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Alex Dzyoba
Alex Dzyoba

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Configuring JMX exporter for Kafka and Zookeeper

I’ve been using Prometheus for quite some time and really enjoying it. Most of the things are quite simple – installing and configuring Prometheus is easy, setting up exporters is launch and forget, instrumenting your code is a bliss. But there are 2 things that I’ve really struggled with:

  1. Grokking data model and PromQL to get meaningful insights.
  2. Configuring jmx-exporter.

In this post, I’ll share the JMX part because I don’t feel that I’ve fully understood the data model and PromQL. So let’s dive into that jmx-exporter thing.

What is jmx-exporter

jmx-exporter is a program that reads JMX data from JVM based applications (e.g. Java and Scala) and exposes it via HTTP in a simple text format that Prometheus understand and can scrape.

JMX is a common technology in Java world for exporting statistics of running application and also to control it (you can trigger GC with JMX, for example).

jmx-exporter is a Java application that uses JMX APIs to collect the app and JVM metrics. It is a Java agent which means it is running inside the same JVM. This gives you a nice benefit of not exposing JMX remotely – jmx-exporter will just collect the metrics and exposes it over HTTP in read-only mode.

Installing jmx-exporter

Because it’s written in Java, jmx-exporter is distributed as a jar, so you just need to download it from maven and put it somewhere on your target host.

I have an Ansible role for this – Besides downloading the jar it’ll also put the configuration file for jmx-exporter.

This configuration file contains rules for rewriting JMX MBeans to the Prometheus exposition format metrics. Basically, it’s a collection of regexps to convert MBeans strings to Prometheus strings.

The example_configs directory in jmx-exporter sources contains examples for many popular Java apps including Kafka and Zookeeper.

Configuring Zookeeper with jmx-exporter

As I’ve said jmx-exporter runs inside other JVM as java agent to collect JMX metrics. To demonstrate how it all works, let’s run it within Zookeeper.

Zookeeper is a crucial part of many production systems including Hadoop, Kafka and Clickhouse, so you really want to monitor it. Despite the fact that you can do this with 4lw commands(mntr, stat, etc.) and that there are dedicated exporters I prefer to use JMX to avoid constant Zookeeper querying (they add noise to metrics because 4lw commands counted as normal Zookeeper requests).

To scrape Zookeeper JMX metrics with jmx-exporter you have to pass the following arguments to Zookeeper launch:

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If you use the Zookeeper that is distributed with Kafka (you shouldn’t) then pass it via EXTRA_ARGS:

$ export EXTRA_ARGS="-javaagent:/opt/jmx-exporter/jmx-exporter.jar=7070:/etc/jmx-exporter/zookeeper.yml"
$ /opt/kafka_2.11- /opt/kafka_2.11-
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If you use standalone Zookeeper distribution then add it as SERVER_JVMFLAGS to the

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Anyway, when you launch Zookeeper you should see the process listening on the specified port (7070 in my case) and responding to /metrics queries:

$ netstat -tlnp | grep 7070
tcp 0 0* LISTEN 892/java

$ curl -s localhost:7070/metrics | head
# HELP jvm_threads_current Current thread count of a JVM
# TYPE jvm_threads_current gauge
jvm_threads_current 16.0
# HELP jvm_threads_daemon Daemon thread count of a JVM
# TYPE jvm_threads_daemon gauge
jvm_threads_daemon 12.0
# HELP jvm_threads_peak Peak thread count of a JVM
# TYPE jvm_threads_peak gauge
jvm_threads_peak 16.0
# HELP jvm_threads_started_total Started thread count of a JVM
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Configuring Kafka with jmx-exporter

Kafka is a message broker written in Scala so it runs in JVM which in turn means that we can use jmx-exporter for its metrics.

To run jmx-exporter within Kafka, you should set KAFKA_OPTS environment variable like this:

$ export KAFKA_OPTS='-javaagent:/opt/jmx-exporter/jmx-exporter.jar=7071:/etc/jmx-exporter/kafka.yml'
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Then launch the Kafka (I assume that Zookeeper is already launched as it’s required by Kafka):

$ /opt/kafka_2.11- /opt/kafka_2.11-
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Check that jmx-exporter HTTP server is listening:

$ netstap -tlnp | grep 7071
tcp6 0 0 :::7071 :::* LISTEN 19288/java
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And scrape the metrics!

$ curl -s localhost:7071 | grep -i kafka | head
# HELP kafka_server_replicafetchermanager_minfetchrate Attribute exposed for management (kafka.server<type=ReplicaFetcherManager, name=MinFetchRate, clientId=Replica><>Value)
# TYPE kafka_server_replicafetchermanager_minfetchrate untyped
kafka_server_replicafetchermanager_minfetchrate{clientId="Replica",} 0.0
# HELP kafka_network_requestmetrics_totaltimems Attribute exposed for management (<type=RequestMetrics, name=TotalTimeMs, request=OffsetFetch><>Count)
# TYPE kafka_network_requestmetrics_totaltimems untyped
kafka_network_requestmetrics_totaltimems{request="OffsetFetch",} 0.0
kafka_network_requestmetrics_totaltimems{request="JoinGroup",} 0.0
kafka_network_requestmetrics_totaltimems{request="DescribeGroups",} 0.0
kafka_network_requestmetrics_totaltimems{request="LeaveGroup",} 0.0
kafka_network_requestmetrics_totaltimems{request="GroupCoordinator",} 0.0
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Here is how to run jmx-exporter java agent if you are running Kafka under systemd:

ExecStart=/opt/kafka/bin/ /etc/kafka/
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With jmx-exporter you can scrape the metrics of running JVM applications. jmx-exporter runs as a Java agent (inside the target JVM) scrapes JMX metrics, rewrite it according to config rules and exposes it in Prometheus exposition format.

For a quick setup check my Ansible role for jmx-exporter alexdzyoba.jmx-exporter.

That’s all for now, stay tuned by subscribing to the RSS or follow me on Twitter @AlexDzyoba.

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