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Using Zabbix to Monitor FileMaker Server

By September 11, 2019 No Comments

This post is one in a series of guides that walk you through installing, configuring, and using Zabbix to monitor your FileMaker servers:

Here we will cover how to use the Zabbix web frontend to view the item data that collected as well as problems and actions identified and taken. We aim to provide a reasonably thorough overview of the parts most useful to you as a FileMaker developer or administrator. Please refer to the Zabbix documentation if you would like to learn additional details about a particular section.

Monitoring Items and Problems

Overview

The Monitoring > Overview section shows either item or trigger data depending on the Type that is selected.

Figure 1. Use the ‘Type’ dropdown to change what is shown in the Overview

The item data overview shows a list of the most recently collected values – similar to the Monitoring > Latest data section, which we will cover next – for the hosts in the selected host group. You can filter the list further by application. Clicking on the filter tab will toggle the display of the filter section.

Screenshot of the data overview and the dropdown to filter by application

Figure 2. The application can filter the data overview

The trigger overview shows a list of triggers for the hosts in the selected host group along with their states and severity. Green is used when the trigger status is OK. The other colors indicate severity for triggers in the Problem state. A checkmark indicates that the problem has been acknowledged. The filtering section provides several additional filtering options unavailable for the item data overview.

Figure 3. The trigger overview shows trigger states and severity

Latest Data

The Monitoring > Latest data section shows the most recently collected item data and the time at which it was collected. The values are grouped by host and application. Somewhat confusingly, if an item has been tagged with multiple applications, it will appear in the list multiple times. The filtering section allows for searching by host group, host, application, and name.

Screenshot of the Latest Data which can be filtered by host group, host, application, and name

Figure 4. You can filter the latest data by host group, host, application, and name

This section confirms your item data is being collected as expected. You can see a history of the values in an ad-hoc graph by clicking on the Graph link. Text-based item data will have a History link instead to view a list of all collected data for that item. Once you switch to the detail for an item – by clicking Graph or History – you can adjust the time period using the filter section.

Figure 5. Clicking on the ‘Graph’ link opens an ad-hoc graph

You can also view data shown in a graph as a list of values by changing the View as option.

Figure 6. Select ‘Values’ in the ‘View as’ dropdown to change from a graph to a list

You can quickly transfer rhe data shown to Excel or some other software for further analysis by clicking the As plain text button and then copy-and-pasting the values.

Figure 7. Use the ‘As plain text’ button to view the data as plain text

Problems

The Monitoring > Problems section will display the problems generated by triggers.

Figure 8. Problems list

The filter section provides many criteria through which you can winnow down the data. The default filtering option will show only Recent problems, so if you do not see problems that you expect to see, make sure to set the Show option to Problems or History. You can sort the data in different ways by clicking on the column header. The timeline view can help break up the data into meaningful chunks, so make sure you have the Show timeline option enabled.

Figure 9. Use the filter to show more than the default ‘Recent problems’

Time Column

Click on the problem creation timestamp to view details about the problem event, including information about the trigger that generated the problem, a list of automated actions taken, and a list of times when this problem occurred previously.

Figure 10. View problem event details by clicking on the problem creation timestamp

Host Column

Clicking on the hostname brings up the host menu which makes it possible to jump to other Monitoring sections with the filter automatically adjusted for that host. This popup host menu is available in the same way – by clicking on the host name – in several other sections of the frontend as well where the hostname is displayed with a dotted underline.

Screenshot of the contextual host menu when clicking on the Host name

Figure 11. Clicking on the hostname opens the host menu

Ack Column

You can click on the Yes/No value in the Ack (Acknowledge) column of the problem list to bring up a screen where you can update the problem. For example, you can add a message to keep notes about the problem, you can acknowledge the problem (to let your teammates know that you are working on it), or you can close the problem (if the trigger settings allow for manual resolution).

Screenshot of 'Update problem' which is accessed by clicking 'Yes' or 'No' in the Ack column of the Problem list

Figure 12. Click on ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ in the Ack column of the ‘Problem’ to update the problem.

Actions Column

This column shows a count of how many actions – notifications or remote commands – taken in response to a problem. Hover or click on the count to see the list of actions.

Figure 13. Clicking on the count in the Action column opens the popup showing the list of actions taken

Dashboard

Zabbix makes it possible to create multiple dashboards, each of which can display summaries of various types of data. You cannot share dashboards using templates – discussed in the Zabbix Configuration post – so you will need to create your own from scratch or modify the Global view dashboard that comes predefined with a Zabbix installation.

You can view a list of available dashboards by navigating to Monitoring > Dashboard. Click on any dashboard shown in the list to view its details. You can also create new or edit existing dashboards from here.

Screenshot of the 'Global view' dashboard

Figure 14. Click on any dashboard shown in the dashboard list to view its details

As with many other Monitoring areas in the web frontend, when viewing a dashboard, you can adjust the time filter using the time period selector. You can choose from quite a few pre-defined time filters, or you can specify a custom range.

Screenshot zoomed in on the time filter options

Figure 15. Use predefined filters or enter a custom range

Here’s a partial list of widgets you can view in a dashboard:

  • Data overview – Shows latest item data filtered by host group, application, and other criteria
  • Shortcuts to graphs and screens you marked as favorites
  • Graphs – Custom graphs created for the dashboard (different from the graphs defined for a host or template)
  • Problems – filtered list or cross-tab summarized by severity
  • Trigger overview – list of trigger states (OK or problem) for a group of hosts
  • Action log – list of recent actions taken (notifications or remote commands)

Graphs

In the Monitoring > Latest data section, we saw how you can create ad-hoc graphs to view item data. You can also predefine graphs or a particular host or, more generally, for a template (which would then be inherited by the hosts using that template). These pre-defined graphs can be viewed in screens – which we will cover in the next section – where they will typically be grouped with other information, or they can be viewed individually in the Monitoring > Graphs section.

To view one of these pre-defined graphs, navigate to Monitoring > Graphs, select a host group and a host, and then select one of the available graphs. You can adjust the time period using the section at the top. You can also click-and-drag to quickly zoom in on the portion of the graph you’re interested in.

Figure 16. You can change the graph time period using the time period selector or by clicking-and-dragging on the graph

You can view graphed data values in a table by changing the View as option.

Screenshot of the Graphs list with 'Values' selected on the 'View as' dropdown

Figure 17. View Global screens as a list or detail of an individual screen

Screens

Like dashboards, Zabbix screens display different pieces of information on a single page. In fact, screens can include much of the same components as dashboards:

  • Data overview
  • Graphs
  • Problems – list or cross-tab summarized by severity
  • Trigger overview
  • Action log

There are two kinds of screens. Global screens can display information from multiple hosts, and host screens display information from just one host.

Global Screens

You manage  and view global screens from Monitoring > Screens. Like with the Dashboard section, you can view this section as a list of global screens or as the detail of an individual screen – somewhat similar to how FileMaker has form and list views for any given layout.

Screenshot of global screens

Figure 18. Click on ‘Host screens’ in the popup to view available screens for the host

Host Screens

You manage host screens within a template and viewed by selecting the Host screens option in a host menu, a popup menu you can access in various places by clicking on the host name. (We already touched upon host menus briefly in the Problems section of this post.) Some of these places include:

  • Monitoring > Problems
  • Monitoring > Overview
  • Monitoring > Latest data

For example, in the Monitoring > Problems section, you can click on the name of a host and then on Host screens to access the screens available for that host.

Screenshot of 'Host screens' selected in the popup that appears when the host name is clicked

Figure 19. Click on ‘Host screens’ in the popup to view available screens for the host

Doing so will display one of the available host screens – whichever one viewed most recently. You can switch to the other screens available for the host using the dropdown menu located in the upper-right section of the screen.

Screenshot of the available hosts

Figure 20. Available host screen

You can share host screens across Zabbix installations using templates. Sharing of global screens is less feasible. Save global screen configurations by exporting them to an XML file, and loaded them by importing that XML file. However, this file will contain hardcoded references to specific hosts, so importing the file to another Zabbix server which doesn’t have those same hosts defined will not work.

Zabbix Reports

Availability Report

The availability report shows what percentage of time each trigger spent in the OK and Problem states. You can filter the report data by time period, host, and host group.

In the example below, we can see that the Zabbix agent on our FileMaker Cloud 1.17 development server has been unreachable 18.6% of the time.

Screenshot of the Availability report

Figure 21. Availability report

You can click on the Show link to view the data in more detail and in a chart format.

Figure 22. Clicking the ‘Show’ link shows a 100% stacked column chart for the trigger availability

Triggers Top 100

This report shows up to 100 triggers that have changed their state the most frequently in the selected time period. You can filter the report data by time period, host, host group, and trigger severity.

Screenshot of the '100 busiest triggers' list

Figure 23. You can filter the top100 triggers by time period, host, host group, and trigger severity

As with other areas of the web frontend, clicking on the information shown with a dotted underline – in this case, host name and trigger name – will reveal contextual menus used to jump to related views of the data.

Figure 24. Open contextual menus by clicking on the host or trigger name

Audit Log

The Audit log is different from the other reports in that it does not to inform about the monitored hosts. Instead, this report shows the activity that has taken place within the web frontend. This includes information about user logins and changes made to templates, items, triggers, and other resources.

For example, we can see a list of updates made to screens.

Figure 25. Filter the Audit log to view changes made to screens and other resources

In addition to the usual time period selector, you can filter the information by the type of action and by the resource added, modified, or deleted.

Action Log

The Action Log displays a list of actions – notification emails or remote commands – taken, for example in response to triggers. You can filter the actions by notification recipient and time period.

Screenshot of the Action log

Figure 26. You can filter the Action log by notification recipient and time period

Notifications

The notifications report displays a summary of notifications sent out for the selected year, summarized daily, weekly, monthly, or yearly. Each recipient will have their notification totals displayed in a separate column.

Figure 27. Notifications report

Download a pdf of this post.

Work with Zabbix FileMaker Server Experts

Would you like to set up Zabbix for your FileMaker solution but would like guidance? Our team has worked extensively with Zabbix, and we’re happy to help. Contact our team to get started.

Wim Decorte

Wim Decorte

Wim is a Senior Technical Solution Architect at Soliant. He is a FileMaker 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16 and 17 Certified FileMaker Developer and the author of numerous Tech Briefs and articles on FileMaker Server. Wim is one of the very few multiple FileMaker Excellence Award winners and was most recently awarded the FileMaker Community Leader of the Year award at the 2015 FileMaker Developer Conference. He is also a frequent speaker at the FileMaker Developer Conference and at FileMaker Developer groups throughout the world. In addition to being a renowned expert on FileMaker Server, Wim also specializes in integrating FileMaker with other applications and systems. His pet project is the open source fmDotNet connector class that he created.

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