Table of Contents
- Key Takeaways
- What Is Grafana?
- Three categories of Grafana plugins
- Panel plugins
- Data source plugins
- Grafana app plugins
- Hosted infrastructure monitoring and visualization
- Grafana Worldmap panel plugin
- Savantly Grafana heatmap panel
- Kubernetes app plugin
- Polystat panel plugin
- Sensu Grafana app plugin
Grafana is a powerful open-source visualization solution that provides valuable insights into the performance of infrastructure, applications, and servers. With customizable visualizations and support for diverse data sources and formats, Grafana allows IT teams to collect and visualize data from various sources.
By leveraging these plugins, Grafana users can unlock additional visualizations, support for various data sources, and seamless integration with other systems, empowering them to optimize monitoring and gain deeper insights into their data.
- Grafana provides a powerful open-source visualization tool for monitoring infrastructure, applications, and more.
- One of their key features dashboards have varieties to choose from, including bar charts, line graphs, and more provide valuable visual insights.
- Grafana offers a wide range of plugins that support additional visualizations, data sources, and apps.
- The main plugin categories are panels, data sources, and app plugins that enhance functionality and integration.
What Is Grafana?
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 Graphite, and Grafana. You can build Grafana dashboards based on your hosted 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. Initially, 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.
- The panel plugins,
- Data source plugins
- App plugins
Panel plugins add visualization to the dashboards and include the Pie Chart, world map, Clock, and others. The plugins help you to provide visuals for the responses from the data sources while enabling you to configure or manage 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 visualization.
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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 external data sources and then return data in a compatible format.
Grafana usually ships with the support for the in-built Graphite data sources.
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, and Graphite 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 are 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 various cluster, node, pod, and container metrics, including memory, CPU, disk capacity, usage, and other metrics. It also allows you to filter and find relevant pod metrics, among many other capabilities.
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 the 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 criticalities. For example, it allows you to query the Sensu API for data such as the clients and their status, event metrics, etc.
While the Grafana eases the exploration work, successful setup and management require careful planning and integration.
MetricFire empowers organizations to gain visibility into the health of their systems using 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's 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.