Configuring Zabbix

Configuring Zabbix

Zabbix is configured via a PHP web interface. This is either good or bad news, depending on your point of view. Personally, I prefer to configure things with text files. This is mainly because I can look at them, when I come back to the system after some time, and read them to get an idea of what I was trying to do.

Zabbix Concepts

A quick run-through of the basic conceptual model of a zabbix installation is a big help, when you're getting started.

The Zabbix Server

The zabbix server is the heart of a monitoring setup. The zabbix server holds the configuration database and serves the web interface that you use both to configure your monitoring and to see status information and graphs of historical data. The zabbix server fires 'questions' to a zabbix agent running on each monitored host. A question might be "what is your current CPU load?", or "what percentage of /home is free disk space?"

The Zabbix Agent

This runs on all monitored hosts, listening (on port 10050, by default, although you can change that) for questions from the zabbix server, and responding with the answers.

Whatever port the agent is listening on (10050, by default) must be accessible from the zabbix server. So, you may need to open up a hole in your firewall to allow the server to talk to the agent.

Configuration Entities

On the configuration side of things, these are the main entities you need to know about;

  • Hosts - these are the servers (or routers, switches or whatever) that you are monitoring. Hosts can be grouped into, surprise surprise, host groups.
  • Items - these are the data items or properties that you are monitoring. e.g. free disk space, server load, network traffic or a whole host of other items. Items are grouped into "Applications".
  • Triggers - conditions that you care about. e.g. the server load on a particular host is higher than 5, or there is less than 10% disk space free on the home partition. Triggers apply to items, and may be simple or complex thresholds. Triggers have a severity, so less than 10% free disk space could be a "warning", but the web server going down might be a "disaster".

  • Actions - things that you want to happen in response to a trigger switching on or off. e.g. send a warning message to all the users in the "sysadmin" group if any triggers switch on whose severity is "warning" or higher.
  • Templates - templates simplify the configuration process by allowing you to define sets of items, triggers and graphs (which we haven't talked about yet), which you can then apply to one or several hosts at the same time. Zabbix comes with some pre-defined templates, such as one to set up typical monitoring of a Linux host, and you can easily define your own.

Setting up monitoring of a host

This is a quick walk-through of setting up monitoring of a single host by applying a pre-defined zabbix template. I'm using Zabbix version 1.4.1, which is the version you currently get if you install zabbix on Ubuntu 7.10 Gutsy Gibbon via apt.

Client configuration

The zabbix agent must be running on the host you want to monitor. On a Fedora, or similar, Linux server, you should be able to install the agent using the "yum" package manager;

$ sudo yum install zabbix-agent

On an ubuntu or other Debian-type server, use apt;

$ apt-get install zabbix-agent

The zabbix agent needs very little configuration, but you do need to tell it the zabbix server's IP number. The zabbix agent will only answer questions it receives from this IP.

$ sudo vi /etc/zabbix/zabbix_agentd.conf

Look for the line "Server=" and change the IP to that of your zabbix server. If you want the zabbix agent to listen on a non-default port, change the value on the "ListenPort" line and uncomment it.

You should also add the zabbix agent to your system startup, so that it runs on boot;

$ sudo vi /etc/rc.local

Add this line;

/etc/init.d/zabbix-agent start

That's it for the client-side configuration. You should check that the agent is running by doing a "ps aux | grep zabbix-agent".

Server Configuration

Now we need to set up the server so that it will periodically ask the host some questions, and show us the answers.

1. Login as an administrator

Login to the web interface of your zabbix server.

The default zabbix login is "admin", with no password. If your zabbix server is exposed to the Internet, or even if it's not, you really should change that.

2. Click on "Configuration" then "Hosts", then "Create Host"

Make sure the selection box next to the "Create Host" button has "Hosts" selected.

Enter the details for your new host. The "Connect to" drop-down is used to tell zabbix how it should try to reach your host when it gathers item data. In my case, I'm using the IP number.

Port 10050 is the default port on which the zabbix agent listens. If you are planning to use a different port, enter it here.

3. Add a template

In the "Link with Template" section, click on the "Add" button.

Check the box next to the default "Template_Linux" template and click the "Select" button.

Now click the "Save" button on the host details page.

You should see a screen like this, showing that a host of monitoring items have been added to your server.

If you click on "Monitoring", "Latest data", and select your server from the drop-downs, you should see the data being gathered from your server.

This is a very basic introduction to setting up monitoring using zabbix. There is a lot more that can be done, and I'm planning to cover some of them in future posts.


Zabbix on Ubuntu 7.10 (Gutsy) Server

A simple walk-through of installing a Zabbix monitoring server on Ubuntu 7.10 server.

Choosing a monitoring system

I've been meaning to upgrade the level of monitoring I do for Admoda. So, I've been looking at monitoring software over the last couple of days. I narrowed down the options to Nagios plus some extras (possibly Groundwork), or Zabbix.

In the end, I decided to go with Zabbix, mainly because a client uses it too, so I'll probably end up writing some custom tests for them.

Zabbix is a fully-featured monitoring system, and it's quite easy, once you get a grasp of the concepts, to do some powerful monitoring. It will also draw graphs showing you how values vary over time,

In this post, I'll go through the (very simple) steps required to install Zabbix on Ubuntu 7.10 server (Gutsy Gibbon).

I did try to install Zabbix 1.4.2 via macports on my Macbook Pro and, although the installation seemed to be successful, I found that none of the popups on the web interface came up. Rather than spend the time to track down the problem and fix it, I decided to go for a clean install on Ubuntu, because I won't be using my Mac as the zabbix server anyway.

In my case, I'm installing on a new virtual machine under VMWare Fusion. Later on, I will move the whole virtual server to my main server, and leave it running there. But, for now, it's easier to do everything on my mac.

Installing on Ubuntu 7.10 server

So, step one is to do a clean install of Ubuntu 7.10 server. When given the choice of the type of services you want to install, select "LAMP" (so that you get apache, php and mysql), and "OpenSSH Server" (assuming you will be connecting to it remotely via SSH - if not, you don't necessarily need this). If you want your zabbix server to send you alerts by email, you should also select "Mail Server", and choose the option to send and receive by SMTP.

When the Ubuntu installation is finished, you should be able to point your web browser to the server's IP number, and see a directory listing of the sites you have configured. Initially, this should show "apache2-default", which will simply show a page saying "It works!" if you click on it.

Now login to the server and execute the following command;

  • sudo aptitude install zabbix-server-mysql zabbix-frontend-php

This will install the zabbix server, configured to use mysql as its database, and the PHP frontend gui for zabbix. At the time of writing, the zabbix package available for Ubuntu 7.10 is version 1.4.1. I stuck with this, rather than building the current 1.4.2 version from source, but there is a good walk-through here if you'd prefer to do that.

After this, there are a couple of changes you need to make in the PHP configuration.

  • sudo vi /etc/php5/apache2/php.ini
  • Set the "date.timezone" value ( in my case, to Europe/London, but you can find a list of values here )
  • Set the "max_execution_time" to 300

Restart apache so that it picks up these changes

  • sudo /etc/init.d/apache2 restart

Now, visit http://[your server ip]/zabbix with a browser, and go through the configuration steps.

At the end of this process, the GUI lets you download your zabbix.conf.php file using your browser. Save the generated file, transfer it to the server, and then

  • sudo mv zabbix.conf.php /usr/share/zabbix/conf/zabbix.conf.php

That's it. You should now be able to login to the zabbix web interface as 'admin' (with no password), and get started.


SvnRepository.com - Part II

So, I just got this response from SvnRepository.com

Hi David,

I apologize for the delayed response. We generally try to have all support
issues resolved within 24 hours. We are working on a way to automate the
importing of dump files into existing repositories, we chose not to initial for
security and stability reasons.

Joe Clarke

And, checking my server logs, I can see that someone downloaded the tarball of my SVN dump.

A few minutes later;

Hi David,

Your repository has been imported.

Joe Clarke

So, we're up and running after the promised 5 minutes and an additional 24 hours.

In the meantime, I found DevjaVu. Not quite as cheap as I was hoping for, but hey - it's Ninja-Powered!

From the look of their blog, things are moving pretty fast. Also, there seems to be a lot of recent activity on their forums too (are you listening, SvnRepository.com? They have forums (fora?)).

So, if I do end up switching to another SVN host, I think I might drop those ninjas an email.

But, hopefully, SvnRepository.com will be fine, from now on. I hope so - they really are awfully cheap!

Hosted Subversion (SVN) Services

I've been using a dedicated, hosted server to host my subversion repository, so that I always have an off-site backup of my source code. I used to need the server anyway, so this seemed the simplest solution.

But, I really don't need to be paying for a dedicated box anymore when there are so many online services that offer low-cost subversion hosting. So, I did a bit of research and found this thread, among others.

I'm a bit limited in my choices, since the first project I want to migrate is currently using 262MB of disk space by itself, and I want to use the hosted service for multiple projects.

My priorities;

  1. Regularly backed up
  2. Enough disk space
  3. Cheap
  4. Ability to create additional repositories
  5. Reasonable limits on the number of projects and users
  6. Add-ons (e.g. Trac, Wikis) are a bonus

So, I decided to try SvnRepository.com Their Level 2 pricing plan is excellent value for money - 2GB of storage, Trac and unlimited repositories and developers for $7/month.

But, Matt Raible was so not kidding about their slow response time.

The first thing I want to do is to migrate my existing repository into my shiny new hosted service. As per their website blurb, the new service was set up in 5 minutes, and they offer "Free Migration services for your Subversion repositories". Unfortunately, that doesn't mean they have a nice system set up for you to migrate your repository into their service - they have an easy way for you to migrate out of it.

I figured a quick posting to their support site would have this sorted out in no time. After all, this has got to be the single most common thing a new customer wants to do, no?

So, I opened a support ticket;

Hi there

I would like to migrate my existing SVN repository into my new, hosted

I've created a tarball via "svnadmin dump". How can I load this into
my new svnrepository.com repository?



Four hours later, I get this response;


Please place the .dump file somewhere that I can download it to our
server, as well as the repository name you wish it to be imported to
and I will take care of it for you.

Please let me know if you have any further questions.

Danny Vigil

OK - four hours is a bit slow, but helpful enough. An hour or so later, I post this response;

Hi Danny

You can download the tarball from this URL;


I'd like it loaded into the repository at;


Please let me know when you've done this, so that I can stop the web server
that's serving that tarball.



That was about 12 hours ago. Since then, no response at all, despite chasing them twice.

Now, this is a cheap service - $7/month - so I'm not expecting them to be super-efficient, or to keep a dedicated support person on call to cater to my every whim, despite having "Free 24/7 personal technical support" as one of their standard features, apparently.

But, this is an internet business, providing a service to developers, so I can't understand why;

  • They haven't built a web interface to allow developers to upload their old repositories. This has got to be the first thing that most of their customers want. Failing that, at least a tutorial or a faq entry would be something.
  • They built a system to automate leaving their service instead. Sure, I want to be able to take my repository with me when I leave (which could be really soon), but how does it make business sense to invest your effort in making it easier for customers to leave than to join?
  • Their customer support is so incredibly slow. This is the Internet, after all. Taking this long to handle a simple, common request for a new customer just seems unacceptable. This is especially true since, now that I've provided a dump of my SVN repository, there's no point checking anything into the old one, because I'll just have to check it into the new one all over again. So, right now, I'm effectively without version control.

So, I'm just venting here, while I'm waiting for them to get me up and running. In the meantime, I think I'll go and re-visit a few alternatives, and remind myself why I chose SvnRepository.com in the first place;

  • Unfuddle - a good service, and I use their free plan for one small project. But, you don't get enough storage space for a large project, even if you get one of their more expensive plans.
  • CVS Dude - A bit pricy, and you don't get Trac unless you pay $30/month
  • SourceHosting.net - very expensive
  • Wush.net - not too pricy, but only 500MB of storage, and a single repository, unless you stump up more cash.
  • DevGuard - Looks good, if only my project were smaller
  • AVLUX - pricy
  • ProjectLocker.com - really expensive, and their opaque pricing system puts me off
  • Code Spaces - Looks pretty good. Not quite as cheap as SvnRepository.com, but not bad.
So, the moral of this rant is that, surprise surprise, the cheapest is not always the best option.

I'm going to give SvnRepository.com another day or so to sort me out and, if I'm still not happy, give Code Spaces a try.