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 TimescaleDB 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 TimescaleDB 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 TimescaleDB 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.
TimescaleDB is built on top of PostgreSQL and inherits its architecture. It extends PostgreSQL with time-series-specific optimizations and functions, allowing it to manage time series data efficiently. It can be deployed as a single node, in a multi-node setup, or in the cloud as a managed service.
Timescale License (for TimescaleDB Community Edition); Apache 2.0 (for core PostgreSQL)
Log and telemetry data analysis, real-time analytics, security and compliance analysis, IoT data processing
Monitoring, observability, IoT, real-time analytics, financial market data
Highly scalable with support for horizontal scaling, sharding, and partitioning
Horizontally scalable through native support for partitioning, replication, and sharding. Offers multi-node capabilities for distributing data and queries across nodes.
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.
TimescaleDB is an open source time series database built on top of PostgreSQL. It was created to address the challenges of managing time series data, such as scalability, query performance, and data retention policies. TimescaleDB was first released in 2017 and has since become a popular choice for storing and analyzing time series data due to its PostgreSQL compatibility, performance optimizations, and flexible data retention policies.
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.
TimescaleDB for Time Series Data
TimescaleDB is specifically designed for time series data, making it a natural choice for storing and querying such data. It provides several advantages for time series data management like horizontal scalability, columnar storage, and retention policy support. However, TimescaleDB may not be the best choice for all time series use cases. One example would be if an application requires very high write throughput or real-time analytics, other specialized time series databases like InfluxDB may be more suitable.
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.
TimescaleDB Key Concepts
- Hypertable: A hypertable is a distributed table that is partitioned by time and possibly other dimensions, such as device ID or location. It is the primary abstraction for storing time series data in TimescaleDB and is designed to scale horizontally across multiple nodes.
- Chunk: A chunk is a partition of a hypertable, containing a subset of the hypertable’s data. Chunks are created automatically by TimescaleDB based on a specified time interval and can be individually compressed, indexed, and backed up for better performance and data management.
- Distributed Hypertables: For large-scale deployments, TimescaleDB supports distributed hypertables, which partition data across multiple nodes for improved query performance and fault tolerance.
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.
TimescaleDB is an extension built on PostgreSQL, inheriting its relational data model and SQL support. However, TimescaleDB extends PostgreSQL with custom data structures and optimizations for time series data, such as hypertables and chunks.
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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.
TimescaleDB automatically partitions time series data tables using hypertables and chunks, which simplifies data management and improves query performance.
Time series focused SQL functions
TimescaleDB provides several specialized SQL functions and operators for time series data application scenarios, such as time_bucket, first, and last, which simplify querying and aggregating time series data.
As mentioned earlier, TimescaleDB extends PostgreSQL’s query planner for writing and querying time series data, including optimizations like time-based indexing and chunk pruning.
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.
TimescaleDB Use Cases
Monitoring and metrics
TimescaleDB is well-suited for storing and analyzing monitoring and metrics data, such as server performance metrics, application logs, and sensor data. Its hypertable structure and query optimizations make it easy to store, query, and visualize large volumes of time series data.
IoT data storage
TimescaleDB can be used to store and analyze IoT data, such as sensor readings and device status information. Its support for automatic partitioning and specialized SQL interfaces simplifies the management and querying of large-scale IoT datasets.
TimescaleDB is suitable for storing and analyzing financial data, such as stock prices, exchange rates, and trading volumes. Its query optimizations and specialized SQL functions make it easy to perform time-based aggregations and analyze trends in financial data.
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.
TimescaleDB Pricing Model
TimescaleDB is available in two editions: TimescaleDB Open Source and TimescaleDB Cloud. The open-source edition is free to use and can be self-hosted, while the cloud edition is a managed service with a pay-as-you-go pricing model based on storage, compute, and data transfer usage. TimescaleDB Cloud offers various pricing tiers with different levels of resources and features, such as continuous backups and high availability.
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