A Software Engineer and Occasional Writer.

Getting Started With Consul Service Discovery Tool

11 January 2018

Consul is a tool for discovering and configuring services in your infrastructure. It provides several key features like service discovery, health checking, KV store and multi datacenter support.

Consul is designed to be friendly to both the DevOps community and application developers, making it perfect for modern, elastic infrastructures.

Install Consul & Build Servers

First lets create four servers and install apache on three of them or any other services since we will do a service check in this article.

Let’s say we have the four servers as follow:

  • Server Name is consul-01 and has a public IP
  • Server Name is consul-02 and has a public IP
  • Server Name is consul-03 and has a public IP 333.333.333.333
  • Server Name is consul-04 and has a public IP 444.444.444.444

Now we need to install consul on all these servers:

apt-get update
apt-get install unzip
cd /usr/local/bin
unzip *.zip
rm *.zip

Feel free to use the appropriate consul version, Here we use 1.0.2. Also consul use some ports so you need to open these ports or you can configure these ports but this out of the scope of this part right now. For now let’s just open them and later we will talk about why these ports needed and how to configure:

sudo ufw allow 8300
sudo ufw allow 8301
sudo ufw allow 8302
sudo ufw allow 8400
sudo ufw allow 8500
sudo ufw allow 8600

Once you finihed, you can call consul command and get a help stuff:

$ consul
Usage: consul [--version] [--help] <command> [<args>]

Available commands are:
    agent          Runs a Consul agent
    catalog        Interact with the catalog
Service Definition

In order to know some of the powerful features of consul, We will define a service on consul-01, consul-02 and consul-03. Which will will check if apache is up and running on all these servers. So let’s create a config dir and define the service:

mkdir /tmp/consul_services
nano /tmp/consul_services/web.json

And the type the following in web.json:

    "service": {
        "name": "web server",
        "port": 80,
        "tags": ["apache", "demonstration"],
        "check": {
            "script": "curl localhost:80 > /dev/null 2>&1",
            "interval": "10s"
Starting Consul

Now we finished so all we need is to start consul on the four servers. Just use any terminal like iTerm or Terminator and open seven different tabs

On Tab 1

# Open Consul-01
ssh [email protected]

On Tab 2

# Open Consul-01
ssh [email protected]

On Tab 3

# Open Consul-02
ssh [email protected]

On Tab 4

# Open Consul-02
ssh [email protected]

On Tab 5

# Open Consul-03
ssh [email protected]

On Tab 6

# Open Consul-03
ssh [email protected]

On Tab 7

# Open Consul-04
ssh [email protected]

Now we have all our servers open, Let’s start consul one by one. The first server is our bootstrap server or a leader

On Tab 1, run the following and leave it running (Consul Server):

root@consul-01:~# consul agent -server -bootstrap -data-dir /tmp/consul -bind -config-dir /tmp/consul_services -enable-script-checks

On Tab 3, run the following and leave it running (Consul Server):

root@consul-02:~# consul agent -server -data-dir /tmp/consul -bind -join -config-dir /tmp/consul_services -enable-script-checks

On Tab 5, run the following and leave it running (Consul Server):

root@consul-03:~# consul agent -server -data-dir /tmp/consul -bind 333.333.333.333 -join -config-dir /tmp/consul_services -enable-script-checks

On Tab 7, run the following and leave it running (Consul Agent):

root@consul-04:~# consul agent -data-dir /tmp/consul -ui -client 444.444.444.444 -join

Then stop consul on server consul-01 with CTRL-C and restart the service without the bootstrap option

root@consul-01:~# consul agent -server -data-dir /tmp/consul -bind -config-dir /tmp/consul_services -enable-script-checks

Now we have everything up and running, Just check in any of the empty tabs like Tab 2:

root@consul-01:~# consul members
Node       Address               Status  Type    Build  Protocol  DC   Segment
consul-01   alive   server  1.0.2  2         dc1  <all>
consul-02   alive   server  1.0.2  2         dc1  <all>
consul-03  333.333.333.333:8301  alive   server  1.0.2  2         dc1  <all>
consul-04        failed  client  1.0.2  2         dc1  <default>

and if you visit http://444.444.444.444:8500/ from your browser

Running Consul as A Service

We are going to run consul as systemctl service and you should apply this to all previous servers using its custom command.

nano /etc/systemd/system/consul.service

Then insert the following:


ExecStart=/usr/local/bin/consul agent -server -bootstrap -data-dir /tmp/consul -bind -config-dir /tmp/consul_services -enable-script-checks
ExecReload=/bin/kill -HUP $MAINPID


Then let’s start the service

$ systemctl daemon-reload
$ systemctl start consul.service
$ systemctl enable consul.service

As you can see doing this manually is time consuming so i created a chef cookbook to automate these steps and just run consul for you on any node. Click here to check

Final Notes

I bind consul to the public IP which is not preferred at all, Always use a private IP. Also we run consul with the root user and communication not SSL But i believe i will write later how to use consul on production.