Server Monitoring with Zabbix

Think implementing a large monitoring service is tedious? Not so with Zabbix. Start monitoring several-dozen critical hardware and services quickly.

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:

  • Distributed monitoring.

  • Clients for Linux, BSD, Windows, Mac OS X and commercial UNIXes.

  • Database back end (MySQL, Oracle, PostgreSQL or SQLite).

  • Auto-discovery mode.

  • Web-based interface.

  • Notifications via e-mail, SMS or Jabber.

  • Support for polling or trapping Zabbix client messages.

  • SNMP.

  • Agent-less monitoring (ping, port checks and so on).

  • Graphs.

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.

Prerequisite Applications

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.)

Installation

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.

Server and Client Configurations

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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