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Monitoring web applications with the Apache RA

One of typical uses of apache is as an interface to the one or
the other kind of web application. It could be expressed thus in
terms of a resource group:

	IP address

where web_app is a JSP application (tomcat,jeronimo) or similar.

Rumour has it that the web applications suffer from occasional
instability which may make them an administration nightmare. But,
typical remedy is simply an application restart.

How do we increase availability in this situation?

The web applications are most commonly represented as one or more
processes in a UNIX environment. The afore mentioned instability
is most commonly not reflected in the process state. Hence,
checking the process status makes us no wiser.  What could help,
though, is probing the application just as our unhappy user
does---through the web interface. We can ask the application
developers to provide a URL which should exercise the application
and then provide predictable output.

Now, given our generic resource group and the failed web
application, which we established using a http client, we have
the following situation:

	IP address
	apache FAILED

Some might argue that it's not apache that is the culprit or has
failed, but this nevertheless should serve our purpose well. The
cluster will stop web_app and apache and then start them, either
on the some node or elsewhere. There's an extra apache restart
which was not needed, but then again it cannot really hurt.

What to monitor?

Choose carefully the URL to monitor. It should probe exactly what
is further up in the resource group, no more and no less. In
other words, if you have a database backend running elsewhere, it
would be of no use to specify a URL which depends on the
database. You should monitor only what is within reach.

Configuration and usage

It is possible to configure the monitoring either through CIB or
using an extra configuration file. If your monitoring spec
consists only of a URL and a regular expression to be matched in
the output, then something like this should suffice:

primitive apache_a1 ocf💓apache \
	params configfile="/apps/a1.conf" \
	op monitor interval=120s timeout=60s start-delay=120s \
		OCF_CHECK_LEVEL=10 testurl="/webapp1_mon" testregex="This application is alive"

The testurl parameter is where we connect and the testregex is
what we should look for. The OCF_CHECK_LEVEL must be set to "10".
Note that testurl specifies a URL which is relative to where the
apache listens for connections. Obviously, this should be
preferred to specifying the full URL.

It is important to set start-delay to a value larger than the
time needed to start the web application (the next resource). If
we don't, then the first monitor operation is likely to fail.

In case you need more complex configuration, it can be set
in an extra configuration file:

primitive apache_a1 ocf💓apache \
	params configfile="/apps/a1.conf" testconffile="/apps/webmon.cf" \
	op monitor ... OCF_CHECK_LEVEL=10


test webapp1
url /webapp1_mon
match This application is alive
client curl

This test configuration is equivalent to the first one, it's just
that in the latter we want to use curl(1) as an http client
instead of wget(1).

Another example:

test webapp1
url /webapp1_mon
match This application is alive
client curl
client_opts --header 'Host: www.webapp1.megacorp.com'

Here we use the curl's --header option to specify the virtual
host we want to talk to.

It is also possible to set the credentials using the "user" and
"password" keywords.

The configuration file may contain more than one test definition
which is handy in case one should monitor more than one web
application. In that case you should specify the test name in the

primitive apache_common ocf💓apache \
	params configfile="/apps/httpd.conf" testconffile="/apps/webmon.cf" \
	op monitor ... OCF_CHECK_LEVEL=10 testname="a1" \
	op monitor ... OCF_CHECK_LEVEL=10 testname="b1"

The apache OCF RA supports wget(1) (the default) and curl(1) http
clients. If neither will do, then you can specify your own using
the client and client_opts keywords. Your client must allow URL
as the last parameter and it must dump output from the web server
to stdout.

All configuration file keywords:

test	The name of the text.
url		The url to test. If it doesn't start with http, it's
		considered to be relative to the apache Listen directive.
match	The regular expression to match.
user	Username to authenticate with.
password	Password to authenticate with.
client	The http client.
client_opts	 Options for the http client.
end		Marks the end of the test definition.
#		Comment. May be used only at the start of line.


We could support more depth levels, but it is not clear if
anybody really needs that. Different check levels could be
defined as different monitor operations.

In case you are using the external configuration file, don't
forget to replicate it to all cluster members and to keep it