Build a monitoring dashboard with QuestDB and Grafana

A dashboard showing several graphs with operationnal data
Photo by Luke Chesser on Unsplash

In this tutorial, we will cover how to load demo data from .CSV files into QuestDB and to use this as a data source for a Grafana dashboard. The dashboard will have line charts as data visualizations that make use of aggregate SQL functions and Grafana global variables for sampling data based on dashboard settings.

What is Grafana?#

Grafana is an open-source visualization tool consisting of a server that connects to one or more data-sources to retrieve data, which is then visualized by the user in a browser.

The following three Grafana features will be used in this tutorial:

  1. Data source - this is how you tell Grafana where your data is stored and how you want to access it. For this tutorial, we will have a QuestDB server running which we will access via Postgres Wire using the PostgreSQL data source plugin.
  2. Dashboard - A group of widgets that are displayed together on the same screen.
  3. Panel - A single visualization which can be a graph or table.

Setup#

Start Grafana#

docker run -p 3000:3000 grafana/grafana

Once the Grafana server has started, you can access it via port 3000 (http://locahost:3000). The default login credentials are as follows:

user:admin
password:admin

Start QuestDB#

The Docker version for QuestDB can be run exposing the port 8812 for the PostgreSQL connection and port 9000 for the web and REST interface:

docker run -p 8812:8812 -p 9000:9000 questdb/questdb

Loading the dataset#

On our live demo, uses 10+ years of taxi data. For this tutorial, we have a subset of that data, the data for the whole of February 2018. You can download the compressed dataset from Amazon S3:

curl https://s3-eu-west-1.amazonaws.com/questdb.io/datasets/grafana_tutorial_dataset.tar.gz > grafana_data.tar.gz
tar -xvf grafana_data.tar.gz

There should be two datasets available as .CSV files:

  • weather.csv
  • taxi_trips_feb_2018.csv

These can be imported via curl using the /imp REST entrypoint:

curl -F data=@taxi_trips_feb_2018.csv http://localhost:9000/imp
curl -F data=@weather.csv http://localhost:9000/imp

Creating your first visualization#

Create a data source#

In Grafana, select to the cog icon to expand the Configuration menu, select Data Sources and click the Add data source button. Choose PostgreSQL plugin and configure it with the following settings:

host:localhost:8812
database:qdb
user:admin
password:quest
SSL mode:disable

If localhost cannot be resolved by the Grafana docker image, the local IP address of your machine should be used for the host field, e.g. 192.168.0.3:8812.

Note that Grafana does not validate that queries are read-only. This means it's possible to run queries such as drop table x in Grafana which would be destructive to a dataset.

To protect against this, set a dedicated QuestDB instance read-only mode by setting the property http.security.readonly=true in your server.conf. Details of setting this configuration can be found on Grafana's configuration page.

Create a dashboard and a panel#

Now that we have a data source and a dashboard, we can add a panel. Navigate to + Create and select Dashboard:

Screenshot of a new dashboard with a 'Add new panel' button

The new panel has a graphing area on the top half of the window and a query builder in the bottom half:

Screenshot of a blank panel after being created

Toggle the query editor to text edit mode by clicking the pencil icon or by clicking the Edit SQL button. The query editor will now accept SQL statements that we can input directly:

Screenshot showing how to toggle text edit mode

Paste the following query into the editor:

SELECT pickupDatetime AS time,
avg(tripDistance) AS distance
FROM ('taxi_trips_feb_2018.csv' timestamp(pickupDatetime))
WHERE $__timeFilter(pickupDatetime)
SAMPLE BY $__interval

Click the time range selector above the chart and set the following date range:

  • Set the From value to 2018-02-07 00:00:00
  • Set the To value to 2018-02-14 23:59:59 and click Apply time range

We have built our first panel with aggregations:

A panel showing the average distance traveled, filtered by taxi type and with dynamic sampling.

Query details#

To graph the average trip distance above, we use the avg() function on the tripDistance column. This function aggregates data over the specified sampling interval. If the sampling interval is 1-hour, we are calculating the average distance traveled during each 1-hour interval. You can find more information on QuestDB aggregate functions on our documentation.

There are also 2 key Grafana-specific expressions used which can be identified by the $__ prefix:

$__interval This is a dynamic interval based on the time range applied to the dashboard. By using this function, the sampling interval changes automatically as the user zooms in and out of the panel.

$__timeFilter(pickupDatetime) tells Grafana to send the start-time and end-time defined in the dashboard to the QuestDB server. Given the settings we have configured so far with our date range, Grafana translates this to the following:

pickupDatetime BETWEEN '2018-02-01T00:00:00Z' AND '2018-02-28T23:59:59Z'

These are global variables which can be used in queries and elsewhere in panels and dashboards. To learn more about the use of these variables, refer to the Grafana reference documentation on Global variables.

Adding multiple queries#

You can add multiple queries to the same panel which will display multiple lines on a graph. To demonstrate this, separate the taxi data into two series, one for cash payments and one for card payments. The first query will have a default name of A

--Cash
SELECT pickupDatetime AS time,
avg(tripDistance) AS cash
FROM ('taxi_trips_feb_2018.csv' timestamp(pickupDatetime))
WHERE $__timeFilter(pickupDatetime)
AND paymentType IN ('Cash')
SAMPLE BY $__interval

Click + Query to add a second query (automatically labeled B) and paste the following in text mode:

--Card
SELECT pickupDatetime AS time,
avg(tripDistance) AS card
FROM ('taxi_trips_feb_2018.csv' timestamp(pickupDatetime))
WHERE $__timeFilter(pickupDatetime)
AND paymentType IN ('Card')
SAMPLE BY $__interval

Both queries are now layered on the same panel with a green line for cash and a yellow line for card payments:

A panel showing the average distance travelled, filtered by taxi type and with dynamic sampling.

We can see in this graph that the distance traveled by those paying with cards is longer than for those paying with cash. This could be due to the fact that users usually carry less cash than the balance in their card.

Let’s add another panel:

SELECT
pickupDatetime AS "time",
count()
FROM ('taxi_trips_feb_2018.csv' timestamp(pickupDatetime))
WHERE $__timeFilter(pickupDatetime)
SAMPLE BY $__interval;

This is what our query looks like when viewing a time range of 28 days:

A panel showing the number of trips over a month using dynamic sampling.

Zooming in to a single day shows more detailed data points as we are sampling by Grafana's $__interval property:

A panel showing the number of trips in a day using dynamic sampling.

The daily cycle of activity is visible, with rides peaking in the early evening and reaching a low in the middle of the night.

Conclusion#

We have learned how to import time series data into QuestDB and build a dashboard with multiple queries in Grafana. If you like this content and want to see more tutorials about third-party integrations, let us know in our Slack Community or drop us a star on GitHub.