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How I monitor my web server with the ELK Stack

Elasticsearch and Kibana offer a comprehensive tool for doing real-time web server monitoring and analytics.
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statistics tracking on a monitor

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In a previous article, I introduced Elasticsearch, Logstash, and Kibana (the ELK Stack) and the various components that make up this monitoring system. In this article, I'll look at how I use the ELK Stack to monitor my Nginx web server. This requires approximately 16GB of memory to operate.

As I wrote before, "Elasticsearch is the engine of the Elastic Stack, which provides analytics and search functionalities. Logstash is responsible for collecting, aggregating, and storing data to be used by Elasticsearch. Kibana provides the user interface and insights into data previously collected and analyzed by Elasticsearch."

Here, I'll introduce the concepts and basic configurations for how I use the ELK Stack to monitor my web server. Please note that these steps are not very detailed; I use this for development and demonstration rather than production. Running ELK in production would involve multiple instances in a cluster.

This tutorial uses Elasticsearch and Kibana; Logstash supports many modules by default, and you can tap into this information.

Step 1: Deploy Elasticsearch and Kibana

To make deployment easy, I created an application stalk with Elasticsearch and Kibana using Podman. Here is the pod and two containers:

podman pod create --name elastic -p 9200:9200 -p 9300:9300 -p 5601:5601
podman run --pod elastic --name elasticsearch -d -e "discovery.type=single-node" docker.elastic.co/elasticsearch/elasticsearch:7.14.0
podman run --pod elastic --name kibana -d -e "ELASTICSEARCH_HOSTS=http://127.0.0.1:9200" docker.elastic.co/kibana/kibana:7.14.0 

This creates a pod named elastic and two containers within the pod:

  1. An elasticsearch container, which runs the image docker.elastic.co/elasticsearch/elasticsearch:7.14.0.
  2. A kibana container, which runs the image docker.elastic.co/kibana/kibana:7.14.0 and connects to the elasticsearch container on port 9200.

If these run successfully, the Kibana dashboard is accessible from the host browser. The firewall must allow port 5601, which is used for accessing Kibana, for external access.

To run this tutorial on a local machine, use http://localhost:5601 to access the dashboard; to run it inside a virtual machine (VM), use the VM's IP address. Port forwarding uses the same steps as running it on localhost.

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Home page
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I use this path to access the Nginx logs from the main page:

Home page -> Add data -> Logs -> nginx logs

Step 2: Configure the Filebeat and Nginx module

According to Elastic, "Filebeat monitors the log files or locations that you specify, collects log events, and forwards them either to Elasticsearch or Logstash for indexing." The Nginx logs page explains how to configure Filebeat and the Nginx module. This configuration displays the Kibana entries on the server where Nginx is installed and sends the Nginx logs to Elasticsearch:

curl -L -O https://artifacts.elastic.co/downloads/beats/filebeat/filebeat-7.14.0-x86_64.rpm
rpm -vi filebeat-7.14.0-x86_64.rpm

I modify /etc/filebeat/filebeat.yml to set the connection information:

output.elasticsearch:
  hosts: ["10.233.208.8:9200"] #This is server in where elasticsearch is running 
setup.kibana:
  host: "10.233.208.8:5601" #This is the server where kabana is running 

#check if filebeat file has the correct syntax:
filebeat -e -c /etc/filebeat/filebeat.yml

#Enable the nginx module
filebeat modules enable nginx

#configure filebeat to start and persist reboot:
filebeat setup
systemctl enable filebeat
systemctl start filebeat

Step 3: Create an index pattern on Elasticsearch

Kibana requires an index pattern in order to search the data that Elasticsearch processes. An index pattern identifies the data to use and the metadata or properties of the data. This is analogous to selecting specific data from a database.

On Kibana's main page, I use this path to create an index pattern:

Management -> Stack Management -> index patterns -> create index pattern

I enter the index pattern, such as filebeat-*. It suggests choices, and a wildcard works to match multiple sources.

Click Next.

If Kibana detects an index with a timestamp, I expand the Time field menu and specify the default field for filtering data by time.

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Step 4: Create a dashboard to visualize data

I follow this path to display a data visualization:

Main Page -> Analytics -> Dashboard -> create visualization

On the left, I select the Available fields and use the dropdown on the right to create a dashboard.

Learn more

This container-based deployment option for the ELK Stack is particularly useful in a lab or learning scenario. There are plenty of additional configurations available to monitor servers.

The ELK Stack is a comprehensive tool that sysadmins may find useful for real-time monitoring and analytics. It can also be integrated into other systems. If you want to go beyond this introduction of these basic concepts and configurations and use it in a production deployment, consult the documentation.

Check out these related articles on Enable Sysadmin

Topics:   Monitoring   Web servers  
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Evans Amoany

I work as Unix/Linux Administrator with a passion for high availability systems and clusters. I am a student of performance and optimization of systems and DevOps. I have passion for anything IT related and most importantly automation, high availability, and security. More about me

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