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Using the Metrics Catalog to Find Metrics

One of the advantages of using the SignalFx service is that you can send as many metrics as you want; irrespective of the volume of metrics, you don’t have to plan for the infrastructure to process and store those metrics. However, as the number of metrics you monitor grows, and as the diversity of sources across infrastructure and applications increases, it becomes important to have a mechanism for finding those metrics quickly and easily.

Tip

The Metrics Sidebar provides a way to find metrics and events while you are creating charts. Also, while you are viewing any screen, you can use the global search option to quickly find a variety of items, including metrics, without even needing to open the Metrics Catalog.

The Metrics Catalog provides dimension-based searching and filtering for finding metrics. It also offers additional information about the metrics, including chart previews and related properties, and lets you search for related objects, such as hosts or services.

To open the Metrics Catalog, click Metrics in the navigation bar. If necessary, click the Sidebar icon to display the sidebar.

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Dimension-based searching

Overview

Dimension-based search is a familiar concept to anyone who has attempted to shop on an e-commerce site. In some rare cases, you know exactly what you are looking for, and you simply provide a specific search term to the e-commerce site’s search engine to take you to it. Most of the time, you know some of the attributes of the thing you’re looking for, such as color or shoe size, but you need the site to provide additional feedback and options to help guide you to the desired object.

Dimension-based search in the Metrics Catalog works much the same way. In most cases, you will know one or more attributes of what you are looking for, but not all of them, nor will you know the precise syntax used to identify them. With dimension-based search, knowing just one or two attributes should be enough.

For example, if you want to see the average CPU utilization for the hosts in a particular service in a specific datacenter, dimension-based search lets you name whichever of these attributes you want first (say, the datacenter US-East). The Metrics Catalog then displays related attributes, such as the names of the services in that datacenter. When you select an attribute, the page then displays the metrics that are available in SignalFx for those services. Thus, with a minimal amount of knowledge and just a few keystrokes, you can quickly drill down to exactly what you’re looking for.

Preview pane

Once you’ve found some set of metrics or other objects that might be what you want, the preview pane at right shows relevant information about the selection in the sidebar, which can include data links, metadata and related metrics. (Exactly what it shows depends on the type of object selected.) The preview pane also contains buttons that let you add the current object as a filter to the search bar, or, for metrics or metric time series, to open a Chart Builder view containing those metrics.

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Examples of searching for metrics in the Metrics Catalog

Example 1 - Starting from a metric name

The most direct way to find a metric is if you know its name, e.g. cpu.idle. In that case, simply type the name into the search box. Select the metric to see information about it in the preview pane.

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Example 2 - Using a filter to narrow down your results

The sidebar can also help to further refine your search. For example, if you know you are looking for a metric related to Java virtual machines, then you could type jvm into the search field. If the result you want is not in the list of 5 metrics under the metrics category, click Show all to see an expanded list of metric names.

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Selecting one of the metric names, e.g. jvm.cpu.load, will provide a preview of the metric in the preview pane. If you want to view other items related to this metric, click Add to filter.

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Doing so will add a filter of jvm.cpu.load to the sidebar, and show you a list of Catalog categories and objects that are associated with the filter.

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Example 3 - Starting from a dimension or property

If you don’t know the name of the metric that you want, you can find it by looking for related dimensions or properties, e.g. what host is reporting it, or what service it is associated with. For example, if you know that you are searching for a Docker-related metric, then you can search for docker. Assuming you’ve installed the Docker integration, it will appear in the left side under the category collectd (plugin).

Once you’ve selected the item in the sidebar, the preview pane will show sections for properties, tags, and metrics. If you don’t see the metric you are looking for, or if you want to explore a larger number of metrics, you can click Show all in sidebar.

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This will change the sidebar contents to show you all of the metrics associated with the item you’ve chosen, and you can scroll through them and preview them individually.

Exploring the Metrics Catalog in detail

Using the Metrics Catalog sidebar

The Metrics Catalog contains the metrics you are sending in to SignalFx and the metadata you’ve applied to them. To get an overview of what is in the Metrics Catalog, you can simply scroll down through the sidebar.

The sidebar contains the following types of objects:

  • services
  • servers (hosts or instances)
  • dimensions (i.e., any dimension that was sent in with your metrics)
  • signals (metrics, metric time series and events)
  • properties (including AWS metadata that has been synchronized)
  • tags

For each category of objects, such as hosts, you will see a list of specific instances of that category, e.g. by host name or server ID. By default, you will see up to 5 instances; to see more, click Show All.

Using the preview pane

The information that is shown in the preview pane for the categories or instances changes depending on the nature of the item that is selected.

Services

For services, the sidebar displays sub-services, metrics, hosts, or other information, depending on the service selected.

Servers (hosts or instances)

For hosts or instances, SignalFx provides a set of built-in charts such as CPU utilization, memory page swaps, disk and network I/O and free disk space. The charts use a subset of the metrics that are associated with the host or instance, and if you scroll down the page you can see the fuller list of available metrics. For more information on built-in charts, see Built-In Dashboards and Charts.

In addition, as with all objects in the Metrics Catalog, there is a set of metadata associated with the host, including a description, tags and properties.

Dimensions

Dimensions are submitted with your metrics and events, and are treated by SignalFx as part of the identity of the metric. If you are using a standard integration such as a collectd agent or the AWS integration, many of the dimensions you see in the Metrics Catalog will reflect the underlying implementation of the integration.

For example, collectd extracts data from the host using plugins, and each of the plugins that is installed (e.g. the Docker plugin, or the Generic JMX plugin) will appear in the Metrics Catalog as dimensions.

Similarly, AWS CloudWatch metrics report 5 statistics for each metric (count, average, min, max and sum); these values will appear under the heading stat.

If you select a dimension, you will see the metrics that it is associated with, as well as relevant metadata, including a description, tags and properties.

Signals

The Metrics Catalog provides 15-minute previews of metrics and metric time series so that you can get a feel as to whether you’ve found the object you want. In addition, for metrics you can see what type of metric it is, along with description, tags and properties. For metric time series, you will typically see a number of dimensions associated with the time series, along with description, tags, and other properties.

To change the metric type, click the Edit link, select the desired metric type (gauge, counter or cumulative counter), then click Save.

Properties

Properties are a form of metadata that can be applied to multiple objects within SignalFx, including metrics. While properties can be added directly to metrics or metric time series, they are more commonly added to dimensions. Properties applied to a dimension will be propagated to all time series that include that dimension.

When applied to metrics, the key distinction between dimensions and properties is that the former are treated as an immutable part of the metric’s identity (i.e. changing a dimension value means that a new time series is created), while the property is something that can be added or removed without affecting the existence of the time series.

In other respects, however, properties behave similarly to dimensions as described above.

Tags

Tags can be thought of as labels or keywords assigned to dimensions, metrics and other objects. They are not key/value pairs.

The primary use case for tags is when there is a many-to-one relationship between the tag and the object you are assigning it to. For example, suppose you have hosts that are running multiple apps. You can create a tag for each app, then apply multiple tags to each host to specify the apps that are running on that host.

Adding or editing metadata

To add or edit an existing description, tag or property, select the add or edit link for the appropriate section. Note that you can only add or edit properties and tags, not dimensions. For more information about metadata, see Metrics Metadata.

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