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 MongoDB and Prometheus so you can quickly see how they compare against each other.
The primary purpose of this article is to compare how MongoDB 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.
MongoDB vs Prometheus Breakdown
Time series database
MongoDB uses a flexible, JSON-like document model for storing data, which allows for dynamic schema changes without downtime. It supports ad hoc queries, indexing, and real-time aggregation. MongoDB can be deployed as a standalone server, in a replica set configuration for high availability, or as a sharded cluster for horizontal scaling. It is also available as a managed cloud service called MongoDB Atlas, which provides additional features like automated backups, monitoring, and global distribution.
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.
SSPL for community edition, commercial licenses for other versions
Content management systems, mobile applications, real-time analytics, IoT data management, e-commerce platforms
Monitoring, alerting, observability, system metrics, application metrics
Horizontally scalable with support for data sharding, replication, and automatic load balancing
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)
MongoDB is a popular, open-source NoSQL database launched in 2009. Designed to handle large volumes of unstructured and semi-structured data, MongoDB offers a flexible, schema-less data model, horizontal scalability, and high performance. Its ease of use, JSON-based document storage, and support for a wide range of programming languages have contributed to its widespread adoption across various industries and applications.
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.
MongoDB for Time Series Data
Although MongoDB is a general-purpose NoSQL database, it can be used for storing and processing time series data. The flexible data model of MongoDB allows for easy adaptation to the evolving structure of time series data, such as the addition of new metrics or the modification of existing ones. MongoDB provides built-in support for time-to-live (TTL) indexes, which automatically expire old data after a specified time period, making it suitable for managing large volumes of time series data with a limited storage capacity. MongoDB has also recently added a custom columnar storage engine and time series collection for time series use cases, meant to improve performance over the default MongoDB storage engine in terms of data compression and query performance.
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.
MongoDB Key Concepts
Some key terminology and concepts specific to MongoDB include:
- Database: A MongoDB database is a container for collections, which are groups of related documents.
- Collection: A collection in MongoDB is analogous to a table in relational databases, holding a set of documents.
- Document: A document in MongoDB is a single record, stored in a JSON-like format called BSON (Binary JSON). Documents within a collection can have different structures.
- Field: A field is a key-value pair within a document, similar to an attribute or column in a relational database.
- Index: An index in MongoDB is a data structure that improves the query performance on specific fields within a collection.
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.
MongoDB’s architecture is centered around its flexible, document-based data model. As a NoSQL database, MongoDB supports a schema-less structure, which allows for the storage and querying of diverse data types, such as nested arrays and documents. MongoDB can be deployed as a standalone server, a replica set, or a sharded cluster. Replica sets provide high availability through automatic failover and data redundancy, while sharded clusters enable horizontal scaling and load balancing by distributing data across multiple servers based on a shard key.
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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Flexible Data Model
MongoDB’s schema-less data model allows for the storage and querying of diverse data types, making it well-suited for handling complex and evolving data structures.
MongoDB’s replica set feature ensures high availability through automatic failover and data redundancy.
MongoDB’s sharded cluster architecture enables horizontal scaling and load balancing, allowing it to handle large-scale data processing and querying.
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.
MongoDB Use Cases
Content Management Systems
MongoDB’s flexible data model makes it an ideal choice for content management systems, which often require the ability to store and manage diverse content types, such as articles, images, and videos. The schema-less nature of MongoDB allows for easy adaptation to changing content structures and requirements.
IoT Data Storage and Analytics
MongoDB’s support for high data volumes and horizontal scalability makes it suitable for storing and processing data generated by IoT devices, such as sensor readings and device logs. Its ability to index and query data efficiently allows for real-time analytics and monitoring of IoT devices.
MongoDB’s flexibility and performance features make it an excellent choice for e-commerce platforms, where diverse product information, customer data, and transaction records need to be stored and queried efficiently. The flexible data model enables easy adaptation to changes in product attributes and customer preferences, while the high availability and scalability features ensure a smooth and responsive user experience.
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.
MongoDB Pricing Model
MongoDB offers various pricing options, including a free, open-source Community Edition and a commercial Enterprise Edition, which includes advanced features, management tools, and support. MongoDB Inc. also offers a fully managed cloud-based database-as-a-service, MongoDB Atlas, with a pay-as-you-go pricing model based on storage, data transfer, and compute resources. MongoDB Atlas offers a free tier with limited resources for users who want to try the service without incurring costs.
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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