Make better use of Prometheus with  Grafana, Telegraf, and Alerta


Even Better Overview

To further improve its intelligibility, Alerta also divides incoming alerts into different categories when sent by the monitoring system. If you used labels in Prometheus to ensure that alarms were sorted by different parameters, Alerta adopts this categorization without any further configuration. The cooperation between Alerta and Prometheus proved to be error-free in the test.

However, integration between the services is not quite perfect with Alerta in regard to the manipulation of alerts by the admin. Alerta offers the ability to acknowledge an alert so that it no longer appears in the list of acute alerts. However, clicking on Acknowledge does not directly affect the corresponding alert in Alertmanager. The Alerta GitHub folder contains a module [3] that can be used to retrofit this type of integration.

Undoubtedly Alerta's greatest strength is its versatility, which runs through the entire program on several levels. For example, Alerta has its own account management, which can be linked easily to external services such as OAuth or LDAP. Alerta is not explicitly built for the Prometheus Alertmanager, so it can also field alerts from a variety of other services, including classic monitoring systems like Nagios and Zabbix.

This flexibility can turn out to be a big advantage in the enterprise: If you already run classic monitoring for conventional setups and then add a cloud with Prometheus, Alerta combines all the alerts under a uniform interface. Alerta also has native interfaces for a variety of public cloud implementations, such as Amazon CloudWatch.

You can also set up multiple alarm sources of the same type in Alerta. If you run a geographically distributed setup and roll out your own Prometheus instances together with their alert managers, you can easily collect these alerts at the end in Alerta from a central location.

Alerta is a useful graphical alerting tool for Prometheus. Because the Alerta developers offer their tool in the form of a Docker container, it is very easy to try out. The Alerta configuration also presents anyone with cloud experience few challenges worth mentioning. Alerta is a genuine recommendation in this respect.


A second project, Unsee [4], also addresses the problems of the Alertmanager web interface. The software was developed by cloud provider Cloudflare and is specifically aimed at Prometheus. The comprehensive integration with other tools demonstrated by Alerta is missing from Unsee.

Unsee also takes a different approach from Alerta when it comes to visualizing alerts: Whereas Alerta is more reminiscent of Nagios or Icinga, Unsee takes the term "dashboard" seriously and arranges its alerts in boxes (Figure 5) that are distributed across the screen.

Figure 5: The Unsee dashboard approach is explicitly aimed at Prometheus users.

Unsee also communicates directly with Alertmanager through its API and thus notices defined labels that belong to alerts. Like Alerta, Unsee also displays these labels and tags. If you confirm an alert with the Acknowledge function in Alertmanager, this information also appears in Unsee.

Unsee also can handle alerts, so you can work around the Alertmanager dashboard if you wish. If you don't want to use this functionality, you can also use Unsee in read-only mode, although it requires tinkering and is not very intuitive.

Unsee is generally much simpler than Alerta, which is evident in the lack of its own user administration. Instead, the login works with the credentials the user would use in the Alertmanager web interface.

If you don't like Alerta, you will find a very lightweight yet efficient alternative in Unsee. It looks just as good and, like Alerta, is distributed by its developers as a Docker container, so trying it out is not difficult.


Prometheus alone will not meet all your needs, but if you make use of various extensions, you can look forward to receiving genuine added value in the form of extended functions. As an indicator for visual alarms, Alerta unquestionably outperforms the Prometheus Alertmanager web interface, and other external tools, such as Telegraf, are also very valuable extensions.

The Author

Martin Gerhard Loschwitz is a Telekom Public Cloud Architect for T-Systems and primarily works on topics such as OpenStack, Ceph, and Kubernetes.

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