Server Monitoring with Zabbix
Zabbix (www.zabbix.com) is an open-source, commercially backed monitoring solution that supports UNIX, Linux, BSD, Mac OS X and Windows platforms and is built to support large installations. Zabbix is the creation of Alexei Vladishev and his company Zabbix SIA. This article is based on the latest version of Zabbix, version 1.8.1, which was released in January 2010. At the time of this writing, most Linux distributions include the previous version (1.6) in their repositories. There are significant changes when compared to 1.8, but most of this article still applies. A partial feature list includes:
Clients for Linux, BSD, Windows, Mac OS X and commercial UNIXes.
Database back end (MySQL, Oracle, PostgreSQL or SQLite).
Notifications via e-mail, SMS or Jabber.
Support for polling or trapping Zabbix client messages.
Agent-less monitoring (ping, port checks and so on).
Although you can install Zabbix from your Linux distribution's repositories, I'm going to install version 1.8.1 from source using Ubuntu 9.10 for the server platform with a MySQL database back end. I also show how to configure a Linux client with the basic monitoring that comes with a default Zabbix installation.
Before compiling the Zabbix sources, I need to install prerequisite packages:
shell> sudo apt-get install mysql-server apache2 ↪libapache2-mod-php5 php5-mysql php5-gd ↪libmysqlclient15-dev libsnmp-dev libiksemel-dev ↪libcurl4-gnutls-dev
(In Ubuntu, the package names are mysql-server, apache2, libapache2-mod-php5, php5-mysql, php5-gd, libmysqlclient15-dev, libsnmp-dev, libiksemel-dev and libcurl4-gnutls-dev.)
The Zabbix sever and client will run as the user zabbix, so you need to create an account:
shell> sudo useradd -s /bin/true zabbix
Next, create the zabbix database:
shell> mysql -u<username> -p<password> mysql> create database zabbix; mysql> quit;
Download the source code from www.zabbix.com/download.php, uncompress the archive and then follow the steps below to set up the database schema and default configuration. Note that I am using the MySQL schema files to set up my database; there are different schema files for the other supported databases:
shell> sudo tar zxvf zabbix-1.8.1.tar.gz shell> cd zabbix-1.8.1/create/schema shell> cat mysql.sql | mysql -u<username> -p<password> zabbix shell> cd ../data shell> cat data.sql | mysql -u<username> -p<password> zabbix shell> cat images_mysql.sql | mysql -u<username> -p<password> zabbix
To compile the server code, cd back to the root of the extracted zabbix-1.8 source directory, and run the following command to compile the server binaries to have support for MySQL, SNMP and Jabber:
shell> ./configure --enable-server --with-mysql --with-net-snmp ↪--with-jabber --with-lib-curl shell> sudo make install shell> ./configure --enable-agent --enable-static shell> sudo make install
I recommend building static binaries for the clients. This helps when deploying the client across different (Linux) versions. Although the make install command builds and installs the server binary zabbix_server, it does not build the client agent binary. To compile the client binaries, cd into zabbix-1.8.1/src/zabbix_agent, and run another make install. The binaries then are installed into /usr/local/sbin—the same location for the server binary:
shell> ./configure --enable-agent --enable-static shell> cd src/zabbix_agent shell> sudo make install
Two zabbix binaries are compiled: zabbix_agentd and zabbix_agent. The latter is used to run the client from a superserver, such as inetd, and the former runs as a dæmon. It's recommended to run the zabbix_agentd.
Zabbix uses one configuration file for the server and another for the client. Sample configuration files are available in the zabbix-1.8.1/misc/conf directory. Make a directory called /etc/zabbix, change the ownership of the directory to the user zabbix, and copy the zabbix_server.conf and zabbix_agentd.conf files to this directory.
There isn't much to change in either of the configuration files, but they are well documented within the files themselves. Two configuration parameters in the client zabbix_agentd.conf file that should be changed are the lines Server= and Hostname=. The first should point to your Zabbix server and the second should be the hostname of the client.
With the exception of maybe the DBUser and DBPassword parameters in the zabbix_server.conf file, nothing else needs to be changed if you're running a site with less than a few hosts. Look through both configuration files and refer to the Zabbix documentation for any variables that could be helpful to your site.
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One of the best things about the UNIX environment (aside from being stable and efficient) is the vast array of software tools available to help you do your job. Traditionally, a UNIX tool does only one thing, but does that one thing very well. For example, grep is very easy to use and can search vast amounts of data quickly. The find tool can find a particular file or files based on all kinds of criteria. It's pretty easy to string these tools together to build even more powerful tools, such as a tool that finds all of the .log files in the /home directory and searches each one for a particular entry. This erector-set mentality allows UNIX system administrators to seem to always have the right tool for the job.
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