Costa Tsaousis, Netdata: We Build Free Software to Put End-Users First

After working in the tech industry for many decades, Costa Tsaousis was annoyed that network monitoring tools simply were not "seeing" everything they should have to make life easier for users. So he started coding on his own, creating a new tool that would revolutionize the industry - Netdata.

Now, Tsaousis' company has secured millions of dollars in funding, and Netdata is one of the most appreciated tools on the market, especially since the code is available for everyone to see and improve.

Costa Tsaousis has agreed to a short interview with TechNadu, so read on to see what he has to say about Netdata, the current situation we're all in, how the pandemic has changed the landscape, and more.

TechNadu: What sets Netdata apart from similar tools?

Costa Tsaousis: Through my many years of frustration using similar tools, almost all open-source and enterprise solutions, I decided to develop a product that would solve the issues that I was encountering. Netdata's approach is simple: easy installation, access to unlimited metrics, real-time monitoring, and preconfigured dynamic dashboards designed specifically for troubleshooting. Netdata's more than a monitoring tool; it's a troubleshooting platform.

The four principles that set Netdata apart are the following:

  • Easy installation and configuration: Unlike other tools, all aspects of the product are built for users to easily get up and running quickly. Users don't need to be monitoring experts to use Netdata, nor do they need to spend weeks or months in planning and resourcing. Installation to data visualization takes minutes.
  • Unlimited, high granularity metrics: All metrics are available for users to monitor. Unlike other tools that limit metrics collection due to data aggregation and storage issues, Netdata's architecture is limitless and infinitely scalable.
  • Real-time metrics: Metrics are collected per-second or per-event with data-collection-to-visualization latency of less than a millisecond.
  • Interactive dashboards: Netdata is more than a monitoring tool; it's a troubleshooting platform. Prebuilt dashboards display meaningful metrics optimized for visual anomaly detection, enabling users to explore and learn how systems are behaving and why.

TechNadu: Netdata is open-source - did you know how big your tool would be when you released it? Would you have done things differently if you were to start it up again?

Costa Tsaousis: I was working very long hours and was optimistic that Netdata would have traction. When I first released the project on GitHub, I was excited and very proud. However, nothing happened at first. About a week later, during a busy workday, I came out of a meeting, and an engineer told me that Netdata was going viral on Hacker News. This was followed by 10k stars on GitHub within a couple of weeks; it was a very exciting time, and my passion encouraged me to keep working on it more than ever.

TechNadu: You have said that Netdata is still not the lead monitoring tool, but that it has the potential to become it. What do you think you're missing right now, or what improvements do you wish to bring?

Costa Tsaousis: The Netdata Agent is already the best single-node monitoring tool because of its comprehensive, zero-configuration monitoring setup, with many advanced features competitors lack. But to make Netdata the leading monitoring tool, we still have enhancements and features to implement on the cloud side of things, such as custom dashboards and more collaboration features.

TechNadu: With the current pandemic and all the changes we've seen it bring into our lives, one of the major things we've all had to face is working from home. How is Netdata helping corporations everywhere in these difficult times? Have you seen a spike in usage in the past few months?

Costa Tsaousis: Netdata can be used anywhere; users can install and start monitoring their organization's systems without worrying about being in a certain location. We're also entirely free, which is beneficial for those struggling financially during this time. Usage has spiked tremendously; perhaps more people have time to research new solutions and are looking for open-source alternatives.

TechNadu: Many companies find it harder than ever to monitor everything as the cloud environment continues to expand and diversify. How can they keep a better eye on everything, and what are some key tricks they can put to use?

Costa Tsaousis: Often, IT overlooks using real-time and historical data together for troubleshooting infrastructure, applying legacy practices that focus on outages. To effectively monitor hybrid and multi-cloud environments, teams should look for monitoring and troubleshooting tools that can be deployed anywhere: on-premises or in the cloud. Optimizing systems performance and scalability will help prevent constant fire drills by proactively identifying underlying issues before they result in downtime.

TechNadu: What's one of the most important lessons you've learned in your career?

Costa Tsaousis: Building a product for and with the community is fundamental. The loyalty of the community is inspirational; contributors are quick to help discover and share ideas, even when things don't go as planned. It's important to put end-users first, which is why we built a free, open-source monitoring agent that is the best single-node monitoring system you can find. This is a gift to the world - open technology and free software.

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