also supports time-series data sources such as Prometheus, Graphite, InfluxDB, Elasticsearch, MySQL, Postgres, and more in addition to table format data.

The Grafana world map panel is usually not available in the basic installation. 

      

Savantly Grafana heatmap panel

The Savantly heatmap enables Grafana to provide a graphical presentation consisting of cells that display values and sorted out by timestamp. It visualizes the status of several objects, such as their temperature over the selected period. It then maps time series values into the text and colors. The heatmap plugin allows you to see the status of a certain object or metric over time.

      

Kubernetes app plugin

Kubernetes is a platform that automates the deployment and management of applications in container environments. The Grafana Kubernetes plugin enables you to see a various cluster, node, pod, and container metrics, including memory, CPU, and disk capacity, usage, and other metrics. It also allows you to filter and find relevant pod metrics, among many other capabilities. 

      

Prometheus Alertmanager plugin 

The Prometheus Alertmanager plugin receives the specified alerts from the Prometheus server, after which it can perform various actions on them. For example, it can group similar alerts into a single notification, mute some notifications based on the set rules (such as when others are active), disable alerts at certain times, among many other actions. It also routes alerts to the appropriate receiver system, such as email.

Once you install the plugin, you will only need two steps to set up the alerts. You start by creating the alerting rules, including the condition to trigger an alert. The second step is to configure the Alertmanager, which will receive alerts based on the specified rules. 

      

Polystat panel plugin

The Grafana Polystat panel creates a heatmap in the form of hexagons, each representing a certain metric. The plugin can group various metrics into a composite metric that provides an overview of the health status of the entire system. Additionally, Polystat has an option to drill down to more detailed dashboards for individual hexagons or metrics. 

For example, you can set up a hexagon for each machine, and hovering over this will display the current status of all the metrics values that you have configured. Typical metrics include CPU, GPU or fan temperature, processor time, memory, disk utilization, etc. It can display large hexagons and scale them down. When the hexagons are physically small to display the entire text, the system will only show tooltip over the polygon.

       

Sensu Grafana app plugin

Sensu is a portable, fast, and easy to deploy monitoring and configuration tool for cloud and on-premise infrastructure, servers, applications, and databases. Generally, it provides deep visibility of the entire infrastructure while interacting with a wide range of systems and components. 

On the other hand, the Sensu data source plugin enables Grafana to display a dashboard that shows all the metrics that Sensu is monitoring. Consequently, the plugin provides a list of events and associated graphics that summarizes the metrics and as well as criticalities. For example, it allows you to query the Sensu API for data such as the clients and their status, event metrics, etc.

    

Conclusion

While the Grafana eases the exploration work, successful set up and management requires careful planning and integration.

MetricFire empowers organizations to gain visibility into the health of their systems using hosted Prometheus or hosted Graphite services, and then view their metrics on the Grafana dashboard in real-time. The hosted Grafana or Grafana as a service comes as a standard feature with all the MetricFire plans. So if you are using any of MetricFire services, all you need to do is reach out to us about the plugin you want to use, and we’ll get it set up for you. 

The MetricFire services include a flexible, scalable open-source infrastructure monitoring platform that supports your current and future requirements without vendor lock-in and other limitations.

If you are interested in using Graphite to monitor your Kubernetes solution, check out our article Monitoring Kubernetes with Graphite for more information. Also, try out the MetricFire free trial where you can use both Graphite and Grafana on our hosted platform.

Alternatively, you can book a demo and tell us about your monitoring needs.

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