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Bold, insightful, real-time: Visualizing APM data with Canvas in Kibana

Since we launched Canvas in 2018, we have seen tons of our users create beautiful dashboards that tell stories with Elasticsearch data. In the spirit of making it even easier to get started, we are creating templates that you can import and get instantly beautiful dashboards for all the data the Elastic Stack captures. 

In this article we’ll show you how to use a Canvas template to observe Elastic APM KPIs that complement the current APM home page and tools. Our goal is to release updates to this template, as well as new versions of other observability, security, and enterprise search templates, in the future. We are making our products more integrated and ready for you to use with minimal effort right out of the box. Solutions templates are part of this initiative, and while this particular template needs to be downloaded and installed in Canvas, we are working on ways to deliver templates and updates inside of all Kibana apps, so stay tuned.

What is Elastic APM?

Elastic APM provides deep insights into the health and performance of your applications so you can troubleshoot and get to the root cause of a problem quickly. Along with these detailed insights, APM surfaces the KPIs that your DevOps and monitoring teams need to identify, investigate, and resolve issues. 

Canvas extends the out-of-the-box APM visualization capabilities by helping you build customized dashboards to surface your KPI data in any way that suits your needs. With Canvas templates, we are making it even easier for you to get started on your personalization/customization journey. The Elastic APM Service KPI template makes it easy to create highly customized and beautiful Canvas workpads that surface all of your service KPI data in one place. 

Using the Elastic APM Service KPI template

By the end of this article, you’ll have imported and connected the template to your data, enabling you to get better visibility into your APM data. The workpad uses the four golden signals of monitoring: latency (the time it takes to send a request and receive a response), traffic (a measure of the number of requests across a network), errors (misconfigurations, broken dependencies, etc.), and saturation (the load on your network and server resources).


You must be using an instance with the Elastic Common Schema (ECS) 1.5 or later enabled. If this is new to you, please visit our ECS documentation, and then come back here when it’s set up. You also need APM data in your system, which is by default called apm-*. You can still download the Canvas template, but you’ll have to change around the data sources for each element. This might be what you want, so by all means go ahead.

Download and import the APM Canvas workpad

You can download and import the template as a workpad. A workpad can be edited and/or cloned. If you overwrite the original template you can always import again.

Import as a workpad

  1. Download the Canvas APM JSON file here (Right-click > Save As). Pay attention to where you put it — we’ll need it in a minute.
  2. From Kibana, open Canvas, then Import workpad JSON file.
  3. Browse for the workpad JSON file you just downloaded, then click Open.
  4. Open the workpad.
  5. If this does not yield something similar to the result above, see the FAQ below.

Visualize your APM data in Canvas

And that’s it! Now you can visualize your APM data in this prebuilt Canvas workpad. If you’ve never used Canvas before, or if you’ve only used it a little, we encourage you to explore. Make changes, tune it for your data, experiment with all the options. And if you break anything, don’t worry — you can just delete the workpad and start over.


Observability and beyond

Canvas is a powerful tool for making robust, real-time visualization of all of your data, not just APM. After you’ve had a chance to get to know the APM template, we encourage you to add data from your other data sources. Correlating APM traces with logs and metrics is the only way to achieve full observability. Not using Elastic APM yet? Try it out for yourself in a free trial of Elasticsearch Service or explore sample data in our live Elastic APM demo.

Frequently asked questions (FAQ)

Q: I can’t load the template or can’t find it.

A: The file might be corrupt. Try downloading it again. The file may also not be in the spot you thought it was. Make sure you put it in a spot where you have rights to access it.  

Q: After loading, why does the template have a bunch of errors and exclamation marks?

A: The data for elements with errors and exclamation marks is likely not connected correctly in the data tab of each element. You’ll have to change the queries on the data tab, and perhaps toggle some things on the display tab to reflect the proper index and field names, especially if you’ve changed them or if you are not using ECS. Note that ECS with apm-* indices are prerequisites for this workpad to work out of the box. For information about how to connect your data, refer to Add elements.

Q: Where can I get support on this template?

A: You can try or our Elastic Slack channel.