Choosing the right database is a critical choice when building any software application. All databases have different strengths and weaknesses when it comes to performance, so deciding which database has the most benefits and the most minor downsides for your specific use case and data model is an important decision. Below you will find an overview of the key concepts, architecture, features, use cases, and pricing models of Azure Data Explorer and Prometheus so you can quickly see how they compare against each other.
The primary purpose of this article is to compare how Azure Data Explorer and Prometheus perform for workloads involving time series data, not for all possible use cases. Time series data typically presents a unique challenge in terms of database performance. This is due to the high volume of data being written and the query patterns to access that data. This article doesn’t intend to make the case for which database is better; it simply provides an overview of each database so you can make an informed decision.
Azure Data Explorer vs Prometheus Breakdown
Time series database
ADX can be deployed in the Azure cloud as a managed service and is easily integrated with other Azure services and tools for seamless data processing and analytics.
Prometheus uses a pull-based model where it scrapes metrics from configured targets at given intervals. It stores time series data in a custom, efficient, local storage format, and supports multi-dimensional data collection, querying, and alerting. It can be deployed as a single binary on a server or on a container platform like Kubernetes.
Log and telemetry data analysis, real-time analytics, security and compliance analysis, IoT data processing
Monitoring, alerting, observability, system metrics, application metrics
Highly scalable with support for horizontal scaling, sharding, and partitioning
Prometheus is designed for reliability and can scale vertically (single node with increased resources) or through federation (hierarchical setup where Prometheus servers scrape metrics from other Prometheus servers)
Azure Data Explorer Overview
Azure Data Explorer is a cloud-based, fully managed, big data analytics platform offered as part of the Microsoft Azure platform. It was announced by Microsoft in 2018 and is available as a PaaS offering. Azure Data Explorer provides high-performance capabilities for ingesting and querying telemetry, logs, and time series data.
Prometheus is an open-source monitoring and alerting toolkit initially developed at SoundCloud in 2012. It has since become a widely adopted monitoring solution and a part of the Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF) project. Prometheus focuses on providing real-time insights and alerts for containerized and microservices-based environments. Its primary use case is monitoring infrastructure and applications, with an emphasis on reliability and scalability.
Azure Data Explorer for Time Series Data
Azure Data Explorer is well-suited for handling time series data. Its high-performance capabilities and ability to ingest large volumes of data make it suitable for analyzing and querying time series data in near real-time. With its advanced query operators, such as calculated columns, searching and filtering on rows, group by-aggregates, and joins, Azure Data Explorer enables efficient analysis of time series data. Its scalable architecture and distributed nature ensure that it can handle the velocity and volume requirements of time series data effectively.
Prometheus for Time Series Data
Prometheus is specifically designed for time series data, as its primary focus is on monitoring and alerting based on the state of infrastructure and applications. It uses a pull-based model, where the Prometheus server scrapes metrics from the target systems at regular intervals. This model is suitable for monitoring dynamic environments, as it allows for automatic discovery and monitoring of new instances. However, Prometheus is not intended as a general-purpose time series database and might not be the best choice for high cardinality or long-term data storage.
Azure Data Explorer Key Concepts
- Relational Data Model: Azure Data Explorer is a distributed database based on relational database management systems. It supports entities such as databases, tables, functions, and columns. Unlike traditional RDBMS, Azure Data Explorer does not enforce constraints like key uniqueness, primary keys, or foreign keys. Instead, the necessary relationships are established at query time.
- Kusto Query Language (KQL): Azure Data Explorer uses KQL, a powerful and expressive query language, to enable users to explore and analyze their data with ease.
- Extents: In Azure Data Explorer, data is organized into units called extents, which are immutable, compressed sets of records that can be efficiently stored and queried.
Prometheus Key Concepts
- Metric: A numeric representation of a particular aspect of a system, such as CPU usage or memory consumption.
- Time Series: A collection of data points for a metric, indexed by timestamp.
- Label: A key-value pair that provides metadata and context for a metric, enabling more granular querying and aggregation.
- PromQL: Prometheus uses its own query language called PromQL (Prometheus Query Language) for querying time series data and generating alerts.
Azure Data Explorer Architecture
Azure Data Explorer is built on a cloud-native, distributed architecture that supports both NoSQL and SQL-like querying capabilities. It is a columnar storage-based database that leverages compressed, immutable data extents for efficient storage and retrieval. The core components of Azure Data Explorer’s architecture include the Control Plane, Data Management, and Query Processing. The Control Plane is responsible for managing resources and metadata, while the Data Management component handles data ingestion and organization. Query Processing is responsible for executing queries and returning results to users.
Prometheus is a single-server, standalone monitoring system that uses a pull-based approach to collect metrics from target systems. It stores time series data in a custom, highly compressed, on-disk format, optimized for fast querying and low resource usage. The architecture of Prometheus is modular and extensible, with components like exporters, service discovery mechanisms, and integrations with other monitoring systems. As a non-distributed system, it lacks built-in clustering or horizontal scalability, but it supports federation, allowing multiple Prometheus servers to share and aggregate data.
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Azure Data Explorer Features
High-performance data ingestion
Azure Data Explorer can ingest data at a rate of 200 MB per second per node, offering fast and efficient data ingestion capabilities.
Azure Data Explorer integrates seamlessly with popular data visualization tools like Power BI, Grafana, and Jupyter Notebooks, allowing users to easily visualize and analyze their data.
The Kusto Query Language (KQL) supports advanced analytics features such as time series analysis, pattern recognition, and anomaly detection, enabling users to gain deeper insights from their data.
Unlike traditional relational databases, Azure Data Explorer does not enforce constraints like key uniqueness, primary keys, or foreign keys. This flexibility allows for dynamic schema changes and the ability to handle semi-structured and unstructured data.
Prometheus collects metrics by actively scraping targets, enabling automatic discovery and monitoring of dynamic environments.
The powerful Prometheus Query Language allows for expressive and flexible querying of time series data.
Prometheus supports alerting based on user-defined rules and integrates with various alert management and notification systems.
Azure Data Explorer Use Cases
Azure Data Explorer is commonly used for log analytics, where it can ingest, store, and analyze large volumes of log data generated by applications, servers, and infrastructure. Organizations can use Azure Data Explorer to monitor application performance, troubleshoot issues, detect anomalies, and gain insights into user behavior. The ability to analyze log data in near real-time enables proactive issue resolution and improved operational efficiency.
Azure Data Explorer is well-suited for telemetry analytics, where it can process and analyze data generated by IoT devices, sensors, and applications. Organizations can use Azure Data Explorer to monitor device health, optimize resource utilization, and detect anomalies in telemetry data. The platform’s scalability and high-performance capabilities make it ideal for handling the large volumes of data generated by IoT devices.
Time series analysis
Azure Data Explorer is used for time series analysis, where it can ingest and analyze time-stamped data points collected over time. This use case is applicable in various industries, including finance, healthcare, manufacturing, and energy. Organizations can use Azure Data Explorer to analyze trends, detect patterns, and forecast future events based on historical time series data. The platform’s advanced query operators and real-time analysis capabilities enable organizations to derive valuable insights from time series data.
Prometheus Use Cases
Prometheus is widely used for monitoring the health and performance of containerized and microservices-based infrastructure, including Kubernetes and Docker environments.
Application Performance Monitoring (APM)
Prometheus can collect custom application metrics using client libraries and monitor application performance in real-time.
Alerting and Anomaly Detection
Prometheus enables organizations to set up alerts based on specific thresholds or conditions, helping them identify and respond to potential issues or anomalies quickly.
Azure Data Explorer Pricing Model
Azure Data Explorer’s pricing model is based on a pay-as-you-go approach, where customers are billed based on their usage of the service. The pricing is determined by factors such as the amount of data ingested, the amount of data stored, and the number of queries executed. Additionally, customers can choose between different pricing tiers that offer varying levels of performance and features. Azure Data Explorer also provides options for reserved capacity, which allows customers to reserve resources for a fixed period of time at a discounted rate.
Prometheus Pricing Model
Prometheus is an open-source project, and there are no licensing fees associated with its use. However, costs can arise from hardware, hosting, and operational expenses when deploying a self-managed Prometheus server. Additionally, several cloud-based managed Prometheus services, such as Grafana Cloud and Weave Cloud, offer different pricing models based on factors like data retention, query rate, and support.
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