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Metric Types

SignalFx supports three metric types: counters, cumulative counters and gauges.


A counter is the simplest type of metric to think about. Counters are incremented every time something happens. They can be used for example to count requests handled, emails sent, errors encountered, etc.

Cumulative counters

A cumulative counter is used to capture data of the following pattern:

  • their absolute, instantaneous value is irrelevant;
  • they can roll over at any time (usually to 0), either when the machine or application restarts or when it reaches the maximum value representable (2^32 or 2^64);
  • what matters is how much the value changed between measurements.

You should use cumulative counters if you have, say, SNMP-style data, because you can capture it raw, as-is and send it to SignalFx without having to worry about doing any computation on your end to make it usable.


Gauges are used to measure and report instantaneous data for things that have a particular value at a particular moment in time. Temperature, CPU utilization, memory usage, time spent processing a request, etc. are all examples of data that are best represented as gauges.