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5 Best Open-Source Tools to Monitor Containers

Monitoring is essential for businesses to ensure that the required systems are up and running. Monitoring multiple aspects of IT infrastructure can be quite troublesome and cause difficulties if not done properly. Observability and monitoring play an important role in the team’s performance when it comes to DevOps. Monitoring systems help the DevOps team identify and fix performance issues faster. With Kubernetes and Docker steadily on the rise, it’s vital to get log management and container monitoring right from the start. In this post, we will learn about containers and dive deep into what container monitoring is and why you need it. Then we’ll have a list of the best open-source tools to monitor containers. Let’s get started.

Disclaimer: The list presented here is not based on any rank criteria. Listed as First could not be the best or listed as Last in the list is not the worst by any means. This is not a complete product review. Please don’t go with the order of the tools. We clarify that the order doesn’t carry any rank. We are not here to judge the rank of the tools. We created this post to share the best options available in the market. Let’s get started.

What Is A Container?

A container is a form of operating system virtualization. It might be leveraged to run anything from a small software project or microservice to a larger application. Inside a container, there are all essential executables, libraries, binary code, and configuration files. Compared to machine virtualization approaches, containers do not contain operating system images. This feature makes them portable and more lightweight, with remarkably less overhead.

Benefits of containers include

  • Less overhead 
  • Greater efficiency
  • Increased portability
  • More consistent operations
  • Better application development

Why Do You Need To Monitor Containers?

Having insight into metrics and logs provides benefits to operators of containerized platforms. With the rise of Kubernetes, Docker, and other container technologies, the growth of microservices has increased among dev teams who want to innovate on a faster release cycle. 

Understanding what is happening at the cluster or host level, and within the container runtime and application let organizations make better, informed decisions. It helps determine when to scale instances, make changes to instance types, and purchasing options, such as on-demand, reserved, and spot.

Container monitoring provides you with the following advantages.

  • It helps identify problems actively to avoid system outages.
  • Implement changes securely by detecting problems early and resolving them promptly.
  • It monitors time-series data to let the application run better. 

What Is The Need Of Container Monitoring Tools?

Monitoring containers is not much different from monitoring conventional deployments. In both cases, you need metrics, logs, health checks, and service discovery. Containers provide significant benefits to cloud-based microservices and allow organizations of all sizes to configure a large number of containers to power their applications.

Container monitoring tools help keep track of container performance, analyze the impacts of resource sharing, and gather event data. An efficient container monitoring tool should provide an overview of your entire application and relevant information on each component. 

Here is what you should consider while selecting a container monitoring tool.

  • It should provide insights into application performance concerning business and technical platforms.
  • It should enable you to correlate events and logs to spot abnormalities and respond to events proactively to minimize damage.
  • It allows you to add instrumentation to code.
  • It allows you to configure alarms, alerts, and automation.

Popular Open-Source Tools To Monitor Containers

Container monitoring is a complex task due to its multi-layered and dynamic nature. However, with the right tool in place, you can navigate through all layers within the stack. All you need to do is choose the best monitoring tool based on your use cases. Here are some best open-source tools to monitor containers. 

MetricFire

MetricFire provides a complete infrastructure and app monitoring platform from a set of open-source monitoring tools. You can either choose Graphite- or Prometheus-as-a-Service based on your requirements. Moreover, you can understand complex systems at a glance using MetricFire, as it has powerful monitoring capabilities. 

Here are some of the MetricFire features.

  • Cloud and on-premise monitoring_ MetricFire provides cloud monitoring for any business scale, or customers can choose on-promise.
  • Hosted Prometheus_ It’s a scalable and powerful open-source toolkit for system monitoring.
  • Hosted Graphite_ specializes in storing numeric time-series data and rendering graphs for data.
  • Grafana Dashboards_ Provides deeper insights of your data on featured-rich graph and dashboard editors.

The tool provides support for Kubernetes and Docker containers.

cAdvisor

cAdvisor or container advisor provides insights and understanding of performance characteristics and resource usage of running containers. It’s a running daemon that gathers, aggregates, processes, and exports data and information about running containers. For each container, it keeps historic resource usage, isolation parameters, and histograms of historical resource usage and network stats. 

  • It’s an open-source container resource usage collector.
  • Provides native support for Docker containers.
  • It operates per node. cAdvisor auto-discovers all containers in a given node and gathers resource usage statistics.
  • Supports exporting stats to several storage plugins

cAdvisor has native support for the Docker container. For Kubernetes users, it can run as a DaemonSet.

Prometheus

Prometheus is one of the most popular tools used to monitor Kubernetes. It was developed by SoundCloud and then donated to Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF). This tool collects metrics from deployed targets at given intervals, assesses rule expressions, displays results, and triggers alerts when certain conditions are observed.

Here are features of Prometheus that distinguish it from other monitoring tools.

  • A multi-dimensional data model.
  • No dependency on distribution storage
  • PromQL, a flexible and powerful query language to use this dimensionality
  • An HTTP pull model for the time series collection
  • Targets are discovered via static configuration or service discovery.
  • Pushing time series is supported through an intermediary gateway for batch jobs
  • Multiple nodes of dashboarding and graphing support
  • Support for horizontal and hierarchical federation

Prometheus can be run easily on top of Kubernetes through the Prometheus Operator.

Sensu

Sensu provides an end-to-end observability pipeline where you can gather, filter, and transform monitoring events. It enables you to gain visibility into containers, servers, applications, and connected devices. Sensu can be run in the Kubernetes cluster side-by-side with the Prometheus to get the most of these solutions. Moreover, it can operate natively in Kubernetes, having its own server to store and visualize metric data.

Here are the features of Sensus.

  • Health checks, custom metrics, and logs
  • Alerts and incident management
  • End-point management
  • Auto-remediation
  • Monitoring as code
  • Observability control plane

Sysdig

Sysdig allows you to maximize the availability and performance of cloud infrastructure, applications, and services. It provides deep insights into rapidly evolving container environments. It allows you to resolve issues faster by leveraging granular data derived from actual system calls, enriched with cloud and Kubernetes context. Moreover, Sysdig can scale to millions of metrics with long-term retention and a single backend.

Sysdig monitor features include

  • Prometheus compatibility
  • Curated Prometheus exporters
  • Out-of-the-box dashboards
  • Adaptive alerts
  • Kubernetes troubleshooting
  • Sysdig teams

Premium Tools to Monitor Containers

If you have a plan to see about premium tools. Here are the two best premium tools to monitor containers.

Solar Winds

Solarwinds Server and Application Monitor offer monitoring for Docker containers. It provides insights into the Docker metrics alongside Linux and Windows metrics based on the selected environment. Solarwinds Orion platform supports monitoring for these Linux-based container environments as well.

  • Docker swarm 17.12 and later
  • Kubernetes
  • Apache Mesos

Some of its features include

  • Track Docker resource performance metrics
  • Monitor multiple containers and container deployment
  • Use infrastructure metrics for capacity planning
  • Monitor Docker application performance
  • Track and analyze overall system performance

Sematext

Sematext is a monitoring solution for both conventional and microservice-based applications deployed on Kubernetes that capture metrics and events in real-time. It allows you to set up alerts on metrics and logs, build customizable monitoring dashboards, and log analytics. With the Sematext discovery feature, you can discover and monitor your containerized applications continuously and set up log monitoring and performance monitoring directly from the UI. 

Features of Sematext container monitoring tools include

  • Native and lightweight container monitoring agent
  • In-container Service Auto-Discovery
  • Faster Troubleshooting with real-time container data
  • Unified software for containerized environment

Conclusion

Regardless of the number of containers you are running, monitoring is essential to keep your application up and working. Open-source monitoring tools are used to monitor the status of the framework being utilized and detect failures, issues, and defects to optimize the performance. In this article, we have discussed a partial list of open-source tools to monitor containers. These tools are widely used in the tech industry for container monitoring. Choosing the right tool based on your requirements, as it is essential for the successful monitoring of containerized applications. 

About the author

Arun KL

Hi All, I am Arun KL, an IT Security Professional. Founder of “thesecmaster.com”. Enthusiast, Security Blogger, Technical Writer, Editor, Author at TheSecMaster. To know more about me. Follow me on LinkedIn

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