Monitor Cassandra using Zabbix

11 min read
Nov 7, 2016

Zabbix is an open-source based enterprise level monitoring solution that aims for monitoring distributed network components and servers. It supports both polling and trapping based monitoring and provides an email-based alerting capability that can respond to virtually any event of the monitored system. A web portal is also provided for viewing metrics and monitoring behavior configuration. At very high level, Zabbix monitoring solution is composed of the following core components:
  • Zabbix Server
  • Zabbix Agent
  • Zabbix Proxy
  • Zabbix Java Gateway
  • Zabbix Web Interface
  • Zabbix Database Interface
The detailed description of these components is out of the scope of this blog post. Please refer to Zabbix documentation for more details. In this blog post, I'm going to focus on how to set up and use Zabbix to monitor a Cassandra cluster.

1. Logical Architecture of Zabbix-Cassandra Monitoring

The diagram below gives a high level architecture view of how Zabbix monitoring for Cassandra zabbix_architecture The testing environment is a virtual machine based Ubuntu 16.04.1 LTS (Xenial Xerus). The software component version involved in this diagram is as below:
  • Apache Cassandra: 2.1.16 (nodetool version)
  • Apache Web Server: 2.4.18 (apachectl -v)
  • MySQL Database Server: 14.14 Distrib 5.7.16 (mysql --version)
  • Zabbix Server: 3.2.1 (zabbix_server --version)
  • Zabbix Java Gateway: 3.2.1
  • Zabbix Agent: 3.2.1 (zabbix_agentd -V)
  • Zabbix Proxy: 3.2.1
Please note that since the focus of this experiment is to monitor Cassandra metrics through JMX, the components of Zabbix Agent and Zabbix Proxy are optional in the diagram. The configuration of these two components are also not discussed in this blog post. Please refer to Zabbix documentation for more information.

2. Install and Configure for Zabbix Monitoring: Server-side Components

In this section, I will go through the detailed instructions of installing and configuring the different software components that are involved. For each of the components, there are different installation methods. The method I use in this post is through Ubuntu APT package based installation method.

2.1 Install Web Server, Database Server, PHP and Extentions

Zabbix front-end requites Apache web server. Meanwhile, a database server is needed to store the data collected and managed by Zabbix server. Currently, Zabbix server supports the following databases:
  • MySQL (5.0.3 or later)
  • Oracle (10g or later)
  • PostgresSQL (8.1 or later)
  • SQLite (3.3.5 or later)
  • IBM DB2 (9.7 or later)
Please note that although SQLite is supported, it is in general not recommended for Zabbix production deployment. In my experiment, I use MySQL as the back-end database. Zabbix also relies on PHP (5.4.0 or later) and some other PHP extensions to work properly. The instructions for installing these components are as below:
 # Install Apache Web Server
 sudo apt-get install apache2
 # Install MySQL Server
 sudo apt-get install mysql-server
 # Install PHP and Required Extensions
 sudo apt-get install php7.0 php7.0-cli php7.0-common php7.0-mysql php7.0-xml php7.0-bcmath php7.0-mbstring libapache2-mod-php7.0

2.2 Install Zabbix

The instructions of installing different Zabbix components are as below:
 # Add Zabbix APT repository for Ubuntu 16.04
 sudo wget
 sudo dpkg -i zabbix-release_3.2-1+xenial_all.deb
 sudo apt-get update
 # Install Zabbix back-end for MySQL
 sudo apt-get install zabbix-server-mysql
 # Install Zabbix front-end
 sudo apt-get install zabbix-frontend-php
 # Install Zabbix Java Gateway to collect JMX metrics
 sudo apt-get install zabbix-java-gateway
 # Install Zabbix Agent to collect non-JMX metrics (NOTE: not used in my experiment)
 # sudo apt-get install zabbix-agent
 # Install Proxy for Zabbix back-end (NOTE: not used in my experiment)
 # sudo apt-get install zabbix-proxy-mysq

2.3 Server-side Configuration

Once the required components are installed, the next step is to configure them properly so they can work with each other as a whole. Please note that the following configuration activities are the minimum required to make it working as a system. More advanced configurations such as those related with security or performance are beyond the scope of this blog.

2.3.1 Set up the default PHP timezone

In the core PHP configuration file ( php.ini, default location at /etc/php/7.0/apache2/), provides the default time zone string that you want it to be. A full list of available PHP time zone strings can be found the following web page:
 date.timezone = '

2.3.2 Configure Apache Module for Zabbix front-end

Zabbix front-end installation creates a central file (e.g. /etc/zabbix/ apache.conf) for Apache web server related configuration items. If there is any change has been made in this file, Apache web server needs to be restarted. In my experiment, the default values are used and I don't make any explicit changes.
 sudo service apache2 restart

2.3.3 Configure Zabbix Monitoring Database (MySQL)

The first step is to create a database named " zabbixdb" (note that the database name has to be "zabbixdb" in order for the next step to be successful) and a database user to connect to that database. Execute the following MySQL database commands in MySQL command line tool.
 # Create a Zabbix back-end database named "zabbixdb"
 mysql> CREATE DATABASE zabbixdb;
 # Create a database user, "zabbix", that has full privileges on "zabbixdb" database 
 mysql> GRANT ALL on zabbixdb.* to zabbix@localhost IDENTIFIED BY '
After that, the required tables for Zabbix back-end processing need to be created in the database, as below:
 cd /usr/share/doc/zabbix-server-mysql
 zcat create.sql.gz | mysql -u root -p 

2.3.4 Configure Zabbix Server back-end

Once the database is properly configured, Zabbix server needs to be configured so it can connect to the database using the created db user. This is achieved by making the following changes in Zabbix server configuration file (e.g. /etc/zabbix/ zabbix_server.conf)
 # host name where the database is installed
 # database name as created for Zabbix back-end
 # database user name to to connect to Zabbix bakc-end database
 # database user password as specified when the user is created

2.3.5 Configure Zabbix Java Gateway

Zabbix Java Gateway is an independent component separate from a Zabbix server. It acts similarly like a regular Zabbix agent, but the only difference is that Zabbix Java Gateway is used specifically for collecting JMX metrics exposed by a Java application. The key items of Zabbix Java Gateway configuration file (e.g. /etc/zabbix/ zabbix_java_gateway.conf) are as below:
 # IP address that Zabbix Java Gateway listens on (for Zabbix Server connection)
 # Port number that Zabbix Java Gateway listens on
 # Number of worker threads that Zabbix Java Gateway starts
After that, in Zabbix server configuration file (e.g. /etc/zabbix/ zabbix_server.conf), make the following configuration changes so Zabbix server knows how to connect to Zabbix Java Gateway
 # IP address or host name where Zabbix Java Gateway is installed
 # port number that Zabbix Java Gateway listens on
 # the number of process handlers within Zabbix server that are
 # started to poll from Zabbix Java Gateway threads
Please note that the configuration above is only for configuring the connection between a Zabbix Java Gateway and a Zabbix server. The connection between JMX metrics sources and Zabbix Java Gateway is configured through Zabbix Web user interface (UI). Each JMX metrics source is configured in the web UI as a Zabbix host (a device that Zabbix wants to monitor). We'll go through this part in section 3. After making the configuration changes, restart Zabbix Server and Zabbix Java Gateway:
 sudo service zabbix-java-gateway restart
 sudo service zabbix-server restart

3. Install and Configure for Zabbix Monitoring: Web UI Component

After the server side components are properly installed and configured, we can access Zabbix Web UI from the following URL:
  /zabbix/ (e.g. https://localhost/zabbix/)
The first time access of this web UI will bring us to Zabbix front-end web configuration pages that has the following steps. The screenshot for each step is provided as below.
  • Pre-requisite check zabbix_setup_1
  • Database configuration zabbix_setup_2
  • Zabbix server detail configuration zabbix_setup_3
  • Pre-installation summary zabbix_setup_4
  • Install zabbix_setup_5
If the previous steps are successful, it will bring us to the login page. zabbix_login Entering the right user name and password (e.g. the default "admin/zabbix" pair), we'll land at the main Zabbix dashboard page, as below: zabbix_homepage

4. Set up Zabbix for Cassandra (JMX) Monitoring

4.1. General Approach

At this stage, we're ready to add JMX exposed Cassandra metrics for monitoring and alerting through Zabbix web UI. The high level steps of doing so are summarized as below: 1. Create a JMX-type interface on the host of interest. In my experiment, Cassandra is running locally on the same machine, with the default JMX port at 7199. So configuring the JMX-type interface for Cassandra looks like something as below: zabbix_cassandra_jmx_interface 2. After the JMX-type interface on the host is defined, the next step is to add the JMX metrics of your interest to the host one by one. The following is an example of adding Cassandra metrics of "key cache capacity" as a Zabbix monitoring item. zabbix_cassandra_jmx_item

4.2. Easier Approach: Use Zabbix-Cassandra Template

Cassandra exposes several hundreds of metrics through JMX interface. By no means it is a tedious and error-prone process to add all these metrics manually through Zabbix web UI. Luckily for us, Zabbix provides a repository of monitoring templates that can be used for a variety of monitoring scenarios and Cassandra cluster monitoring is one of such scenarios under "database" category. What we need to do is to simply: 1) Download the template as needed. The Cassandra cluster monitoring template (.xml file) can be found at here. 2) Make necessary changes that matches your own setup and import it into Zabbix from Zabbix web UI zabbix_cassandra_template_import I have to point out that the provided Cassandra cluster monitoring template does NOT cover all Cassandra metrics. Instead, it includes 69 Items, 8 Triggers, and 5 Graphs examples. From these examples, you can add more items/triggers/graphs of your own interests. The screenshot below shows Cassandra client request write throughput metrics (for a cassandra-stress workload) that is monitored through Zabbix by using the items and graphs provided in the Zabbix Cassandra monitoring template. zabbix_cassandra_write_throughput

5. Conclusion

Zabbix is a full-fledged, enterprise-level networking monitoring solution. A complete Zabbix monitoring framework covers different components that span from web based front end, web server, metrics collection agents, monitoring server and proxy, and a database server. For Java application monitoring, it also provides an out-of-the-box JMX metrics collection mechanism through Zabbix Java Gateway. In this blog post, I went through the step-by-step details of how to set up a monitoring framework to monitor Cassandra cluster metrics through Zabbix. Compared with other open-source based monitoring solutions like Graphite, it is easier to set up and doesn't require special setup on Cassandra side (except that remote JMX connection needs to be opened for remote Cassandra monitoring). More importantly, Zabbix provides out-of-the-box alerting capability that many other open-source solutions don't offer.

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