Grafana makes it possible to visualize your data with customizable dashboards. Jack Wallen walks you through the process of adding your first dashboard and panel to a new Grafana installation.

Image: Grafana

Grafana is the data visualization tool many companies have grown to depend on. Grafana makes it possible to connect to numerous data sources, build incredibly powerful reports and even create custom dashboards so you can gain easy access to a specific collection of data.

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Say, for example, you need to keep a watch on metrics from different, but related sources. You might have an e-commerce site and you need to keep track of user access, sales and page hits. You could create a dashboard for that site to watch only those data points. You could then create a dashboard to monitor internal employee data. The sky’s truly the limit with what you can monitor and visualize with Grafana.

Once you’ve installed Grafana and connected a new data source, your next step is to create a new dashboard. That’s what I’m going to show you how to do. In the end, you’ll know how to create all the Grafana dashboards you need.

You must have your data source connected and working properly, otherwise, you won’t be able to add panels to your dashboard.

What you’ll need

To successfully create a new dashboard, you’ll need a running instance of Grafana and a connected data source. That’s it. Let’s get to work.

How to create your first dashboard in Grafana

Log into Grafana and, from the main page, click + | Create | Dashboard. In the resulting window (Figure A), click Add a New Panel.

Figure A

The first thing to add to your dashboard is a panel.

The next window (Figure B) is where the bulk of the work goes.

Figure B

Creating a new panel for your dashboard.

The first thing you must do is select your data source. Once you’ve selected the correct source, you’ll then need to start configuring the query. Since our sample data source is a MySQL database, the query options should be familiar. Make sure to configure the necessary options for the query. The options available will be dictated by the table you select in the FROM drop-down.

As you build the query for the table, you might want to click Query Inspector to view the actual query you’ll be sending to your database (Figure C). If you’re more familiar with using queries, this will help you fine-tune the data your panel will display.

Figure C

Viewing the actual query that will be used to pull and display data from the source.

You can click refresh to actually view the data that the query will collect (Figure D).

Figure D

Our query has successfully pulled data from our source.

Close the Query inspector and make any changes necessary to the query. Make sure to give your panel a descriptive name and then click Apply, where you’ll be taken back to the dashboard. Add as many panels as needed until you have all of the information for the complete dashboard (Figure E).

Figure E

Our completed Grafana dashboard.

If you go back to the Grafana home, you’ll see your new dashboard listed (Figure F). Any time you need to view the dashboard, it’s just a click away.

Figure F

Our dashboard is now listed on the Grafana home page.

And that’s all there is to create a dashboard. One thing to keep in mind is some data sources might prove to be a bit more challenging than others. For example, with MySQL data sources, you might find some tables can’t be viewed because of errors like “Data is missing a number field.” I’ve run into this issue several times and have yet to find a solution. Whether you run into these problems will depend on your data source and the data found within the source.

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