Grafana focuses on CloudWatch, eases Docker image woes

Grafana focuses on CloudWatch, eases Docker image woes

Monitoring and observability platform Grafana is now available in version 6.5, adding curated dashboards for a variety of Amazon services, bringing Ubuntu-based Docker images back, and improving server diagnostics configurations as well as Explore UI. 

Most of the changes that made it into the current release turn out to relate to the CloudWatch (CW) data source and were in fact realised in cooperation with the CW team. Users have to be careful though, since some could lead to breakage.

Starting with Grafana 6.5, the platform uses the GetMetricData API instead of GetMetricStatistics. According to the documentation, the change allows for faster data retrieval, improves support of CloudWatch metric maths, and “enables the use of automatic search expressions”. Those benefits seem to come at a price, however, since GetMetricData calls don’t qualify for the free tier of the CloudWatch API and cost $0.01 per 1,000 metrics requested.

The GetMetricData API also has a limit of 50 transactions per second (TPS), compared to the 400 GetMetricStatistics offered. This could lead to throttling issues for some users, which are now signaled by an error message. The problem can be fixed by increasing the TPS quota via the AWS Service Quotas console.

Together with the CloudWatch team, Grafana added pre-configured dashboards for Amazon’s EC2, Elastic Block Store, Lambda, CloudWatch, and Relational Database Service to the CW datasource. Users are free to customise those, but are advised to save their new versions under a different name to prevent them from being overwritten should an updated board be released.

And beyond the cloud?

Meanwhile Explore saw the addition of the highly requested series hover. It allows users to explore values of a time series graph by hovering over them with the tooltip. Apart from that the Grafana team also put log row labels, fields, and parsed fields into an extendable area below each row for better clarity and added a filter option for labels. 

Server diagnostics has been slightly improved by additional environmental variables that allow  separate enabling and disabling of profiling and tracing.

Grafana users who found the switch from Ubuntu-based Docker images to Alpine-based ones troublesome will be happy to learn that Ubuntu images are available again. Alpine will continue to stay the default, however, since it offers better security according to the Grafana team. On a related note, the images for ARM have been fixed and should work again.

A complete list of changes can be found in the Grafana repository. The open source project is protected under the Apache 2.0 license.