Cluster Healthedit

An Elasticsearch cluster may consist of a single node with a single index. Or it may have a hundred data nodes, three dedicated masters, a few dozen client nodes—all operating on a thousand indices (and tens of thousands of shards).

No matter the scale of the cluster, you’ll want a quick way to assess the status of your cluster. The Cluster Health API fills that role. You can think of it as a 10,000-foot view of your cluster. It can reassure you that everything is all right, or alert you to a problem somewhere in your cluster.

Let’s execute a cluster-health API and see what the response looks like:

GET _cluster/health

Like other APIs in Elasticsearch, cluster-health will return a JSON response. This makes it convenient to parse for automation and alerting. The response contains some critical information about your cluster:

{
   "cluster_name": "elasticsearch_zach",
   "status": "green",
   "timed_out": false,
   "number_of_nodes": 1,
   "number_of_data_nodes": 1,
   "active_primary_shards": 10,
   "active_shards": 10,
   "relocating_shards": 0,
   "initializing_shards": 0,
   "unassigned_shards": 0
}

The most important piece of information in the response is the status field. The status may be one of three values:

green
All primary and replica shards are allocated. Your cluster is 100% operational.
yellow
All primary shards are allocated, but at least one replica is missing. No data is missing, so search results will still be complete. However, your high availability is compromised to some degree. If more shards disappear, you might lose data. Think of yellow as a warning that should prompt investigation.
red
At least one primary shard (and all of its replicas) are missing. This means that you are missing data: searches will return partial results, and indexing into that shard will return an exception.

The green/yellow/red status is a great way to glance at your cluster and understand what’s going on. The rest of the metrics give you a general summary of your cluster:

  • number_of_nodes and number_of_data_nodes are fairly self-descriptive.
  • active_primary_shards indicates the number of primary shards in your cluster. This is an aggregate total across all indices.
  • active_shards is an aggregate total of all shards across all indices, which includes replica shards.
  • relocating_shards shows the number of shards that are currently moving from one node to another node. This number is often zero, but can increase when Elasticsearch decides a cluster is not properly balanced, a new node is added, or a node is taken down, for example.
  • initializing_shards is a count of shards that are being freshly created. For example, when you first create an index, the shards will all briefly reside in initializing state. This is typically a transient event, and shards shouldn’t linger in initializing too long. You may also see initializing shards when a node is first restarted: as shards are loaded from disk, they start as initializing.
  • unassigned_shards are shards that exist in the cluster state, but cannot be found in the cluster itself. A common source of unassigned shards are unassigned replicas. For example, an index with five shards and one replica will have five unassigned replicas in a single-node cluster. Unassigned shards will also be present if your cluster is red (since primaries are missing).

Drilling Deeper: Finding Problematic Indicesedit

Imagine something goes wrong one day, and you notice that your cluster health looks like this:

{
   "cluster_name": "elasticsearch_zach",
   "status": "red",
   "timed_out": false,
   "number_of_nodes": 8,
   "number_of_data_nodes": 8,
   "active_primary_shards": 90,
   "active_shards": 180,
   "relocating_shards": 0,
   "initializing_shards": 0,
   "unassigned_shards": 20
}

OK, so what can we deduce from this health status? Well, our cluster is red, which means we are missing data (primary + replicas). We know our cluster has 10 nodes, but see only 8 data nodes listed in the health. Two of our nodes have gone missing. We see that there are 20 unassigned shards.

That’s about all the information we can glean. The nature of those missing shards are still a mystery. Are we missing 20 indices with 1 primary shard each? Or 1 index with 20 primary shards? Or 10 indices with 1 primary + 1 replica? Which index?

To answer these questions, we need to ask cluster-health for a little more information by using the level parameter:

GET _cluster/health?level=indices

This parameter will make the cluster-health API add a list of indices in our cluster and details about each of those indices (status, number of shards, unassigned shards, and so forth):

{
   "cluster_name": "elasticsearch_zach",
   "status": "red",
   "timed_out": false,
   "number_of_nodes": 8,
   "number_of_data_nodes": 8,
   "active_primary_shards": 90,
   "active_shards": 180,
   "relocating_shards": 0,
   "initializing_shards": 0,
   "unassigned_shards": 20
   "indices": {
      "v1": {
         "status": "green",
         "number_of_shards": 10,
         "number_of_replicas": 1,
         "active_primary_shards": 10,
         "active_shards": 20,
         "relocating_shards": 0,
         "initializing_shards": 0,
         "unassigned_shards": 0
      },
      "v2": {
         "status": "red", 
         "number_of_shards": 10,
         "number_of_replicas": 1,
         "active_primary_shards": 0,
         "active_shards": 0,
         "relocating_shards": 0,
         "initializing_shards": 0,
         "unassigned_shards": 20 
      },
      "v3": {
         "status": "green",
         "number_of_shards": 10,
         "number_of_replicas": 1,
         "active_primary_shards": 10,
         "active_shards": 20,
         "relocating_shards": 0,
         "initializing_shards": 0,
         "unassigned_shards": 0
      },
      ....
   }
}

We can now see that the v2 index is the index that has made the cluster red.

And it becomes clear that all 20 missing shards are from this index.

Once we ask for the indices output, it becomes immediately clear which index is having problems: the v2 index. We also see that the index has 10 primary shards and one replica, and that all 20 shards are missing. Presumably these 20 shards were on the two nodes that are missing from our cluster.

The level parameter accepts one more option:

GET _cluster/health?level=shards

The shards option will provide a very verbose output, which lists the status and location of every shard inside every index. This output is sometimes useful, but because of the verbosity can be difficult to work with. Once you know the index that is having problems, other APIs that we discuss in this chapter will tend to be more helpful.

Blocking for Status Changesedit

The cluster-health API has another neat trick that is useful when building unit and integration tests, or automated scripts that work with Elasticsearch. You can specify a wait_for_status parameter, which will only return after the status is satisfied. For example:

GET _cluster/health?wait_for_status=green

This call will block (not return control to your program) until the cluster-health has turned green, meaning all primary and replica shards have been allocated. This is important for automated scripts and tests.

If you create an index, Elasticsearch must broadcast the change in cluster state to all nodes. Those nodes must initialize those new shards, and then respond to the master that the shards are Started. This process is fast, but because network latency may take 10–20ms.

If you have an automated script that (a) creates an index and then (b) immediately attempts to index a document, this operation may fail, because the index has not been fully initialized yet. The time between (a) and (b) will likely be less than 1ms—not nearly enough time to account for network latency.

Rather than sleeping, just have your script/test call cluster-health with a wait_for_status parameter. As soon as the index is fully created, the cluster-health will change to green, the call will return control to your script, and you may begin indexing.

Valid options are green, yellow, and red. The call will return when the requested status (or one "higher") is reached. For example, if you request yellow, a status change to yellow or green will unblock the call.