Graphite Monitoring for Windows Performance Metrics

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For several years now, the tool of choice for collecting performance metrics in a Linux environment has been Graphite. While it is true that other monitoring tools, such as Grafana, have gained traction in the last several years, Graphite remains the go tool monitoring tool for countless organizations.

But what about those organizations that run Windows, or a mixture of Windows and Linux? Because Graphite was designed for Linux, it is easy to assume that you will need a native Win32 tool for monitoring Windows systems. After all, the Windows operating system contains a built-in performance monitor, and there are countless supplementary performance monitoring tools available, such as Microsoft System Center.

While using Graphite to monitor Linux systems and a different tool to monitor Windows is certainly an option, it probably isn’t the best option. After all, using two separate monitoring tools increases cost, as well as making life a little more difficult for the administrative staff. Fortunately, there is a way to use Graphite to monitor Windows systems.

Bringing Graphite to Windows

As you have probably already figured out, Graphite does not natively support the monitoring of Windows systems. However, you can use a tool from GitHub to bridge the gap between Windows and Graphite.

In order to understand how Graphite monitoring for Windows works, you need to know a little bit about the Graphite architecture. Graphite uses a listener to listen for inbound monitoring data, which is then written to a database called Whisper. Graphite is designed to work with two different types of metrics—host metrics and application metrics. Host metrics (or server metrics) are compiled through a component called Collectd. Application metrics, on the other hand, are compiled through something called StatsD.

In the Linux world, the use of Collectd and StatsD means that there is a very clear separation between host and application metrics. In the case of Windows however, Graphite monitoring is achieved through a tool called PerfTap. PerfTap does not as cleanly differentiate between host and application monitoring. Instead, the tool is designed to be compatible with StatsD listeners.

Although StatsD is normally used for application monitoring, PerfTap can be used to monitor Windows operating system-level performance data, even in the absence of Collectd. The easy way of thinking of this is that StatsD is basically treating Windows as an application.

As is the case with the native Windows Performance Monitor, PerfTap is based around the use of counters. These counters are grouped into five different categories, including:

    • System Counters – Used for monitoring hardware components such as memory and CPU
    • Dot Net Counters – Performance counters related to the .NET framework
    • ASP Net Counters – Counters that can be used to track requests, sessions, worker processes, and errors for ASP.NET
    • SQL Server Counters – Most of these counters are directly related to various aspects of Microsoft SQL Server, but there is a degree of overlap with the System Counters, as they relate to SQL Server.
    • Web Service Counters – These counters are related to the native web services (IIS), and allow the monitoring of ISAPI extension requests, current connections, total method requests, and more.

PerfTap allows monitoring to be enabled through the use of a relatively simple XML file. This XML file performs four main tasks. First, it sets the sampling interval. The second task performed by the XML file is to provide the location of the counter definition file. The XML file’s third task is to list the actual counters that need to be monitored. And finally, the XML file provides connectivity information to the Graphite server by listing the hostname, port number, prefix key, and format. You can find an example of the XML file here.

Graphite and Sumo Logic

Although Graphite can be a handy tool for analyzing performance metrics, Graphite unfortunately has trouble maintaining its efficiency as the organization’s operations scale. One possible solution to this problem is to bring your Graphite metrics into the Sumo Logic service. Sumo Logic provides a free video of a webinar in which they demonstrate their platform’s ability to natively ingest, index, and analyze Graphite data. You can find the video at: Bring your Graphite-compatible Metrics into Sumo Logic.

Conclusion

Although Graphite does not natively support the monitoring of Windows systems, you can use a third-party utility to send Windows monitoring data to a Graphite server. Of course, Graphite is known to have difficulty with monitoring larger environments, so adding Windows monitoring data to your existing Graphite deployment could complicate the management of monitoring data. One way of overcoming these scalability challenges is to bring your Graphite monitoring data into Sumo Logic for analysis.

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Brien Posey is a Fixate IO contributor, and a 15-time Microsoft MVP with over two decades of IT experience. Prior to going freelance, Brien was CIO for a national chain of hospitals and healthcare facilities. He also served as Lead Network Engineer for the United States Department of Defense at Fort Knox.


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