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Monitor multiple Linux hosts with the grafana_agent role

Caution

Grafana Alloy is the new name for our distribution of the OTel collector. Grafana Agent has been deprecated and is in Long-Term Support (LTS) through October 31, 2025. Grafana Agent will reach an End-of-Life (EOL) on November 1, 2025. Read more about why we recommend migrating to Grafana Alloy.

Monitoring multiple Linux hosts can be difficult. To make it easier, you can use the grafana_agent role with the Grafana Ansible collection. This guide shows how to use the grafana_agent Ansible role to deploy and manage Grafana Agent across multiple Linux hosts so you can monitor them using Grafana Cloud.

Before you begin

Before you begin, you should have:

  • Linux hosts
  • SSH access to the Linux hosts
  • Account permissions sufficient to install and use Grafana Agent on the Linux hosts

Install the Grafana Ansible collection

The grafana_agent role is available in the Grafana Ansible collection as of the 1.1.0 release.

To install the Grafana Ansible collection, run this command:

ansible-galaxy collection install grafana.grafana

Create an Ansible inventory file

Next, you will set up your hosts and create an inventory file.

  1. Create your hosts and add public SSH keys to them.

    This example uses eight Linux hosts: two Ubuntu hosts, two CentOS hosts, two Fedora hosts, and two Debian hosts.

  2. Create an Ansible inventory file.

    The Ansible inventory, which resides in a file named inventory, looks similar to this:

    146.190.208.216    # hostname = ubuntu-01
    146.190.208.190    # hostname = ubuntu-02
    137.184.155.128    # hostname = centos-01
    146.190.216.129    # hostname = centos-02
    198.199.82.174     # hostname = debian-01
    198.199.77.93      # hostname = debian-02
    143.198.182.156    # hostname = fedora-01
    143.244.174.246    # hostname = fedora-02
  3. Create an ansible.cfg file within the same directory as inventory, with the following values:

    [defaults]
    inventory = inventory              # Path to the inventory file
    private_key_file = ~/.ssh/id_rsa   # Path to my private SSH Key
    remote_user=root                   # username

    Note

    If you are copying the previously listed files, remove the comments (#).

Use the grafana_agent Ansible role

Next you will create an Ansible playbook that calls the grafana_agent role from the grafana.grafana Ansible collection.

To use the grafana_agent Ansible role:

  1. Create a file named deploy-agent.yml in the same directory as ansible.cfg and inventory and add the configuration below.

    yaml
    - name: Install Grafana Agent
      hosts: all
      become: true
    
      vars:
        grafana_cloud_api_key: <Your Cloud Access Policy token> # Example - glc_eyJrIjoiYjI3NjI5MGQxZTcyOTIxYTc0MDgzMGVhNDhlODNhYzA5OTk2Y2U5YiIsIm4iOiJhbnNpYmxldGVzdCIsImlkIjo2NTI5
        metrics_username: <prometheus-username> # Example - 825019
        logs_username: <loki-username> # Example - 411478
        prometheus_url: <prometheus-push-url> # Example - https://prometheus-us-central1.grafana.net/api/prom/push
        loki_url: <loki-push-url> # Example - https://logs-prod-017.grafana.net/loki/api/v1/push
      tasks:
        - name: Install Grafana Agent
          ansible.builtin.include_role:
            name: grafana.grafana.grafana_agent
          vars:
            grafana_agent_metrics_config:
              configs:
                - name: integrations
                  remote_write:
                    - basic_auth:
                        password: '{{ grafana_cloud_api_key }}'
                        username: '{{ metrics_username }}'
                      url: '{{ prometheus_url }}'
    
              global:
                scrape_interval: 60s
              wal_directory: /tmp/grafana-agent-wal
            grafana_agent_logs_config:
              configs:
                - name: default
                  clients:
                    - basic_auth:
                        password: '{{ grafana_cloud_api_key }}'
                        username: '{{ logs_username }}'
                      url: '{{ loki_url }}'
                  positions:
                    filename: /tmp/positions.yaml
                  target_config:
                    sync_period: 10s
                  scrape_configs:
                    - job_name: varlogs
                      static_configs:
                        - targets: [localhost]
                          labels:
                            instance: ${HOSTNAME:-default}
                            job: varlogs
                            __path__: /var/log/*log
            grafana_agent_integrations_config:
              node_exporter:
                enabled: true
                instance: ${HOSTNAME:-default}
              prometheus_remote_write:
                - basic_auth:
                    password: '{{ grafana_cloud_api_key }}'
                    username: '{{ metrics_username }}'
                  url: '{{ prometheus_url }}'
            grafana_agent_env_vars:
              HOSTNAME: '%H'

    The playbook calls the grafana_agent role from the grafana.grafana Ansible collection.

    The Agent configuration in this playbook send metrics and logs from the Linux hosts to Grafana Cloud along with the hostname of each instance

    Refer to the Grafana Ansible documentation to understand the other variables you can pass to the grafana_agent role.

    When deploying the Agent across multiple instances for monitoring them, It is essential that the Agent is able to auto-detect the hostname for ease in monitoring. Notice that the label instance has been set to the value ${HOSTNAME:-default}, which is substituted by the value of the HOSTNAME environment variable in the Linux host.

    To read more about the variable substitution, refer to the Grafana Agent node_exporter_config documentation.

  2. To run the playbook, run this command:

    ansible-playbook deploy-agent.yml

Note

You can place the deploy-agent.yml, ansible.cfg and inventory files in different directories based on your needs.

Check that logs and metrics are being ingested into Grafana Cloud

Logs and metrics will soon be available in Grafana Cloud. To test this, use the Explore feature. Click the Explore icon (compass icon) in the vertical navigation bar.

Check logs

To check logs:

  1. Use the drop-down menu at the top of the page to select your Loki logs data source.

  2. In the log browser, run the query {instance="centos-01"} where centos-01 is the hostname of one of the Linux hosts.

    If you see log lines (shown in the example below), logs are being received.

    Grafana Explore showing a graph and log output from the preceding query

    If no log lines appear, logs aren’t being collected.

Check metrics

To check metrics:

  1. Use the drop-down menu at the top of the page to select your Prometheus data source.

  2. Run the query {instance="centos-01"} where centos-01 is the hostname of one of the Linux hosts.

    If you see a metrics graph and table (shown in the example below), metrics are being received.

    Grafana Explore showing a graph and metrics table output from the preceding query

    If no metrics appear, metrics aren’t being collected.

View dashboards

Now that you have logs and metrics in Grafana, you can use dashboards to view them. Here’s an example of one of the prebuilt dashboards included with the Linux integration in Grafana Cloud:

The Grafana Node Exporter integration dashboard showing panels of visualizations

Using the Instance drop-down in the dashboard, you can select from the hostnames where you deployed Grafana Agent and start monitoring them.

Summary

The grafana_agent Ansible role makes it easy to deploy and manage Grafana Agent across multiple machines. This example showed Grafana Agent deployments across eight Linux hosts, but it’s possible to monitor more hosts using thegrafana_agent role. To add monitor more Linux hosts, update the inventory file and re-run the Ansible playbook.

To learn more about the Grafana Ansible collection, see its GitHub repository or its documentation.