This content is part of the Essential Guide: An introduction to containers and orchestration for IT admins

Select the best container monitoring tools for your environment

Organizations that run containers should monitor them, too. Choose container monitoring that integrates into other systems monitoring tools, or take a different route.

IT should monitor everything in production, and containers are no exception.

Many IT organizations already have network, server and application monitoring tools in place to observe critical assets in the data center. They can also evaluate dedicated container monitoring tools.

Container monitoring tools

For the most detailed information available about containers, talk to the container engine itself. The container engine, which builds and deploys containers from images, knows exactly where those containers are running and what resources they consume. On Docker, for example, docker stats returns a fair amount critical data about the containers. And some tools specifically monitor containers.

CAdvisor shows essential container properties graphically on a real-time monitoring dashboard, but without any option to go back and track what has happened in the past. For monitoring trend analysis, cAdvisor can export data for another application.

If your company already trusts a good monitoring tool for its networks, you should integrate container monitoring into it.

Prometheus is a promising open source monitoring technology from the container world. Prometheus works with data that tools, such as cAdvisor, export, as well as with Docker containers directly. This makes Prometheus a good option for containers, even if other solutions are available as well.

As most container platforms use an open API, there's no need to stick within that platform. Any monitoring application can get information from the API directly. If your company already trusts a good monitoring tool for its networks, you should integrate container monitoring into it.

Network and IT asset monitoring tools

Zabbix, Nagios and Zenoss are all established IT monitoring tools, used to observe critical routers, switches, servers, workstations and other assets. Each includes support to monitor containers through agents installed on the container platform.

Zenoss comes as pure open source or in an enterprise supported tool to monitor servers, applications, cloud and other IT assets. Zenoss Core, the open source option, lacks the reporting and analytics capabilities the paid product, Zenoss Service Dynamics. Both options support ZenPack extensions, such as the Docker ZenPack, which discovers containers and monitors critical parameters on them.

Nagios similarly monitors assets throughout the application stack and is available in supported, augmented versions or upstream open source form. Nagios Remote Plugin Executor, commonly called NRPE, is a sort agent that is started on the container host and accesses the container engine API to access any type container information that is exposed through the API.

Finally, Zabbix is an open source monitoring tool with paid support choices. In addition to the network, it monitors VMs, services, cloud and other areas. The Zabbix Docker module offers native support to monitor Docker containers, as well as some other container types, such as Linux Containers. Turn to network-focused tools if the container monitoring should be part of the bigger picture, integrated with overall corporate IT management.

What are the best container monitoring tools?

These and many more options are available to monitor containers, so selection of container monitoring tools revolves around which technology is best for the environment. It depends. In an IT organization or group within the organization that mainly uses containerized services, evaluate tools designed with containers in mind, such as Prometheus. However, if containers are just a part of a bigger network infrastructure or if network admins also want to monitor containers alongside the container-specific team, look for a network monitoring platform that supports integration.

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