A Short Emergency Response Guide for Elasticsearch

September 2022

Help! Production is on fire!

Our job is first to identify what exactly is on fire, and for that we need to get as much context as possible, as fast as possible.

Step 1: Check _cat/nodes for resource usage

Lets first check which nodes are actually in trouble.


GET _cat/nodes?v&h=ip,name,cpu,ram.max,heap.max,heap.percent,node.role,diskAvail,master

The output looks like this.

  master ip           name                cpu ram.max heap.max heap.percent node.role diskAvail
  - instance-0000000009  26     2gb    844mb           60 himrst       48.7gb
  - instance-0000000008  16     2gb    844mb           64 himrst       52.7gb
  * instance-0000000003   7     2gb    844mb           69 himrst         50gb
  -  instance-0000000005   0     1gb    268mb           41 lr            1.8gb

If we notice a high CPU usage on a group of nodes, verify the node.role of those roles, if you have data tiers (a hot-warm architecture) it might be that only warm nodes are high, and hot nodes are unaffected.

There are more variables you can check like search.query_current and search.fetch_current which will show us the amount of time is being currently spent for search in query and fetch phases respectively. GET _cat/nodes?help is your friend

Step 2: Check the hot threads

This API yields a breakdown of the hot threads on each selected node in the cluster. The output is plain text with a breakdown of each node’s top hot threads.

Lets sample them by 1 second:

GET _nodes/hot_threads?interval=1s&ignore_idle_threads

The output will be something like this, with only the important parts:

::: {warm-xxx}{XXXXXXX}{YYYYYYYY}{}{}{aws_availability_zone=us-west-2b, data_type=warm, ml.machine_memory=64388997120, ml.max_open_jobs=20, xpack.installed=true, ml.enabled=true}
   Hot threads at 2019-12-30T23:22:24.304Z, interval=500ms, busiestThreads=3, ignoreIdleThreads=true:

   44.0% (440.2ms out of 1000ms) cpu usage by thread 'elasticsearch[warm-xxx][management][T#1]'
      ... omitted ...

   42.7% (413.4ms out of 1000ms) cpu usage by thread 'elasticsearch[warm-xxx][search][T#2]'                    
     ... omitted ...

   41.8% (408.9ms out of 1000ms) cpu usage by thread 'elasticsearch[warm-xxx][search][T#7]'
     ... omitted ...

Step 3: Check Tasks

The Task Management API can give you a lot of information about the operations being executed at the cluster at any given time.

GET _tasks?human&detailed

They can be filtered to include only read (search) operations

GET _tasks?human&detailed&actions=indices:data/read/*

The output will show us the running_time and, in case of searches, the content of the specific search request being executed:

      "0l67b6iLSzmp7v3TNtkjbQ:138659665" : {
          "node" : "0l67b6iLSzmp7v3TNtkjbQ",
          "id" : 138659665,
          "type" : "transport",
          "action" : "indices:data/read/search",
          "description" : "indices[tasks], types[], search_type[QUERY_THEN_FETCH], source[{\"size\":0,\"query\":{\"bool\":{\"must\":[{\"terms\":{\"User.Actions.ActionId\":[\"f6583dbd-4079-4efd-80c4-28e3f0606c1f\",\"2f80c480-18a4-4079-4efd-d3bdf9361164\",
          "start_time" : "2022-06-28T15:27:20.766Z",
          "start_time_in_millis" : 1656430040766,
          "running_time" : "36.6s",
          "running_time_in_nanos" : 36665783627,

The task 0l67b6iLSzmp7v3TNtkjbQ:138659665 is a search task that has been running for 36 seconds, its source is also there, which might help identify the culprit.

Step 4: Cancel long running tasks

If you see queries that are impacting performance for too long and you want to cancel them, you can with PUT _tasks/<id>/_cancel:

POST _tasks/0l67b6iLSzmp7v3TNtkjbQ:138659665/_cancel

However if you find yourself cancelling tasks every day, your team should really rethink their data structure, query design or cluster size.

Problem solved? Lets get a little bit more proactive by:

1) having a dedicated Monitoring Cluster

  • In Elastic Cloud that is as easy as creating a secondary (small) cluster and pointing Logs and Metrics over there.
  • In on-premises clusters you need to start an instance of Metricbeat and point it to your production cluster:
    • The elasticsearch module will fetch monitoring info from your host with the following configuration (metricbeat.yml):

       - module: elasticsearch
         xpack.enabled: true
         period: 10s
         hosts: ["https://prod-cluster:9200"] 
         scope: cluster
         username: "user"
         password: "secret"
         ssl.enabled: true
         ssl.certificate_authorities: ["/etc/pki/root/ca.pem"]
         ssl.verification_mode: "certificate"
         hosts: ["https://my-monitoring-cluster:9200"]
         username: "metricbeat_writer"
         password: "secret"

2) Enabling Slow Logs