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This is documentation for the next version of Agent. For the latest stable release, go to the latest version.

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Deploy Grafana Agent

Grafana Agent is a flexible, vendor-neutral telemetry collector. This flexibility means that Grafana Agent doesn’t enforce a specific deployment topology but can work in multiple scenarios.

This page lists common topologies used for deployments of Grafana Agent, when to consider using each topology, issues you may run into, and scaling considerations.

As a centralized collection service

Deploying Grafana Agent as a centralized service is recommended for collecting application telemetry. This topology allows you to use a smaller number of agents to coordinate service discovery, collection, and remote writing.

centralized-collection

Using this topology requires deploying the Agent on separate infrastructure, and making sure that agents can discover and reach these applications over the network. The main predictor for the size of the agent is the number of active metrics series it is scraping; a rule of thumb is approximately 10 KB of memory for each series. We recommend you start looking towards horizontal scaling around the 1 million active series mark.

Using Kubernetes StatefulSets

Deploying Grafana Agent as a StatefulSet is the recommended option for metrics collection. The persistent pod identifiers make it possible to consistently match volumes with pods so that you can use them for the WAL directory.

You can also use a Kubernetes deployment in cases where persistent storage is not required, such as a traces-only pipeline.

Pros

Cons

  • Requires running on separate infrastructure

Use for

  • Scalable telemetry collection

Don’t use for

  • Host-level metrics and logs

As a host daemon

Deploying one Grafana Agent per machine is required for collecting machine-level metrics and logs, such as node_exporter hardware and network metrics or journald system logs.

daemonset

Each Grafana Agent requires you to open an outgoing connection for each remote endpoint it’s shipping data to. This can lead to NAT port exhaustion on the egress infrastructure. Each egress IP can support up to (65535 - 1024 = 64511) outgoing connections on different ports. So, if all agents are shipping metrics and log data, an egress IP can support up to 32,255 agents.

Using Kubernetes DaemonSets

The simplest use case of the host daemon topology is a Kubernetes DaemonSet, and it is required for node-level observability (for example cAdvisor metrics) and collecting pod logs.

Pros

  • Doesn’t require running on separate infrastructure
  • Typically leads to smaller-sized agents
  • Lower network latency to instrumented applications

Cons

  • Requires planning a process for provisioning Grafana Agent on new machines, as well as keeping configuration up to date to avoid configuration drift
  • Not possible to scale agents independently when using Kubernetes DaemonSets
  • Scaling the topology can strain external APIs (like service discovery) and network infrastructure (like firewalls, proxy servers, and egress points)

Use for

  • Collecting machine-level metrics and logs (for example, node_exporter hardware metrics, Kubernetes pod logs)

Don’t use for

  • Scenarios where Grafana Agent grows so large it can become a noisy neighbor
  • Collecting an unpredictable amount of telemetry

As a container sidecar

Deploying Grafana Agent as a container sidecar is only recommended for short-lived applications or specialized agent deployments.

daemonset

Using Kubernetes pod sidecars

In a Kubernetes environment, the sidecar model consists of deploying Grafana Agent as an extra container on the pod. The pod’s controller, network configuration, enabled capabilities, and available resources are shared between the actual application and the sidecar agent.

Pros

  • Doesn’t require running on separate infrastructure
  • Straightforward networking with partner applications

Cons

  • Doesn’t scale separately
  • Makes resource consumption harder to monitor and predict
  • Agents do not have a life cycle of their own, making it harder to reason about things like recovering from network outages

Use for

  • Serverless services
  • Job/batch applications that work with a push model
  • Air-gapped applications that can’t be otherwise reached over the network

Don’t use for

  • Long-lived applications
  • Scenarios where the agent size grows so large it can become a noisy neighbor

Processing different types of telemetry in different Grafana Agent instances

If the load on Grafana Agent is small, it is recommended to process all necessary telemetry signals in the same Grafana Agent process. For example, a single Grafana Agent can process all of the incoming metrics, logs, traces, and profiles.

However, if the load on the Grafana Agents is big, it may be beneficial to process different telemetry signals in different deployments of Grafana Agents.

This provides better stability due to the isolation between processes. For example, an overloaded Grafana Agent processing traces won’t impact an Grafana Agent processing metrics. Different types of signal collection require different methods for scaling:

  • “Pull” components such as prometheus.scrape and pyroscope.scrape are scaled using hashmod sharing or clustering.
  • “Push” components such as otelcol.receiver.otlp are scaled by placing a load balancer in front of them.

Traces

Scaling Grafana Agent instances for tracing is very similar to scaling OpenTelemetry Collector instances. This similarity is because most Grafana Agent Flow components used for tracing are based on components from the OTel Collector.

When to scale

To decide whether scaling is necessary, check metrics such as:

  • receiver_refused_spans_ratio_total from receivers such as otelcol.receiver.otlp.
  • processor_refused_spans_ratio_total from processors such as otelcol.processor.batch.
  • exporter_send_failed_spans_ratio_total from exporters such as otelcol.exporter.otlp and otelcol.exporter.loadbalancing.

Stateful and stateless components

In the context of tracing, a “stateful component” is a component that needs to aggregate certain spans to work correctly. A “stateless Grafana Agent” is a Grafana Agent which does not contain stateful components.

Scaling stateful Grafana Agents is more difficult, because spans must be forwarded to a specific Grafana Agent according to a span property such as trace ID or a service.name attribute. You can forward spans with otelcol.exporter.loadbalancing.

Examples of stateful components:

  • otelcol.processor.tail_sampling
  • otelcol.connector.spanmetrics
  • otelcol.connector.servicegraph

A “stateless component” does not need to aggregate specific spans to work correctly - it can work correctly even if it only has some of the spans of a trace.

A stateless Grafana Agent can be scaled without using otelcol.exporter.loadbalancing. For example, you could use an off-the-shelf load balancer to do a round-robin load balancing.

Examples of stateless components:

  • otelcol.processor.probabilistic_sampler
  • otelcol.processor.transform
  • otelcol.processor.attributes
  • otelcol.processor.span