Monitoring OpenShift for Service Providers

03 Jan 2017

Many IT teams are deploying OpenShift as a self-service platform, changing their relationship with the teams responsible for developing, deploying, and maintaining software. Understanding that this is a very different model than many teams are used to, what should an IT team monitor to ensure that the platform is healthy?

A standard OpenShift deployment has a variety of information sources that can be used as input to monitoring and alerting tools. Before spending too much time on what to monitor, it is helpful to understand what tools are in our toolbox:

  1. The OpenShift/Kubernetes API: Here is where we can get data about the currently running pods and created resources, as well as watch for events.
  2. Metrics/Hawkular: This is the system used internally to capture metrics from running containers. Depending on the version of OpenShift, this captures per container CPU, memory, and network utilization. Hawkular has a full REST API (as used by the OpenShift Web UI), so this data can be polled as part of a monitoring solution.
  3. Logging/ElasticSearch: All logs from containers and OpenShift are aggregated into ElasticSearch, usually utilized when using Kibana to perform ad-hoc analysis of logs. But we can also submit our own queries to ElasticSearch as part of a monitoring solution, or deploy a custom external Fluentd aggregator to forward log data to our monitoring solution.
  4. HAProxy: The default routing solution for OpenShift is HAProxy, meaning that all external communication into OpenShift is reverse-proxied by HAProxy. HAProxy provides a status endpoint that can be used to see which backends are returning error codes or have poor response times. This endpoint isn’t as polished as the others and requires more work to get to.
  5. Health checks: Several pieces of OpenShift have health checks that can be queried to check system health. The most important ones are the master API, etcd, routers, and ElasticSearch.
  6. Diagnostics: The oc command line tool includes a diagnostic function that can be executed with oc adm diagnostics, and can be run per node to check node health and configuration. The tool spits out a fair bit of false positives, so filtering is necessary.

Monitoring Goals

Given those tools, what is it we want to achieve as a service provider in our monitoring solution? I believe there are three main questions we want to answer:

  1. Is the platform currently operational? Is there any reason a currently deployed application would fail because of the platform instead of an internal error or an incorrect deployment?
  2. Is the platform in danger of not being operational in the near future? These would be conditions that do not affect the current operations of OpenShift but do leave it in a vulnerable state if additional failures happen.
  3. Does the platform have capacity for current and forecasted demand?

Is the platform currently operational? (or Oh My… Fix It!)

Checking if the platform is currently up and running is relatively straightforward. If any of these checks fails, there is an actionable situation that requires immediate attention. For this we can mainly rely on our healthchecks:

  • Are the masters healthy?

    Masters have a /healthz endpoint which will respond with a 200 status code of the master is healthy. The body says “OK”, as if the 200 status code hadn’t accomplished that already! Assuming this is an HA setup, use your load balanced public URL to ensure the public API is accessible (ie something like https://master.paas.example.com:8443/healthz).

    If this check ever fails, it means that none of the masters are healthy or that the load balancer in front of the masters is misconfigured. Either way, users will not be able to use the CLI, UI, or API and no pods will be scheduled, no deployments will proceed, etc. However, as long as nothing else fails any deployed pods will continue to work. Either way, not a situation you want to let persist for too long.

  • Is the etcd cluster healthy?

    Etcd is the critical piece of infrastructure backing any HA deployment of OpenShift, and is one of the only components that actually has to deal with clustering. Etcd is a quorum based CP data store. Most deployments will use three etcd instances, meaning that the etcd cluster is healthy as long as two of the three instances are healthy and connected.

    To check the health of etcd, you can either directly query the API or use a CLI tool.

    To directly query the API, do an HTTP GET on each of the etcd hosts (usually the masters) at https://MASTERIP:2379/health using the client cert stored on a master at /etc/origin/master/master.etcd-client.crt and the key at /etc/origin/master/master.etcd-client.key. A healthy response returns the JSON {"health": "true"}. You should get this response from at least two out of three etcd cluster members.

    To use the etcdctl CLI (installed on masters by default) execute the following, replacing the URLs with the etcd hosts:

     etcdctl -C \
       https://etcd1.example.com:2379,https://etcd2.example.com:2379,https://etcd3.example.com:2379 \
       --ca-file=/etc/origin/master/master.etcd-ca.crt \
       --cert-file=/etc/origin/master/master.etcd-client.crt \
       --key-file=/etc/origin/master/master.etcd-client.key cluster-health

    As long as the last line of output says “cluster is healthy”, the etcd cluster is operational. Note that one out of three cluster members may still report being unhealthy.

  • Are the routers healthy?

    Almost all traffic from external clients to hosted pods come in through the routers, HAProxy instances that reverse proxy traffic to the wildcard DNS address and forwards it to an appropriate pod. Routers also have a /healthz endpoint, but it is on port 1936 and http (ie something like http://wildcard.paas.example.com:1936/healthz). By default this port is blocked by iptables, so a rule has to be added before using this endpoint on each node the router may run on. Also, assuming an HA setup the load balancers in front of the routers will need to also listen on this port.

    If this check fails, then no external traffic is making it into OpenShift and anything deployed inside of OpenShift is down. Either all of the router pods are down or the load balancer in front of the routers is misconfigured.

  • Does oc adm diagnostics detect any issues?

    As mentioned above, the CLI includes a set of diagnostics that can be run from each node to verify that the node is configured and functioning correctly. Each version of OpenShift adds more capabilities to the diagnostics, so expect to make changes to any alerting based on diagnostics after an upgrade. The diagnostics also report a fair number of false positives (like master nodes being marked unschedulable), so filtering is necessary.

  • Are platform hosted applications (Kibana, Hawkular, Registry) responding according to SLAs?

    There are a couple parts of the self-service platform that are actually hosted inside of OpenShift, just like any other application. There are two ways that we can do a basic check that the application is alive and reachable.

    First, we can setup an external monitoring stack to do a health check of the application. For example, a basic HTTP health check for https://kibana.paas.example.com will let us know if kibana is responding positively.

    Second, we can observe the response codes and latencies for requests coming from our users. This helps us catch deeper issues where the service may be up but is not responding to requests correctly, or is becoming too slow. These statistics are tracked by the router (ie HAProxy). Here are instructions for how to get access to these statistics. This will bring you to an easy to read web page, but to get machine readable output just tack on ;csv to the url. What we are looking for is a large spike in 500 error codes for each of the hosted applications, or an increase in response times that breaks any defined SLA.

Is the platform in danger of not being operational in the near future? (Or You Probably Should Take a Look at This)

These checks are a second pass that will detect potential issues that could lead to downtime before downtime actually happens. Alerts should only be generated after multiple failed checks, and depending on SLAs can wait to be acted upon until normal business hours.

  • Degraded Healthchecks

    For these alerts, repeat the the same healthchecks for masters, etcd, and routers. Instead of checking for overall health though, fail the check if any single instance has failed. Instead of checking the masters through the load balancer, check each of the three masters directly by hostname. Do the same for routers. For etcd, fail the check if etcdctl does not report any of the three cluster members as healthy (a healthy result here looks like member fd422379fda50e48 is healthy: got healthy result from

    To keep restarts and other ephemeral failures from causing lots of alert noise, ensure that these alerts only get sent after a period of failure. For example, only alert if a master has been down for at least ten minutes. Also consider whether or not these alerts can wait for action based on expected recovery time, exposure to risk of an additional failure causing downtime, and SLAs.

  • Registry Storage

    OpenShift builds images on request or when triggered by changes to application source code. The images are then stored inside OpenShift’s internal registry, which uses persistent storage that is setup as part of the installation process. Docker images are massive, and can quickly add up through repeated builds. Monitor the space available in the persistent volume and alert when it is low.

    The main method for cleaning up the registry is to setup a recurring job (usually with cron) to execute oc adm prune images .... If still low on space after pruning, then either adjust the prune to be more aggressive (ie keeping less versions of each image or for less time) or allocate more storage to the registry.

    Running out of registry storage will not affect any currently running pods, only the ability to build or push new images.

  • Docker Storage

    Each node has a local docker daemon, and if following best practices it was setup with a LVM logical volume for docker storage. Any time a container is deployed the corresponding image is saved into docker storage and every time a container is started the container filesystem is in this storage. With lots of deployments this storage can quickly be filled.

    Monitor the space available on each node for Docker storage. If a node runs out of space, then newly created pods will fail. OpenShift automatically garbage collects docker storage, but the defaults may be too lax depending on usage patterns. If running out of storage, change the configuration for garbage collection to be more aggressive.

Does the platform have capacity for current and forecasted demand?

These checks are focused on the current utilization of OpenShift and providing information for capacity planning. Given reliable forecasts, these metrics should rarely need to be alerted on.

  • Master CPU and Memory Utilization

    Master utilization is linearly correlated with the number of pods deployed, and guidelines for sizing masters are documented. If masters become overloaded expect operations like scheduling pods to be slower, and in the worst case for etcd to begin having timeouts in its cluster communication.

  • Router Node CPU Utilization

    There are not yet guidelines for router node sizing, but a reasonable expectation would be that the CPU utilization would be linearly correlated with incoming requests. If CPU utilization keeps hitting a high threshold then it may be time to scale the router out to an additional node.

  • Metrics and Logging Storage

    Both metrics and log aggregation require persistent storage.

    Metric storage utilization is very predictable given the number of pods, retention period, and metric resolution.

    Logs are much more difficult, since storage requirements are highly dependent on how much data is logged by the application and log retention policies as specified by curator configuration. A misbehaving application can quickly generate gigabytes of logs, so maintain a healthy margin of available storage and alert fairly early so that storage can be added or the application stopped or modified.

  • Node Resource Allocation

    Most service providers will want to control resource utilization by their clients by setting quotas for resource utilization. For example, a project might be limited to using 4 CPU cores and 10 GiB of memory. When using quotas, each container must also have resource requests and/or limits configured, either via explicit requests/limits in the pod specification or via default project limits.

    This is where things get tricky: when the Openshift scheduler places a pod it is not looking at current utilization of the node to determine if the pod fits, it is looking at the sum of all resource requests made by containers on the node. As long as it fits within the project’s quota, a container can request 2 GiB of memory but use none of it. As a Service Provider, you need to monitor resources you have allocated to clients, not the current utilization of nodes.

    Exactly what needs to be monitored depends on how node’s have been partitioned. For example, if nodes are set aside for “production”, “staging”, and “development”, then allocations need to be monitored for all three separately. This is easier if projects are aligned with nodes, ie if there are “development” nodes then there is a “development” project for deploying to those nodes, enforced via a project level node selector.

    There are two different ways to monitor allocations. The conservative approach would be to monitor project quotas, assume that a certain percentage (may be 100%) of all project quotas are in use, and ensure enough node resources to satisfy those requirements with a margin. The less conservative approach is to monitor the currently used portion of each quota and add a margin for expected new deployments, scale out, etc in the near future.

    To find all project quotas, a cluster administrator can run oc get quota --all-namespaces, but by default this doesn’t print the current quota values. The following command adds a template to print out the assigned quota for each project as well as how much of the quota is currently in use. Sum the first two columns for a conservative capacity target and the last two columns for the currently allocated capacity.

    echo "cpu_limit memory_limit cpu_used memory_used" && \
      TEMPLATE='{{define "line"}}{{index . "requests.cpu"}} ' && \
      TEMPLATE+='{{index . "requests.memory"}}{{end}}' && \
      TEMPLATE+='{{range .items}}' && \
      TEMPLATE+='{{template "line" .status.hard}} ' && \
      TEMPLATE+='{{template "line" .status.used}}' && \
      TEMPLATE+='{{end}}' && \
      oc get quota --all-namespaces --template="$TEMPLATE" && \
      oc get clusterresourcequota --all-namespaces --template="$TEMPLATE"

About OpenShift

For anyone unfamiliar with OpenShift, it lets you deploy an internally hosted Platform as a Service (PaaS) built on top of Kubernetes and adding features like a blessed set of components, automated builds, deployments, more powerful security controls, etc. You can read more about what OpenShift is here, sign up for a 30 day hosted preview, or download an all-in-one VM with everything already deployed.