Collecting Kafka performance metrics


This post is part 2 of a 3-part series about monitoring Apache Kafka performance. Part 1 is about the key available Kafka performance metrics, and Part 3 details how to monitor Kafka with Datadog.

If you’ve already read our guide to key Kafka performance metrics, you’ve seen that Kafka provides a vast array of metrics on performance and resource utilization, which are available in a number of different ways. You’ve also seen that no Kafka performance monitoring solution is complete without also monitoring ZooKeeper. This post covers some different options for collecting Kafka and ZooKeeper metrics, depending on your needs.

Like Tomcat, Cassandra, and other Java applications, both Kafka and ZooKeeper expose metrics on availability and performance via JMX (Java Management Extensions).

Collecting native Kafka performance metrics

JConsole, and JMX, can collect all of the native Kafka performance metrics outlined in part 1 of this series, while Burrow is a more specialized tool focused on collecting consumer metrics. For host-level metrics, you should consider installing a monitoring agent.

Collecting Kafka performance metrics with JConsole

JConsole is a simple Java GUI that ships with the Java Development Kit (JDK). It provides an interface for exploring the full range of metrics Kafka emits via JMX. If the JDK was installed to a directory in your system path, you can start JConsole by running: jconsole.

Otherwise, check in your_JDK_install_dir/bin

To view metrics in JConsole, you can select the relevant local process or monitor a remote process using the node’s IP address (Kafka uses port 9999 for JMX by default), though it is recommended that you connect remotely, as JConsole can be resource-intensive:

Kafka performance - JConsole View

The MBeans tab brings up all the JMX paths available:

Kafka performance - MBean Tab

As you can see in the screenshot above, Kafka aggregates metrics by source. All the JMX paths for Kafka’s key metrics can be found in part 1 of this series.

Consumers and producers

To collect JMX metrics from your consumers and producers, follow the same steps outlined above, replacing port 9999 with the JMX port for your producer or consumer, and the node’s IP address.

Collecting Kafka performance metrics via JMX/Metrics integrations

JConsole is a great lightweight tool that can provide metrics snapshots very quickly, but is not so well-suited to the kinds of big-picture questions that arise in a production environment: What are the long-term trends for my metrics? Are there any large-scale patterns I should be aware of? Do changes in performance metrics tend to correlate with actions or events elsewhere in my environment?

To answer these kinds of questions, you need a more sophisticated monitoring system. The good news is, virtually every major monitoring service and tool can collect JMX metrics from Kafka, whether via JMX plugins; via pluggable metrics reporter libraries; or via connectors that write JMX metrics out to StatsD, Graphite, or other systems.

The configuration steps depend greatly on the particular monitoring tools you choose, but JMX is a fast route to your Kafka performance metrics using the MBean names mentioned in part 1 of this series.

Monitoring consumer health with Burrow

In addition to the key metrics mentioned in part 1 of this series, you may want more detailed metrics on your consumers and consumer groups. For that, there is Burrow.

Burrow is a specialized monitoring tool developed by LinkedIn specifically for consumer monitoring. Why do you need a separate tool to monitor consumer health when you have MaxLag? (MaxLag represents the number of messages by which the consumer lags behind the producer.) Besides the fact that MaxLag has been removed in Kafka v0.9.0.0+, Burrow was built to solve the following shortcomings of simply monitoring consumer offset lag:

  • MaxLag is insufficient because it lasts only as long as the consumer is alive
  • spot checking topics conceals problems (like if a single thread of a consumer dies, it stops consuming a topic but other consumption continues, so the consumer may still appear to be healthy)
  • measuring lag for wildcard consumers can quickly become overwhelming with more than a handful of consumers
  • lag alone doesn’t tell you the whole story

Enter Burrow.

Kafka performance - Burrow architecture diagram

By consuming the special, internal Kafka topic __consumer_offsets, Burrow can act as a centralized service, separate from any single consumer, giving you an objective view of consumers based on both their committed offsets (across topics) and broker state.

Installation and configuration

Before we get started, you will need to install and configure Go (v1.6+). You can either use a dedicated machine to host Burrow or run it on another host in your environment. Next you’ll need the Go Package Manager (GPM) to automatically download Burrow’s dependencies.

With Go and GPM installed, run the following commands to build and install burrow:

go get      
cd $GOPATH/src/      
gpm install      
go install

Before you can use Burrow, you’ll need to write a configuration file. Setting up a configuration is easy enough, but varies depending on your Kafka deployment. Below is a barebones, minimal configuration file for a local Kafka deployment with ZooKeeper as the offset storage backend:



[kafka "local"]
zookeeper-offsets=true # Set to false if using Kafka for offset storage


For a complete overview of Burrow configuration options, check the Burrow wiki.

With Burrow configured, you can begin tracking consumer health by running: $GOPATH/bin/burrow --config path/to/burrow.cfg

If successful, with Burrow running you can begin querying its HTTP endpoints. For example, to see a list of your Kafka clusters, you can hit /v2/kafka/ and see a JSON response:

      "error": false,      
      "message": "cluster list returned",      
      "clusters": [      

We’ve just scratched the surface of Burrow’s functionality, which includes automated notifications via HTTP or email. For a complete list of HTTP endpoints, refer to the documentation.

Kafka page cache

Most host-level metrics identified in part 1 can be collected with standard system utilities. Page cache, however, requires more. Linux kernels earlier than 3.13 may require compile-time flags to expose this metric. Also you’ll need to download a utility from Brendan Gregg:

Start by downloading the cachestat script: wget and make it executable chmod +x cachestat. Then, execute it like so ./cachestat <collection interval in seconds>:

$ ./cachestat 20
Counting cache functions... Output every 20 seconds.
    5352        0      234   100.0%          103        165
    5168        0      260   100.0%          103        165
    6572        0      259   100.0%          103        165
    6504        0      253   100.0%          103        165

(In the output above DIRTIES are those pages that have been modified after entering the page cache.)

Collecting ZooKeeper metrics

Like Kafka, there are several ways you can collect metrics from ZooKeeper. We will focus on the two most popular, JConsole and the so-called “four letter words”. Though we won’t go into it here, the zktop utility is also a useful addition to your ZooKeeper monitoring arsenal. It provides a top-like interface to ZooKeeper.

Using only the four-letter words, you can collect all of the native ZooKeeper metrics listed in part 1 of this series . If you are using JConsole, you can collect all but ZooKeeper’s file descriptor metrics.

Collecting ZooKeeper metrics with JConsole

To view ZooKeeper metrics in JConsole, you can select the org.apache.zookeeper.server.quorum.QuorumPeerMain process or monitor a remote process using the node’s IP address (ZooKeeper randomizes its JMX port by default):

Kafka performance - JConsole View

ZooKeeper’s exact JMX path for metrics varies depending on your configuration, but invariably you can find them under the org.apache.ZooKeeperService MBean.

Using JMX, you can collect all of the metrics listed in part 1, with the exception of zk_followers and zk_pending_syncs. For those, you will need the four letter words.

The four letter words

ZooKeeper emits operational data in response to a limited set of commands known as “the four letter words”. You can issue a four letter word to ZooKeeper via telnet or nc.

Though the most-used of the commands are: stat, srvr, cons, and mntr, the full command list is reproduced below with a short description and availability by version.

If you are on your ZooKeeper node, you can see all of the ZooKeeper metrics from part 1, including zk_pending_syncs and zk_followers, with: echo mntr | nc localhost 2181:

zk_version  3.4.5--1, built on 06/10/2013 17:26 GMT
zk_avg_latency  0
zk_max_latency  0
zk_min_latency  0
zk_packets_received 70
zk_packets_sent 69
zk_outstanding_requests 0
zk_server_state leader
zk_znode_count   4
zk_watch_count  0
zk_ephemerals_count 0
zk_approximate_data_size    27
zk_followers    4                   - only exposed by the Leader
zk_synced_followers 4               - only exposed by the Leader
zk_pending_syncs    0               - only exposed by the Leader
zk_open_file_descriptor_count 23    - only available on Unix platforms
zk_max_file_descriptor_count 1024   - only available on Unix platforms
confShow configuration details3.3.0+
consShow connection/session details for all connected clients3.3.0+
crstReset statistics for all connections/sessions.3.3.0+
dumpShow all outstanding sessions and ephemeral nodes (Leader only).pre 3.3.0
enviShow information on server environmentpre 3.3.0
ruokSanity check. The server will respond with imok if it is running.pre 3.3.0
srstReset all server statspre 3.3.0
srvrShow all server detailspre 3.3.0
statBrief list of server and client detailspre 3.3.0
wchsBrief information on watches for the server3.3.0+
wchcDetailed information on watches for the server, by session3.3.0+
wchpDetailed information on watches by path3.3.0+
mntrDisplay monitoring information3.4.0+

Commands available “pre 3.3.0” work through the latest version.


In this post we have covered a few of the ways to access Kafka and ZooKeeper metrics using simple, lightweight tools. For production-ready monitoring, you will likely want a dynamic monitoring system that ingests Kafka performance metrics as well as key metrics from every technology in your stack.

At Datadog, we have developed both Kafka and ZooKeeper integrations so that you can start collecting, graphing, and alerting on metrics from your clusters with a minimum of overhead. For more details, check out our guide to monitoring Kafka performance metrics with Datadog, or get started right away with a .

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Collecting Kafka performance metrics