Monitoring a Linux/windows server using Prometheus

Why monitor?

Monitoring of a system is key to its smooth functioning. Going to the battlefield (production) without having proper monitoring setup done is like making your platform vulnerable, hence to obtain full control it becomes a must; as the popular say goes “Failing to plan, is planning to fail”. In this article I’m going to show how you can monitor a system using Prometheus, node_exporter and the Grafana UI.

Difference between Pull and Push based monitoring architecture

Simply put, in push based architecture each target node periodically sends metrics to a central collector. Examples of push architectures include: sFlow, Ganglia, Graphite, collectd and StatsD. Whereas, in pull based architecture the central collector periodically requests each of the target node to send metrics to it. Examples of pull architectures include: SNMP, JMX, WMI, libvirt, prometheus,etc.

Prometheus is primarily a pull-based system, however it can act as a push based system by using pushgateway

Installation and setup

We will install prometheus, which will pull metrics from the target server, node_exporter which will make the target system’s metrics available at an HTTP port for prometheus to pull; and Grafana is the UI for an amazing visualisation.

1. Prometheus

Installation procedure is pretty simple, I’m going to show how to install on two platforms, Arch linux and Ubuntu. For others you can definitely follow the official docs

Arch Linux

Arch has package for prometheus, which is great because then you don’t need to explicitly write unit file for the service.

  1. sudo pacman -S prometheus
  2. sudo systemctl enable prometheus (to create systemlink to the unit file in the systemd directory to that the systemd can always start it at boot)
  3. sudo systemctl start prometheus to start the service right away.

Now if you wish to check whether it is running properly or not you can run systemctl status prometheus.


  1. Download wget
  2. tar -xzf prometheus-2.8.0.linux-amd64.tar.gz
  3. Move the prometheus binary executable to PATH mv prometheus-2.8.0.linux-amd64/prometheus /usr/local/bin/
  4. Configure the prometheus config file (prometheus-2.8.0.linux-amd64/prometheus.yml) with simple configurations:-

        scrape_interval:     15s # By default, scrape targets every 15 seconds.
        # Attach these labels to any time series or alerts when communicating with
        # external systems (federation, remote storage, Alertmanager).
          monitor: 'codelab-monitor'
      # A scrape configuration containing exactly one endpoint to scrape:
      # Here it's Prometheus itself.
        # The job name is added as a label `job=<job_name>` to any timeseries scraped from this config.
        - job_name: 'prometheus'
          # Override the global default and scrape targets from this job every 5 seconds.
          scrape_interval: 5s
            - targets: ['localhost:9090']
  5. Now write a unit file for the prometheus service. For more info on systemd and unit files see here.

    sudo nano /etc/systemd/system/prometheus.service

    Add the following contents :-

    ExecStart=/usr/local/bin/prometheus --config.file /home/ubuntu/prometheus-2.8.0.linux-amd64/prometheus.yml
    1. sudo systemctl daemon-reload
    2. sudo systemctl start prometheus
    3. sudo systemctl enable prometheus
    4. Now if you wish to check whether it is not or not execute systemctl status prometheus

    Alternatively, you can use apt to install prometheus as well.

    Now you can visit <ip-address>:9090 on browser to see promethues running. Kudos you’ve successfully set up prometheus on your monitoring server. (make sure port 9090 is open for http)

2. node_exporter

The Prometheus Node Exporter exposes a wide variety of hardware- and kernel-related metrics, which prometheus can scrape metrics from. Typically node_exporter is installed on the target machine which you want to monitor and prometheus is installed on a vertically scaled (it demands heavy resource, generally) server which is primarily used as the master to monitor the target servers.

Here I will show you how you can install node_exporter on Debian and Windows server. Prometheus will keep pulling metrics from them and hence monitor.


The official docs will show to use the tarball (ref. - follow the above guide for installing prometheus on ubuntu) but for convenience we will use the official debian package.

1) sudo apt-get install prometheus-node-exporter

2) This by default enables and starts the node exporter service but you can cross check by systemctl status node_exporter.service


Unfortunately node_exporter is not well-supported on windows and hence we will use an alternative

1) Visit

2) I would recommend to download and run the .msi as can setup most of the things for you. By default the service will start running on port 9182 so make sure to open that port to prometheus server.

Now, make this newly created node_exporter a target for prometheus to pull. Add the following lines to promethues configuration file i.e prometheus.yml:-

For the above mentioned debian target server:-

- job_name: 'node_exporter'
      - targets: ['<target-server-ip>:9100']

Similar for the above mentioned windows target server but change the port address to 9182. These ports are the default values and can be changed according to need by making necessary changes to configuration file of the exporters.

For the new target to get ready to be configured we need to restart the prometheus service so that it read the updated configuration i.e prometheus.yml. Run sudo systemctl restart prometheus.service. The downside to this restart is that this will cause a downtime during the restart process. To get around this downtime follow this neat trick. The idea is to send a hang-up single to the prometheus service which will make it reload the configuration. For that first we need to know the PID (process ID) of the process. Run ps aux | grep prome*

[souvik@quiche ~]$ ps aux | grep prome*
prometh+ 29115  0.1  1.5 1142212 126020 ?      Ssl  Mar26   1:32 /usr/bin/prometheus --config.file=/etc/prometheus/prometheus.yml --storage.tsdb.path=/var/lib/prometheus/data
souvik   33410  0.0  0.4 891840 39956 pts/1    S+   03:12   0:00 journalctl -u prometheus -f
souvik   33445  0.0  0.0   6268  2316 pts/2    S+   03:18   0:00 grep prome*
[souvik@quiche ~]$ 

So now we know that the PID of the prometheus service is 29915.

Now we need the hang up signal to it. Run sudo kill -s HUP 29115

This will make prometheus reload the configuration as evident in the below logs:-

Mar 27 03:20:36 quiche prometheus[29115]: level=info ts=2019-03-27T10:20:36.618684382Z caller=main.go:724 msg="Loading configuration file" filename=/etc/prometheus/prometheus.yml
Mar 27 03:20:36 quiche prometheus[29115]: level=info ts=2019-03-27T10:20:36.619961054Z caller=main.go:751 msg="Completed loading of configuration file" filename=/etc/prometheus/prometheus.yml


Now visit the Status --> Targets on the prometheus’s address in the browser and your target server will appear there. Now you can query for basic metrics and see it’s corresponding graph on the dashboard. But Grafana makes it cooler. Let’s grab it now.

3. Grafana


Link to docs

1) wget 2) sudo dpkg -i grafana_6.0.2_amd64.deb 3) sudo systemctl start grafana-server.service 4) sudo systemctl enable grafana-server.service

Arch Linux

1) sudo pacman -S grafana 2) sudo systemctl enable grafana 3) sudo systemctl start grafana

Now open port 3000 because by default Grafana listens on port 3000. Now hit :3000 and you can see Grafana running. The default username and password is admin and admin respectively. Congratulations, your pretty dashboard is now setup correctly!

Now we need to configure Grafana to set prometheus as a data-source.

Configure Grafana

1) Visit <montoring-server-ip>:3000.

2) Click on Add data source

3) Select prometheus

4) Let the defaults be. Check if the address the alright.

5) Import a pre-built dashboard but clicking on + icon.

6) Import 1860 and 405 as Dashboard ID.


Voila you have the pretty dashboard ready!

visit <monitor-server-ip>:3000



Some more

windows node


So that’s a brief walk-through of the setup of monitoring system for a linux and windows server. Now you can customize further and setup alerts for different scenarios using Alert Manager. You can go through this cool video tutorial if you are more of a video person. Thanks and I hope I was able to at least get you started with the popular and amazing monitoring tool Prometheus.