Blog Post

Application Monitoring with Spring Boot, Prometheus, and GroundWork Monitor

April 20, 2021


In our previous Blog, we introduced how we use Prometheus and the GroundWork Application Performance Monitoring (APM) connector to instrument a GoLang program to send metrics to GroundWork Monitor Enterprise. In this article, we continue with more Prometheus examples, but this time we demonstrate how to instrument a Java application with Spring Boot for easy monitoring. With just a few annotations, your Spring Boot application will generate metrics in the Prometheus Exposition format, and we will then show how easy it is to send those Spring Boot metrics to Groundwork Monitor.

Spring Boot, the de facto standard for Java microservices, has several metrics frameworks already built in. With a couple of tweaks, it easily supports the Prometheus Exposition format, which can be polled by the APM connector in GroundWork Monitor.

Since we are doing Application Performance Monitoring, some coding chops are required to follow the details in this blog. In particular, some experience with Java and the Spring Framework is required to actually build the examples we show in this article, but we will explain what we are doing and why, so even novices can see what’s involved. 

Before we get started writing code, you may want to refresh your memory on the fundamentals of the Prometheus Model

Spring Boot Initializr

To get started, we generated a Maven project using the online Spring Boot Initializr service:

Spring boot doesn’t support the Prometheus Exposition format by default, so we added the following dependencies to our Spring Boot project to enable it:

  • Spring Web
  • Spring Boot Actuator
  • Prometheus

At the time of this writing, the latest version of Spring Boot was 2.5.0-M3, which is required to get the Spring Boot Actuator dependencies that support Prometheus. That’s really all that’s needed for dependencies.

Building the Coding Examples

In our coding examples, we will stay consistent with the prior blog and extend it a bit. To start with, we instrument and monitor:

  • One microservice
  • Three REST endpoints
    • /metrics 
    • /actuator/prometheus
    • /simple
  • One GroundWork host (FinanceServices) and three GroundWork services:
    • analytics
    • distribution
    • sales
  • Three metrics per GroundWork service
    • bytes_per_minute
    • requests_per_minute
    • response_time (averaged over one minute)

The connector and coding examples for doing this are available for cloning in our public GitHub repository:

To checkout the entire source code to our open source connector framework, go here:

git clone

To run the example Prometheus instrumented server:

$ cd examples/prometheus/pull/java
$ mvn install
$ mvn spring-boot:run

And then to run the Prometheus connector:

$ cd connectors/prometheus-connector
$ go build
$ ./prometheus-connector

Spring Boot Actuator Metrics

Now we will get to the extensions. Spring Boot Actuator provides runtime, production ready metrics and system information as RESTful endpoints including:

  • Health
  • Caches
  • Configuration and Environment
  • App Server Statistics Like Sessions (Tomcat)
  • Thread Dump
  • Heap Dump
  • Garbage Collection
  • HTTP Requests per Endpoint
  • Logging Statistics

And many more…

Enabling these endpoints requires no coding. The endpoint we are interested in is the Prometheus endpoint, which contains a full set of application metrics in Prometheus Exposition format. Enabling the Actuator Prometheus metrics is easy. In your file, simply add:


To enable all Actuator endpoints:


See the Spring Boot documentation of examples of selectively enabling endpoints. 

Then run the application and point your browser to the endpoint, for example:


Visiting that URL in the browser, you will see metrics in Prometheus Exposition line-based format. This format has been recently standardized under the OpenMetrics open source project. GroundWork Monitor supports the OpenMetrics standard in the APM connector.

Let’s look at some samples that are served by the /actuator/prometheus end point. We have  two metrics named:

http_server_requests_second_sum metrics 

for all of our REST endpoints:

# HELP http_server_requests_seconds # TYPE http_server_requests_seconds summary http_server_requests_seconds_count{exception="None",method="GET",outcome="SUCCESS",status="200",uri="/metrics",} 12.0 http_server_requests_seconds_sum{exception="None",method="GET",outcome="SUCCESS",status="200",uri="/metrics",} 0.080140906 http_server_requests_seconds_count{exception="None",method="GET",outcome="SUCCESS",status="200",uri="/actuator/prometheus",} 1.0 http_server_requests_seconds_sum{exception="None",method="GET",outcome="SUCCESS",status="200",uri="/actuator/prometheus",} 0.019978042 http_server_requests_seconds_count{exception="None",method="GET",outcome="SUCCESS",status="200",uri="/simple",} 4.0 http_server_requests_seconds_sum{exception="None",method="GET",outcome="SUCCESS",status="200",uri="/simple",} 0.028701704

The count and sum metrics are repeated for each endpoint (/metrics, /actuator/prometheus, and /simple). Each label (in between the brackets {}) represents a dimension on the metric, which can be used downstream by monitoring systems and time series databases to categorize the metric. The actual sampled value of the metric is the last item on the line. See our previous article on Prometheus for a full description of the Prometheus line format.

Here are some samples of the metrics you can monitor with Spring Boot Actuator. The list below is not complete by any means, but it should give you an idea of what’s possible:

Tomcat sessions:

# HELP tomcat_sessions_active_max_sessions  
# TYPE tomcat_sessions_active_max_sessions gauge
tomcat_sessions_active_max_sessions 0.0
# HELP tomcat_sessions_created_sessions_total  
# TYPE tomcat_sessions_created_sessions_total counter
tomcat_sessions_created_sessions_total 0.0
# HELP tomcat_sessions_alive_max_seconds  
# TYPE tomcat_sessions_alive_max_seconds gauge
tomcat_sessions_alive_max_seconds 0.0
# HELP process_start_time_seconds Start time of the process since unix epoch.
# TYPE process_start_time_seconds gauge
process_start_time_seconds 1.617142505672E9

JVM threads and memory:

# HELP jvm_threads_peak_threads The peak live thread count since the Java virtual machine started or peak was reset
# TYPE jvm_threads_peak_threads gauge
jvm_threads_peak_threads 22.0
# HELP jvm_memory_used_bytes The amount of used memory
# TYPE jvm_memory_used_bytes gauge
jvm_memory_used_bytes{area="heap",id="G1 Survivor Space",} 5507392.0
jvm_memory_used_bytes{area="heap",id="G1 Old Gen",} 1.188864E7
jvm_memory_used_bytes{area="nonheap",id="Metaspace",} 3.0493616E7
jvm_memory_used_bytes{area="nonheap",id="CodeHeap 'non-nmethods'",} 1252352.0
jvm_memory_used_bytes{area="heap",id="G1 Eden Space",} 1.2582912E7

Class loader and process uptime:

HELP jvm_classes_loaded_classes The number of classes that are currently loaded in the Java virtual machine
# TYPE jvm_classes_loaded_classes gauge
jvm_classes_loaded_classes 7081.0
# HELP jvm_threads_daemon_threads The current number of live daemon threads
# TYPE jvm_threads_daemon_threads gauge
jvm_threads_daemon_threads 18.0
# HELP jvm_gc_max_data_size_bytes Max size of long-lived heap memory pool
# TYPE jvm_gc_max_data_size_bytes gauge
jvm_gc_max_data_size_bytes 8.589934592E9
# HELP process_uptime_seconds The uptime of the Java virtual machine
# TYPE process_uptime_seconds gauge
process_uptime_seconds 79146.05


# HELP jvm_threads_states_threads The current number of threads having NEW state
# TYPE jvm_threads_states_threads gauge
jvm_threads_states_threads{state="runnable",} 8.0
jvm_threads_states_threads{state="blocked",} 0.0
jvm_threads_states_threads{state="waiting",} 11.0
jvm_threads_states_threads{state="timed-waiting",} 3.0
jvm_threads_states_threads{state="new",} 0.0
jvm_threads_states_threads{state="terminated",} 0.0

Next we will configure GroundWork Monitor to pull Prometheus metrics from our application.

The GroundWork APM Connector

The APM Connector can be started by enabling it in docker-compose-override.yml:

# Uncomment to enable APM connector
 image: groundworkdevelopment/tcg:${TAG}
   - tcg-var:/tcg
 entrypoint: ["/app/", "apm-connector"]

Then just start it up:

docker-compose up -d tcg-apm

Once it’s running, login to GroundWork Monitor, navigate to the Configuration > Connectors menu option and add a new Prometheus connector definition. 

The TCG host address is the address of the host where you installed the Prometheus connector (that is, the container you just started). The Resources field is a list of one or more Prometheus-instrumented applications. The example below shows how we use this list to point to the three endpoints we set up. 


Note: The hostname in this example is specific to docker running on Mac OSX. For Linux, the hostname will be if you are running the application on the GroundWork Monitor host itself. You could also use the fully-qualified domain name of the system running the application.

Additionally, you can set defaults for the Host Group and Host per server resource, making categorization of hosts into host groups much easier.

You can also configure headers here to pass on to your application when connecting. 

GroundWork Architecture

GroundWork 8 introduces a connector architecture for gathering metrics from a diverse set of sources. The APM connector adds to the list of supported connectors including Kubernetes, Docker, Elastic, OpenStack, VMware and more. Additionally, we have Cloud connectors for AWS, Google Cloud and Microsoft Azure.
The APM connector runs between your servers being monitored and GroundWork Monitor. In the diagram below, the Prometheus connector periodically pulls metrics from our example FinancialService application. 
Prometheus and GroundWork
Metrics and Inventory are queued in the connector, and won’t be removed from the queue until they are delivered to GroundWork Monitor. Once they are received by GroundWork Monitor, they are immediately made available to GroundWord Monitoring Dashboards, as well as other visualization applications like Grafana, Kibana, and Jaeger. All of these visualization UIs are packaged with GroundWork Monitor Enterprise out-of-the-box.
Prometheus and GroundWork

Instrumenting your Application Metrics

Great! We’ve seen how to enable Spring Boot Actuator metrics. What next? What about custom metrics? Ok, we will generate some metrics of our own by instrumenting our code further. Let’s dive into one of the examples from our open source Github repository. We will be looking at the “pull” examples found in examples/prometheus/pull/java/*.java. To follow along, open up in your favorite editor.

We start with a simple example (using the endpoint /simple). This is not a recommended coding technique, but it does show the simplicity of the Prometheus format. This example requires Java 15 to make use of Text Blocks:

       # HELP simple_calculated using calculated monitor status
       # TYPE simple_calculated counter

       simple_calculated{service="simple-service-1",warning="80",critical="90",resource="AppGenerated",group="SpringBoot"} %d
       # HELP simple_metric and passing in the status code
       # TYPE simple_metric counter

       simple_metric{service="simple-service-1",resource="AppGenerated",status="%s"} %d

We just take this string, format it, and return metrics.

public String prometheusSimpleEndPoint(HttpServletResponse response) {
   Random random = new Random();
   response.setStatus(random.nextInt(2) > 0 ? 220 : 200);
   return String.format(SIMPLE_PROMETHEUS_METRICS, random.nextInt(100), MONITOR_STATUS.get(random.nextInt(3)), random.nextInt(100));

And voila, we have a simple metrics example end point (using random numbers).

Next, open up Add your new metrics like this:

CounterMetricFamily requestsPerMinute = new CounterMetricFamily(
       "Finance Services http requests per minute.",
GaugeMetricFamily bytesPerMinute = new GaugeMetricFamily(
       "Finance Services bytes transferred over http per minute.",
GaugeMetricFamily responseTime = new GaugeMetricFamily(
       "Finance Services http response time average over 1 minute.",

Above we have created three metrics. The first example is a counter, and the second and third examples are gauges. This is important when we get to persisting and graphing these metrics in GroundWork Monitor. 

Labels can be static or dynamic. All GroundWork metrics must be attached, with a label, to a Service. We use dynamic labels, since we want to change labels based on runtime information. 

We need to add labels for Resource(Host) and Group. These labels are used for classification in GroundWork. If you don’t want to set them in code, you can set the resource and group labels in the connector provisioning UI under Defaults. See above.

In code it just looks something like:

List<String> labels = new ArrayList<String>() {{

GroundWork Monitor works best with warning and critical threshold values per metric. Thresholds are used to determine status of a host or service. Additionally, thresholds, when supplied, are stored in the time series database and displayed by graphing tools like Grafana, so it makes sense to include them in the program. If you need to you can of course override them in the UI. 

for (String service : services) {
   // Counter multi metric building example
   requestsPerMinute.addMetric(new ArrayList<String>() {{
       add(service);  // service name
       add("70");     // warning threshold
       add("90");     // critical threshold
       add(defaultResource); // resource name (host)
       add(defaultGroup);    // group name
   }}, (int) (1 + Math.random() * 100)); // value

Our example has three services, each of which has its own set of metrics:

List<String> services = new ArrayList<String>() {{

The Prometheus library then formats our collection of metrics to the Prometheus Exposition format with the TextFormat utility class:

DecimalFormat df = new DecimalFormat("#.#");
List<Collector.MetricFamilySamples> mfs = new ArrayList<>();
TextFormat.write004(writer, Collections.enumeration(mfs));
return writer.toString();

Since this is an example server with no real traffic, we will contrive the solution using randomly generated metric values.

OK, so we have our application instrumented, and you configured the APM connector in GroundWork Monitor to point to it, so we can take a look at some visualizations. 

Visualizing Your Metrics in GroundWork Monitor

Once the Prometheus connector is configured, you can immediately see metrics in the GroundWork Monitor under Dashboards > Status:

This example shows the Host Group view of the Status dashboard. Following the breadcrumb trail, you can see from our instrumented code that the host group name is set to SpringBoot, the host is set to Actuator, the services are the Actuator metrics. The AppGenerated host is from the /simple endpoint.

This example shows the HostGroup View of the Status Summary dashboard. Following the breadcrumb trail again, you can see that the host group name is set to PrometheusDemo, the host is set to FinanceServiceJavaa, the service is set to the microservice endpoints:

  • sales
  • analytics
  • distribution 

The metrics are graphed with line graph samples and warning and critical thresholds over time. The colored bar displays the changing status of this service by showing the color-coded availability history and transitions over the selected time period. Note that this example has more transitions than would be expected in a normal application due to the nature of randomly generated metrics.

To view these metrics in Grafana, navigate to the Dashboards->Graphs menu, where you can create pretty much any graphs you like. Here’s a quick example:

We can also view top problems and events associated with our microservice in the main GroundWork Monitor 8 dashboard:

You can get alerts when your microservice has issues, of course. See GroundWork documentation for detailed instructions and examples. 

In Summary

Application Performance Monitoring is becoming the standard way of measuring Cloud-based microservices running in a distributed environment. Many vendors and open source frameworks as well as orchestration systems like Kubernetes or Spring Boot are including open tracing libraries out of the box, providing endpoints supporting the Prometheus Exposition format. With the Prometheus connector, GroundWork Monitor is ready to consume, process, persist and present these metrics.

See our support portal GroundWork Support at
Thanks for reading our Blog.

GroundWork Open Source

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