How to Set Up TOBS, The Observability Stack, for Kubernetes Monitoring

Introduction

TOBS, short for The Observability Stack, is a pre-packaged distribution of monitoring tools and dashboard interfaces which can be installed into any existing Kubernetes cluster. It includes many of the most popular open-source observability tools with Prometheus and Grafana as a baseline, including Promlens, TimescaleDB, Alertmanager, and others. Together, these provide a straightforward, maintainable solution for analyzing server traffic and identifying any potential problems with a deployment up to a very large scale.

TOBS makes use of standard Kubernetes Helm charts in order to configure and update deployments. It can be installed into any Kubernetes cluster, but it can be demonstrated more effectively if you’re running kubectl to manage your cluster from a local machine rather than a remote node. DigitalOcean’s Managed Kubernetes will provide you with a configuration like this by default.

In this tutorial, you will install TOBS into an existing Kubernetes cluster, and learn how to update, configure, and browse its component dashboards.

Prerequisites

To follow this tutorial, you will need:

Step 1 — Verifying your Kubernetes Configuration

In order to install TOBS, you should first have a valid Kubernetes configuration set up with kubectl from which you can ping your worker nodes. You can test this by running kubectl get nodes:

  • kubectl get nodes

If kubectl is able to connect to your Kubernetes cluster and it’s up and running as expected, this command will return a list of nodes with the Ready status:

Output
NAME STATUS ROLES AGE VERSION pool-uqv8a47h0-ul5a7 Ready <none> 22m v1.21.5 pool-uqv8a47h0-ul5am Ready <none> 21m v1.21.5 pool-uqv8a47h0-ul5aq Ready <none> 21m v1.21.5

If this is successful, you can move on to Step 2. If not, you should review your configuration details for any issues.

By default, kubectl will look for a file at ~/.kube/config in order to understand your environment. In order to verify that this file exists and contains valid YAML syntax, you can run head on it to view its first several lines, i:

  • head ~/.kube/config
Output
apiVersion: v1 clusters: - cluster: certificate-authority-data: …

If the file does not exist, ensure that you are logged in as the same user that you configured Kubernetes with. ~/ paths reflect individual users’ home directories, and Kubernetes configurations are saved per-user by default.

If you are using DigitalOcean’s Managed Kubernetes, ensure that you have run the doctl kubernetes cluster kubeconfig save command after setting up a cluster so that your local machine can authenticate to it. This will create a ~/.kube/config file:

  • doctl kubernetes cluster kubeconfig save your-cluster-name

If you are using this machine to access multiple clusters, you should review the Kubernetes documentation on using environment variables and multiple configuration files in order to avoid conflicts. After configuring your kubectl environment, you can move on to installing TOBS in the next step.

Step 2 — Installing TOBS and Testing Your Endpoints

TOBS includes the following components:

  • Prometheus is a time series database and monitoring tool that works by polling metrics endpoints and scraping and processing the data exposed by these endpoints. It allows you to query this data using PromQL, a time series data query language.
  • Alertmanager, usually deployed alongside Prometheus, forms the alerting layer of the stack, handling alerts generated by Prometheus and deduplicating, grouping, and routing them to integrations like email or PagerDuty. To learn more about Alertmanager, consult the Prometheus documentation on alerting.
  • Grafana is a data visualization and analytics tool that allows you to build dashboards and graphs for your metrics data.
  • kube-state-metrics is an add-on agent that listens to the Kubernetes API server and generates metrics about the state of Kubernetes objects like Deployments and Pods. These metrics are served as plaintext on HTTP endpoints and consumed by Prometheus.
  • Lastly is node-exporter, a Prometheus exporter that runs on cluster nodes and provides OS and hardware metrics like CPU and memory usage to Prometheus. These metrics are also served as plaintext on HTTP endpoints and consumed by Prometheus.

In order to install TOBS, you first need to run the TOBS installer on your control-plane. This will set up the tobs command and configuration directories. As mentioned in the prerequisites, the tobs command is only designed to work on Linux/macOS/BSD systems (like the official Kubernetes binaries), so if you have been using Windows up to now, you should be working in the Windows Subsystem for Linux environment.

Retrieve and run the TOBS installer:

  • curl --proto '=https' --tlsv1.2 -sSLf https://tsdb.co/install-tobs-sh |sh
Output
tobs 0.7.0 was successfully installed 🎉 Binary is available at /root/.local/bin/tobs.

You can now push TOBS to your Kubernetes cluster. This is done by a one-liner using your newly-provided tobs command:

  • tobs install

This will generate several lines of output and may take a few moments. Depending on your exact version of Kubernetes, there may be several warnings in the output, but you can ignore these as long as you eventually receive the Welcome to tobs message:

Output
WARNING: Using a generated self-signed certificate for TLS access to TimescaleDB. This should only be used for development and demonstration purposes. To use a signed certificate, use the "--tls-timescaledb-cert" and "--tls-timescaledb-key" flags when issuing the tobs install command. Creating TimescaleDB tobs-certificate secret Creating TimescaleDB tobs-credentials secret skipping to create TimescaleDB s3 backup secret as backup option is disabled. 2022/01/10 11:25:34 Transport: unhandled response frame type *http.http2UnknownFrame 2022/01/10 11:25:35 Transport: unhandled response frame type *http.http2UnknownFrame 2022/01/10 11:25:35 Transport: unhandled response frame type *http.http2UnknownFrame Installing The Observability Stack 2022/01/10 11:25:37 Transport: unhandled response frame type *http.http2UnknownFrame W0110 11:25:55.438728 75479 warnings.go:70] policy/v1beta1 PodSecurityPolicy is deprecated in v1.21+, unavailable in v1.25+ W0110 11:25:55.646392 75479 warnings.go:70] policy/v1beta1 PodSecurityPolicy is deprecated in v1.21+, unavailable in v1.25+ … 👋🏽 Welcome to tobs, The Observability Stack for Kubernetes …

The output from this point onward will contain instructions for connecting to each of Prometheus, TimescaleDB, PromLens, and Grafana’s web endpoints in your browser. It is reproduced in full below for reference:

Output
############################################################################### 🔥 PROMETHEUS NOTES: ############################################################################### Prometheus can be accessed via port 9090 on the following DNS name from within your cluster: tobs-kube-prometheus-prometheus.default.svc.cluster.local Get the Prometheus server URL by running these commands in the same shell: tobs prometheus port-forward The Prometheus alertmanager can be accessed via port 9093 on the following DNS name from within your cluster: tobs-kube-prometheus-alertmanager.default.svc.cluster.local Get the Alertmanager URL by running these commands in the same shell: export POD_NAME=$(kubectl get pods --namespace default -l "app=alertmanager,alertmanager=tobs-kube-prometheus-alertmanager" -o jsonpath="{.items[0].metadata.name}") kubectl --namespace default port-forward $POD_NAME 9093 WARNING! Persistence is disabled on AlertManager. You will lose your data when the AlertManager pod is terminated. ############################################################################### 🐯 TIMESCALEDB NOTES: ############################################################################### TimescaleDB can be accessed via port 5432 on the following DNS name from within your cluster: tobs.default.svc.cluster.local To get your password for superuser run: tobs timescaledb get-password -U <user> To connect to your database, chose one of these options: 1. Run a postgres pod and connect using the psql cli: tobs timescaledb connect -U <user> 2. Directly execute a psql session on the master node tobs timescaledb connect -m ############################################################################### 🧐 PROMLENS NOTES: ############################################################################### PromLens is a PromQL query builder, analyzer, and visualizer. You can access PromLens via a local browser by executing: tobs promlens port-forward Then you can point your browser to http://127.0.0.1:8081/. ############################################################################### 📈 GRAFANA NOTES: ############################################################################### 1. The Grafana server can be accessed via port 80 on the following DNS name from within your cluster: tobs-grafana.default.svc.cluster.local You can access grafana locally by executing: tobs grafana port-forward Then you can point your browser to http://127.0.0.1:8080/. 2. The 'admin' user password can be retrieved by: tobs grafana get-password 3. You can reset the admin user password with grafana-cli from inside the pod. tobs grafana change-password <password-you-want-to-set>

Each of this is provided with a DNS name internal to your cluster so that they can be accessed from any of your worker nodes, e.g. tobs-kube-prometheus-alertmanager.default.svc.cluster.local for Prometheus. In addition, there is a port forwarding command configured for each that allows you to access them from a local web browser.

In a new terminal, run tobs prometheus port-forward:

  • tobs prometheus port-forward

This will occupy the terminal as long as the port forwarding process is active. You can press Ctrl+C to gracefully quit a blocking process such as this one when you want to stop forwarding the port. Next, in a web browser, go to the URL http://127.0.0.1:9090/. You should see the full Prometheus interface running and producing metrics from your cluster:

Prometheus welcome

You can do the same for Grafana, which is accessible at http://127.0.0.1:8080/ as long as port forwarding is active in another process. First, you’ll need to use the get-password command provided by the installer output:

  • tobs grafana get-password
Output
your-grafana-password

You can then use this password to log into the Grafana interface by running its port forwarding command and opening http://127.0.0.1:8080/ in your browser.

  • tobs grafana port-forward

Grafana welcome

You now have a working TOBS stack running in your Kubernetes cluster. You can refer to the individual components’ documentation in order to learn their respective features. In the last step of this tutorial, you’ll learn how to make updates to the TOBS configuration itself.

Step 3 — Editing TOBS Configurations and Upgrading

TOBS’ configuration contains some parameters for the individual applications in the stack, as well as some parameters for the TOBS deployment itself. It is generated and stored as a Kubernetes Helm chart. You can output your current configuration by running tobs helm show-values. However, this will output the entire long configuration to your terminal, which can be difficult to read. You can instead redirect the output to a file with the .yaml extension, because Helm charts are all valid YAML syntax:

  • tobs helm show-values > values.yaml

The file contents will look like this:

~/values.yaml
2022/01/10 11:56:37 Transport: unhandled response frame type *http.http2UnknownFrame
# Values for configuring the deployment of TimescaleDB
# The charts README is at:
#    https://github.com/timescale/timescaledb-kubernetes/tree/master/charts/timescaledb-single
# Check out the various configuration options (administration guide) at:
#    https://github.com/timescale/timescaledb-kubernetes/blob/master/charts/timescaledb-single/admin-guide.md
cli: false

# Override the deployment namespace
namespaceOverride: ""
…

You can review the additional parameters available for TOBS’ configuration by reading the TOBS documentation

If you ever modify this file in order to update your deployment, you can re-install TOBS over itself using the updated configuration. Just pass the -f option to the tobs install command with the YAML file as an additional argument:

  • tobs install -f values.yaml

Finally, you can upgrade TOBS with the following command:

  • tobs upgrade

This performs the equivalent of a helm upgrade by fetching the newest upstream chart.

Conclusion

In this tutorial, you learned to deploy and configure TOBS, The Observability Stack, on an existing Kubernetes cluster. TOBS is particularly helpful because it eliminates the need to individually maintain configuration details for each of these apps, while providing standardized monitoring for the applications running on your cluster.

Next, you might want to learn how to use Cert-Manager to handle HTTPS ingress to your Kubernetes cluster.

Originally posted on DigitalOcean Community Tutorials
Author: Alex Garnett

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