Whether you are running a few Docker containers, or a few thousand, keeping a close eye on the health of these containers is imperative to keeping your applications up and running. In this article, we’ll break down the top Docker container monitors to help ensure your apps are always accessible.
Here’s our list of the best Docker container monitoring tools:
- SolarWinds Server & Application Monitor (FREE TRIAL)
- Paessler PRTG (FREE TRIAL)
- AppOptics Docker Monitoring (FREE TRIAL)
- ManageEngine Application Manager
The best Docker container monitoring tools
SolarWinds Server & Application Monitor (SAM) comes in at the top spot for Docker container monitoring due to its ease of use, scalability, and visual alerting features. No matter how many Docker containers you need to keep an eye on, Application Monitor can scale accordingly without much effort at all.
On the main dashboard, you’ll be able to visualize the health of all of your Docker containers, as well as the cumulative health of all of them combined. With a quick glance, the health overview can immediately let you know what needs your attention, and what is in working order. You can sort the view by most used containers, application type, or alert status. While the default layout is great, the entire dashboard is customizable to what you find important.
Historical as well as real-time resource consumption is readily available through the reporting dashboard. This interface makes looking for anomalies an easy task and takes the pain out of having to dig through text-based log files.
If you’re growing quickly you’ll find the capacity planning feature incredibly helpful. Capacity planning uses historical resource usage data to forecast your future needs and gives an estimate when that container will reach its capacity. This can be broken down by resource estimating the memory, CPU, and storage needs individually.
If your business provides Service Level Agreements (SLAs), Application Monitor can assist with keeping your Docker containers online and accessible. Alerts can be configured based on thresholds you set in order to stay ahead of any bottlenecks your containers may face. SAM has plenty of built-in alert templates to get started, however customizing them to your liking is a simple process.
SolarWinds Server & Application Monitor provides a holistic and simple solution to monitoring your Docker environment. You can test out the full version of SAM completely free for 30 days.
Paessler PRTG is a bundle of IT infrastructure monitoring tools. Among the hundreds of monitors in the package are specialized monitors for containerization, including some for Docker monitoring.
Docker, and other container systems, span traditional divisions in monitoring activities. The service requires network, server, and application monitoring in combination. The broad monitoring capabilities of PRTG cover all of these areas of monitoring, which gives Paessler a strong background in all of the monitoring requirements for tracking Docker container activity.
A monitoring tool in PRTG is called a “sensor.” Paessler created a sensor that trackers Docker performance, which is called Sensor Docker Container Status. This monitor identifies all active Docker containers on the system. All status information on those identified containers is aggregated and the systems resources that they use are quantified and shown live in the PRTG dashboard.
The Docker sensor screen in the PRTG dashboard is tabbed. It enables the user to see live data and then summaries for the recent operations of Docker containers over the previous two days, 30 days, and 365 days. The sensor console also includes analytical functions that act on historical data.
Each of the resources that Docker containers use has a finite capacity. These services include memory, disk space, and network traffic bandwidth. A visualization section at the top of the dashboard shows color-coded dials for each of these resources. This enables at-a-glance status recognition. Paessler deploys this status color coding for all of its dashboard screens and network managers monitoring Docker will also check on other sensor consoles to investigate the root causes of any problems that get flagged in the Docker monitoring console.
PRTG is on-premises software that runs on Windows Server. The package is charged according to the number of sensors that the buyer wants to activate. Paessler offers a 30-day free trial of PRTG with unlimited sensors.
AppOptics Docker Monitoring runs as a cloud-based monitoring system and uses agents to report back the health of Docker containers. While this agent can provide data for a number of environments, it will first need the Docket plugin enabled which is included.
Once the agent is installed and the plugin is enabled, you’ll immediately start to receive CPU usage, network statistics, memory consumptions, and other health metrics into your AppOptics dashboard. The AppOptics dashboard is clean and easy to view, bringing the most relevant information to the forefront. This includes your total number of containers, their current status, and a breakdown of utilization based on resources.
If an issue should arise AppOptics allows you to drill down into the details to get a close look at what might be causing an alert. Select any container or group of containers to view service runtimes, pod metrics, or orchestrators. AppOptics integrates with SolarWinds Loggly to collect data in a more comprehensive fashion for further review.
Alerting is fairly simple to set up and can be configured by a container’s current state or a set threshold. You can choose to be alerted through a variety of different mediums including IM clients, email, Slack, or Webhook.
If you’re strictly looking to just monitor Docker containers, the AppOptic Infrastructure plan will be a good choice. However, if you’re looking to monitor other applications or servers AppOptics APM would be a better fit, as that encompasses Docker containers as well as a broader range of technologies.
You can test out Docker Monitoring through AppOptics free through a 14-day trial.
Prometheus is a widely known Docker monitoring tool and one of the best open-source options available. Unlike AppOptics, Prometheus installs via an image per container, which can take some time and configuration. This makes Prometheus better suited for smaller environments using fewer Docker containers.
Once the image is installed data will start populating the dashboard. The visualizations are simple to analyze at a glance. The configuration makes it easy to add rows or customized views. These include charts, live graphs, top containers, and performance gauges.
Metrics can be queried via the Prometheus query language right from the dashboard to pull specific reports or data. On the backend, Prometheus uses HTTP API to allow for data to be easily shared with external monitors or other applications.
While Prometheus might be one of the most popular open-source tools, many businesses may find the lack of official support troublesome if they run into issues that can’t be fixed quickly.
Prometheus is completely free and can be downloaded from the official product website.
ManageEngine Application Manager is a popular application manager that has a number of features dedicated to helping monitor Docker containers. Application Manager comes with out-of-the-box pre-configured rule templates that allow for fast and simple monitoring.
Whether you create a rule yourself or use a template, all alerts have the option to be sent via SMS, email, or webhook. While some monitoring tools suffer from constant false positives Application Managers alerting is highly configurable. You can set specific thresholds, or choose to be alerted based on anomaly detection to get ahead of any larger problems before they cause downtime.
Metrics such as disk usage, CPU, health, and overall availability are easily tracked and displayed via the dashboard. You can toggle between live view, or historical data via the Performance History tab. This makes manually identifying outlier behavior easier than going over text logs.
ManageEngine leverages root cause analysis to help stay proactive in detecting problems on the application or Docker container level. This method of monitoring can be paired with an automated resolution that can be set to trigger certain actions based on condition. There are a number of preset actions that you can choose, or you can set the action to run a custom script.
While tools like Prometheus might be better for smaller organizations, ManageEngine has the capacity to scale with your environment to support up to 50,000 applications at once.
Configuring SLA management for all or some of your containers is a straightforward process that can be configured by thresholds or how long a Docker container or application was online. Reports can be generated from the data gathered over time and are built to help you visualize your capacity planning needs.
ManageEngine Application Manager can be downloaded for a fully-featured 30-day trial. After the 30 days, the software will revert back to its free version which is limited in features and capacity.
cAdvisor is a free software tool built by Google for the sole purpose of monitoring containers. This tool can monitor all of the critical aspects of a Docker container environment and provide statistics on both the container and application level.
One main benefit of cAdvisor is its ease of use. After just a single command the cAdvisor tool will launch and configure itself. The tool itself is a container and utilizes a running daemon to pull data from all other running Docker containers.
The tool itself provides a visualization of this data through a simple dashboard interface. You can easily set it to visualize your CPU, memory, and input/outlook. The dashboard gets the job done, but tools like SolarWinds SAM and AppOptics have much better interfaces.
cAdvisor is flexible and can integrate with a host of other applications or monitors via REST API through web service applications. cAdvisor’s latest images can be installed directly on the Docker host in as little as 10 minutes.
One drawback to cAdvisor is that it lacks in-depth reporting or SLA management. You’ll also have to configure your own method for providing alerts through another application.
cAdvisor can be downloaded directly from Github.
Dynatrace is a performance and application monitor that excels at making Docker container monitoring simple and fast. Once the Dynatrace monitor is installed the tool automatically can detect new and existing Docker containers as well as the applications inside them. This saves you time on having to configure and launch an agent, or install an image directly in the container itself.
The Dynatrace default dashboard view is clean, simple, and provides a neat overview of critical events both in real-time and over a recent period of time. Metrics like CPU, slowest requests, response time, and the failure rate can all be displayed at once. The display screen is fully customizable and can be arranged for your specific monitoring needs. One feature that stands out is the global heatmap. This map uses color to indicate geographically where your applications are having the most problems.
Long term logs can be referenced later or parsed for specific events. All events can be accessed via the Log Analytics menu and filtered down to highlight what you’re looking for. The features and ease of use that Dynatrace brings to the market make it a strong contender as one of the best Docker monitoring tools. Currently, there is no public pricing information available, however, you can try a 15-day free trial of Dynatrace from the official company website.
Sematext is a lightweight Docker monitoring tool that launches itself as a small container to collect data from all other hosts and applications. Sematext is one of the most efficient and resource-conscious utilities on our list. Sematext runs efficiently by running on each of the Docker hosts directly. Some may find this off-putting when comparing it to solutions such as Dynatrace which require no configuration during onboarding.
Like many of the tools on this list, Sematext does a great job of keeping the dashboard neat and tidy and providing a spread of data via the default view. Each object on the dashboard can be moved or removed to make room for other metrics you wish to track.
Sematext also provides out-of-the-box monitoring and alert templates you can use to get up and running right away. In a few minutes, you can configure alerts for resource thresholds, network errors, and a variety of other Docker container statuses.
Log files are organized well and come with multiple different types of filter options. The interface makes it simple to transition your data from a text-based log view, to a graphic on the reporting dashboard with relative ease. Sematext has built log overage protection to ensure your logs don’t get rejected, and you don’t get any surprise bills at the end of the month. This is a nice feature, especially for businesses with many Docker containers.
Lastly, Sematext has a very user-friendly team integration that allows for multiple user access, shared logs, and individual login accounts. While most platforms charge per seat, Sematext allows for an unlimited number of users per account, making this a great option if you have a larger team.
Sematexts pricing structure is unique and contains a tiered mix of free and pay-as-you-go options. Basic monitoring starts at $0.007 (£0.0056) per hour while the standard data logging plan starts at $50.00 (£38.49) per month for 1GB per day with a one week retention period. You can get a full breakdown of the pricing structure, as well as a free trial on their website.
Choosing a Docker Monitoring Tool
It’s clear that if you manage Docker containers, you’re going to need a dependable monitor to ensure things are running smoothly. So with all these choices, which one is right for you?
Our top pick is SolarWinds Server & Application Monitor. SAM provides an excellent balance between scalability and features that are easy to implement. In under five minutes, you can have SAM running and pulling data to its dashboards.
SAM can monitor Docker containers as well as the applications inside of the containers individually. If you ever want to expand and start monitoring other applications or servers, SAM can integrate with nearly any other service and has over 1200 templates to choose from.
Do you currently monitor your Docker containers? If so, what’s your favorite tool? Let us know in the comments below.