DIY System Monitoring, Part 2

This is an update to the original (several years old now) psutil and MongoDB for System Monitoring

The code for this article and the other two parts will become available on my GitHub Repo

The old version is the python2 branch. The default branch (master) has the code we’re going over in this article. The first part and second part is there now.


This three-part article enables you to create your own system-monitoring web page.

Part 1 introduced the project and covered the Python data gathering part: DIY System Monitoring, Part 1: Python

Part 2, this part, will cover the Node/Express web server

Part 3 will cover the JS/HTML front-end, DIY System Monitoring, Part 3: Visualization

The NodeJS Server Layout

Last time, we created a mechanism to save system monitoring data into as MongoDB database. In this part, we create a NodeJS web server to serve the data and static files from the database as JSON data.

This is how I always set up a NodeJS server. Using this pattern, it is easy to understand where functionality resides and to extend it for new projects you may come up with.

The directory structure is as follows::

  • server.js file starts the server, applies middleware, and integrates the app we’re working on.
  • static/ is where I put static files (html, images, etc.)
  • api/utils.js is where I keep functions needed for database interactions or other helper functions.
  • api/controllers is where the app functionality lives, with a controller for each app.
  • api/routes contains the routes or urls that the server will respond to, with one route file for each app.

We just have this one app for now so it’s a pretty simple setup. It’s easy to add more apps later when you have a new idea you want to try out. You’ll just set up a route file, a controller file, and restart your server.


You have a lot of options for setting up a NodeJS server. You can start it with a single instance using a single thread or you can use a cluster of processes in case the load gets heavy. I have a few apps running on my server and never know what the load is going to be like, so I set mine up as a cluster. Using the aptly named cluster module, I set up a cluster as follows (server.js).

'use strict';
const cluster = require('cluster');

if (cluster.isMaster) {
  const cpuCount = require('os').cpus().length;
  for (let i = 0; i < cpuCount; i++) {
  cluster.on( 'online', function( worker ) {
    console.log( 'Worker ' + + ' is online.' );

  cluster.on('exit', function(worker, code, signal) {
    console.log('Worker %d died.',;

As you can see in the code, if this instance is the master instance (the first one to execute), fork off as many worker NodeJS processes as you have CPUs.

As each process comes up, tell us about it on the console. Likewise, if a process dies/exits, tell us about it on the console (and fork a new one).

else {
  const express = require('express'),
    port = process.env.PORT || 3000,
    bodyParser = require('body-parser'),
    app = express(),
    tools = require('./api/routes/toolRoutes');

  app.use(function (req, res, next) {
    if (!res.getHeader('Cache-Control')) {
      res.setHeader('Cache-Control', 'public, max-age=600');
    res.header("Access-Control-Allow-Origin", "localhost:" + port);
    res.header('Access-Control-Allow-Methods', 'GET, POST');
    res.header("Access-Control-Allow-Headers", "Origin, X-Requested-With, Content-Type, Accept");

If this instance is not the master, we’re in this else clause which means that this is a worker process, so set up express to listen on port 3000. Create an express application called app, and load the routes for the application.

For middleware (app.use), set some cache-control settings and allow for who you’ll accept connections from and what they can send you (methods and headers). We really only need to accept connection from our own server and respond to GET requests. You can add more as your applications need them (PUT, DELETE, etc.). I’ve left POST in there just in case you need it later, but we don’t even need that one for this app.


Something you’ll see in some NodeJS beginner tutorials is to set Access-Control-Allow-Origin to *, a wildcard allowing for requests from any origin. All I’ll say about that here is that it is usually a bad idea unless you know what you’re doing.

See this article on CORS for details.

Here, I’ve set the only origin allowed is localhost:3000 because the only request we expect is from the html file we’ll create in the last part of this series and we’ll be hosting it on the same server, localhost on port 3000.

Loading our custom app

Here is the final bit of our server code.

  app.use('/public/', express.static('static'));
  app.use(bodyParser.urlencoded({ extended: true }));

  app.listen(port, 'localhost');
  console.log('api worker started on port ' + port);

We use the static express middleware to serve static assets like html pages, images, css files and the like. When the requesting url starts with /public/, serve the static files in the directory named static. That is a directory path relative to where the server is started. You can name these anything you like. I picked static for the physical directory and public for the url specifier.

Then we set up our app with the ability to parse JSON from the request body, set up our local route named tools and start listening on port 3000.

Every instance will perform the same steps.


The routing is pretty simple (routes/toolRoutes.js). We have one route to define:

'use strict';
module.exports = function (app) {
  const tool = require('../controllers/toolController');

When the server receives a request on port 3000 with a url starting with


it will send whatever somestring is as the value of the machine variable to the tool controller’s get_load function.


The get_load function is defined in the controllers/toolController.js file. Here’s the part we’ve been working toward.

'use strict';
const find = require('../utils').find;

exports.get_load = async function (req, res) {
    const query = {'server': req.params['machine']};
    res.json( await find('monitor', query, null) );

Behold its simplicity!

We load the find function from utils.js and export a single function get_load from this controller, passing it a query document with the name of the machine we want data for (which comes to as the request parameter machine).


Alternatively, you can forget using utils.js and put the database functionality directly in the toolController.js file if you want. But going on the assumption that you may use your server for other ideas in the future, it’s nice to put database interactions in a separate file and make your controller as tiny and simple as possible.


In the utils.js file, create a connection to your MongoDB and define the find function. It takes the name of a collection, a query to select records, and, optionally, a projection that massages the returned data into the format you want.

For this app we don’t need a projection since the data is exactly formed as want it. If you have a more complex structure, check out the docs on queries and projection in the MongoDB docs.

'use strict';
const MongoClient = require('mongodb').MongoClient;
const url = 'mongodb://myserver'; 

const find = function (collection_name, query, projection){
  return new Promise((resolve, reject) =>{
    MongoClient.connect(url, function (err, client) {
      const db = client.db('myserver');
      const collection = db.collection(collection_name);
      collection.find(query, projection).toArray(function (err, docs) {
        if (err) { console.log('error dammit'); reject(err);}

Let’s clear up a little confusion on names. The line that specifies the url is targeting the machine name that hosts our MongoDB database, on the default port. The line that specifies the db variable is the connection to our specific MongoDB database called myserver. There is no connection between the names, they’re specifying two different things: the machine that Mongo is running on and the name of the database inside Mongo where our monitor data collection resides.

And also please note that all references to a machine name is the fully qualified domain name (fqdn), not a nickname.

This function will query the myserver database in your MongoDB database that you set up from the first part of this project, using Python and the psutil package. So far, that database has a single collection monitor where your cron job has been storing data for each server you want to monitor.

You query your server with localhost:3000/api/load/server00 and it will query the monitor collection in the MongoDB myserver database for all records with server = server00. It will return an array of json data containing the load information we have been recording using the Python psutil package from the first part of this article.

Test it!

Change to the directory that contains the server.js file and bring up the server:

npm start server.js

You should see something like this on your command line:

> npm start server.js

api worker started on port 3000
api worker started on port 3000
api worker started on port 3000
api worker started on port 3000
api worker started on port 3000
Worker 22732 is online.
Worker 21532 is online.
Worker 13440 is online.
Worker 22696 is online.
Worker 4076 is online.
Worker 17760 is online.
Worker 20780 is online.
api worker started on port 3000
Worker 21608 is online.
api worker started on port 3000
api worker started on port 3000

Open a browser on the same machine and request data from one of the servers you want to monitor (I’m using myserver00 as mine, but yours might be say, it just needs to match the fqdn for one of the servers your cron job is running on).

And in your browser you should see data that looks something like this (pretty-printed for this example):

  "_id": "5cba1ab2c2ad02251845d8",
  "server": "",
  "date": "2019-04-19T15:00:02.071Z",
  "disk_app": 84642496512,
  "disk_root": 43876798464,
  "memory": 24355532800,
  "cpu": 5.1,
  "myapp": "true"
}, {
  "_id": "5cba1bdec2ad038348cde8",
  "server": "",
  "date": "2019-04-19T15:05:01.971Z",
  "disk_app": 84642496512,
  "disk_root": 43876818944,
  "memory": 24369385472,
  "cpu": 1.4,
  "myapp": "true"

Unexpected Crash?

Things don’t always go smoothly and your server may die. We would like it to at least try to get back up, so consider starting your server with a wrapper like forever or pm2. Here are some docs on both:

I start mine with forever like this:

forever start server.js


With this, we have a robust NodeJS server laid out in a way that is easy to maintain or to add capability to later on. It has a single method to connect to the MongoDB database, but for now that’s all we need.

Now we’re constantly saving load data from our collection of servers, loading into our database, and we have an API server to retrieve the data as needed.

Next time, we’ll put together a simple HTML page with some Javascript to finally visualize the data for each server.