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GCE Discovery Plugin

The Google Compute Engine Discovery plugin uses the GCE API for unicast discovery.


This plugin can be installed using the plugin manager:

sudo bin/elasticsearch-plugin install discovery-gce

The plugin must be installed on every node in the cluster, and each node must be restarted after installation.

This plugin can be downloaded for offline install from {plugin_url}/discovery-gce/discovery-gce-{version}.zip.


The plugin can be removed with the following command:

sudo bin/elasticsearch-plugin remove discovery-gce

The node must be stopped before removing the plugin.

GCE Virtual Machine Discovery

Google Compute Engine VM discovery allows to use the google APIs to perform automatic discovery (similar to multicast in non hostile multicast environments). Here is a simple sample configuration:

      project_id: <your-google-project-id>
      zone: <your-zone>
      zen.hosts_provider: gce

The following gce settings (prefixed with cloud.gce) are supported:


Your Google project id. By default the project id will be derived from the instance metadata.

Note: Deriving the project id from system properties or environment variables
(`GOOGLE_CLOUD_PROJECT` or `GCLOUD_PROJECT`) is not supported.

helps to retrieve instances running in a given zone. It should be one of the GCE supported zones. By default the zone will be derived from the instance metadata. See also Using GCE zones.


If set to true, client will use ExponentialBackOff policy to retry the failed http request. Defaults to true.


The maximum elapsed time after the client instantiating retry. If the time elapsed goes past the max_wait, client stops to retry. A negative value means that it will wait indefinitely. Defaults to 0s (retry indefinitely).


How long the list of hosts is cached to prevent further requests to the GCE API. 0s disables caching. A negative value will cause infinite caching. Defaults to 0s.

Binding the network host

It’s important to define network.host as by default it’s bound to localhost.

You can use {ref}/modules-network.html[core network host settings] or gce specific host settings:

GCE Network Host

When the discovery-gce plugin is installed, the following are also allowed as valid network host settings:

GCE Host Value Description


The private IP address of the machine for a given network interface.


The hostname of the machine.


Same as gce:privateIp:0 (recommended).


# get the IP address from network interface 1
network.host: _gce:privateIp:1_
# Using GCE internal hostname
network.host: _gce:hostname_
# shortcut for _gce:privateIp:0_ (recommended)
network.host: _gce_
How to start (short story)
  • Create Google Compute Engine instance (with compute rw permissions)

  • Install Elasticsearch

  • Install Google Compute Engine Cloud plugin

  • Modify elasticsearch.yml file

  • Start Elasticsearch

Setting up GCE Discovery


Before starting, you need:

If you did not set it yet, you can define your default project you will work on:

gcloud config set project es-cloud
Login to Google Cloud

If you haven’t already, login to Google Cloud

gcloud auth login

This will open your browser. You will be asked to sign-in to a Google account and authorize access to the Google Cloud SDK.

Creating your first instance
gcloud compute instances create myesnode1 \
       --zone <your-zone> \
       --scopes compute-rw

When done, a report like this one should appears:

Created [https://www.googleapis.com/compute/v1/projects/es-cloud-1070/zones/us-central1-f/instances/myesnode1].
myesnode1 us-central1-f n1-standard-1    RUNNING

You can now connect to your instance:

# Connect using google cloud SDK
gcloud compute ssh myesnode1 --zone europe-west1-a

# Or using SSH with external IP address
ssh -i ~/.ssh/google_compute_engine
Service Account Permissions

It’s important when creating an instance that the correct permissions are set. At a minimum, you must ensure you have:


Failing to set this will result in unauthorized messages when starting Elasticsearch. See Machine Permissions.

Once connected, install Elasticsearch:

sudo apt-get update

# Download Elasticsearch
wget https://download.elasticsearch.org/elasticsearch/elasticsearch/elasticsearch-2.0.0.deb

# Prepare Java installation (Oracle)
sudo echo "deb http://ppa.launchpad.net/webupd8team/java/ubuntu trusty main" | sudo tee /etc/apt/sources.list.d/webupd8team-java.list
sudo echo "deb-src http://ppa.launchpad.net/webupd8team/java/ubuntu trusty main" | sudo tee -a /etc/apt/sources.list.d/webupd8team-java.list
sudo apt-key adv --keyserver hkp://keyserver.ubuntu.com:80 --recv-keys EEA14886
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install oracle-java8-installer

# Prepare Java installation (or OpenJDK)
# sudo apt-get install java8-runtime-headless

# Prepare Elasticsearch installation
sudo dpkg -i elasticsearch-2.0.0.deb
Install Elasticsearch discovery gce plugin

Install the plugin:

# Use Plugin Manager to install it
sudo bin/elasticsearch-plugin install discovery-gce

Open the elasticsearch.yml file:

sudo vi /etc/elasticsearch/elasticsearch.yml

And add the following lines:

      project_id: es-cloud
      zone: europe-west1-a
      zen.hosts_provider: gce

Start Elasticsearch:

sudo /etc/init.d/elasticsearch start

If anything goes wrong, you should check logs:

tail -f /var/log/elasticsearch/elasticsearch.log

If needed, you can change log level to trace by opening log4j2.properties:

sudo vi /etc/elasticsearch/log4j2.properties

and adding the following line:

# discovery
logger.discovery_gce.name = discovery.gce
logger.discovery_gce.level = trace

Cloning your existing machine

In order to build a cluster on many nodes, you can clone your configured instance to new nodes. You won’t have to reinstall everything!

First create an image of your running instance and upload it to Google Cloud Storage:

# Create an image of your current instance
sudo /usr/bin/gcimagebundle -d /dev/sda -o /tmp/

# An image has been created in `/tmp` directory:
ls /tmp

# Upload your image to Google Cloud Storage:
# Create a bucket to hold your image, let's say `esimage`:
gsutil mb gs://esimage

# Copy your image to this bucket:
gsutil cp /tmp/e4686d7f5bf904a924ae0cfeb58d0827c6d5b966.image.tar.gz gs://esimage

# Then add your image to images collection:
gcloud compute images create elasticsearch-2-0-0 --source-uri gs://esimage/e4686d7f5bf904a924ae0cfeb58d0827c6d5b966.image.tar.gz

# If the previous command did not work for you, logout from your instance
# and launch the same command from your local machine.
Start new instances

As you have now an image, you can create as many instances as you need:

# Just change node name (here myesnode2)
gcloud compute instances create myesnode2 --image elasticsearch-2-0-0 --zone europe-west1-a

# If you want to provide all details directly, you can use:
gcloud compute instances create myesnode2 --image=elasticsearch-2-0-0 \
       --zone europe-west1-a --machine-type f1-micro --scopes=compute-rw
Remove an instance (aka shut it down)

You can use Google Cloud Console or CLI to manage your instances:

# Stopping and removing instances
gcloud compute instances delete myesnode1 myesnode2 \

# Consider removing disk as well if you don't need them anymore
gcloud compute disks delete boot-myesnode1 boot-myesnode2  \

Using GCE zones

cloud.gce.zone helps to retrieve instances running in a given zone. It should be one of the GCE supported zones.

The GCE discovery can support multi zones although you need to be aware of network latency between zones. To enable discovery across more than one zone, just enter add your zone list to cloud.gce.zone setting:

      project_id: <your-google-project-id>
      zone: ["<your-zone1>", "<your-zone2>"]
      zen.hosts_provider: gce

Filtering by tags

The GCE discovery can also filter machines to include in the cluster based on tags using discovery.gce.tags settings. For example, setting discovery.gce.tags to dev will only filter instances having a tag set to dev. Several tags set will require all of those tags to be set for the instance to be included.

One practical use for tag filtering is when an GCE cluster contains many nodes that are not running Elasticsearch. In this case (particularly with high discovery.zen.ping_timeout values) there is a risk that a new node’s discovery phase will end before it has found the cluster (which will result in it declaring itself master of a new cluster with the same name - highly undesirable). Adding tag on Elasticsearch GCE nodes and then filtering by that tag will resolve this issue.

Add your tag when building the new instance:

gcloud compute instances create myesnode1 --project=es-cloud \
       --scopes=compute-rw \

Then, define it in elasticsearch.yml:

      project_id: es-cloud
      zone: europe-west1-a
      zen.hosts_provider: gce
            tags: elasticsearch, dev

Changing default transport port

By default, Elasticsearch GCE plugin assumes that you run Elasticsearch on 9300 default port. But you can specify the port value Elasticsearch is meant to use using google compute engine metadata es_port:

When creating instance

Add --metadata es_port=9301 option:

# when creating first instance
gcloud compute instances create myesnode1 \
       --scopes=compute-rw,storage-full \
       --metadata es_port=9301

# when creating an instance from an image
gcloud compute instances create myesnode2 --image=elasticsearch-1-0-0-RC1 \
       --zone europe-west1-a --machine-type f1-micro --scopes=compute-rw \
       --metadata es_port=9301
On a running instance
gcloud compute instances add-metadata myesnode1 \
       --zone europe-west1-a \
       --metadata es_port=9301

GCE Tips

Store project id locally

If you don’t want to repeat the project id each time, you can save it in the local gcloud config

gcloud config set project es-cloud
Machine Permissions

If you have created a machine without the correct permissions, you will see 403 unauthorized error messages. To change machine permission on an existing instance, first stop the instance then Edit. Scroll down to Access Scopes to change permission. The other way to alter these permissions is to delete the instance (NOT THE DISK). Then create another with the correct permissions.

Creating machines with gcloud

Ensure the following flags are set:

Creating with console (web)

When creating an instance using the web portal, click Show advanced options.

At the bottom of the page, under PROJECT ACCESS, choose >> Compute >> Read Write.

Creating with knife google

Set the service account scopes when creating the machine:

knife google server create www1 \
    -m n1-standard-1 \
    -I debian-8 \
    -Z us-central1-a \
    -i ~/.ssh/id_rsa \
    -x jdoe \
    --gce-service-account-scopes https://www.googleapis.com/auth/compute.full_control

Or, you may use the alias:

    --gce-service-account-scopes compute-rw

Testing GCE

Integrations tests in this plugin require working GCE configuration and therefore disabled by default. To enable tests prepare a config file elasticsearch.yml with the following content:

      project_id: es-cloud
      zone: europe-west1-a
      zen.hosts_provider: gce

Replaces project_id and zone with your settings.

To run test:

mvn -Dtests.gce=true -Dtests.config=/path/to/config/file/elasticsearch.yml clean test