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      How To Gather Infrastructure Metrics with Metricbeat on Ubuntu 18.04

      The author selected the Computer History Museum to receive a donation as part of the Write for DOnations program.


      Metricbeat, which is one of several Beats that helps send various types of server data to an Elastic Stack server, is a lightweight data shipper that, once installed on your servers, periodically collects system-wide and per-process CPU and memory statistics and sends the data directly to your Elasticsearch deployment. This shipper replaces the earlier Topbeat in version 5.0 of the Elastic Stack.

      Other Beats currently available from Elastic are:

      • Filebeat: collects and ships log files.
      • Packetbeat: collects and analyzes network data.
      • Winlogbeat: collects Windows event logs.
      • Auditbeat: collects Linux audit framework data and monitors file integrity.
      • Heartbeat: monitors services for their availability with active probing.

      In this tutorial, you will use Metricbeat to forward local system metrics like CPU/memory/disk usage and network utilization from an Ubuntu 18.04 server to another server of the same kind with the Elastic Stack installed. With this shipper, you will gather the basic metrics that you need to get the current state of your server.


      To follow this tutorial, you will need:

      Note: When installing the Elastic Stack, you must use the same version across the entire stack. In this tutorial, you will use the latest versions of the entire stack which are, at the time of this writing, Elasticsearch 6.6.2, Kibana 6.6.2, Logstash 6.6.2, and Metricbeat 6.6.2.

      Step 1 — Configuring Elasticsearch to Listen for Traffic on an External IP

      The tutorial How To Install Elasticsearch, Logstash, and Kibana (Elastic Stack) on Ubuntu 18.04 restricted Elasticsearch access to the localhost only. In practice, this is rare, since you will often need to monitor many hosts. In this step, you will configure the Elastic Stack components to interact with the external IP address.

      Log in to your Elastic Stack server as your non-root user:

      • ssh sammy@Elastic_Stack_server_ip

      Use your preferred text editor to edit Elasticsearch’s main configuration file, elasticsearch.yml. This tutorial will use nano:

      • sudo nano /etc/elasticsearch/elasticsearch.yml

      Find the following section and modify it so that Elasticsearch listens on all interfaces:


      . . .
      . . .

      The address is assigned specific meanings in a number of contexts. In this case, means “any IPv4 address at all.”

      Save and close elasticsearch.yml by pressing CTRL+X, followed by Y and then ENTER if you’re using nano. Then, restart the Elasticsearch service with systemctl to apply new settings:

      • sudo systemctl restart elasticsearch

      Now, allow access to the Elasticsearch port from your second Ubuntu server. You will use ufw for this:

      • sudo ufw allow from second_ubuntu_server_ip/32 to any port 9200

      Repeat this command for each of your servers if you have more than two. If your servers are on the same network, you can allow access using one rule for all hosts on the network. To do this, you need to replace the prefix /32 with a lower value, for example /24. You can find more examples of UFW setups in the UFW Essentials: Common Firewall Rules and Commands tutorial.

      Next, test the connection. Log in to your second Ubuntu server as your non-root user:

      • ssh sammy@second_ubuntu_server_ip

      Use the telnet command to test the connection to the Elastic Stack server. This command enables communication with another host using the Telnet protocol and can check the availability of a port on a remote system.

      • telnet Elastic_Stack_server_ip 9200

      You’ll receive the following output:


      Trying Elastic_Stack_server_ip... Connected to Elastic_Stack_server_ip. Escape character is '^]'.

      Close the Telnet connection by pressing CTRL+], followed by CTRL+d. You can type quit and then press ENTER to exit the Telnet utility.

      Now you are ready to send metrics to your Elastic Stack server.

      Step 2 — Installing and Configuring Metricbeat on the Elastic Stack Server

      In the next two steps, you will first install Metricbeat on the Elastic Stack server and import all the needed data, then install and configure the client on the second Ubuntu server.

      Log into your Elastic Stack server as your non-root user:

      • ssh sammy@Elastic_Stack_server_ip

      Since you previously set up the Elasticsearch repositories in the prerequisite, you only need to install Metricbeat:

      • sudo apt install metricbeat

      Once Metricbeat is finished installing, load the index template into Elasticsearch. An Elasticsearch index is a collection of documents that have similar characteristics. Specific names identify each index, which Elasticsearch will use to refer to the indexes when performing various operations. Your Elasticsearch server will automatically apply the index template when you create a new index.

      To load the template, use the following command:

      • sudo metricbeat setup --template -E 'output.elasticsearch.hosts=["localhost:9200"]'

      You will see the following output:


      Loaded index template

      Metricbeat comes packaged with example Kibana dashboards, visualizations, and searches for visualizing Metricbeat data in Kibana. Before you can use the dashboards, you need to create the index pattern and load the dashboards into Kibana.

      To load the templates, use the following command:

      • sudo metricbeat setup -e -E output.elasticsearch.hosts=['localhost:9200'] -E

      You will see output that looks like this:


      . . . 2019-02-15T09:51:32.096Z INFO instance/beat.go:281 Setup Beat: metricbeat; Version: 6.6.2 2019-02-15T09:51:32.136Z INFO add_cloud_metadata/add_cloud_metadata.go:323 add_cloud_metadata: hosting provider type detected as digitalocean, metadata={"instance_id":"133130541","provider":"digitalocean","region":"fra1"} 2019-02-15T09:51:32.137Z INFO elasticsearch/client.go:165 Elasticsearch url: http://localhost:9200 2019-02-15T09:51:32.137Z INFO [publisher] pipeline/module.go:110 Beat name: elastic 2019-02-15T09:51:32.138Z INFO elasticsearch/client.go:165 Elasticsearch url: http://localhost:9200 2019-02-15T09:51:32.140Z INFO elasticsearch/client.go:721 Connected to Elasticsearch version 6.6.2 2019-02-15T09:51:32.148Z INFO template/load.go:130 Template already exists and will not be overwritten. 2019-02-15T09:51:32.148Z INFO instance/beat.go:894 Template successfully loaded. Loaded index template Loading dashboards (Kibana must be running and reachable) 2019-02-15T09:51:32.149Z INFO elasticsearch/client.go:165 Elasticsearch url: http://localhost:9200 2019-02-15T09:51:32.150Z INFO elasticsearch/client.go:721 Connected to Elasticsearch version 6.6.2 2019-02-15T09:51:32.151Z INFO kibana/client.go:118 Kibana url: http://localhost:5601 2019-02-15T09:51:56.209Z INFO instance/beat.go:741 Kibana dashboards successfully loaded. Loaded dashboards

      Now you can start and enable Metricbeat:

      • sudo systemctl start metricbeat
      • sudo systemctl enable metricbeat

      Metricbeat will begin shipping your system stats into Elasticsearch.

      To verify that Elasticsearch is indeed receiving this data, query the Metricbeat index with this command:

      • curl -XGET 'http://localhost:9200/metricbeat-*/_search?pretty'

      You will see an output that looks similar to this:


      ... { "took" : 3, "timed_out" : false, "_shards" : { "total" : 1, "successful" : 1, "skipped" : 0, "failed" : 0 }, "hits" : { "total" : 108, "max_score" : 1.0, "hits" : [ { "_index" : "metricbeat-6.6.2-2019.02.15", "_type" : "doc", "_id" : "A4mU8GgBKrpxEYMLjJZt", "_score" : 1.0, "_source" : { "@timestamp" : "2019-02-15T09:54:52.481Z", "metricset" : { "name" : "network", "module" : "system", "rtt" : 125 }, "event" : { "dataset" : "", "duration" : 125260 }, "system" : { "network" : { "in" : { "packets" : 59728, "errors" : 0, "dropped" : 0, "bytes" : 736491211 }, "out" : { "dropped" : 0, "packets" : 31630, "bytes" : 8283069, "errors" : 0 }, "name" : "eth0" } }, "beat" : { "version" : "6.6.2", "name" : "elastic", "hostname" : "elastic" }, ...

      The line "total" : 108, indicates that Metricbeat has found 108 search results for this specific metric. If your output shows 0 total hits, you will need to review your setup for errors. If you received the expected output, continue to the next step, in which you will install Metricbeat on the second Ubuntu server.

      Step 3 — Installing and Configuring Metricbeat on the Second Ubuntu Server

      Perform this step on all Ubuntu servers from which you want to send metrics to your Elastic Stack server.

      Log into your second Ubuntu server as your non-root user:

      • ssh sammy@second_ubuntu_server_ip

      The Elastic Stack components are not available in Ubuntu’s default package repositories. However, you can install them with APT after adding Elastic’s package source list.

      All of the Elastic Stack’s packages are signed with the Elasticsearch signing key in order to protect your system from package spoofing. Your package manager will trust packages that have been authenticated using the key. In this step, you will import the Elasticsearch public GPG key and add the Elastic package source list in order to install Metricbeat.

      To begin, run the following command to import the Elasticsearch public GPG key into APT:

      • wget -qO - | sudo apt-key add -

      Next, add the Elastic source list to the sources.list.d directory, where APT will look for new sources:

      • echo "deb stable main" | sudo tee -a /etc/apt/sources.list.d/elastic-6.x.list

      Next, update your package lists so APT will read the new Elastic source:

      Then install Metricbeat with this command:

      • sudo apt install metricbeat

      Once Metricbeat is finished installing, configure it to connect to Elasticsearch. Open its configuration file, metricbeat.yml:

      • sudo nano /etc/metricbeat/metricbeat.yml

      Note: Metricbeat's configuration file is in YAML format, which means that indentation is very important! Be sure that you do not add any extra spaces as you edit this file.

      Metricbeat supports numerous outputs, but you’ll usually only send events directly to Elasticsearch or to Logstash for additional processing. Find the following section and update the IP address:


      #-------------------------- Elasticsearch output ------------------------------
        # Array of hosts to connect to.
        hosts: ["Elastic_Stack_server_ip:9200"]

      Save and close the file.

      You can extend the functionality of Metricbeat with modules. In this tutorial, you will use the system module, which allows you to monitor your server's stats like CPU/memory/disk usage and network utilization.

      In this case, the system module is enabled by default. You can see a list of enabled and disabled modules by running:

      • sudo metricbeat modules list

      You will see a list similar to the following:


      Enabled: system Disabled: aerospike apache ceph couchbase docker dropwizard elasticsearch envoyproxy etcd golang graphite haproxy http jolokia kafka kibana kubernetes kvm logstash memcached mongodb munin mysql nginx php_fpm postgresql prometheus rabbitmq redis traefik uwsgi vsphere windows zookeeper

      You can see the parameters of the module in the /etc/metricbeat/modules.d/system.yml configuration file. In the case of this tutorial, you do not need to change anything in the configuration. The default metricsets are cpu, load, memory, network, process, and process_summary. Each module has one or more metricset. A metricset is the part of the module that fetches and structures the data. Rather than collecting each metric as a separate event, metricsets retrieve a list of multiple related metrics in a single request to the remote system.

      Now you can start and enable Metricbeat:

      • sudo systemctl start metricbeat
      • sudo systemctl enable metricbeat

      You need to repeat this step on all servers where you want to collect metrics. After that, you can proceed to the next step in which you will see how to navigate through some of Kibana's dashboards.

      Step 4 — Exploring Kibana Dashboards

      In this step, you will take a look at Kibana, the web interface that you installed in the Prerequisites section.

      In a web browser, go to the FQDN or public IP address of your Elastic Stack server. After entering the login credentials you defined in Step 2 of the Elastic Stack tutorial, you will see the Kibana homepage:

      Kibana Homepage

      Click the Discover link in the left-hand navigation bar. On the Discover page, select the predefined meticbeat-* index pattern to see Metricbeat data. By default, this will show you all of the log data over the last 15 minutes. You will find a histogram and some metric details:

      Discover page

      Here, you can search and browse through your metrics and also customize your dashboard. At this point, though, there won't be much in there because you are only gathering system stats from your servers.

      Use the left-hand panel to navigate to the Dashboard page and search for the Metricbeat System dashboard. Once there, you can search for the sample dashboards that come with Metricbeat's system module.

      For example, you can view brief information about all your hosts:

      Syslog Dashboard

      You can also click on the host name and view the detailed information:

      Sudo Dashboard

      Kibana has many other features, such as graphing and filtering, so feel free to explore.


      In this tutorial, you've installed Metricbeat and configured the Elastic Stack to collect and analyze system metrics. Metricbeat comes with internal modules that collect metrics from services like Apache, Nginx, Docker, MySQL, PostgreSQL, and more. Now you can collect and analyze the metrics of your applications by simply turning on the modules you need.

      If you want to understand more about server monitoring, check out An Introduction to Metrics, Monitoring, and Alerting and Putting Monitoring and Alerting into Practice.

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