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 TimescaleDB so you can quickly see how they compare against each other.
The primary purpose of this article is to compare how Elasticsearch 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.
Elasticsearch vs TimescaleDB 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)
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)
Full-text search, log and event data analysis, real-time application monitoring, analytics
Monitoring, observability, IoT, real-time analytics, financial market data
Horizontally scalable with support for data sharding, replication, and distributed querying
Horizontally scalable through native support for partitioning, replication, and sharding. Offers multi-node capabilities for distributing data and queries across nodes.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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