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Ankit Anand ✨ for SigNoz

Posted on • Originally published at signoz.io

DataDog vs Grafana - Key features & differences

DataDog is a paid SaaS tool that provides a range of products for monitoring applications and tech infrastructure. While Grafana is an open-source web visualization tool that can be used with a variety of data sources to create dashboards.

SigNoz GitHub repo

Grafana is primarily used to visualize your time-series database data into meaningful charts from which you can draw insights. Grafana can be used to build an open-source stack for APM, time-series, and logs monitoring.

In this article, we will compare DataDog with Grafana based on the following categories:

  • Getting Started
  • Monitoring use-cases
  • User Experience
  • Pricing

We will also explore the key features of DataDog and Grafana.

While DataDog and Grafana are great monitoring tools, they have their limitations. DataDog is an enterprise SaaS tool with complex pricing tiers. Grafana is an open-source monitoring tool that needs support and maintenance to set up and scale.

And that's where SigNoz comes into the picture. It is an open-source APM tool that comes with great user experience in terms of getting started and web user experience. It's an open-source alternative to DataDog.

Comparing DataDog and Grafana

The disadvantage of DataDog is that it does not specialize in any one domain. And the good thing about Grafana is that it can be combined with specialized tools for monitoring your application.

The disadvantage of using Grafana is the cost and bandwidth required to maintain it. GrafanaLabs, the company behind Grafana, also offers a cloud version that aims to provide a fully managed observability stack.

Some of the key differences between DataDog and Grafana:

Getting started

You need to sign up for a DataDog account and then install DataDog agents on your host. The DataDog agent can be installed on many platforms either directly or as a containerized version. The agent reports events and metrics from the host.

For getting started with Grafana, you first need to install it. Check out the different operating systems and requirements for installation. Once Grafana is installed you can connect it to your desired data source and start visualizing the data.

Some of the popular data sources that Grafana supports are:

  • Prometheus
  • Jaeger
  • Zipkin
  • AWS CloudWatch
  • Graphite
  • Azure Monitor

Monitoring use-cases

DataDog has an extensive list of monitoring services it offers. List of all monitoring products that DataDog provides:

  • Log Management
  • APM
  • Security Monitoring
  • Infrastructure Monitoring
  • Network Monitoring

Grafana can be combined with popular tools for monitoring use-cases:

  • ElasticSearch(for logs)
  • Prometheus(for metrics)
  • Jaeger(for traces)

User Experience

With DataDog, everything comes out of the box. Based on the plan you purchase, DataDog provides in-built dashboards and widgets to take care of popular use-cases of monitoring.

DataDog dashboard
DataDog account comes with in-built charts for things like metrics, traces and logs

Grafana is a popular open-source analytics and visualization tool. But you need to set up these dashboards and panels which requires some bandwidth. You can build a powerful dashboard by selecting a data source and then combining panels associated with different data sources.

Grafana dashboard
Grafana Dashboard

Another great point to consider is that you can build an open-source monitoring stack using Grafana and other open-source specialized tools meant for monitoring like Prometheus. You can host this stack within your infra, which takes care of data privacy concerns.

DataDog is a third-party SaaS vendor and your data will be sent to DataDog cloud for analyses and visualization.

Pricing

The ease of use and the varied use-cases that DataDog provides are not cheap. DataDog is an expensive enterprise monitoring tool that has many different pricing tiers which vary on your use-cases. For example, infrastructure enterprise monitoring starts at $23 per host per month while its APM sand continuous profiler starts at $40 per host per month.

The open-source version of Grafana comes for free, although you do need to account for the cost of data storage and networking. GrafanaLabs offers paid cloud plans starting at $49 per month, which scale up based on usage.

Key Features of DataDog

DataDog is an enterprise SaaS tool that offers an array of services in the monitoring domain. Some of the key features of the DataDog monitoring platform includes:

Log Management

DataDog offers scalable log ingestion and analytics through its log management product. You can search, filter, and analyze log data through its dashboard. You can route all your logs from one central control panel.

Application performance monitoring**

DataDog's APM tool provides end-to-end distributed tracing from frontend devices to databases. You can connect the collected traces to infrastructure metrics, network calls, and live processes.

Security monitoring

Using DataDog security monitoring, you can analyze operational and security logs in real-time. It provides built-in threshold and anomaly detection rules to detect threats quickly.

Network monitoring

With DataDog network monitoring, you can analyze traffic as it flows across applications, containers, availability zones, and on-premise servers. You can track key network metrics like TCP retransmits, latency, and connection churn.

Real user monitoring

With DataDog's real user Monitoring, you can have end-to-end visibility into user journeys for web and mobile applications.

Key Features of Grafana

Grafana is an open-source dashboard tool. The biggest feature of Grafana is that you can use it to combine different data sources and then visualize data in a central dashboard. It also comes with admin features for effective collaboration with the team.

Some of the key features of Grafana are:

Flexible dashboards

Grafana provides a lot of panels that can be used for building dashboards. To build dashboards that suit your needs, you can choose from multiple chart types like heatmaps, histograms, pie charts, etc.

Grafana visualization options
Grafana visualization widgets for creating dashboards

Plugins

Grafana provides an extensive set of plugins to extend Grafana capabilities. Some of the plugins that Grafana offers are:
- Data Source plugins
- App plugins
- Panel Plugins

Alerting system

Grafana provides a central UI to set and manage alerts with a central UI.

A better alternative to DataDog and Grafana - SigNoz

SigNoz is a full-stack open-source application performance monitoring and observability tool which can be used in place of DataDog and Grafana. SigNoz is built to give SaaS like user experience combined with the perks of open-source software. Developer tools should be developer first, and SigNoz was built by developers to address the gap between SaaS vendors and open-source software.

Key architecture features:

  • Native OpenTelemetry support

    SigNoz is built to support OpenTelemetry natively, which is quietly becoming the world standard to generate and manage telemetry data.

  • Flexible and scalable Database storage

    SigNoz provides users flexibility in terms of storage. You can choose between ClickHouse or Kafka + Druid as your backend storage while installing SigNoz.

Architecture of SigNoz with OpenTelemetry and ClickHouse
Architecture of SigNoz with ClickHouse as storage backend and OpenTelemetry for code instrumentatiion

SigNoz comes with out of box visualization of things like RED metrics.

SigNoz UI showing the popular RED metrics
SigNoz UI showing application overview metrics like RPS, 50th/90th/99th Percentile latencies, and Error Rate

You can also use flamegraphs to visualize spans from your trace data. All of this comes out of the box with SigNoz.

Flamegraphs used to visualize spans of distributed tracing in SigNoz UI
Flamegraphs showing exact duration taken by each spans - a concept of distributed tracing

You can also build custom metrics dashboard for your infrastructure.

SigNoz custom metrics dashboard
You can also build a custom metrics dashboard for your infrastructure

Some of the things SigNoz can help you track:

  • Application overview metrics like RPS, 50th/90th/99th Percentile latencies, and Error Rate
  • Slowest endpoints in your application
  • See exact request trace to figure out issues in downstream services, slow DB queries, call to 3rd party services like payment gateways, etc
  • Filter traces by service name, operation, latency, error, tags/annotations.
  • Run aggregates on trace data
  • Unified UI for both metrics and traces

Getting started with SigNoz

If you have docker installed, getting started with SigNoz just takes three easy steps at the command line:

git clone https://github.com/SigNoz/signoz.git
cd signoz/deploy/
./install.sh
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You can read more about deploying SigNoz from its documentation.

You can check out SigNoz's GitHub repo here 👇

SigNoz GitHub repo


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