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'The Story of Grafana' documentary: The business of open source

'The Story of Grafana' documentary: The business of open source

January 18, 2024 3 min

Grafana Labs (formerly known as Raintank) was founded in 2014 with one mission in mind: To build a sustainable business around the open source Grafana project and use the revenue from our commercial offerings to re-invest in the technology.

From the beginning, the open source community embraced the idea. At the first GrafanaCON in 2015, “there were so few people at the time who were customers, but everyone in that room was eager to help us, as a business,” Grafana Labs CEO and co-founder Raj Dutt says. “It was something that really made me appreciate the dynamic between the company and the community.”

That dynamic is the focus of “Open (source) for business,” the third episode in “The Story of Grafana” documentary series. With a wide range of perspectives, from Grafana Labs’ co-founders to employee no. 31 (hi, Peter Holmberg!), you’ll hear how Grafana Labs grew to become a successful open source company — even when the roadmap wasn’t clear.

“For a while, there was both positive elation that the open source project was beginning to get momentum and starting to see it snowball. At the same time, we were panicking,” admits Dutt. “We couldn’t really figure out how to monetize it and translate it into revenue.”

Over the years, Grafana Labs embraced a big tent strategy and made Grafana interoperable with more than 100 data source plugins. We also built out commercial options, such as the fully managed Grafana Cloud platform and the self-managed Grafana Enterprise offerings, all of which are powered by the open source Grafana LGTM Stack (Loki for logs, Grafana for visualization, Tempo for traces, and Mimir for metrics). 

As a result, Grafana Labs has attracted more than 3,000 customers, including Bloomberg, Citigroup, Dell Technologies, Salesforce, and TomTom. Today, 80% of Grafana Labs’ engineering resources go towards open source projects that we launched, and we contribute to other projects in the observability space, such as Prometheus and OpenTelemetry.

Throughout our success, we have remained focused on one of our core strategies. “We don’t build technology for the buyer,” says Dutt. “We build technology for the practitioner.”  

About ‘The Story of Grafana’ documentary

A year in the making, “The Story of Grafana” is a four-part documentary that dives into the origin story of Grafana, which started with an engineer who wanted to visualize time series data and grew to become a thriving open source community with more than 20 million users worldwide.

The Grafana documentary features more than 20 interviews, including the Grafana Labs co-founders; early Grafana engineers Carl Bergquist and Daniel Lee; and other voices from across the global open source community who have made contributions and continue to shape Grafana.

The first episode, “Democratize Metrics,” reflects on the early days of Grafana, from Torkel’s initial 14-day commit streak over the holidays in 2013 to the first-ever GrafanaCON in 2015. “The Story of Grafana” documentary also highlights the open source community and will give you an inside look at the innovation that’s powering Grafana for the next 10 years and beyond. 

You can watch all of “The Story of Grafana” documentary episodes on our YouTube channel or on our website.

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