How to augment event data using check hooks

What are check hooks?

Check hooks are commands run by the Sensu agent in response to the result of check command execution. The Sensu agent executes the appropriate configured hook, depending on the exit status code (e.g., 1).

Why use check hooks?

Check hooks allow Sensu users to automate data collection routinely performed by operators investigating monitoring alerts, freeing precious operator time! While check hooks can be used for rudimentary auto-remediation tasks, they are intended for enrichment of monitoring event data.

Using check hooks to gather context

The purpose of this guide is to help you put in place a check hook which captures the process tree in the event that an nginx_process check returns a status of 2 (critical, not running).

Creating the hook

The first step is to create a new hook that runs a specific command to capture the process tree. We can set an execution timeout of 10 seconds for this command.

sensuctl hook create process_tree  \
--command 'ps aux' \
--timeout 10

Assigning the hook to a check

Now that the process_tree hook has been created, it can be assigned to a check. Here we apply our hook to an already existing nginx_process check. By setting the type to critical, we ensure that whenever the check command returns a critical status, Sensu executes the process_tree hook and adds the output to the resulting event data.

sensuctl check set-hooks nginx_process  \
--type critical \
--hooks process_tree

Validating the check hook

You can verify the proper behavior of the check hook against a specific event by using sensuctl. It might take a few moments, once the check hook is assigned, for the check to be scheduled on the entity and the result sent back to the Sensu backend. The check hook command result is available in the hooks array, within the check scope.

sensuctl event info i-424242 nginx_process --format json

  "check": {
    "hooks": [
        "config": {
          "name": "process_tree",
          "command": "ps aux",
          "timeout": 10,
          "namespace": "default"
        "duration": 0.008713605,
        "executed": 1521724622,
        "output": "",
        "status": 0

Having confirmed that the hook is attached to our check, we can stop Nginx and observe the check hook in action on the next check execution. Here we use sensuctl to query event info and send the response to jq so we can isolate the check hook output:

sensuctl event info i-424242 nginx_process --format json | jq -r '.check.hooks[0].output' 

root         1  0.0  0.3  46164  6704 ?        Ss   Nov17   0:11 /usr/lib/systemd/systemd --switched-root --system --deserialize 20
root         2  0.0  0.0      0     0 ?        S    Nov17   0:00 [kthreadd]
root         3  0.0  0.0      0     0 ?        S    Nov17   0:01 [ksoftirqd/0]
root         7  0.0  0.0      0     0 ?        S    Nov17   0:01 [migration/0]
root         8  0.0  0.0      0     0 ?        S    Nov17   0:00 [rcu_bh]
root         9  0.0  0.0      0     0 ?        S    Nov17   0:34 [rcu_sched]

Note that the above output, although truncated in the interest of brevity, reflects the output of the ps aux command specified in the check hook we created. Now when we are alerted that Nginx is not running, we can review the check hook output to confirm this was the case, without ever firing up an SSH session to investigate!

Next steps

You now know how to run data collection tasks using check hooks. From this point, here are some recommended resources: