The Complete Guide to Cloud-Based Kubernetes and Docker Monitoring in 2023

Kubernetes has revolutionized application deployment and container orchestration over the past few years. Docker‘s containerization technology accelerated this transformation, allowing developers to package apps with their dependencies for streamlined distribution.

However, these innovations have also added layers of complexity for infrastructure and DevOps teams to manage efficiently at scale. This is what makes comprehensive monitoring and observability crucial for delivering flawless application experiences consistently.

In this extensive guide, we will take a deep dive into Kubernetes and Docker monitoring, covering:

  • The key challenges with relying just on native visibility
  • How cloud-based monitoring helps address these gaps
  • An in-depth review of the top 8 solutions on the market
  • Capability comparison to select the best fit for your needs
  • Best practices for implementation and maximizing ROI

So let‘s get started!

Why Kubernetes and Docker Created a Massive Observability Challenge

First, some quick history – Kubernetes was open-sourced by Google (based on their Borg system) in 2014, while Docker kicked off the containerization revolution in 2013.

  • In just 8 years, the adoption of these technologies has exploded:
    • 94% of enterprises now run containers in production, up from 23% in 2016
    • Global spend on container technologies projected to reach $2.6B by 2024
  • Meanwhile, containers have become the fastest growing workload on the cloud – outpacing VMs massively

However, this meteoric rise has also created massive complexity:

  • Dynamic infrastructure with auto-scaling groups and microservices means the environment is changing constantly
  • Volumes of performance metrics being emitted require specialized analysis
  • Developer experience suffers without context on infrastructure dependencies and failures

Faced with such complexity at scale, native visibility quickly breaks down:

  • Resource intensive to retrieve metrics from the Docker socket or Kubernetes API
  • Near impossible to contextualize interdependencies between 1000s of containers
  • Disk bottlenecks and overhead limits retention policies
  • Difficult to baseline metrics and set dynamic thresholds

Lack of observability leads to situations where:

  • Degraded application performance goes unnoticed or detected late
  • Cascading failures caused by infrastructure issues crash critical systems
  • War rooms triggered for every alert due to high false positives
  • Root cause analysis takes hours due to scattered signals

To address these modern monitoring challenges, we‘ll see how cloud platforms provide just what over-stretched infrastructure teams need.

Benefits of Cloud-Based Monitoring for Kubernetes Environments

Here are some of the ways leveraging cloud monitoring and analytics services can help:

No Infrastructure Overhead

The servers, storage, networking and management of the monitoring system itself is handled by the vendor – so your team saves time and headcount required for upkeep.

Scalability without Limits

Auto-scaling and elastic storage allow supporting any volume or velocity of metrics without drops, throttling or sampling.

Powerful Data Analytics

Machine learning is applied for techniques like dynamic baselining, multivariate correlation, anomaly detection, forecasting and more.

Single Pane of Glass

Disparate signals like metrics, logs and traces are bought together providing contextual diagnostics to speed up troubleshooting.

Built-in Best Practices

Pre-configured dashboards, alerts and integrations based on accumulated customer learnings helps teams avoid reinventing the wheel.

Time to Value in Minutes

Given turnkey SaaS delivery mechanisms, customers report 95% faster time-to-value compared to traditional self-hosted monitoring.

With the rationale covered, let‘s now dig deeper into top vendor offerings.

The Top 8 Cloud Kubernetes and Docker Monitoring Solutions

While evaluating options, I looked at core capabilities, advanced analytics, ease of use, customer traction and commercial model. Here are the top 8 platforms that provide robust Kubernetes visibility leveraging cloud delivery:

1. Datadog


  • Founded in 2010, 4500+ customers globally
  • Leverages Agent for 300+ integrations
  • Contextual correlation powered by AI for root cause analysis

Core Capabilities:

  • 400+ out-of-the-box K8s, infrastructure and application dashboards
  • Dashboards filterable by cluster, node, namespace, controller and service
  • Live container monitoring including Docker & runtime metrics
  • Workloads tracked by deployment, replicaset and dead containers
  • Predictive autoscaling recommendations to optimize capacity


  • Docker & Kubernetes APIs, StatsD, Prometheus
  • Tracing via Envoy and Istio
  • 150+ AWS services via CloudWatch
  • Google Cloud Operations suite

Verdict: Comprehensive solution excelling in areas like anomaly detection and correlation. Ideal for large DevOps teams but steeper learning curve and pricing.

2. Sysdig Monitor


  • Founded in 2013, raised $400M+
  • Single agent container deploy on kernel for data collection
  • Metrics, events and traces all captured at the source

Core Capabilities:

  • 60+ dashboards tailored for container environments
  • Agent CPU footprint of 0.5% and 21MB RAM
  • Support for deployment on Kubernetes, Amazon ECS
  • Embedded DropRules for filtering unwanted data
  • Sysdig Secure add-on for runtime security


  • Kubernetes, Docker, AWS, GCP, Azure
  • Splunk, Kafka, Elasticsearch, ServiceNow
  • Slack, PagerDuty, webhook alerts

Verdict: Strong container-native visibility rapidly at reasonable TCO. Valuable where infrastructure context is vital for app teams.

3. Instana

Company Overview

  • Founded in 2015, raised $225M funding
  • Lead by ex-Splunk execs and Pivotal founders
  • Workly acquisition expands AIOps capabilities

Core Capabilities:

  • Automated discovery, mapping and monitoring of complete app landscape
  • Transaction tracing connecting microservices, containers, hosts, functions
  • Policy engine for dynamic configuration of data collection
  • Contextual troubleshooting powered by applied graph theory


  • Kubernetes, Docker, AWS, Azure, GCP, VMware
  • Dynatrace, AppDynamics, New Relic, Splunk
  • ServiceNow, Slack, MS Teams, Twilio, PagerDuty

Verdict: Strong choice where seamless full-stack correlation is critical between custom applications, underlying container cluster and infrastructure.

4. New Relic Kubernetes

Company Background

  • IPO in 2008, founded in the US
  • 95K+ customers across 190+ countries
  • Leader in Gartner‘s APM Magic Quadrant

Core Capabilities:

  • eBPF instrumentation and 65+ K8s dashboards
  • Host network daemon for stream processing
  • Workload metrics for deployments, jobs and services
  • Live process inspection capabilities
  • Out-of-box alerts for control plane and nodes


  • All major clouds, centers, tools
  • 300+ integrations with partners
  • Distributed tracing via open standards

Verdict: Strong vendor mindshare in APM space. Consolidating monitoring analytics provides a consistent experience plus complete context.


Company Overview

  • Founded 2013, raised $92M funding
  • Backed by leading Israeli VCs
  • 80+ Fortune 500 companies as customers

Core Capabilities

  • ELK-based fully managed log analytics
  • 162+ out-of-the-box K8s dashboards
  • Ships logs and metrics as time-series events
  • Advanced analytics via Kibana and Grafana
  • Multi-layer security tested for SOC2 compliance


  • All native container platforms
  • Tracing via Jaeger, Zipkin and OpenTelemetry
  • SIEM integration for security analytics

Verdict: Best-in-class log observability for container workloads. Great fit for regulated workloads or alongside MSSPs.

6. Sematext Docker

Company Overview

  • Founded in 2015, invested by top VC firms
  • Backed by founders of Chariot Solutions
  • Integrated monitoring with Logagent

Core Capabilities:

  • Auto-discovery of Docker environments
  • 50+ out-of-the-box container dashboards
  • Host agent for 650+ system metrics
  • Logagent for central logging pipelines
  • Can monitor up to 2000 containers per agent


  • All native container platforms
  • StatsD, Graphite, REST API
  • SIEMs like Splunk via CEF

Verdict: Cost-effective Kubernetes logging and metrics solution. Great choice for smaller teams managing own infrastructure.

7. Dynatrace

Company Background

  • 15 years heritage in application performance space
  • Backed by leading investors like Bain Capital
  • 9500+ enterprise customers across the globe

Core Capabilities:

  • Full stack observability including metrics, logs and traces for 10K+ technologies
  • Kubernetes events and control plane alerts ready out-of-the-box
  • Topology mapping and end-to-end distributed transaction tracking
  • AI Engine to surface business impact from full context
  • Plug-n-play SaaS architecture


  • All major container environments
  • No dependency on proprietary agents
  • CI/CD pipeline integration

Verdict: Heavy on ML-driven operations analytics for enterprise scale environments. Premium capabilities at significant TCO.

8. StackState

Company Overview

  • Recently rebranded from TrueStack Labs
  • Self-operating platform leveraging topology
  • Ex-Dynatrace executives part of leadership

Core Capabilities:

  • Auto-discovery and dependency mapping
  • 120+ baked-in Kubernetes dashboards
  • Integrated log management and analytics
  • Kubernetes events and control plane visibility
  • Anomaly detection powered by topology


  • 1550+ application and infrastructure integrations
  • OpenTracing support with Jaeger exporter
  • ChatOps via MS Teams, Slack and Webex Teams

Verdict: Innovative solution applying ML extensively to topology. Promising for noisy and complex environments despite being relatively new.

Beyond this comprehensive feature list, additional functionality around troubleshooting workflows, collaboration and automation is also invaluable during incidents:

With an overview of the leading options covered, next we evaluate them head-to-head.

Comparative Analysis

Let‘s assess how the shortlisted Kubernetes and Docker monitoring vendors fare across crucial evaluation criteria:

A few key observations:

  • Datadog leads in capabilities breadth – but comes with pricing to match
  • Sysdig excels in container-native visibility – but you pay extra for application awareness
  • Instana is best for app-infra correlation – provided it‘s within their catalog
  • offers robust log analytics – while being cost effective

Beyond checking boxes, user experience is vital for driving adoption. So I also ranked ease of use:

Sysdig, New Relic and shine when it comes to getting started quickly. Dynatrace and Datadog provide extensive configurability once product expertise builds up internally.

Now the magic happens when we map solutions to personas based on their constraints and environment.

Recommendations by Persona

Here is how I‘d guide users to the right Kubernetes monitoring platform based on their role and use case:

A few observations here:

  • Lean engineering teams on tighter budgets are well served by Sysdig, Sematext and
  • Application owners gain from focus on app metrics & traces – hence Instana
  • Platform engineers managing thousands of containers benefit from Datadog‘s scale
  • Security teams have compliance needs met by‘s SOC2-compliant ELK
  • Executives can leverage Dynatrace‘s business KPI linkage and noise reduction

Of course, every environment is unique – so aligning to your specific ecosystem is vital.

Best Practices for Maximizing Value

Beyond software capabilities, success depends greatly on people and processes – including:

Executive Sponsorship

  • Helps convey priority for procurement and participation

Phased Implementation Approach

  • Focus on 2-3 high value use cases, learn and expand

Collaboration across Dev and Ops

  • Build shared context between app owners, SREs and platform engineers

Proactive Success Planning

  • Ensure guidance on onboarding, adoption and optimization

Ongoing Training and Enablement

  • Maintain product knowledge as capabilities rapidly evolve

And don‘t just focus on technical metrics – track business KPIs to showcase RoI:

The Future of Kubernetes and Docker Monitoring

We are still early in leveraging deep observability data for Kubernetes in production:

  • AIOps will help reduce alert noise by up to 90% via correlation and smart thresholds
  • Automated remediation will resolve over 50% of known issues without human involvement
  • Predictive forecasting will project capacity needs months ahead accounting for seasonality
  • Causal analysis will trace back from impact to root cause in seconds despite complexity

And as cloud native adoption explodes over the next 5 years, reliance on monitoring platforms will only grow.

Hopefully, this guide has provided a comprehensive view on picking Kubernetes monitoring solutions to help tame container complexity at scale. Reach out with any questions!