Open Source Monitoring vs Proprietary Software

in Visualization , Monitoring and Observability

Open Source Monitoring vs Proprietary Software

Compare using open source monitoring software with proprietary software. Take a look at how to keep costs down while getting the functionality and freedom of open source monitoring.

    Avoiding vendor lock-in

    It’s easy to get pulled into paying more and more at a major monitoring company, despite not getting the functionality that you’re looking for. Leaving your monitoring provider can be difficult because it means replacing expensive software or hardware, re-educating your team, and transferring huge amounts of data to a new system - data which may or may not be well suited to the new system. Despite these issues, there are many reasons that motivate users to move to open source. 

    Major monitoring services are often not flexible with customizations, custom written plugins, or on-premises setups. Many products have steep learning curves which makes educating employees time-consuming. As well, costs can be astronomical as a result of itemized and hidden costs.

    Vendor lock-in is created when:

    1. There are proprietary methods of creating, labelling, and storing data that makes it difficult to transfer data to new systems.
    2. There are proprietary concepts of structuring for the monitoring, making it difficult to replicate your monitoring outside of your existing provider.
    3. There is specific product-centered knowledge that makes it hard to move off of your product, or transition to a new product.

    Users are motivated to move to open source because:

    1. Major monitoring services have surprising hidden costs.
    2. They are lacking specific functionalities.
    3. They are lacking customizations/plugins/on-premises setups.

    Open source is open

    Open source Graphite and Prometheus are flexible open-source monitoring tools that allow users to customize how they see fit. Users can download the software and start using it with no contract signing, no commitment, and no limited-time free trials. 

    You can access all of your data all of the time, you can change the software by writing new plugins, and you can set up custom dashboards. There are hundreds of developers creating new plugins and adapting the software to new situations every day, and all of this information is open and available to anyone.

    Using open source is free

    Using open source monitoring tools is free. Open source Graphite and Prometheus are great tools for monitoring time series data, and it is easy to pair them with Grafana for visualization and alerts. It’s possible to use all of these tools at your company with zero cost.

    However, operating open-source software isn’t free

    The danger of open source monitoring is seen when your production grows too large for you to be able to easily manage it on your own. It might be really cheap to monitor a small system with Graphite, but when that system expands, it can get more and more difficult, costing you time and money. 

    This is where a hosted open source solution, such as MetricFire’s Hosted Graphite or Hosted Prometheus, succeeds.

    Open source has its benefits and its challenges

    The benefits are:

    1. The software is free and available to anyone
    2. Strong community support for customizations and adaptations
    3. Constant development
    4. Easy customization for developers (source code fully available)
    5. Great monitoring software with broad functionality

    The challenges are:

    1. Running an open source project at production level is intense, and requires the full attention of at least one engineer, if not more. This becomes expensive.
    2. There's no customer support from a team of monitoring experts for when something goes down.
    3. Constant updates and changes can be a challenge to maintain on your own.
    4. Huge changes, such as deploying to Kubernetes and docker, can go beyond the scope of your original installation.
    5. Storing data. You will need to plan where to keep your data, how long you want to keep it, and how to monitor your data center.
    6. Scaling can be difficult even if you have the expertise in house - it requires remote data storage, data redundancy, and dealing with everyday issues such as a slow querying speed.

    Hosted Open Source Solutions are the best of both worlds

    At MetricFire, we host open source Graphite, Prometheus and Grafana so that our customers don’t have to worry about the challenges of running open source monitoring software. Whenever the monitoring gets too time-consuming, you can easily offload the work to MetricFire. No changes in your system, no new technology or skills - just send the metrics over and keep going as usual.

    To test it out, sign up for the MetricFire free trial here. You can also book a demo and talk to us directly if you have any questions. 

    MetricFire provides an open source experience, combined with customer support

    We are built on open source Prometheus, Graphite, and Grafana, so we can offer:

    Constant development: MetricFire continuously integrates the best of open-source technology into our product offering, which is continually changing and evolving as the open-source community grows. 

    Future-proofed option: MetricFire is founded in open source products that have huge developer communities, and are still growing. These communities will continue to adapt the software as new technology comes out, making MetricFire resilient to changes in the industry.  

    Extensive plugins: MetricFire users can apply the huge diversity of plugins built by the open source community, at no extra cost. 

    Easy-to-find employees: You can easily hire and drop-in a SRE/software engineer from the job market, as most of them are already familiar with the technology.

    MetricFire improves upon the open source technology

    As MetricFire is a corporation, and not just an open source contributor, we have the resources to improve upon the open-source projects. Here are some of the ways we improve upon Graphite, Prometheus, and Grafana:

    Alerting: Open-source Graphite doesn’t come equipped with Alerting. At MetricFire, we build a central Graphite alerting service, which is faster, and more reliable than the oft-used but difficult-to-manage Grafana alerting.

    Unified monitoring: Graphite and Prometheus are two separate monitoring technologies. We host both technologies for you and offer a unified and seamless UI to access both. No more forcing all your monitoring needs into a single technology; no more square pegs, round holes.

    Awesome team dashboards: Graphite and Prometheus only have out-of-box barebones graphing tools. We integrate both with hosted Grafana to give everyone in your team access to great Grafana dashboards.

    Out-of-box dashboards: Upon account creation, or installation of our plugins (AWS, Heroku, etc.), dashboards magically appear to get you going quickly.

    Long-term storage: No more sleepless nights worrying if your Graphite or Prometheus will collapse when it runs out of disk space or storage. We auto-scale horizontally while you sleep.

    Metricfire is Agile: MetricFire is an agile company that is able to work closely with our enterprise customers to incorporate their needs into our roadmap. Our customers’ needs define the direction that MetricFire will go. We are looking to build features that you need, that you can’t find anywhere else. We can immediately offer a level of customization that is impossible to find at larger vendors.


    Open source monitoring tools such as Graphite, Prometheus, and Grafana are a great solution for avoiding vendor lock in and getting high value out of your resources. However, running open source can be extremely difficult to scale, making it more resource-consuming than expected. MetricFire is a great option for those looking to get the best of the open source monitoring products, at lower operational costs, and with great customer support. 

    To try out MetricFire, sign up for our free trial here, and build your own dashboards today. If you’re looking to talk to our team directly, book a demo and talk with us about how MetricFire can help with your monitoring needs. 

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    MetricFire provides a complete infrastructure and application monitoring platform from a suite of open source monitoring tools. Depending on your setup, choose Hosted Prometheus or Graphite and view your metrics on beautiful Grafana dashboards in real-time.

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