Category Archives: Linux

Autosnap AWS snapshot and volume management tool

This is my first serious attempt at a Python tool on github.  I figured it was about time, as I’ve been leveraging Open Source tools for a long time, I might as well try to give a little bit back.  Please check out the project and leave feedback by emailing, opening a github or issue or commenting here, I’d love to see what can be done with this tool, there are lots of bugs to shake out and things to improve.  Even better if you have some code you’d like to contribute, this is very much a work in progress!

Here is the project – https://github.com/jmreicha/autosnap.

Introduction

Essentially, this tool is designed to ease the management of the snapshot and volume lifecycle in an AWS environment.  I have discovered that snapshots and volumes can be used together to form a simple backup management system, so by simplifying the management of these resources, by utilizing the power of the AWS API, you can easily manage backups of your AWS data.

While this obviously isn’t a full blown backup tool, it can do a few handy things like leverage tags to create and destroy backups based on custom expiration dates and create snapshots based on a few other criteria, all managed with tags.  Another cool thing about handling backups this way is that you get amazing resiliency by storing snapshots to S3, as well as dirt cheap storage.  Obviously if you have a huge number of servers and volumes your mileage will vary, but this solution should scale up in to the hundreds, if not thousands pretty easily.  The last big bonus is that you can nice granularity for backups.

For example, if you wanted to keep a weeks worth of backups across all your servers in a region, you would simply use this tool to set an expiration tag of 7 days and voila.  You will have rolling backups, based on snapshots for the previous seven days.  You can get the backup schedule fairly granular, because the snapshots are tagged down to the hour. It would be easy to get them down to the second if that is something people would find useful, I could see DB snapshots being important enough but for now it is set to the hour.

The one drawback is that this needs to be run on a daily basis so you would need to add it to a cron job or some other tool that runs tasks periodically.  Not a drawback really as much of a side note to be aware of.

Configuration

There is a tiny bit of overhead to get started, so I will show you how to get going.  You will need to either set up a config file or let autosnap build you one.  By default, autosnap will help create one the first time you run it, so you can use this command to build it:

autosnap

If you would like to provide your own config, create a file called ‘.config‘ in the base directory of this project.  Check the README on the github page for the config variables and for any clarifications you may need.

Usage

Use the –help flag to get a feeling for some of the functions of this tool.

$ autosnap --help

usage: autosnap [--config] [--list-vols] [--manage-vols] [--unmanage-vols]
 [--list-snaps] [--create-snaps] [--remove-snaps] [--dry-run]
 [--verbose] [--version] [--help]

optional arguments:
 --config          create or modify configuration file
 --list-vols       list managed volumes
 --manage-vols     manage all volumes
 --unmanage-vols   unmanage all volumes
 --list-snaps      list managed snapshots
 --create-snaps    create a snapshot if it is managed
 --remove-snaps    remove a snapshot if it is managed
 --version         show program's version number and exit
 --help            display this help and exit

The first thing you will need to do is let autosnap manage the volumes in a region:

autosnap --manage-vols

This command will simply add some tags to help with the management of the volumes.  Next, you can take a look and see what volumes got  picked up and are now being managed by autosnap

autosnap --list-vols

To take a snapshot of all the volumes that are being managed:

autosnap --create-snaps

And you can take a look at your snapshots:

autosnap --list-snaps

Just as easily you can remove snapshots older than the specified expiration date:

autosnap --remove-snaps

There are some other useful features and flags but the above commands are pretty much the meat and potatoes of how to use this tool.

Conclusion

I know this is not going to be super useful for everybody but it is definitely a nice tool to have if you work with AWS volumes and snapshots on a semi regular basis.  As I said, this can easily be improved so I’d love to hear what kinds of things to add or change to make this a great tool.  I hope to start working on some more interesting projects and tools in the near future, so stay tuned.

Patching CVE-6271 (shellshock) with Chef

If you haven’t heard the news yet, a recently disclosed vulnerability has been released that exploits environmental variables in bash.  This has some far reaching implications because bash is so widespread and runs on many different types of devices, for example network gear, routers, switches, firewalls, etc.  If that doesn’t scare you then you probably don’t need to finish reading this article.  For more information you can check out this article that helped to break the story.

I have been seeing a lot “OMG the world is on fire, patch patch patch!” posts and sentiment surrounding this recently disclosed vulnerability, but basically have not seen anybody taking the time to explain how to patch and fix this issue.  It is not a difficult fix but it might not be obvious to the more casual user or those who do not have a sysadmin or security background.

Debian/Ubuntu:

Use the following commands to search through your installed packages for the correct package release.  You can check the Ubuntu USN for versions.

dpkg -l | grep '^ii' or
dpkg-query --show bash

If you are on Ubuntu 12.04 you will need update to the following version:

bash    4.2-2ubuntu2.3

If you are on Ubuntu 13.10, and have this package (or below), you are vulnerable.  Update to 14.04!

 bash 4.2-5ubuntu3

If you are on Ubuntu 14.04, be sure to update to the most recently patched patch.

bash 4.3-7ubuntu1.3

Luckily, the update process is pretty straight forward.

apt-get update
apt-get --only-upgrade install bash

If you have the luxury of managing your environment with some sort of automation or configuration management tool (get this in place if you don’t have it already!) then this process can be managed quite efficiently.

It is easy to check if a server that is being managed by Chef has the vulnerability by using knife search:

knife search node 'bash_shellshock_vulnerable:true'

From here you could createa a recipe to patch the servers or fix each one by hand.  Another cool trick is that you can blast out the update to Debian based servers with the following command:

knife ssh 'platform_family:debian' 'sudo apt-get update; sudo apt-get install -y bash'; knife ssh 'platform_family:redhat' 'sudo yum -y install bash'

This will iterate over every server in your Chef server environment that is in the Debain family (including Ubuntu) or RHEL family (including CentOS) and update the server packages so that the latest patched bash version gets pulled down and then gets updated to the latest version.

You may need to tweak the syntax a little, -x to override the ssh user and -i to feed an identity file.  This is so much faster than manually installing the update on all your servers or even fiddling around with a tool like Fabric, which is still better than nothing.

One caveat to note:  If you are not on an LTS version of Ubuntu, you will need to upgrade your server(s) first to an LTS, either 12.04 or 14.04 to qualify for this patch.  Ubuntu 13.10 went out of support in August which was about a month ago as per the time of this writing so you will want to get your OS up date.

One more thing:  The early patches to address this vulnerability did not entirely fix the issue, so make sure that you have the correct patch installed.  If you patched right away there is a good chance you may still be vulnerable, so simply rerun your knife ssh command to reapply the newest patch, now that the dust is beginning to settle.

Outside of this vulnerability, it is a good idea to get your OS on an Ubuntu LTS version anyway to continue receiving critical updates for software as well as security patches for a longer duration than the normal, 6 month release cycle of the server distribution.

Transitioning from bash to zsh

oh-my-zsh

I have know about zsh for a long time now but have never really had a compelling reason to switch my default shell from bash until just recently, I have been hearing more and more people talking about how powerful and awesome zsh is.  So I thought I might as well take the dive and get started since that’s what all the cool kids seem to be doing these days.  At first I thought that changing my shell was going to be a PITA with all the customizations and idiosyncrasies that I have grown accustomed to using bash but I didn’t find that to be the case at all when switching to zsh.

First and foremost, I used a tool called oh-my-zsh to help with the transition.  If you haven’t heard about it yet, oh-my-zsh aims to be a sort of framework for zsh.  This project is a nice clean way to get started with zsh because it give you a nice set of defaults out of the the box without having to do much configuration or tweaking and I found that many of my little tricks and shortcuts were already baked in to to oh-my-zsh, along with a ton of other settings and customizations that I did not have using bash.

From their github page:

oh-my-zsh is an open source, community-driven framework for managing your ZSH configuration. It comes bundled with a ton of helpful functions, helpers, plugins, themes, and few things that make you shout…

Here are just a few of the improvement that zsh/oh-my-zsh offer:

  • Improved tab completion
  • persistent history across all shells
  • Easy to use plugin system
  • Easy to use theme system
  • Autocorrect

The most obvious difference that I have noticed is the improved, out of the box tab completion, which I think should be enough on its own to convince you!  On top of that, most of my tricks and customizations were already turned on with oh-my-zsh.  Another nice touch is that themes and plugins come along as part of the package, which is really nice for easing the transition.

So after spending an afternoon with zsh I am convinced that it is the way to go (at least for my own workfolw).  Of course there are always caveats and hiccups along the way as I’ve learned there are with pretty much everything.

Tuning up tmux

Out of the box, my tmux config uses the default shell, which happens to be bash.  So I needed to modify my ~/.tmux.conf to reflect the switch over the zsh.  It is a pretty straight forward change but is something that you will need to make note of kif you use tmux and are transitioning in to using zsh.

set-option -g default-shell /usr/bin/zsh

I am using Ubuntu 14.04, so my zsh is installed to /usr/bin/zsh.  The other thing that you will need to do is make sure you kill any stale tmux processes after updating to zsh.  I found one running in the background that was blocking me from using the new coonfig.

Goodies

There is a nice command cheat sheet for zsh.  Take some time to learn these shortcuts and aliases, they are great time savers and are very usefull.

oh-my-zsh comes bundled up with a large number of goodies.  At the time of this writing there were 135 plugins as well as a variety of themes.  You can check the plugins wiki page for descriptions for the various plugins.  To turn on a specific plugin you will need to add it to your ~/.zshrc config file.  Find the following line in your config.

plugins=(git)

and add plugins separated by spaces

plugins (git vagrant chef)

You will need to reload the config for the changes to be picked up.

source ~/.zshrc

Most themes are hosted on the wiki, but there is also a web site dedicated to displaying the various themes, which is really cool.  It does a much better job of showing differences between various themes.  You can check it out here.  Themes function in a similar way to plugins.  If you want to change your theme, edit your ~/.zshrc file and select the desired them.

ZSH_THEME="clean"

You will need to reload your config for this option as well.

source ~/.zshrc

Conclusion

If you haven’t already made the switch to zsh I recommend that you at least experiment and play around with it before you make any final decisions.  You may be set in your ways and happy with bash or any other shell that you are used to but for me, all the awesomeness changed my opinion and decide to reevaluate my biases.  If you’re worried about making the switchin, using oh-my-zsh makes the transition so painless there is practically no reason not to try it out.

This post is really just the tip of the iceberg for the capabilities of this shell, I just wanted to expose readers to all of its glory.  Zsh offers so much more power and customization than I have covered in this post and is an amazing productivity tool with little learning overhead.

Let me know if you have any awesome zsh tips or tweaks that folks should know about.

Uchiwa dashboard for Sensu

Recently the new Uchiwa dashboard redesign for Sensu was released, and it is awesome.  It’s hard to describe how much of a leap forward this most recent release is, but it finally feels like Sensu is as “complete” and polished product as other open source and commercial products that exist.  And if you haven’t heard of Sensu yet you are missing out.  As described on the website sensuapp.org. Sensu is an open source monitoring framework.  Instead of the traditional monolithic type of monitoring solutions (cough Nagios cough) that typically come to mind, the design of Sensu allows for a more more scalable and distributed approach to monitoring which hasn’t really been done before and offers a number of benefits, including  a variety of dashboards to choose from.

Sensu touts itself as a “monitoring router”, which is a much more intuitive approach to monitoring once your wrap your head around the concept and leave the monolithic idea alone.  For example, you can plug in different components to your monitoring solution very easily with Sensu, and you aren’t tied to one solution.  If you need graphing and analytics you can choose from any number of existing solutions, Graphite, hosted Graphite, DataDog, NewRelic, etc. and more importantly, if something isn’t working as well as you’d like you can simply rip it out the component that isn’t working in favor of something that fits your needs better. Meaning it adds flexibility. no more hammering square blocks in to round holes.  Sensu also offers nice scalability features, since all of the pieces are loosely coupled you don’t need to worry about scaling the entire beast, you can pick and choose which pieces to scale and when.  Sensu itself is also scalable.  Since the backbone of Sensu relies on RabbitMQ (soon to be opened up to other message queueing services), the busier it gets, simply cluster or add nodes to your RabbitMQ cluster.  Granted, RabbitMQ isn’t exactly the easiest thing to scale, but it is possible.

With its distributed nature, Sensu by default is just a monitor.  In the beginning, that meant either writing your own dashboard to communicate with Sensu server or using the default dashboard.  As the ecosystem has evolved, the default dashboard has not been able to keep up with the evolution of Sensu and the needs of those using it.

Traditionally in the monitoring world, if you are not familiar, design and usability have not exactly been high priorities with regards to dashboards, graphics and GUI’s in the majority of tools that exist.  Although that fact is changing somewhat with some of the newer cloud tools like DataDog and NewRelic, the only problem is that those solution are commercial and can become expensive.  The bane of the open source solutions, at least for me,  is how ugly the dashboards and user experiences have been (the Sensu default dashboard was an exception).  But, the latest release of Uchiwa for Sensu has really changed the game in my opinion.  It is much more modern and elegant.

We have gone from this:

Nagios dashboard

 

To this:

uchiwa dashboard

 

Which one would you rather use?  It is much easier to use and is much more elegant.  The main dashboard (pictured above) gives a nice 1,000 ft view of what is going on in your environment.  It is easy to quickly check the dashboard for any issues going on in your environment.

In addition to the home view, there is a nice checks view to get a glimpse of pretty much everything that’s going on in your environment.  Sometimes with a large number of checks it is very easy to forget what exactly is happening so this is a nice way to double check.

Uchiwa checks

 

As well, there is another similar view for checking clients.  One small but very nice piece of info here is that it will display the Sensu client version for each host.  If there are any issues with a host it is easy to tell from here.

Uchiwa clients

 

You can also drill down in to any of these hosts to get a better picture of what exactly is going on.  It will show you exactly which checks are being run for the host as well as some other very hand information.

uchiwa details

 

From this page you can even select an individual check and see exactly how it is set up and behaving.  It is easy to silence a single alert of all alerts for a client.  Just click on the sound icon in any context to silence or unsilence an alert or an entire client.  This has been handy for minimizing alert spam when doing maintenance on specific hosts.

Sensu check

 

One last handy feature is the info page.  From here you can check out some of the Sensu server info as well as Uchiwa settings.  This is also good for troubleshooting.

Info page

 

That pretty much covers the highlights of the new UI.  As I have said, I am very excited for this release because this is an awesome GUI and there are going to be some really interesting improvements and additions in the future for Uchiwa which will make it an even stronger and more compelling reason to make the switch to Sensu and Uchiwa if you haven’t already.

If you have direct questions about the post, you comment here.  Otherwise, the best place to get help with most of this stuff is probably the #sensu channel on IRC.  That’s where the majority of the project contributors hang out.  You can check out the Uchiwa code as well if you’d like over on Github.  If you ever have issues with the dashboard that is the place to go, I would suggest browsing through the issues and if you can’t find a solution then create a new issue.  Don’t hesitate to jump in to any of the discussions either.  The author is very friendly and helpful and is very quick to respond to issues.  One final helpful resource is the Sensu docs.  Make sure you are looking at the correct version of Sensu according to the documentation, there are still enough changes occurring that the docs still have some differences between them and can get new users fumbled up.

Recover a Grafana dashboard

Grafana uses Elasticsearch (optionally) to store its dashboards.  If you ever migrate your Graphite/Grafana servers or simply need to grab all of your dashboards from the old server then you will likely be looking for them in Elasticsearch.  Luckily, migrating to a new server and moving the dashboards is and uncomplicated and easy to do process.  In this post I will walk through the process of moving Grafana dashboards between servers.

This guide assumes that Elasticsearch has been installed on both old and new servers.  The first thing to look at is your current Grafana config.  This is the file that you probably used to set up your Grafana environment originally.  This file resides in the directory that you placed your Grafana server files in to, and is named config.js.  There is a block inside this config file that tells Elasticsearch where to save dashboards, which by default is called “grafana-dashboards” which should look something like this:

/**
 * Elasticsearch index for storing dashboards
 *
 */
 grafana_index: "grafana-dash-orig",

Now, if you still have access to the old server it is merely a matter of copying this Elasticsearch directory that houses your Grafana dashboard over to the new location. By default on an Ubuntu installation the Elasticsearch data files get placed in to the following path:

/var/lib/elasticsearch/elasticsearch/nodes/0/indices/grafana-dashboards

Replace “0” with the node if this is a clustered Elasticsearch instance, otherwise you should see the grafana-dashboard directory.  Simply copy this directory over to the new server with rsync or scp and put it in a temporary location for the time being (like /tmp for example).  Rename the existing grafana-dashboards directory to something different, in case there are some newly created dashboards that you would like to retrieve.  Then move the original dashboards (from the old server) from the /tmp directory in to the above path, renaming it to grafana-dashboard.  The final step is to chown the directory and its contents.  The steps for accomplishing this task are similar to the following.

On the old host:

cd /var/lib/elasticsearch/elasticsearch/nodes/0/indices/
rsync -avP -e ssh grafana-dashbaords/ user@remote_host:/tmp/

On the new host:

cd /var/lib/elasticsearch/elasticsearch/nodes/0/indices/
mv grafana-dashboards grafana-dash-orig
mv /tmp/grafana-dashboards ./grafana-dashboards
chown -R elasticsearch:elasticsearch grafana-dashboards

You don’t even need to restart the webserver or Elasticsearch for the old dashboards to show up.  Just reload the page and bam.   Dashboards.

grafana dashboard