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 Elasticsearch and Graphite so you can quickly see how they compare against each other.
The primary purpose of this article is to compare how Elasticsearch and Graphite 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.
Elasticsearch vs Graphite Breakdown
Distributed search and analytics engine, document-oriented
Time series database
Elasticsearch is built on top of Apache Lucene and uses a RESTful API for communication. It stores data in a flexible JSON document format, and the data is automatically indexed for fast search and retrieval. Elasticsearch can be deployed as a single node, in a cluster configuration, or as a managed cloud service (Elastic Cloud)
Graphite can be deployed on-premises or in the cloud, and it supports horizontal scaling by partitioning data across multiple backend nodes.
Full-text search, log and event data analysis, real-time application monitoring, analytics
Monitoring, observability, IoT, real-time analytics, DevOps, application performance monitoring
Horizontally scalable with support for data sharding, replication, and distributed querying
Horizontally scalable, supports clustering and replication for high availability and performance
Elasticsearch is an open-source distributed search and analytics engine built on top of Apache Lucene. It was first released in 2010 and has since become popular for its scalability, near real-time search capabilities, and ease of use. Elasticsearch is designed to handle a wide variety of data types, including structured, unstructured, and time-based data. It is often used in conjunction with other tools from the Elastic Stack, such as Logstash for data ingestion and Kibana for data visualization.
Graphite is an open-source monitoring and graphing tool created in 2006 by Orbitz and open sourced in 2008. Graphite is designed for storing time series data and is widely used for collecting, storing, and visualizing metrics from various sources, such as application performance, system monitoring, and business analytics.
Elasticsearch for Time Series Data
Elasticsearch can be used for time series data storage and analysis, thanks to its distributed architecture, near real-time search capabilities, and support for aggregations. However, it might not be as optimized for time series data as dedicated time series databases. Despite this, Elasticsearch is widely used for log and event data storage and analysis which can be considered time series data.
Graphite for Time Series Data
Graphite is specifically designed and optimized for time series data. It uses the Whisper database format, which efficiently stores and manages time series data by automatically aggregating and expiring data based on user-defined retention policies. Graphite supports a wide range of functions for querying, transforming, and aggregating time series data, enabling users to create custom graphs and dashboards. However, as Graphite focuses exclusively on time series data, it may not be suitable for other types of data or use cases that require more advanced data modeling or querying capabilities.
Elasticsearch Key Concepts
- Inverted Index: A data structure used by Elasticsearch to enable fast and efficient full-text searches.
- Cluster: A group of Elasticsearch nodes that work together to distribute data and processing tasks.
- Shard: A partition of an Elasticsearch index that allows data to be distributed across multiple nodes for improved performance and fault tolerance.
Graphite Key Concepts
- Metric: A metric in Graphite represents a time series data point, consisting of a path (name), timestamp, and value.
- Series: A series is a collection of metrics that are all related to the same thing. For example, you might have a series for CPU usage, a series for memory usage, and a series for disk usage.
- Whisper: Whisper is a fixed-size, file-based time series database format used by Graphite. It automatically manages data retention and aggregation.
- Carbon: Carbon is the daemon responsible for receiving, caching, and storing metrics in Graphite. It listens for incoming metrics and writes them to Whisper files.
- Graphite-web: Graphite-web is the web application that provides a user interface for visualizing and querying the stored time series data.
Elasticsearch is a distributed, RESTful search and analytics engine that uses a schema-free JSON document data model. It is built on top of Apache Lucene and provides a high-level API for indexing, searching, and analyzing data. Elasticsearch’s architecture is designed to be horizontally scalable, with data distributed across multiple nodes in a cluster. Data is indexed using inverted indices, which enable fast and efficient full-text searches.
Graphite’s architecture consists of several components, including Carbon, Whisper, and Graphite-web. Carbon is responsible for receiving metrics from various sources, caching them in memory, and storing them in Whisper files. Whisper is a file-based time series database format that efficiently manages data retention and aggregation. Graphite-web is the web application that provides a user interface for querying and visualizing the stored time series data. Graphite can be deployed on a single server or distributed across multiple servers for improved performance and scalability.
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Elasticsearch provides powerful full-text search capabilities with support for complex queries, scoring, and relevance ranking.
Elasticsearch’s distributed architecture enables horizontal scalability, allowing it to handle large volumes of data and high query loads.
Elasticsearch supports various aggregation operations, such as sum, average, and percentiles, which are useful for analyzing and summarizing data.
Real-time monitoring and visualization
Graphite provides real-time monitoring and visualization capabilities, allowing users to track and analyze their time series data as it is collected.
Flexible querying and aggregation functions
Graphite supports a wide range of functions for querying, transforming, and aggregating time series data, enabling users to create custom graphs and dashboards tailored to their specific needs.
Data retention and aggregation
Graphite’s Whisper database format automatically manages data retention and aggregation, reducing storage requirements and improving query performance.
Elasticsearch Use Cases
Log and Event Data Analysis
Elasticsearch is widely used for storing and analyzing log and event data, such as web server logs, application logs, and network events, to help identify patterns, troubleshoot issues, and monitor system performance.
Elasticsearch is a popular choice for implementing full-text search functionality in applications, websites, and content management systems due to its powerful search capabilities and flexible data model.
Elasticsearch, in combination with other Elastic Stack components, can be used for security analytics, such as monitoring network traffic, detecting anomalies, and identifying potential threats.
Graphite Use Cases
Application performance monitoring
Graphite is widely used for monitoring the performance of applications and services, helping developers and operations teams track key metrics, such as response times, error rates, and resource utilization. By visualizing these metrics in real-time, users can identify performance bottlenecks, detect issues, and optimize their applications for better performance and reliability.
Infrastructure and system monitoring
Graphite is also popular for monitoring the health and performance of servers, networks, and other infrastructure components. By collecting and analyzing metrics such as CPU usage, memory consumption, network latency, and disk I/O, IT administrators can ensure their infrastructure is running smoothly and proactively address potential issues before they impact system performance or availability.
Business analytics and metrics
In addition to technical monitoring, Graphite can be used for tracking and visualizing business-related metrics, such as user engagement, sales data, or marketing campaign performance. By visualizing and analyzing these metrics over time, business stakeholders can gain insights into trends, identify opportunities for growth, and make data-driven decisions to improve their operations.
Elasticsearch Pricing Model
Elasticsearch is open-source software and can be self-hosted without any licensing fees. However, operational costs, such as hardware, hosting, and maintenance, should be considered. Elasticsearch also offers a managed cloud service called Elastic Cloud, which provides various pricing tiers based on factors like storage, computing resources, and support. Elastic Cloud includes additional features and tools, such as Kibana, machine learning, and security features.
Graphite Pricing Model
Graphite is an open-source project, and as such, it is freely available for users to download, install, and use without any licensing fees. However, users are responsible for setting up and maintaining their own Graphite infrastructure, which may involve costs related to server hardware, storage, and operational expenses. There are also several commercial products and services that build on top of or integrate with Graphite, offering additional features, support, or managed hosting options at varying price points.
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