Comparing the best infrastructure monitoring tools for DevOps
A lot of engineers think a project is done once the code is live. In a perfect world, that could be true—alas, commits are rarely free of problems. For companies that have a lot of focus on dev but little on ops, this can quickly turn into a nightmare.
Fortunately, there are a lot of infrastructure monitoring tools out there that can help marry DevOps and keep your apps, websites, and processes running smoothly.
In this post, we’ll go over some of the most popular DevOps monitoring tools available, plus how they compare.
AWS CloudWatch: The reliable, but heavily manual, option
CloudWatch is the flagship AWS monitoring tool. Since it’s built by AWS, it’s inherently compatible with most AWS services, including EC2, EBS, RDS, SQS, and SNS.
Since CloudWatch is basically the default option, a lot of companies on AWS use it for their infrastructure monitoring. It is so burdensome, though, that it is basically a full-time job to set up and manage. For companies with a lot of resources, this may not be a problem; however, for small businesses and startups, it can cost time and effort they don’t have to spare.
Full-featured free tier: Kinda. CloudWatch itself is free up to a point, and some AWS services also have free tiers, so if you stay within those parameters, it will be free.
Datadog: Monitor all the things
Datadog is another heavy-hitter in the monitoring world. It went public in 2019, selling 24 million shares in its IPO.
Datadog is a tool that combines infrastructure monitoring as well as application performance monitoring and log management. Having a one-stop-shop for monitoring can be convenient, as it simplifies your tech stack and your costs. It’s also a powerful data analysis tool: Slice and dice your metrics across platforms for otherwise invisible insights.
But, since it covers such a broad world, it can be overwhelming to use. Just searching for the right dashboard or metric can be difficult.
The Datadog rundown:
Setup time: About 10 minutes to install, but full configuration can take weeks
Pricing: $15 per host, up to 500 hosts. Custom pricing for enterprise tier.
Full-featured free tier: No
Automation: Some, but limited to enterprise tier
Dynatrace: The pricy one
Dynatrace is an enterprise-focused APM tool that includes infrastructure monitoring, observability, and business analytics. It uses artificial intelligence to provide insights for and help you compare your metrics.
Reviewers say there is a learning curve to using the tool UI, and that the business metrics side could be more robust. Setup could be easier as well—there are some automated aspects, but full configuration requires manual work.
Dynatrace is also pretty pricy, with infrastructure monitoring starting at $21 per host.
The Dynatrace rundown:
Setup time: They claim 5 minutes, but further configuration beyond initial setup is necessary.
Pricing: Starts at $21 per host.
Full-featured free tier: No
Prometheus: The open-source option
Prometheus is an open-source monitoring tool and time-series database. Because it’s open-source, it’s heavily customizable, and it has several client libraries and integrations available.
Prometheus uses its own query language—PromQL—to pull and analyze time-series data. Reviews are mixed. Some appreciate that it aggregates your data, whereas others wish that it got more granular.
Another downside is that because it’s so customizable, setup is pretty burdensome. And while it’s great at reporting errors, it doesn’t provide insight as to why the error occurred, leaving you to dig through logs to figure it out.
The Prometheus rundown:
Setup time: Significant. The configuration section of the Prometheus docs goes on for pages.
Because Blue Matador focuses on being as automated and hands-off as possible, you may want to customize it further to show what’s most important to you. Fortunately, it allows you to add custom metrics and build your own dashboards beyond what comes out of the box.
Setup is where Blue Matador really shines. Just allow IAM access, and Blue Matador will automatically discover all your resources and set alert thresholds based on historical performance. That means you don’t need to create alerts or set thresholds yourself—though you can tweak these if you wish.
Compared to other tools, Blue Matador’s pricing is also reasonable at $10/host. If you have fewer than 5 hosts, however, you are eligible for the full-featured free tier.