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 M3 and RRDtool so you can quickly see how they compare against each other.
The primary purpose of this article is to compare how M3 and RRDtool 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.
M3 vs RRDtool Breakdown
Time series database
Time series database
The M3 stack can be deployed on-premises or in the cloud, using containerization technologies like Kubernetes or as a managed service on platforms like AWS or GCP
RRDtool is a single-node, non-distributed database generally deployed on a single machine
Monitoring, observability, IoT, Real-time analytics, large-scale metrics processing
Monitoring, observability, Network performance tracking, System metrics, Log data storage
Horizontally scalable, designed for high availability and large-scale deployments
Limited scalability- more suitable for small to medium-sized datasets
M3 is a distributed time series database written entirely in Go. It is designed to collect a high volume of monitoring time series data, distribute storage in a horizontally scalable manner, and efficiently leverage hardware resources. M3 was initially developed by Uber as a scalable remote storage backend for Prometheus and Graphite and later open-sourced for broader use.
RRDtool, short for Round-Robin Database Tool, is an open-source, high-performance data logging and graphing system designed to handle time series data. Created by Tobias Oetiker in 1999, RRDtool is specifically built for storing and visualizing time-series data, such as network bandwidth, temperatures, or CPU load. Its primary feature is the efficient storage of data points, using a fixed-size database that automatically aggregates and archives older data points, ensuring that the database size remains constant over time.
M3 for Time Series Data
M3 is specifically designed for time-series data. It is a distributed and scalable time-series database optimized for handling large volumes of high-resolution data points, making it an ideal solution for storing, querying, and analyzing time-series data.
M3’s architecture focuses on providing fast and efficient querying capabilities, as well as high ingestion rates, which are essential for working with time-series data. Its horizontal scalability and high availability ensure that it can handle the demands of large-scale deployments and maintain performance as data volumes grow.
RRDtool for Time Series Data
RRDtool was created for time series data storage and visualization, making it a great fit for applications that require efficient handling of this type of data. Its round-robin database structure ensures constant storage space usage while providing automatic data aggregation and archiving. However, RRDtool may not be suitable for applications that require complex queries or relational data storage, as its focus is primarily on time series data.
M3 Key Concepts
- Time Series Compression: M3 has the ability to compress time series data, resulting in significant memory and disk savings. It uses two compression algorithms, M3TSZ and protobuf encoding, to achieve efficient data compression.
- Sharding: M3 uses virtual shards that are assigned to physical nodes. Timeseries keys are hashed to a fixed set of virtual shards, making horizontal scaling and node management seamless.
- Consistency Levels: M3 provides variable consistency levels for read and write operations, as well as cluster connection operations. Write consistency levels include One (success of a single node), Majority (success of the majority of nodes), and All (success of all nodes). Read consistency level is One, which corresponds to reading from a single nod
RRDtool Key Concepts
- Round-robin database: A fixed-size database that stores time-series data using a circular buffer, overwriting older data as new data is added.
- RRD file: A single file that contains all the configuration and data for an RRDtool database.
- Consolidation function: A function that aggregates multiple data points into a single data point, such as AVERAGE, MIN, MAX, or LAST.
M3 is designed to be horizontally scalable and handle high data throughput. It uses fileset files as the primary unit of long-term storage, storing compressed streams of time series values. These files are flushed to disk after a block time window becomes unreachable. M3 has a commit log, equivalent to the commit log or write-ahead-log in other databases, which ensures data integrity. Client Peer streaming is responsible for fetching blocks from peers for bootstrapping purposes. M3 also implements caching policies to optimize efficient reads by determining which flushed blocks are kept in memory.
RRDtool is a specialized time series database that does not use SQL or a traditional relational data model. Instead, it employs a round-robin database structure, with data points stored in a fixed-size, circular buffer. RRDtool is a command-line tool that can be used to create and update RRD files, as well as generate graphs and reports from the stored data. It can be integrated with various scripting languages, such as Perl, Python, and Ruby, through available bindings.
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M3 uses a commit log to ensure data integrity, providing durability for write operations.
M3’s client peer streaming fetches data blocks from peers for bootstrapping purposes, optimizing data retrieval and distribution.
M3 implements various caching policies to efficiently manage memory usage, keeping frequently accessed data blocks in memory for faster reads.
Efficient Data Storage
RRDtool’s round-robin database structure ensures constant storage space usage, automatically aggregating and archiving older data points.
RRDtool provides powerful graphing capabilities, allowing users to generate customizable graphs and reports from the stored time series data.
RRDtool is available on various platforms, including Linux, Unix, macOS, and Windows.
M3 Use Cases
Monitoring and Observability
M3 is particularly suitable for large-scale monitoring and observability tasks, as it can store and manage massive volumes of time-series data generated by infrastructure, applications, and microservices. Organizations can use M3 to analyze, visualize, and detect anomalies in the metrics collected from various sources, enabling them to identify potential issues and optimize their systems.
IoT and Sensor Data
M3 can be used to store and process the vast amounts of time-series data generated by IoT devices and sensors. By handling data from millions of devices and sensors, M3 can provide organizations with valuable insights into the performance, usage patterns, and potential issues of their connected devices. This information can be used for optimization, predictive maintenance, and improving the overall efficiency of IoT systems.
Financial Data Analysis
Financial organizations can use M3 to store and analyze time-series data related to stocks, bonds, commodities, and other financial instruments. By providing fast and efficient querying capabilities, M3 can help analysts and traders make more informed decisions based on historical trends, current market conditions, and potential future developments.
RRDtool Use Cases
RRDtool is often used in network monitoring applications to store and visualize metrics such as bandwidth usage, latency, and packet loss.
RRDtool can be used to track and visualize environmental data, such as temperature, humidity, and air pressure, over time.
System Performance Monitoring
RRDtool is suitable for storing and displaying system performance metrics, like CPU usage, memory consumption, and disk I/O, for server and infrastructure monitoring.
M3 Pricing Model
M3 is an open source database and can be used freely, although you will have to account for the cost of managing your infrastructure and the hardware used to run M3. Chronosphere is the co-maintainer of M3 along with Uber and also offers a hosted observability that uses M3 as the backend storage layer.
RRDtool Pricing Model
RRDtool is an open-source software, freely available for use under the GNU General Public License. Users can download, use, and modify the software at no cost. There are no commercial licensing options or paid support services offered directly by the project.
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