June 1st, 2016

Dedicated Server Management Interface

LuxSci has just introduced a new user interface for dedicated server customers.   The dedicated server management interface allows customers to view real-time and historical information about their server performance and capacity, enables iptables firewall management, and places certain system management commands in the hands of account administrators.

Insight into server health and metrics is important for capacity planning and for diagnosing and resolving performance issues.  The system metrics and reports exposed in the dedicated server management interface were previously only available to LuxSci support staff.  Now, account administrators can access this same information on demand and perform tasks such as server reboots, apache restarts, and firewall edits when needed without the assistance of technical support.

In the screen shots below, we provide an example of what the interface might look like for a busy dedicated server with 8 attached disk drives. The graphical reporting tools show at-a-glance if any significant aspect of the server is currently “in the red”.  The historical reports allow you to look at trends and correlate performance data over time.

Server Management Workspace

The Server Management Workspace is located in your Account Administration area under the “Servers” option in the left menu.  In this Workspace, you can select any server that is associated with your account (or any other dedicated server account that you may be managing as a global administrator).

Selecting a server will take you to an interface like that depicted above.  This interface updates itself automatically about once per minute so that you can watch your server’s performance statistics change over time.

System Commands

At the top of the Server Management Workspace, there is a select list for executing various commands.  Currently, account administrators can use this to:

  • Reboot the server
  • Restart the apache service
  • Get detailed PHP Info for a web server

% CPU Load per Core

See how many CPU cores are assigned to your server and to what extent they are currently being used (on average in the last minute, last 5 minutes, and last 15 minutes).  Any usage less than 100% indicates that your server has CPU horsepower in reserve.  Anything over 100% indicates that things are running slower than they could be.  For instance, if your % CPU Load is at 300%, then all programs are running at about 33% of the speed they otherwise could if the server were not so busy.

The “History” button allows you to create historical reports over arbitrary time periods (within the last 30 days) with various levels of aggregation.  You can report on:

  • % CPU Load/Core
  • % Disk I/O wait time  (i.e. the percentage of the time that things are slowed because the system has to wait for disk reads or writes)
  • No. of SMTP processes running
  • No. of POP processes running
  • No. of IMAP processes running
  • No. of FTP/SFTP processes running
  • No. of Apache (web) processes running
  • No. of MySQL locks in effect (for checking if you are having problems with locking or deadlocks)

These can all be used to help diagnose historical server performance spikes or over-usage issues.

% Memory Usage

This section shows you how much of the total system memory (RAM) and how much swap space remain available.  When your memory fills up and your server is swapping, your server performance will significantly decrease.  The “History” button provides on-demand historical reports of both RAM and swap space usage.

Network Bandwidth

The network bandwidth report shows you the recent inbound and outbound network usage on your server.  Sometimes, apparent server performance issues can be correlated with large and fast uploads or downloads; you will see these here.  The “History” button allows you to create on-demand historical reports inbound and outbound bandwidth usage for:

  • All services
  • HTTP and HTTPS
  • IMAP and IMAPS
  • POP3 and POP3S
  • SMTP and SMTP over TLS
  • SSH and SFTP
  • FTP
  • MySQL
  • DNS

These reports can be used to isolate instances of large network usage and determine what service was involved.

Disks: Space Utilization

Each of the disks attached to your server are shown.  You can view the drive size and how much space remains available, and you can easily see what drives are getting full.  Additionally, this area shows the “I/O Load” on the drive.  If this is at 100%, then the drive is working as hard as it possibly can reading and writing data.  High CPU Loads correlated with high I/O load indicates that the server is trying to read or write data faster that it physically can and is falling behind.  These tools and the historical graphs of disk space usage allow you to see if all of your drives are happy or if some are struggling.

Firewall Management

Every server has a software-based “iptables” firewall.  This is used to restrict traffic flow and to block and/or white list IP addresses.  Account managers of dedicated servers can see what IP addresses have been auto-blocked (e.g. for apparent password guessing or over-usage attacks) and can remove those blocked IPs themselves without needing to ask technical support for assistance.  Account administrators can also white list their own IP addresses and CIDR blocks to prevent these important IPs from being restricted by automated server management and attack-mitigation systems.

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