After half a decade working as a system administrator/SRE, I know where to start when I am connecting to a Linux server. There is a set of information that you must know about the server in order to properly, well most of the time, debug it.
First 60 seconds on a Linux server
These commands are well known for experienced software engineers but I realized that for a beginner who is getting started with Linux systems, such as my students at Holberton School, it is not obvious. That’s why I decided to share the list of the first 5 commands I type when I connect on a Linux server.
w history top df netstat
These 5 commands are shipped with any Linux distribution so you can use them everywhere without extra installation needed.
[ubuntu@ip-172-31-48-251 ~]$ w 23:40:25 up 273 days, 20:52, 2 users, load average: 0.33, 0.14, 0.12 USER TTY FROM LOGIN@ IDLE JCPU PCPU WHAT ubuntu pts/0 104-7-14-91.ligh 23:39 0.00s 0.02s 0.00s w root pts/1 104-7-14-91.ligh 23:40 5.00s 0.01s 0.03s sshd: root [priv] [ubuntu@ip-172-31-48-251 ~]$
A lot of great information in there. First, you can see the server uptime which is the time during which the server has been continuously running. You can then see what users are connected on the server, quite useful when you want to make sure that you are not impacting a colleague’s work. Finally the load average will give you a good sense of the server health.
[ubuntu@ip-172-31-48-251 ~]$ history 1 cd /var/app/current/log/ 2 ls -al 3 tail -n 3000 production.log 4 service apache2 status 5 cat ../../app/services/discourse_service.rb
`History` will tell you what was previously run by the user you are currently connected to. You will learn a lot about what type work was previously performed on the machine, what could have gone wrong with it, and where you might want to start your debugging work.
top - 23:47:54 up 273 days, 21:00, 2 users, load average: 0.02, 0.07, 0.10 Tasks: 79 total, 2 running, 77 sleeping, 0 stopped, 0 zombie Cpu(s): 1.0%us, 0.0%sy, 0.0%ni, 98.7%id, 0.0%wa, 0.0%hi, 0.0%si, 0.3%st Mem: 3842624k total, 3128036k used, 714588k free, 148860k buffers Swap: 0k total, 0k used, 0k free, 1052320k cached PID USER PR NI VIRT RES SHR S %CPU %MEM TIME+ COMMAND 21095 root 20 0 513m 21m 4980 S 1.0 0.6 1237:05 python 1380 healthd 20 0 669m 36m 5712 S 0.3 1.0 265:43.82 ruby 19703 dd-agent 20 0 142m 25m 4912 S 0.3 0.7 11:32.32 python 1 root 20 0 19596 1628 1284 S 0.0 0.0 0:10.64 init 2 root 20 0 0 0 0 S 0.0 0.0 0:00.00 kthreadd 3 root 20 0 0 0 0 S 0.0 0.0 27:31.42 ksoftirqd/0 4 root 20 0 0 0 0 S 0.0 0.0 0:00.00 kworker/0:0 5 root 0 -20 0 0 0 S 0.0 0.0 0:00.00 kworker/0:0H 7 root 20 0 0 0 0 S 0.0 0.0 42:51.60 rcu_sched 8 root 20 0 0 0 0 S 0.0 0.0 0:00.00 rcu_bh
The next information you want to know: what is currently running on this server. With `top` you can see all running processes, then order them by CPU, memory utilization and catch the ones that are resource intensive.
[ubuntu@ip-172-31-48-251 ~]$ df -h Filesystem Size Used Avail Use% Mounted on /dev/xvda1 7.8G 4.5G 3.3G 58% / devtmpfs 1.9G 12K 1.9G 1% /dev tmpfs 1.9G 0 1.9G 0% /dev/shm
The next important resource that your server needs to have to be working properly is disk space. Running out of it is a very classic issue.
[ubuntu@ip-172-31-48-251 ec2-user]# netstat -lp Active Internet connections (only servers) Proto Recv-Q Send-Q Local Address Foreign Address State PID/Program name tcp 0 0 *:http *:* LISTEN 1637/nginx tcp 0 0 *:ssh *:* LISTEN 1209/sshd tcp 0 0 localhost:smtp *:* LISTEN 1241/sendmail tcp 0 0 localhost:17123 *:* LISTEN 19703/python tcp 0 0 localhost:22221 *:* LISTEN 1380/puma 2.11.1 (t tcp 0 0 *:4242 *:* LISTEN 18904/jsvc.exec tcp 0 0 *:ssh *:* LISTEN 1209/sshd
Computers are a big part of our world now because they have the ability to communicate between each other via sockets. It is critical for you to know on what port and IP your server is listening on and what processes are using those.
Obviously this list might change depending on your goal and the amount of existing information you have. For example, when you want to debug specifically for performance, Netflix came up with a customized list. Do you have a useful command that is not in my top 5? Please share it in the comments section!