Blog Post

Docker Container Monitoring with GroundWork Cloud Hub

June 19, 2020

Why Containers?

Container technologies have captivated the computing world. Containers are the cornerstone for cloud computing and microservice architectures. Whether it be Docker™, Docker Compose™, or Kubernetes™, the IT world is embracing this technology with great enthusiasm.

How can you monitor containers? They are different from traditional hosts and servers. For one thing, they are not physical machines; nor are they virtual machines. Containers can be spun up to handle periodic load, and then torn down when no longer needed. With Kubernetes, containers can also be replicated and load balanced in pods across clusters.

Monitoring Containers with the Docker Connector

In this article, we will demonstrate how to monitor containers in Docker with the GroundWork Monitor Docker connector

First, let’s take a look at how to connect to a Docker system running on the same machine where GroundWork is installed. Since version 8.0.0, GroundWork now runs as a Docker Compose application, so it’s a great example to work from. After installing GroundWork 8, you will see all the containers running that are used by the GroundWork application:

GroundWork Docker containers

Out of the box, GroundWork monitors its own containers using the Docker connector. Let’s look at the GroundWork Status Summary dashboard. Here you will see all the containers above being monitored as traditional GroundWork inventory; as groups, hosts and services. In the image below we are looking at a Host Group view, where all the containers are members of a host group named DOCK-H:cadvisor:

GroundWork Docker containers

The Top Problems tab in the Host Group view sorts the containers (hosts) by their availability, with worst availability sorted to the top. Note, all the hosts in our image above are GroundWork containers. Let’s take a closer look at a single container in the Host view:

GroundWork Docker containers

The host we are looking at here is the Nagios™ container (gw8-dockergw8_nagios_1). We can see this container’s status, check times, availability over time, as well as the performance metrics. 

Docker provides metrics for:

  • Container CPU usage (
  • Container Network throughput (network*)
  • Container Memory usage (memory*)
  • Container File System usage (filesystem*)
  • Container Disk usage (diskusage*)

Here is the Service view for the Docker metric for the ElasticSearch container: 

GroundWork Docker containers

Additional metrics can be calculated based on the values of other metrics and formulae you specify. These calculated metrics are called synthetics. Here we have taken the Docker metric: memory.usage and using a GroundWork Cloud Hub formula, converted its value from bytes to megabytes: GW:MB2(memory.usage):

GroundWork Docker containers

The red line represents a Critical threshold, whereas the orange line represents a Warning threshold. In this example, this metric is in a Warning state. 

Notice the service named: icmp_ping_alive. This is not a Docker metric. It comes from Nagios. Nagios and the Docker connector are monitoring the same container, merging the monitoring by host name. This is an example of the Unified Monitoring feature in GroundWork: where metrics on a container or other monitored resource can originate from two or more different sources.

Next, let’s look at how to configure the Docker connector.

Configuring the Docker Connector

Making a connection to Docker is easy. Just point the connector at a server running CAdvisor on a standard port, click Test to make sure it works, and off you go!

GroundWork Docker containers

Here we just point to the CAdvisor container, which is exposed to other containers in Docker with the name cadvisor on port 8098. Cloud Hub, running in another container, can connect directly to it using its Docker Compose service name. Note that GroundWork comes with CAdvisor installed in Docker Compose. If you are connecting to Docker running on another node in your network, ensure that you install CAdvisor into Docker on the other node so you can connect to it using it’s fully qualified domain name..

When you are monitoring multiple installations of Docker in your network, you will probably want to give each Docker node a host prefix. This will prefix the name of your containers to avoid collisions in the global network namespace. Unlike hosts in your network, container names are often the same on different nodes, and not unique across the entire network.

Since cloud providers often have hundreds of metrics, Cloud Hub automatically categorizes your metrics for you. We call these categories Views. GroundWork provides a set of custom-selected metrics and thresholds so you can immediately start monitoring your cloud infrastructure with a few clicks. This “convention over configuration” philosophy is seen throughout GroundWork Monitor. For advanced users, we continue to provide the ability to go deeper into configuration and make adjustments. The Docker connector provides two views of metrics:

GroundWork Docker containers

In addition to monitoring individual container metrics, we can also monitor metrics across the entire Docker Engine. These metrics are total for all CPU usage, memory usage, network usage across the entire Docker instance.

The metrics with the Monitor column checked will actually be monitored. You can use this view of the Metrics to quickly set Warning and Critical thresholds per metric:

GroundWork Docker containers

Inventory Comes and Goes

Containers can be added to the Docker system. The Docker connector will automatically discover when new containers are added, or when containers are removed from the Docker deployment. 

First, let’s take an example of adding a container. If we run:

docker run -d -P --name static-site prakhar1989/static-site

A container will be added to the Docker node. Soon after starting the static-site container, we will see it added to the inventory in the Status Summary dashboard:
GroundWork Docker containers

The container name is prefixed by gw8-, as we configured in the configuration step.

Next, let’s remove the static-site container:

docker stop static-site

In a few moments, the static-site container is removed from the Status view inventory. Containers that come and go will appear and vanish, but the events they generate will be available in reports. 

Monitoring Docker Compose Managed Containers

Docker Compose containers are no different than other Docker containers. Docker Compose makes it easier to bundle containers and distribute them as a single application. Here is a simple example of how to quickly start monitoring containers provisioned in Docker Compose, (this example requires Docker Compose to be installed).

mkdir wordpress
cd wordpress
vi docker-compose.yml
# paste in the following and save
version: '3.3'

     image: mysql:5.7
       - db_data:/var/lib/mysql
     restart: always
       MYSQL_ROOT_PASSWORD: somewordpress
       MYSQL_DATABASE: wordpress
       MYSQL_USER: wordpress
       MYSQL_PASSWORD: wordpress
       - db
     image: wordpress:latest
       - "8586:80"
     restart: always
       WORDPRESS_DB_HOST: db:3306
       WORDPRESS_DB_USER: wordpress
       WORDPRESS_DB_PASSWORD: wordpress
       WORDPRESS_DB_NAME: wordpress
    db_data: {}

Start up the WordPress™ application, consisting of two containers:

docker-compose up -d

Ensure the WordPress application is running:

docker-compose ps
wordpress_db_1 mysqld      Up      3306/tcp, 33060/tcp 
wordpress_wordpress_1 apach ...   Up>80/tcp

You’ll see in the Status Summary dashboard, two more containers being monitored:

GroundWork Docker containers

Note, we filtered the containers in this screen by selecting the Search/Actions Host filter.

To stop the WordPress application, type:

docker-compose down

You will see the two WordPress containers are removed from the Status Summary dashboard. 

In Summary

The dynamic synchronization of monitored inventory is essential when working with Docker containers. The life cycle of containers can be much shorter than hosts or virtual machines. Creation of containers is easily scriptable, allowing you to quickly spin up and tear down containers as needed, in response to anything from monitoring feedback to system load. Synchronization of distributed container inventory will be explored again in an upcoming blog post, where we’ll have a close look at monitoring Kubernetes.

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GroundWork 8.1.0 released!

GroundWork Monitor Enterprise 8.1.0 now available for download

Download 8.1.0

Parent Child

This version of our Enterprise product supports distributed monitoring with multiple GroundWork servers in parent-child configurations, along with an update to our Log Bridge connection to Elasticsearch and Kibana.

Download 8.1.0

You can now download version 8.1.0 for free in a time-limited capacity. This free version will work for up to 200 devices for 3 months, and (unlike prior free versions) is 100% enabled, with many updates and new features.

GroundWork Support

See GroundWork Support for our open and extensive documentation and knowledge base articles. Also, don’t forget to register for our upcoming Live Webinar – 6/10/2020 10AM PST: GW8 Distributed Monitoring with Central Control.

We hope you find this new version useful and enjoy the innovations it brings.