Circonus Contributes Histogram Technology to Open Source Community
March 04, 2021
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Circonus released its powerful, patented histogram technology with open source licensing – creating a standard histogram format for the industry and solving the long-standing interoperability challenges caused by incompatible, vendor-proprietary formats.

Circonus developed its mergeable and efficient histogram technology in 2011 and has both patents and pending patents on that technology.

Histograms are a data structure that allows users to model the distribution of a set of samples – for example, the age of every human on earth. But instead of storing each sample as its own record, they are grouped together in “buckets” or “bins” which allows for significant data compression and thus superior economics. This compression of data allows for extraordinary metric transmission and ingestion rates, high frequency, real-time analytics, and economical long-term storage. Histograms are also particularly useful in handling the breadth and depth of metric data produced by container technologies such as Kubernetes.

The key to solving the interoperability and mergeability challenges of histograms is in the definition of the bin sizes or “boundaries.” Without standard bin sizes, there is no way to merge histograms together without introducing significant error that carries into the subsequent analysis of the data.

While there are a number of approaches to selecting optimal bin boundaries, the Circonus implementation has been independently tested and evaluated over the years and consistently deemed superior to other approaches in terms of performance, accuracy, correctness, and usability. Understandably, there has been hesitancy in wider adoption due to the presence of the patents. Today’s announcement addresses that concern head on by affording patent rights for the use of the technology when using the specified bin boundaries.

“This is a very exciting development in the drive to create open standards for sharing telemetry data in the monitoring and observability industry,” said Ben Sigelman, CEO and co-founder of Lightstep and co-creator of the OpenTelemetry project within the CNCF. “Circonus’ log linear histograms are a time-tested, best-practice solution for representing the high frequency telemetry found in modern software deployments. The ability to easily exchange telemetry between vendor platforms is a huge win for the community.”

“We are excited to leverage our technology so that end-users who are faced with the challenge of digesting and analyzing massive amounts of distribution data can rely on a consistent, interchangeable, and stable representation of that data,” said Theo Schlossnagle, founder and CTO of Circonus. “Ensuring that all data, everywhere can be merged and seamlessly exchanged between platforms without introducing error is incredibly valuable to the owner of that data and therefore invaluable to our industry. We welcome everyone in the world to leverage this technology.”

Circonus’ histogram technology is ready for immediate use and has been used in production, at scale, by major clients such as Major League Baseball, Sparkpost, and SmugMug for many years.

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