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If you know [MRTG], you can think of [rrdtool] as a reimplementation of MRTGs graphing and logging features. It describes itself as 'magnitudes faster and more flexible than you ever thought possible'.
RRD is an [Acronym] for Round Robin Database. (This is a database implementation of a RoundRobinArchive). RRD is a system to store and display time-series data (i.e. network bandwidth, machine-room temperature, server load average). It stores the data in a very compact way that will not expand over time, and it presents useful graphs by processing the data to enforce a certain data density. It can be used either via simple wrapper scripts (from shell or Perl) or via frontends that poll network devices and put a friendly user interface on it.
The best front end for the job seems to be [Cacti], though you can make [MRTG] use [rrdtool] as a backend.