A generic web based tool to display the status and health of any kind of internet service
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PlatformHealthViewer allows you to build dashboard screens that visualize key performance data from any kind of internet service. If, for example, you would like to display the number of logins on your website as a line graph, all you need to do is to feed this data into the system using simple HTTP requests, and place a graph that represents this data on the dashboard with one simple click.

There is a 10 minute long introduction video (in english, with subtitles) over at Youtube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HI6SRqz_3D0

The main design principle behind PHV is to make feeding data into the system and representing this data as graphs as straight forward as possible.

To achieve this, PHV allows you to feed numeric data from any kind of source into its server, without the need for any upfront configuration. In order to make data visualization as simple as possible, PHV offers an interactive web interface which allows you to freely place and resize graphs.


Debian GNU/Linux 6.0 Squeeze

Assuming that we have a base system with at least the "Standard system utilities" collection installed, we need the following extra software to run PHV:

  • Git
  • Ruby 1.8
  • RubyGems
  • Bundler
  • Rails 3.0
  • MySQL 5.1
  • CouchDB
  • And of course PHV itself

Please note that as of now, PHV is not tested with Ruby 1.9 and might not work with this version of Ruby. Likewise, Ruby on Rails versions earlier than 3.0.0 are not supported.

All commands need to be issued as root unless otherwise stated.

First we need to install a bunch of Debian packages using apt-get:

apt-get install git-core ruby1.8 rubygems1.8 couchdb mysql-server-5.1 \

When installing the MySQL server, the system will ask you (multiple times) to choose a root password. Provide a password of your choice and write it down for later usage. If you know the implications, you can of course also choose to use an empty password.

We will use RubyGems to install additional Ruby libraries (gems). Those are installed to /var/lib/gems/1.8. Because this location is not on our systems's path, and typing "/var/lib/gems/1.8/bin/rails" every time is tedious, we are going to add this location to our path:

echo "export PATH=$PATH:/var/lib/gems/1.8/bin" >> /etc/profile
source /etc/profile

Now we need to install additional Ruby libraries using RubyGems:

gem install bundler
gem install rails

Great, now we have installed and configured all software packages that are neccessary to start the PHV installation itself.

The following steps describe how to get PHV running on your system. The installation location for PHV is up to you, for this tutorial I have choosen to install it to /opt/PlatformHealthViewer.

First, we need to get the latest stable version of the PHV source code:

cd /opt
git clone git://github.com/ManuelKiessling/PlatformHealthViewer.git

Next, we have to make sure that all additional gems that PHV needs will be installed:

cd /opt/PlatformHealthViewer
bundle install

If you chose to protect your MySQL installation with a password, you need to configure this password in the database config file of PHV, using an editor of your choice (e.g. vi):

vi config/database.yml

You will need to provide the password in lines 7, 18 and 29. When this is done, the MySQL database structures can be installed:

rake db:setup

Not to forget the CouchDB databases:

rake couch:setup

If these tasks finish without errors, we can verify that PHV is working as expected by running its unit tests:

rake test:units

Everything went ok if the last line of the test output reads

28 tests, 28 assertions, 0 failures, 0 errors

Now is the time to start the rails application server:

rails s

This allows you to open the PHV application in your browser:


(If at this point you receive a "Errno::ECONNREFUSED" error message, then this is because CouchDB is not running or can't be connected).

You will of course need to replace YourServersAddress with the actual IP or DNS name of the server you installed PHV on.

However, what you are going to see might probably be a bit disappointing, because after all you are shown an empty dashboard. This is because there hasn't been fed any data into PHV yet, which is why there a no graphs added to the dashboard that could represent any data.

Read the next chapter to find out how to breath live into your PHV installation.

Feeding demo data into your PHV server

The easiest way to add data and visualizations to your PHV installation is to run a utility script that will feed randomized demo data into the server and add a graph to the dashboard representing this demo data.

While still in /opt/PlatformHealthViewer (or whatever location you chose to install PHV to), run

rake demodata:create

This will take around 1 minute. Once finished, go back to your browser and refresh the current page. You will now see a graph on the Dashboard page and the demo events and tag on the Tageditor page.

If you no longer need the demo data, you can remove it completely by issueing

rake demodata:remove

Feeding real data into your PHV server

As mentioned above, the goal is to make feeding data into PHV as simple as possible, while allowing the data to come from whatever source you have. This is why I decided to use a simple, lightweight and very common protocol for pushing events into the PHV database: HTTP.

This way, it's really simple to collect all the data you need. Issueing HTTP requests can be done from any Unix command line, using curl. Your programming environment of choice, like Java, Rails or PHP, very likely allows you to make HTTP calls in a straight-forward manner.

As of now, only HTTP POST requests are supported. Still assuming that you have PHV running at http://YourServersAddress:3000/, you will need to make an HTTP POST request to


with the following POST parameters:


On the Linux command line, one way to easily create HTTP POST requests is by using curl.

curl is a versatile unix command line tool to create any kind of HTTP request. It's available on all major platforms. On Debian GNU/Linux, you can install it with

apt-get install curl

A typical curl command line with a valid PHV request would look like this:

curl --data "event[value]=0.4&event[source]=myhost&event[name]=cpu_load" \

As noted in the introduction, you don't need to do any upfront configuration in order to push new data into the system. As long as you can reach your PHV system with HTTP, you can push into the system whatever you like (right, as of now, there isn't any kind of authentication either).

Ok, let's try a real world example. If you followed the installation section above, you will have PHV running on a Debian GNU/Linux 6.0 system. What about collecting and visualizing this system's CPU load within PHV?

All we need is a way to make HTTP POST requests as explained above, and of course we need to get the actual CPU load value. Let's use good old uptime for this:

root@debian:~# uptime
 05:10:10 up  6:53,  4 users,  load average: 0.10, 0.04, 0.01

We want to grab the 1 minute average (0.10 in the above example), which we will get using some cut magic:

root@debian:~# uptime | cut -b 46-49

Great, that will do for now. Let's build a working curl command line:

curl --data "event[value]=`uptime | \
 cut -b 46-49`&event[source]=debian&event[name]=cpu_load" \

As you can see, I decided to name this event's source debian - you can choose a different name of course.

Ok, now we pushed one event into the PHV server, but if you reload http://YourServersAddress:3000/ in your browser, you won't see any events with a source name debian in the All event types box.

This is because new events that are pushed into PHV are only queued for further processing to speed up event insertion. To make them available in the Tag editor (and to subsequentially visualize them on the dashboard), you need to "convert" them to their final location in the database.

This is done using the following command:

rake queue:convert

If afterwards you reload the Tag editor page in your browser, you will see the debian cpu_load entry in the All event types box.

The curl command line plus the rake task is all you need to make data available within PHV. You are completely free to feed any value (as long as it's a float) from any system into your PHV server, as long as you can provide a command line that produces the intended event value, and as long as the system you are pushing the events from is able to connect to your PHV server via HTTP.

In practice you will probably want to push the event values of a system into PHV continuously - you can use watch or a cronjob for this purpose:

watch -n 5 'curl --data "event[value]=`uptime | \
 cut -b 46-49`&event[source]=debian&event[name]=cpu_load" \

will feed the current CPU load into PHV every five seconds, while a crontab like

* * * * *	nobody	curl --data "event[value]=`uptime | cut -b 46-49`&event[source]=debian&event[name]=cpu_load" http://localhost:3000/queue_event

will feed that value every minute.

Event Agents

As of now, PHV really is about providing an "event-type and event-source agnostic" platform, which is why collecting event values and pushing them into PHV is very much up to you - which gives you great flexibility, but might be cumbersome.

This might or might not change with future versions, but after all, PHV will always have to stick to common and simple agents (CPU load, free disk space, web site load time etc.) when providing agents itself. It's the pain-free process of adding and visualizing highly specific data (that only your application/website generates and only you need to have visualized) where PHV tries to help.

However, a very basic set of common agents are already available in the


folder. Feel free to have a look. To feed the different, for example, the different CPU performance indicators of your Mac into a PHV server running at YourServersAddress:3000, simply call

bash script/agents/macosx/cpu_overview_percent.sh http://localhost:3000/ macbook

from your Mac's Terminal. There is a similar agent script for Linux systems.

Contributing & Getting in touch

I would love to receive feedback, feature requests, bug reports, and of course pull requests for PHV.

Add issues at https://github.com/ManuelKiessling/PlatformHealthViewer/issues or fork on Github using https://github.com/ManuelKiessling/PlatformHealthViewer/fork

You can reach me at manuel@kiessling.net, or follow me on Twitter @manuelkiessling