How To Monitor System Metrics with the TICK Stack on Ubuntu 16.04

How To Monitor System Metrics with the TICK Stack on Ubuntu 16.04


The TICK stack is a collection of products from the developers of the time-series database InfluxDB. It is made up of the following components:

  • Telegraf collects time-series data from a variety of sources.
  • InfluxDB stores time-series data.
  • Chronograf visualizes and graphs the time-series data.
  • Kapacitor provides alerting and detects anomalies in time-series data.

You can use each of these components separately, but if you use them together, you’ll have a scalable, integrated open-source system for processing time-series data.

In this tutorial you’ll set up and use this platform as an open-source monitoring system. You’ll generate a bit of CPU usage and receive an email alert when the usage gets too high.


Before you get started, you’ll need the following:

  • One Ubuntu 16.04 server set up by following the Ubuntu 16.04 initial server setup guide, including a sudo non-root user and a firewall.
  • An SMTP server for sending alerts, along with the connection details. If you don’t have one, you can install sendmail with sudo apt-get install sendmail.
  • If you wish to secure the Chronograf user interface as explained in Step 7, you’ll need a GitHub account that’s part of a GitHub organization. Follow this tutorial to create a GitHub organization.

Step 1 — Adding the TICK Stack Repository

The TICK stack compoents aren’t available through the package manager by default. All TICK stack components use the same repository, so we’ll set up a repository configuration file to make installation seamless.

Use the following commands to add the InfluxData repository:

  1. curl -sL https://repos.influxdata.com/influxdb.key | sudo apt-key add -
  2. source /etc/lsb-release
  3. echo "deb https://repos.influxdata.com/${DISTRIB_ID,,} ${DISTRIB_CODENAME} stable" | sudo tee /etc/apt/sources.list.d/influxdb.list

With the new repository in place, update the package list:

  1. sudo apt-get update

Now we can install and configure InfluxDB.

Step 2 — Installing InfluxDB and Configuring Authentication

InfluxDB is an open-source database optimized for fast, high-availability storage and retrieval of time series data. InfluxDB is great for operations monitoring, application metrics, and real-time analytics.

Run the following command to install InfluxDB:

  1. sudo apt-get install influxdb

Once the installation completes, start the InfluxDB service:

  1. sudo systemctl start influxdb

Then ensure the service is running properly:

  1. systemctl status influxdb

You will see the following status, verifying that the service is running:

[secondary_label Output
● influxdb.service - InfluxDB is an open-source, distributed, time series database
   Loaded: loaded (/lib/systemd/system/influxdb.service; enabled; vendor preset: enabled)
   Active: active (running) since Tue 2017-03-13 15:20:53 CST; 11s ago
     Docs: https://docs.influxdata.com/influxdb/
 Main PID: 1619 (influxd)
   CGroup: /system.slice/influxdb.service
           └─1619 /usr/bin/influxd -config /etc/influxdb/influxdb.conf

InfluxDB is running, but you’ll want to enable user authentication to restrict access to the database. Lets create at least one admin user.

Start the InfluxDB console:

  1. influx

Execute the following command to create a new admin user. We’ll create a sammy user with the password sammy_admin, but you can use whatever you’d like.


Verify that the user is created:

  1. show users

You’ll see the following output, verifying that your user was created:

user admin ---- ----- sammy true

Now that the user exists, exit the InfluxDB console:

  1. exit

Now open the file /etc/influxdb/influxdb.conf in your editor. This is the configuration file for InfluxDB.

  1. sudo nano /etc/influxdb/influxdb.conf

Locate the [http] section, uncomment the auth-enabled option, and set its value to true :

      # Determines whether HTTP endpoint is enabled.
      # enabled = true
      # The bind address used by the HTTP service.
      # bind-address = ":8086"
      # Determines whether HTTP authentication is enabled.
      auth-enabled = true

Then save the file, exit the editor, and restart the InfluxDB service:

  1. sudo systemctl restart influxdb

InfluxDB is now configured, so let’s install Telegraf, an agent for collecting metrics.

Step 3 — Installing and Configuring Telegraf

Telegraf is an open-source agent that collects metrics and data on the system it’s running on, or from other services. Telegraf then writes the data to InfluxDB or other outputs.

Run the following command to install Telegraf:

  1. sudo apt-get install telegraf

The Telegraf service starts automatically after installation.

Telegraf uses plugins to input and output data. The default output plugin is for InfluxDB. Since we’ve enabled user authentication for IndexDB, we have to modify Telegraf’s configuration file to specify the username and password we’ve configured. Open the Telegraf configuration file in your editor:

  1. sudo nano /etc/telegraf/telegraf.conf

Locate the [outputs.influxdb] section and provide the username and password:

      ## The full HTTP or UDP endpoint URL for your InfluxDB instance.
      ## Multiple urls can be specified as part of the same cluster,
      ## this means that only ONE of the urls will be written to each interval.
      # urls = ["udp://localhost:8089"] # UDP endpoint example
      urls = ["http://localhost:8086"] # required
      ## The target database for metrics (telegraf will create it if not exists).
      database = "telegraf" # required

      ## Write timeout (for the InfluxDB client), formatted as a string.
      ## If not provided, will default to 5s. 0s means no timeout (not recommended).
      timeout = "5s"
      username = "sammy"
      password = "sammy_admin"
      ## Set the user agent for HTTP POSTs (can be useful for log differentiation)
      # user_agent = "telegraf"
      ## Set UDP payload size, defaults to InfluxDB UDP Client default (512 bytes)
      # udp_payload = 512

Save the file, exit the editor, and restart Telegraf:

  1. sudo systemctl restart telegraf

Then check whether the service is running properly:

  1. systemctl status telegraf

You will see the following status, indicating Telegraf is running.

telegraf.service - The plugin-driven server agent for reporting metrics into InfluxDB Loaded: loaded (/lib/systemd/system/telegraf.service; enabled; vendor preset: enabled) Active: active (running) since Tue 2017-03-14 15:24:41 CST; 1min 26s ago Docs: https://github.com/influxdata/telegraf Main PID: 1752 (telegraf) CGroup: /system.slice/telegraf.service └─1752 /usr/bin/telegraf -config /etc/telegraf/telegraf.conf -config-directory /etc/telegraf/telegraf.d

Telegraf is now collecting data and writing it to InfluxDB. Let’s open the InfluxDB console and see which measurements Telegraf is storing in the database. Connect with the username and password you previously configured:

  1. influx -username 'sammy' -password 'sammy_admin'

Once logged in, execute this command to see the available databases:

  1. show databases

You’ll see the telegraf database listed in the output:

name: databases name ---- _internal telegraf

Note: If you do not see the telegraf database, check the Telegraf settings you configured to ensure you’ve specified the proper username and password.

Let’s see what Telegraf is storing in that database. Execute the following command to switch to the Telegraf database:

  1. use telegraf

Display the various measurements Telegraf has collected by executing this command:

  1. show measurements

You’ll see the following output:

name: measurements name ---- cpu disk diskio kernel mem processes swap system

As you can see, Telegraf has collected and stored lots of information in this database.

There are more then 60 input plugins for Telegraf. It can gather metrics from many popular services and databases, including:

  • Apache
  • Cassandra
  • Docker
  • Elasticsearch
  • Graylog
  • IPtables
  • MySQL
  • PostgreSQL
  • Redis
  • SNMP
  • and many others

You can view usage instructions for each input plugin by running telegraf -usage plugin-name in a terminal window.

Exit the InfluxDB console:

  1. exit

Now that we know Telegraf is storing measurements, let’s set up Kapacitor to process the data.

Step 4 — Installing Kapacitor

Kapacitor is a data processing engine. It lets you plug in your own custom logic to process alerts with dynamic thresholds, match metrics for patterns, or identify statistical anomalies. We will use Kapacitor to read data from InfluxDB, generate alerts, and send those alerts to a specified email address.

Run the following command to install Kapacitor:

  1. sudo apt-get install kapacitor

Open the Kapacitor configuration file in your editor:

  1. sudo nano /etc/kapacitor/kapacitor.conf

Locate the [[influxdb]] section and provide the username and password to connect to the InfluxDB database:

# Multiple InfluxDB configurations can be defined.
# Exactly one must be marked as the default.
# Each one will be given a name and can be referenced in batch queries and InfluxDBOut nodes.
  # Connect to an InfluxDB cluster
  # Kapacitor can subscribe, query and write to this cluster.
  # Using InfluxDB is not required and can be disabled.
  enabled = true
  default = true
  name = "localhost"
  urls = ["http://localhost:8086"]
  username = "sammy"
  password = "sammy_admin"

Save the file, exit the editor, and start Kapacitor:

  1. sudo systemctl start kapacitor

Now let’s verify that Kapacitor is running. Check Kapacitor’s task list with the following command:

  1. kapacitor list tasks

If Kapacitor is up and running, you’ll see an empty list of tasks, like this:

ID Type Status Executing Databases and Retention Policies

With Kapacitor installed and configured, let’s install the user interface component of the TICK stack so we can see some results and configure some alerts.

Step 5 — Installing and Configuring Chronograf

Chronograf is a graphing and visualization application that provides tools to visualize monitoring data and create alerting and automation rules. It includes support for templates, and has a library of intelligent, pre-configured dashboards for common data sets. We’ll configure it to connect to the other components we’ve installed.

Download and install the latest package:

  1. wget https://dl.influxdata.com/chronograf/releases/chronograf_1.2.0~beta5_amd64.deb
  2. sudo dpkg -i chronograf_1.2.0~beta5_amd64.deb

Then start the Chronograf service:

  1. sudo systemctl start chronograf

Note: If you are using Uncomplicated Firewall, configure it to allow connections to port8888:

  1. sudo ufw allow 8888/tcp

Follow the tutorial How To Set Up a Firewall with UFW on Ubuntu 16.04 to learn more about UFW.

Now you can access the Chronograf interface by visiting http://your_server_ip:8888 in your web browser.

You’ll see a welcome page like the one in the following figure:

The Chronograf welcome screen with fields to connect to a data source

Enter the username and password for the InfluxDB database and click Connect New Source to proceed.

Once connected, you will see a list of hosts. Click on the hostname for your server to open a dashboard with a series of system-level graphs about your host, as shown in the following image:

The dashboard for your server

Now let’s connect Chronograf to Kapacitor to set up an alert. Hover over the gear icon in the left navigation menu and click Kapacitor to open the configuration page.

Configuring Kapacitor

Use the default connection details; we didn’t configure a username and password for Kapacitor. Click Connect Kapacitor. Once Kapacitor successfully connects, you’ll see the Configure Alert Endpoints section appear below the form.

Kapacitor supports multiple alert endpoints:

  • HipChat
  • OpsGenie
  • PagerDuty
  • Sensu
  • Slack
  • SMTP
  • Talk
  • Telegram
  • VictorOps

The simplest communication method is SMTP, which is selected by default. Fill in the From email field with the address from which alerts will be sent. Then fill in the details for your SMTP server, or leave them at the default values if you have installed sendmail. Then click Save.

With the configuration in place, let’s create some alerts.

Step 6 — Configuring Alerts

Let’s set up a simple alert that looks for high CPU usage.

Hover over the exclamation mark icon in the left navigation menu and click Kapacitor Rules. Then click Create New Rule.

In the first section, select the time-series by clicking on telegraf.autogen. Then select system from the list that appears. Then select load1. You will immediately see a corresponding graph in the section below.

Above the graph, locate the field that says Send Alert where load1 is Greater Than and enter 0.8 for the value.

Then paste the following text into the Alert Message field to configure the text of the alert message:

{{ .ID }} is {{ .Level }} value: {{ index .Fields "value" }}

You can hover your mouse over the entries in the Templates section to get descriptions of each field.

Then choose the Smtp option from the Send this Alert to dropdown list and enter your email address in the associated field.

By default, you will receive messages in the JSON format, like this:

Example message
    "Message":"TEST:nil is CRITICAL value: 1.25"

You can set up more human-readable messages for the mail alerts. To do this, enter your message in the text box with the Put email body text here placeholder.

You can rename this rule by clicking its name on the top left corner of the page and entering a new name.

Finally, click Save Rule on the top right to finish configuring this rule.

To test this newly-created alert, create a CPU spike by using the dd command to read data from /dev/zero and send it to /dev/null:

  1. dd if=/dev/zero of=/dev/null

Let the command run for several minutes, which should be enough to create a spike. You can stop the command at any time by pressing CTRL+C.

After a while, you will receive an e-mail message. Additionally, you can see all of your alerts by clicking Alert history in the left navigation menu of the Chronograf user interface.

Note:Once you’ve verified that you can receive alerts, be sure to stop the dd command you started with CTRL+C.

We’ve got alerts running, but anyone can log into Chronograf. Let’s restrict acess.

Step 7 — Securing Chronograf with OAuth

By default, anyone who knows the address of the server running the Chronograf application can view any data. It’s acceptable for the testing environment but not for production. Chronograf supports OAuth authentication for Google, Heroku, and GitHub. We’ll configure logging in via a GitHub account, so you’ll need one to proceed.

First, register a new application with GitHub. Log into your GitHub account and navigate to https://github.com/settings/applications/new.

Then fill in the form with the following details:

  1. Fill in Application name with Chronograf or a suitable descriptive name.
  2. For the Homepage URL, use http://your_server_ip:8888.
  3. Fill in the Authorization callback URL with http://your_server_ip:8888/oauth/github/callback.
  4. Click Register application to save the settings.
  5. Copy the Client ID and Client Secret values provided on the next screen.

Next, edit Chronograf’s systemd script to enable authentication. Open the file /lib/systemd/system/chronograf.service:

  1. sudo nano /lib/systemd/system/chronograf.service

Then locate the [Service] section and edit the line starting with ExecStart=:

ExecStart=/usr/bin/chronograf --host --port 8888 -b /var/lib/chronograf/chronograf-v1.db -c /usr/share/chronograf/canned -t 'secret_token' -i 'your_github_client_id' -s 'your_github_client_secret' -o 'your_github_organization'

The secret_token is required by all OAuth providers. Set it to a random string. Use your Github Client ID, Github Client Secret, and Github Organization for the other values.

Warning: If you omit the Github organization option from the command, any Github user will be able to log in to your Chronograf instance. Create a Github organization and add the appropriate users to the organization to restrict access.

Save the file, exit the editor, and restart the Chronograf service:

  1. sudo systemctl daemon-reload
  2. sudo systemctl restart chronograf

Open http://your_server_ip:8888 to access the Chronograf interface. This time you’ll be presented with a Login with Github button. Click the button to log in and you’ll be asked to allow the application to access your Github account. Once you allow access, you’ll be logged in.


In this tutorial you saw how the TICK stack can be a powerful tool for storing, analyzing and visualizing time series data. It has many features and use cases. For example, you can use Kapacitor to perform anomaly detection or build live leaderboard of game scores. You can learn more about TICK stack by reading the official documentation.

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Hello Guys,

I performed the first step and got this after performing it.

sudo apt-get update E: Malformed entry 1 in list file /etc/apt/sources.list.d/influxdb.list (Component) E: The list of sources could not be read.

The file contents is as follows: sudo cat /etc/apt/sources.list.d/influxdb.list deb https://repos.influxdata.com/ stable

Does any have any ideas?

Thanks, Michael

Minor typo between the lines…You have used IndexDB instead of InfluxDB.

If you don’t want to keep data for ages you have to create DB with retention policy, or create retention policy after creating database.

Create retention policy after DB creation:


DEFAULT - change the default retention policy from autogen to newly created month_retention.

Create DB with retention 30 days:


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