Monitor NGINX with Telegraf

Monitor Your NGINX Webserver with Telegraf

Table of Contents

Introduction 

Monitoring your instance of NGINX gives you insight into your webserver's requests and connections. These insights can help in identifying performance bottlenecks, optimizing configurations, and ensuring efficient load handling. Monitoring all layers of your technology infrastructure allows for the early detection of potential problems such as server overload, disk space shortages, or network issues. It also helps in spotting anomalies, and system errors, enabling prompt investigation and resolution before they escalate into critical issues that could affect application performance or cause downtime. 

In this article, we'll detail how to use the Telegraf agent to collect some NGINX statistics that you can forward to a datasource.

Getting Started with the Telegraf Agent

Telegraf is a plugin-driven server agent built on InfluxDB, and is used for collecting and sending metrics/events from databases, systems, processes, devices, and applications. Telegraf is written in Go and compiles into a single binary with no external dependencies, and requires a very minimal memory footprint. It is compatible with many operating systems, and has many useful output plugins and input plugins for collecting and forwarding a wide variety of system performance metrics. 

Install Telegraf (linux/redhat)

Download Telegraf and unzip it (see the telegraf docs for up-to-date versions and installation commands for many operating systems). Packages and files are generally installed in the /etc directory.

Ubuntu/Debian
wget https://dl.influxdata.com/telegraf/releases/telegraf_1.21.2-1_amd64.deb
sudo dpkg -i telegraf_1.21.2-1_amd64.deb

RedHat/CentOS

wget https://dl.influxdata.com/telegraf/releases/telegraf-1.21.4-1.x86_64.rpm
sudo yum localinstall telegraf-1.21.4-1.x86_64.rpm

Configure an Output

You can configure telegraf to output to a variety of sources, like Graphite, Kafka, InfluxDB, Prometheus, SQL, NoSQL, and more. 

In this example we will configure telegraf with a Graphite output. If you're not currently hosting your own datasource, you can start a free trial with Hosted Graphite by MetricFire in order to follow along with these next steps.

A Hosted Graphite account will provide the datasource, offers an alerting feature, and includes Hosted Grafana as a visualization tool.

To configure the Graphite output, you need to locate the downloaded telegraf configuration file at /etc/telegraf/telegraf.conf and open it in your preferred text editor. Then you will need to make the following changes to the file:

Locate and comment out the line:

# [[outputs.influxdb]]

Then, uncomment the line:

[[outputs.graphite]]

Next, uncomment and edit the servers line to:

servers = ["carbon.hostedgraphite.com:2003"]

Finally, uncomment and edit the prefix line to:

prefix = "<YOUR_API_KEY>.telegraf"
If you don't already have a Hosted Graphite account, sign up for a free trial here to obtain a Hosted Graphite API key.
Otherwise, you can configure a different telegraf output to forward metrics to another datasource.

Configure the Telegraf NGINX Input Plugin:

Telegraf has many input plugins that can collect a wide range of data from many popular technologies and 3rd party sources. In this example, we'll demonstrate how to connect Telegraf to a local instance of MongoDB.

All you need to do is search for the inputs.nginx section in your telegraf.conf file, uncomment the [[inputs.nginx]] line, and uncomment the urls line:

[[inputs.nginx]]
   urls = ["http://localhost/server_status/"]

Save your changes, and then locate your nginx.conf file to ensure a connection can be established with telegraf.

If you have NGINX running in a Linux environment, it is likely that you need to modify your /etc/nginx/nginx.conf file. Within the http{} directive block of the nginx.conf file, define a server{} block with the following parameters:

        server {
        listen       80;
        server_name localhost;
        location / {
        stub_status;
        allow 127.0.0.1;
        deny all;
      }
        }

Check for any syntax errors in the config by running: nginx -t -c /etc/nginx/nginx.conf and if the output is ok, you can restart your nginx service.

Now you can manually run telegraf using the following command, to see if there are any configuration errors in the output:

telegraf --config telegraf.conf

Telegraf will now be forwarding 7 metrics to your datasource, this is what they will look like in the Graphite format:

telegraf.<host>.80.<server_name>.nginx.accepts
telegraf.<host>.80.<server_name>.nginx.active
telegraf.<host>.80.<server_name>.nginx.handled
telegraf.<host>.80.<server_name>.nginx.reading
telegraf.<host>.80.<server_name>.nginx.requests
telegraf.<host>.80.<server_name>.nginx.waiting
telegraf.<host>.80.<server_name>.nginx.writing

See the official GitHub repository for additional configuration options and a full list of metrics returned by the nginx plugin.

Additionally, you can use the procstat input plugin to collect more performance metrics for you instance of nginx. See our Monitoring Any Running Process with the Telegraf Agent article for more details.

Use Hosted Graphite by MetricFire to Create Custom Dashboards and Alerts

MetricFire is a monitoring platform that enables you to gather, visualize, and analyze metrics and data from sources such as servers, databases, networks, devices, and applications. By utilizing MetricFire, you can effortlessly identify problems and optimize resources from within your infrastructure. Hosted Graphite by MetricFire takes away the burden of self-hosting your own monitoring solution, allowing you more time and freedom to work on your most important tasks.

Once you have signed up for a Hosted Graphite account and used the above steps to configure your server with the Telegraf Agent, metrics will be forwarded, timestamped, and aggregated into the Hosted Graphite backend.

  1. Metrics will be sent and stored in the Graphite format of: metric.name.path <numeric-value> <unix-timestamp>
  2. The dot notation format provides a tree like data structure and makes them efficient to query
  3. Metrics are stored in your Hosted Graphite account for 2 years, and you can use them to create custom Alerts and Grafana dashboards

Build Dashboards in Hosted Graphite's Hosted Grafana

In the Hosted Graphite UI, navigate to Dashboards => Primary Dashboards and select the + button to create a new panel:

Monitor Your NGINX Webserver with Telegraf - 1

Then you can use the query UI to select a graphite metric path (the default datasource will be the hosted graphite backend if you are accessing Grafana through your Hosted Graphite account):

Monitor Your NGINX Webserver with Telegraf - 2

The Hosted Graphite datasource also supports wildcard (*) searching to grab all metrics that match a specified path.

Now you can apply Graphite functions to these metrics, like aliasByNode() to reformat the metric names on the graph:

Monitor Your NGINX Webserver with Telegraf - 3

Grafana has many additional options to apply different visualizations, modify the display, set units of measurement, and some more advanced features like configuring dashboard variables ($host, $server) and event annotations.

See the Hosted Graphite dashboard docs for more details.

Creating Graphite Alerts

In the Hosted Graphite UI, navigate to Alerts => Graphite Alerts to create a new alert. Name the alert, add a query to the alerting metric field, and add a description of what this alert is:

Monitor Your NGINX Webserver with Telegraf - 4

Then select the Alert Criteria tab to set a threshold, and select a notification channel. The default notification channel is the email you used to signup for the Hosted Graphite account, but you can easily configure channels for Slack, PagerDuty, Microsoft Teams, OpsGenie, custom webhooks and more. See the Hosted Graphite docs for more details on notification channels:

Monitor Your NGINX Webserver with Telegraf - 5

Conclusion

Monitoring your NGINX instance is essential for ensuring seamless operations, maintaining security, enhancing user experiences, meeting compliance standards, and enabling scalability, which will ultimately contribute to the overall success and efficiency of your business.

Webserver performance monitoring provides valuable data, and using tools like dashboards and alerts will complement this data by providing real-time visualization, proactive identification of issues, historical trend analysis, and facilitating informed decision-making, all of which are essential for maintaining a robust and efficient infrastructure. 

Sign up for the free trial, and experiment with monitoring your NGINX instances today. You can also book a demo and talk to the MetricFire team directly about your monitoring needs.

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