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Grafana Labs Cortex v1.0 GA

April 3, 2020

Cortex v1.0 is an open source Cloud Native Computing Foundation sandbox project, is a scalable, durable, and fast Prometheus-compatible monitoring system. Over the past three years, Prometheus adoption has increased 15x to over 250,000 active instances, driven predominantly by the growth of the cloud-native ecosystem. Prometheus was the second project to be accepted into the Cloud Native Computing Foundation—after Kubernetes—and has become the de facto standard monitoring system for Kubernetes.

“For large organizations looking for an ‘enterprise-ready’ Prometheus system that can deploy at high scale and reliability, Cortex is the answer,” said Tom Wilkie, VP Product at Grafana Labs and Cortex author. “Cortex has really hit the mainstream this past year helping enterprises adopt Prometheus, and leading the charge to deliver a scalable solution with blazing fast Prometheus metrics.”

Grafana Labs offers hosted Prometheus powered by Cortex as part of Grafana Cloud, its fully managed logging and metrics platform, as well as Enterprise Support subscriptions for organizations running Cortex on premise.

Cortex has been used in production at select locations for more than three years, including at Grafana Labs. Now it is ready for wider enterprise adoption: Cortex v1.0 offers production documentation, turn-key Grafana dashboards and Prometheus alerts, and an easy-to-use “single process” mode.

Cortex: A History
Cortex was started by Tom Wilkie and Julius Volz in June 2016 and joined the CNCF Sandbox in September 2018. An open source, Apache-licensed project, it allows users to query metrics from many Prometheus servers in a single place, without any gaps in the graphs due to server failure. Cortex also enables storing Prometheus metrics for long-term capacity planning and performance analysis.

Cortex leads the way in high-performance Prometheus queries, allowing users to run real time queries against tens of billions of data points. To date, the Cortex project has attracted 2,500 stargazers on GitHub and almost 100 contributors, with maintainers from four different companies, including Microsoft and Splunk.

Grafana Labs employs five of the eight Cortex maintainers, including Wilkie. The company is leading Cortex development; contributions include query performance gains, a horizontally scalable alerting and rule evaluation service, and backends for Google Bigtable and Google Cloud Storage.

Cortex End User Stories
Gojek is a decacorn startup that serves millions of users across Southeast Asia with its mobile wallet, GoPay, and more than 20 services on its super app. To support multiple markets, the systems team at Gojek focused on building an infrastructure for speed, reliability, and scale. By 2019, the team realized it needed a new monitoring system that could keep up with Gojek’s ever-growing technology organization, which led them to Cortex, the horizontally scalable Prometheus implementation. A year later, Gojek’s Lens monitoring system has 40+ tenants, for which Cortex handles about 1.2 million samples per second.

Ultimately, Product Engineer Ankit Goel says: “Where Cortex has really helped us is to integrate the monitoring system with our existing tools. We have a lot of internal tooling, and in certain places, we needed really tight integrations with the monitoring system. So the goal is to make sure that whenever a new service or team is created, they automatically get onboarded to the monitoring platform. After people deploy, some of their system metrics and all the other standard metrics that are available for a service are automatically sent to the platform.”

The adtech company The Trade Desk™ operates at a very high scale, with request rates that are often measured in the millions per second. In need of a modern monitoring system, the infrastructure team turned to Grafana Cloud, powered by Cortex. “Query time immediately improved and many, many developers seemed to notice. Also, our reliability improved quite a bit,” said Site Reliability Engineer Patrick O’Brien. Added Carl Johnson, Director of Infrastructure and SRE: “Metrics usage frustration improved nearly overnight once we went with the hosted platform.” Read more in the full case study.

Availability and Support

Cortex v1.0 is available immediately. Grafana Labs uses Cortex to power its Prometheus Cloud backend for the Grafana Cloud SaaS product, a fully managed logging and metrics platform.

Grafana Labs also offers enterprise services and support for organizations running Cortex on premise, including support and training from Cortex maintainers and experts; and 24 x 7 x 365 coverage from the geographically distributed Grafana Labs team.

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