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 Prometheus and Redis so you can quickly see how they compare against each other.
The primary purpose of this article is to compare how Prometheus and Redis 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.
Prometheus vs Redis Breakdown
Time series database
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.
Redis can be deployed on-premises, in the cloud, or as a managed service
Monitoring, alerting, observability, system metrics, application metrics
Caching, message brokering, real-time analytics, session storage, geospatial data processing
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)
Horizontally scalable via partitioning and clustering, supports data replication
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.
Redis, which stands for Remote Dictionary Server, is an open-source, in-memory data structure store that can be used as a database, cache, and message broker. It was created by Salvatore Sanfilippo in 2009 and has since gained significant popularity due to its high performance and flexibility. Redis supports various data structures, such as strings, hashes, lists, sets, sorted sets with range queries, bitmaps, hyperloglogs, and geospatial indexes with radius queries.
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.
Redis for Time Series Data
Redis has a dedicated module for working with time series data called RedisTimeSeries. RedisTimeSeries offers functionality like downsampling, data retention policies, and specialized queries for time series data in Redis. Being an in-memory database, Redis will be very fast for reading and writing time series data, but due to the cost of RAM compared to disk using Redis could become expensive depending on the size of your dataset. If your use case doesn’t require extremely fast response times, you could save money by going with a more traditional time series database.
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.
Redis Key Concepts
- In-memory store: Redis stores data in memory, which allows for faster data access and manipulation compared to disk-based databases .
- Data structures: Redis supports a wide range of data structures, including strings, hashes, lists, sets, and more, which provide flexibility in how data is modeled and stored.
- Persistence: Redis offers optional data persistence, allowing data to be periodically saved to disk or written to a log for durability.
- Pub/Sub: Redis provides a publish/subscribe messaging system, enabling real-time communication between clients without the need for a centralized message broker.
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.
Redis is a NoSQL database that uses a key-value data model, where each key is associated with a value stored as one of Redis’ supported data structures. The database is single-threaded, which simplifies its internal architecture and reduces contention. Redis can be deployed as a standalone server, a cluster, or a master-replica setup for scalability and high availability. The Redis Cluster mode automatically shards data across multiple nodes, providing data partitioning and fault tolerance.
Free Time-Series Database Guide
Get a comprehensive review of alternatives and critical requirements for selecting yours.
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.
Redis supports atomic operations on complex data types, allowing developers to perform powerful operations without worrying about race conditions or other concurrent processing issues.
Broad data structure support
Redis supports a range of data structures such as lists, sets, sorted sets, hashes, bitmaps, hyperloglog, and geospatial indexes. This flexibility allows developers to use Redis for a wide variety of tasks by using data structures that are optimized for their data in terms of performance characteristics.
Redis provides a publish/subscribe messaging system for real-time communication between clients.
Developers can run Lua scripts in the Redis server, enabling complex operations to be executed atomically in the server itself, reducing network round trips.
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.
Redis Use Cases
Redis is often used as a cache to store frequently accessed data and reduce the load on other databases or services, improving application performance and reducing latency.
Redis can be used to implement task queues, which are useful for managing tasks that take longer to process and should be executed asynchronously. This is particularly common in web applications, where background tasks can be processed independently of the request/response cycle
Real-time analysis and machine learning
Redis’ high performance and low-latency data access make it suitable for real-time analysis and machine learning applications, such as processing streaming data, media streaming, and handling time-series data. This can be achieved using Redis’ data structures and capabilities like sorted sets, timestamps, and pub/sub messaging.
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.
Redis Pricing Model
Redis is open-source software, which means it can be deployed and used freely on your own infrastructure. However, there are also managed Redis services available, such as Redis Enterprise which offer additional features, support, and ease of deployment. Pricing for these services typically depends on factors like the size of the instance, data storage, and data transfer.
Get started with InfluxDB for free
InfluxDB Cloud is the fastest way to start storing and analyzing your time series data.