Dashboards and charts

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This document helps you to choose which type of dashboards and charts to use, and how to avoid dashboard designs that can lead to performance issues.

Dashboards let you view and analyze data from different sources in the same context. For example, you can create a custom dashboard that displays metric data, alerting policies, and log entries.

Choose predefined or custom dashboards

Predefined dashboards, which display metrics and general information about a single service, include dashboards that Cloud Monitoring automatically installs when you add services to a Google Cloud project. You can't modify or copy these dashboards. However, you can copy charts from predefined dashboards to your custom dashboards. For more information, see View Google Cloud dashboards.

Custom dashboards are dashboards that you create or install. You define the content on these dashboards, and you organize that content in a way that's useful to you. For custom dashboards, you can define permanent filters that apply to some or all items on the dashboard. Unlike predefined dashboards, custom dashboards can display information about multiple services. You can also replicate a custom dashboard in multiple projects by creating it in one project and then sharing it. To create custom dashboards, you can use the Google Cloud console or the Cloud Monitoring API. For more information, see Manage custom dashboards and Manage dashboards by API.

Choose the right content for your dashboard

When creating a custom dashboard, consider what kind of information that you want to view and how best to display that data. In addition to displaying metric data, dashboards can display alerting policies, show log entries, and include descriptive text. When displaying metric data, you can view that data over a time interval or show only the most recent values.

To facilitate debugging, pair charts with tables. Charts display data over a time interval, so you can view historical behavior and identify anomalies. When you spot an anomaly on a chart, you can switch to the table view and then sort and filter the table to find values for specific time series. For example, you might modify the table to show values only for a particular disk or for instances located in a specific zone.

To simplify management of your dashboard content, place related charts and tables in a collapsible group. Groups have collapsed and expanded modes, and they let you manage what they contain as a collection.

Indicators show only the most recent value. Indicators are useful when you don't want to be notified that a single value is outside a desired operational range, but you do want a visual indication. The background color of an indicator changes based on how the measured value compares to the thresholds you select. You can create an alerting policy to notify you when all values recorded over a time interval are outside the desired range.

Charts that show data over time

To view time series data over a time interval, add one of the following types to your dashboard:

  • Line chart
  • Stacked-area chart
  • Stacked-bar chart
  • Heatmap chart

The following screenshot is an example of a line chart in color mode:

Example of a line chart in color mode.

To display your time series with the highest possible resolution, use a line chart or a stacked-area chart. Choose a stacked-area chart when you want to view the sum of the time series, in addition to the contribution of each time series to the total. You can configure these charts to show only outliers, to compare current to past data, or to display statistical measures such as the "50th percentile". For more information, see Set view options.

To display time series with infrequent samples, such as quota metrics, use stacked-bar charts and set the time selector for the dashboard to at least one week. For examples that show how to chart quota metrics, see Using quota metrics.

To display metrics with distribution values, use heatmap charts. Heatmaps use color to represent the values in the distribution. You can also display percentile lines or outliers. For more information, see Distribution metrics.

For more information, see Add charts and tables to a dashboard.

Charts that show the most recent data

To view the most recent measurement, add a table, a gauge, or a scorecard to your dashboard. Tables can display multiple time series, and they let you sort and filter rows. In contrast, gauges and scorecards are indicators that display a single time series as compared to a color-coded threshold. For example, a red gauge indicates that the most recent measurement is in a danger range.

The following screenshot is an example of a gauge:

Example of a gauge.

For more information, see Add indicators to a dashboard and Add charts and tables to a dashboard.

Avoid dashboard performance issues

The performance of a dashboard is sensitive to the number of charts it displays, and to the number of time series each chart displays. For example, when a chart displays many time series, it might take a long time to load or to refresh. The number of time series depends, in part, on the structure of the metric type and monitored-resource type associated with the time series. Each of these types has several labels; the Metrics list and Monitored resource list include the labels for each metric and monitored-resource type.

There is a single time series for each unique combination of values for the set of labels. The number of possible combinations is called the cardinality. For more information on labels, values, and cardinality, see Cardinality.

If you encounter performance issues when opening a dashboard or when displaying metric data, you can often mitigate the issues by using one of the techniques:

  • Remove unnecessary information by filtering.
  • Combine related information together by grouping time series.
  • Focus on unusual data with outlier mode.
  • Reduce the number of labels or the range of values possible for a label for your custom metrics.
  • Remove charts or other content from dashboards.
  • Prioritize loading of metric data by grouping dashboard content.

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