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 RRDtool and SQL Server so you can quickly see how they compare against each other.
The primary purpose of this article is to compare how RRDtool and SQL Server 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.
RRDtool vs SQL Server Breakdown
Time series database
RRDtool is a single-node, non-distributed database generally deployed on a single machine
SQL Server can be deployed on-premises, in virtual machines, or as a managed cloud service (Azure SQL Database) on Microsoft Azure. It is available in multiple editions tailored to different use cases, such as Express, Standard, and Enterprise.
Monitoring, observability, Network performance tracking, System metrics, Log data storage
Transaction processing, business intelligence, data warehousing, analytics, web applications, enterprise applications
Limited scalability- more suitable for small to medium-sized datasets
Supports vertical and horizontal scaling, with features like partitioning, sharding, and replication for distributed environments
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.
SQL Server Overview
Microsoft SQL Server is a powerful and widely used relational database management system developed by Microsoft. Initially released in 1989, it has evolved over the years to become one of the most popular database systems for businesses of all sizes. SQL Server is known for its robust performance, security, and ease of use. It supports a variety of platforms, including Windows, Linux, and containers, providing flexibility for different deployment scenarios.
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.
SQL Server for Time Series Data
While Microsoft SQL Server is primarily a relational database, it does offer support for time series data through various features and optimizations. Temporal tables allow for tracking changes in data over time, providing an efficient way to store and query historical data. Indexing and partitioning can be leveraged to optimize time series data storage and retrieval. However, SQL Server may not be the best choice for applications requiring high write or query throughput specifically for time series data, as specialized time series databases offer more optimized solutions as well as a variety of developer productivity features that speed up development time for applications that heavily use time series data.
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.
SQL Server Key Concepts
- T-SQL: Transact-SQL, an extension of SQL that adds procedural programming elements, such as loops, conditional statements, and error handling, to the standard SQL language.
- SSMS: SQL Server Management Studio, an integrated environment for managing SQL Server instances, databases, and objects.
- Always On: A suite of high availability and disaster recovery features in SQL Server, including Always On Availability Groups and Always On Failover Cluster Instances.
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.
SQL Server Architecture
Microsoft SQL Server is a relational database that uses SQL for querying and manipulating data. It follows a client-server architecture, with the database server hosting the data and processing requests from clients. SQL Server supports both on-premises and cloud-based deployment through Azure SQL Database, a managed service offering in the Microsoft Azure cloud. SQL Server’s architecture includes components such as the Database Engine, which processes data storage and retrieval, and various services for reporting, integration, and analysis.
Free Time-Series Database Guide
Get a comprehensive review of alternatives and critical requirements for selecting yours.
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.
SQL Server Features
SQL Server offers advanced security features, such as Transparent Data Encryption, Always Encrypted, and row-level security, to protect sensitive data.
SQL Server supports scaling out through features like replication, distributed partitioned views, and Always On Availability Groups.
SQL Server Integration Services (SSIS) is a powerful platform for building high-performance data integration and transformation solutions.
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.
SQL Server Use Cases
SQL Server is commonly used as the backend database for enterprise applications, providing a reliable and secure data storage solution.
Data Warehousing and Business Intelligence
SQL Server’s built-in analytical features, such as Analysis Services and Reporting Services, make it suitable for data warehousing and business intelligence applications.
SQL Server’s performance and scalability features enable it to support the demanding workloads of e-commerce platforms, handling high volumes of transactions and user data.
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.
SQL Server Pricing Model
Microsoft SQL Server offers a variety of licensing options, including per-core, server + CAL (Client Access License), and subscription-based models for cloud deployments. Costs depend on factors such as the edition (Standard, Enterprise, or Developer), the number of cores, and the required features. For cloud-based deployments, Azure SQL Database offers a pay-as-you-go model with various service tiers to accommodate different performance and resource requirements.
Get started with InfluxDB for free
InfluxDB Cloud is the fastest way to start storing and analyzing your time series data.