System Metrics

System Metrics is a Rails 3 Engine that provides a clean web interface to the performance metrics instrumented with ‘ActiveSupport::Notifications`. It’ll collect and display the notifications baked into Rails and any additional custom ones you add using ‘ActiveSupport::Notification#instrument`.

System Metrics is not intended to be a replacement for performance monitoring solutions such as New Relic. However, it is especially handy for quickly identifying performance problems in a development environment. It’s also a great alternative for private networks disconnected from the Internet.


To install the System Metrics gem in your Rails 3 app, add the following line to your Gemfile

gem 'system-metrics'

You’ll then need to move the System Metrics migration into your project and run it.

rails generate system_metrics:migration
rake db:migrate

Lastly, the public assets from the System Metrics gem need to be moved into your app

rails generate system_metrics:install

After the above setup, you can reach the System Metrics interface at /system/metrics within your app.


Out of the box, System Metrics collects the more interesting performance notifications built into Rails with no configuration. However, there are a few options available to fine tune it and add your own instrumentations.

Path Exclusion Patterns

You can append patterns to the ‘path_exclude_patterns` setting if there are URLs you don’t care to collect metrics about.

# config/application.rb
config.system_metrics.path_exclude_patterns << /^\/admin/

Adding the ‘/^/admin/` exclusion pattern will ensure that no metrics are collected for any path beginning with `/admin`.

Notification Exclusion Patterns

You can append patterns to the ‘notification_exclude_patterns` setting if you notice metrics in the System Metrics interface that you don’t care about. The patterns are matched against the ‘ActiveSupport::Notifications::Event#name`.

# config/application.rb
config.system_metrics.notification_exclude_patterns << /annoying$/

Adding the ‘/annoying$/` exclusion pattern will prevent notifications whose name ends with `annoying` from being collected by System Metrics.


Instruments are responsible for the decision to collect a notification as a metric and processing it before storage. By default, system metrics add instruments for ActionController, ActionMailer, ActionView, ActiveRecord, and a high level Rack request. However, you can easily add additional instruments to the configuration.

# config/application.rb
config.system_metrics.instruments <<

Custom Instruments

By default, System Metrics will collect all notifications it has not been specifically configured not to collect. Therefore, simply adding ActiveSupport::Notifications#instrument calls to your code is normally good enough. System Metrics will just start collecting these new notifications. However, if you’d like to modify the notification event payloads or be more selective about which types of notifications get collected, you’ll want to write a custom instrument.

Instrument implementations require three methods, #handles?(event), #ignore?(event), and #process(event). If your needs are fairly simple, you may be able to extend SystemMetrics::Instrument::Base. Check its RDoc for details.

Below is a custom instrument for timing Sunspot searches:

class SunspotInstrument
  def handles?(event) =~ /sunspot$/

  def ignore?(event)

  def process(event)
    event.payload[:user] =

This example instrument illustrates three concepts

(1) It will handle any event whose name ends with sunspot. (2) It will inform SystemMetrics that the event should not be collected if the current user is an administrator. (3) It will add the current user’s name to the event payload

Date/Time Ranges

You can change the time range of metrics shown on the dashboard and category screens using two query parameters; from and to. Consider the following examples:

Show dashboard metrics from three hours ago until now

Show one day of dashboard metrics beginning two days ago

Show one hour of category metrics ending 30 minutes ago

As you might have guessed, the ‘from’ and ‘to’ query parameters take an integer and any valid method added by ActiveSupport::CoreExtensions::Numeric::Time to create a time in the past. The default ‘from’ time is 30 minutes and ‘to’ is 0 minutes (current time).


Since SystemMetrics is not recommended for production use, the lack of authorization is not likely a problem. However, it should be rather straightforward to add your own. Consider the following example implementation:

# config/initializers/system_metrics_authorization.rb
module SystemMetricsAuthorization
  def self.included(base)
    base.send(:before_filter, :authorize)

  def authorize
    # Do your authorization thing

SystemMetrics::MetricsController.send(:include, SystemMetricsAuthorization)


I would not currently recommend using SystemMetrics in a production environment. There are far too many database inserts of the collected metrics to confidently say that it wouldn’t impact your application’s performance.


System Metrics is a young project and there’s still plenty to do. If you’re interested in helping out, please take a look at the open issues and follow the steps described for contributing to a project. Your help is greatly appreciated.


The idea behind System Metrics and the inspiration for a good portion of its code comes from José Valim’s Rails Metrics project.


System Metrics is released under the MIT license.

Copyright © 2011 Near Infinity.