Open Source Prevails in Monitoring, CNCF Finds

The Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF) today published the results of a survey of end users that finds only one commercial monitoring platform has thus far gained traction among organizations that have adopted Kubernetes.

The three monitoring tools that received the most votes in terms of adoption are the open source Prometheus, Grafana and Elastic projects, followed by OpenMetrics, an open source project for standardizing metrics, and Datadog, the only commercial offering.

The five tools that received the most votes overall were Prometheus, Grafana, Elastic, Jaeger, OpenTelemetry, all of which are open source projects.

A separate set of tools recommended by several end users but lacked either enough total responses or only received a few “Adopt” votes includes Jaeger, Splunk, LightStep, StatsD, CloudWatch and Sentry. The CNCF report lists these under a “Trial versus Adopt” category as a result. Splunk, LightStep, CloudWatch and Sentry are commercial platforms.

Cheryl Hung, vice president for ecosystems for the CNCF, says the results of the latest CNCF End User Technology Radars report shows among IT teams that have adopted Kubernetes there’s a strong predilection toward open source tools. However, it does take considerable effort to stand up and maintain an open source monitoring platform, so it remains to be seen how much enterprise organizations will continue to rely on open source monitoring tools as Kubernetes environments continue to scale, she notes.

In the meantime, the report notes half of the respondents are using five or more tools to monitor Kubernetes environments, with a third having experience with 10 or more tools. Two-thirds of the respondents said they are using Grafana to better visualize data collected by Prometheus.

In general, many IT organizations rely on software-as-a-service (SaaS) platforms to monitor legacy monolithic applications. Most of those platforms have added support for Kubernetes in the last year and can consume metrics data from Prometheus in addition to being compatible with open source agents such as OpenTelemetry. Over time, IT organizations that prefer to not stand up and maintain their own monitoring platforms are expected to employ these services to monitor Kubernetes environments.

Short-term, however, IT teams that have the technical skills to stand up Kubernetes clusters are also deploying their own monitoring platforms. Many of the organizations that have adopted Kubernetes tend to have advanced IT skills. At the same time, many enterprise IT organizations have also adopted “open source first” mantras as part of an effort to reduce IT licensing costs.

The trade-off, of course, is that organizations wind up allocating a substantial amount of time and effort toward maintaining open source software that they have to integrate. That issue is already the primary reason many organizations have opted to rely on managed Kubernetes services provided mainly by cloud service providers.

Clearly, the Kubernetes ecosystem is still evolving. Each IT organization will need to determine the right mix of self-hosted and managed services based on commercial and open source software for them. Chances are high, however, that for most organizations, the right answer is going to be all of the above.

Mike Vizard

Mike Vizard is a seasoned IT journalist with over 25 years of experience. He also contributed to IT Business Edge, Channel Insider, Baseline and a variety of other IT titles. Previously, Vizard was the editorial director for Ziff-Davis Enterprise as well as Editor-in-Chief for CRN and InfoWorld.

Mike Vizard has 1417 posts and counting. See all posts by Mike Vizard