Understanding Elastic Heartbeat time metrics – ICMP

I wanted to play a little with Grafana while having Elasticsearch as a back-end and decided to use Elastic Heartbeat as my data generator. It’s an easy, no fuss, to set up the Heartbeat itself as well as the first Heartbeat HTTP monitor, but when I saw all the available Heartbeat time metrics for the HTTP monitor I got a bit overwhelmed. So decided to to gradually progress from ICMP through TCP and finally to HTTP Heartbeat monitors and that the way this post is going to evolve as well:
  • Part 1 – Elasticsearch Heartbeat ICMP time metrics
  • Part 2 – Elasticsearch Heartbeat TCP time metrics (work in progress)
  • Part 3 – Elasticsearch Heartbeat HTTP time metrics (work in progress)

Monitors Configuration

In order to understand the  Heartbeat ICMP monitor time metrics I’ve set up a simple monitor, that “pings” localhost and You might say: “Wait a second, aren’t these that same?”,  but you will see the reason why I set it up this way soon.

You can see the extract from the heartbeat.yml configuration file relevant to the ICMP monitor

The data returned by the monitors

After letting it run for a while  let’s check what data Heartbeat is sending to Elasticsearch

For the monitor

For the localhost monitor

Time metrics

We can see that there are only 3 values that have are measured “us” (which suggest that these are time metrics)

  • duration
  • resolve_rtt
  • icmp_rtt
After going through some Elasticsearch Heartbeat docos that’s what I came up with:
duration – Total monitoring test duration
As I understand, it includes the time that Heartbeat actually reads the the monitor definition, executes it  and has the final results
resolve_rtt – Duration required to resolve an IP from hostname
Since the first thing that Heartbeat needs to do is to understand which IP you want it to “ping” it tries to translate the hostname you’ve provided to a valid IP. By the way, if you are to provide an IP in the monitor settings, this step will not be require and the metric will exist no more.
icmp_rtt – ICMP Echo Request and Reply round trip time
The actual round trip time of the monitor. The timing starts the moment the client sent the request, and ends when it receives a reply from the server, so basically it includes network time (in each direction) + server time.


As a bonus for those who have read it so for here are some nice shiny Kibana graphs to visualize the Heartbeat ICMP monitor duration metrics
Kibana graph for Elastic Heartbeat ICMP monitor that “pings” 127.0..0.1
Kibana graph for Elastic Heartbeat ICMP monitor that “pings” localhost
 As you can see  in the first graph we didn’t have the resolve_rtt metric since we were “pinging” a known IP, while in the second graph it appears since Heartbeat ICMP monitor needs to resolve the “localhost” to an IP.
Below is a  visualization of a “ping” to google.com so and you can see that resolve_rtt would in “real life” be only a small fraction of the total duration (vs localhost scenario)
Kibana graph for Elastic Heartbeat ICMP monitor that “pings” google.com
In Part 2 I will go over the Elastic Heartbeat TCP Monitor time metrics and finally Part 3 will look into the HTTP ones
Please leave your comment if you think that anything is missing.

11 thoughts on “Understanding Elastic Heartbeat time metrics – ICMP”

  1. what are the steps used to calculate monitor.us value. How its get calculated. I gone through docs of heartbeat but can’t find a solution
    Is it a time to read the monitor definition, then how its get read and generate the value..

    1. Hi Steven,
      That’s my understanding as well, as I wrote above:
      “…duration – Total monitoring test duration
      As I understand, it includes the time that Heartbeat actually reads the the monitor definition, executes it and has the final results…”

      ILYA Reshetnikov

    1. Hi Steven,
      You will be able to see the data returned by the monitor on under logs folder of you Elastic Heartbeat installation folder.
      You will need to enable debug logging level in the heartbeat.yml file by uncommenting the following line:
      #logging.level: debug


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