Getting Started

This is archived documentation for InfluxData product versions that are no longer maintained. For newer documentation, see the latest InfluxData documentation.

Kapacitor is a data processing engine. It can process both stream and batch data. This guide will walk you through both workflows and teach you the basics of using and running a Kapacitor daemon.

What you will need

Don’t worry about installing anything yet, instructions are found below.

  • InfluxDB - While Kapacitor does not require InfluxDB it is the easiest to setup and so we will use it in this guide. You will need InfluxDB >= 0.9.5
  • Telegraf - We will use a specific Telegraf config to send data to InfluxDB so that the examples Kapacitor tasks have context. You will need Telegraf >= 0.1.9 since the names of measurements change prior to that version.
  • Kapacitor - You can get the latest Kapacitor binaries for your OS at the downloads page.
  • Terminal - Kapacitor’s interface is via a CLI and so you will need a basic terminal to issue commands.

The Use Case

For this guide we will follow the classic use case of triggering an alert for high cpu usage on a server.

The Process

1. Install everything we need. 1. Start InfluxDB and send it data from Telegraf. 2. Configure Kapacitor. 3. Start Kapacitor. 4. Define and run a streaming task to trigger cpu alerts. 5. Define and run a batching task to trigger cpu alerts.


Install Kapacitor, InfluxDB and Telegraf on the same host.

All examples will assume that Kapacitor is running on http://localhost:9092 and InfluxDB on http://localhost:8086.

InfluxDB + Telegraf

Start InfluxDB:

influxd run

The following is a simple Telegraf configuration file that will send just cpu metrics to InfluxDB:

    interval = "1s"


# Configuration to send data to InfluxDB.
    # Change this URL to be the address of your InfluxDB server.
urls = ["http://localhost:8086"]
    database = "kapacitor_example"
    user_agent = "telegraf"

# Collect metrics about cpu usage
    percpu = false
    totalcpu = true
    drop = ["cpu_time"]

Put the above configuration in a file called telegraf.conf and start telegraf:

telegraf -config telegraf.conf

OK, at this point we should have a running InfluxDB + Telegraf setup. There should be some cpu metrics in a database called kapacitor_example. Confirm this with this query:

curl -G 'http://localhost:8086/query?db=kapacitor_example' --data-urlencode 'q=SELECT count(value) FROM cpu_usage_idle'

Starting Kapacitor

First we need a valid configuration file. Run the following command to create a default configuration file:

kapacitord config > kapacitor.conf

The configuration is a toml file and is very similar to the InfluxDB configuration. That is because any input that you can configure for InfluxDB also works for Kapacitor.

Let’s start the Kapacitor server:

kapacitord -config kapacitor.conf

Since InfluxDB is running on http://localhost:8086 Kapacitor finds it during start up and creates several subscriptions on InfluxDB. These subscriptions tell InfluxDB to send all the data it receives to Kapacitor. You should see some basic start up messages and something about listening on UDP port and starting subscriptions. At this point InfluxDB is streaming the data it is receiving from Telegraf to Kapacitor.

Let’s confirm that kapacitord is receiving data from InfluxDB. Kapacitor has an HTTP API with which all communcation happens. The binary kapacitor exposes the API over the command line. Run this command to turn on debug logging:

kapacitor level debug

You should see a bunch of lines with numbers scrolling by. Something like this:

[edge:src->stream] 2015/10/22 14:02:13 D!
next point c: 120 e: 120

The numbers indicate the number of points collected and emitted from the stream. As long as the numbers are increasing we are in good shape. Turn logging back to info with:

kapacitor level info

If Kapacitor is not receiving data yet, check each layer: Telegraf -> InfluxDB -> Kapacitor. Telegraf will log errors if it cannot communicate to InfluxDB. InfluxDB will log an error about connection refused if it cannot send data to Kapacitor. Run the query SHOW SUBSCRIPTIONS to find the endpoint that InfluxDB is using to send data to Kapacitor.

Trigger Alert from Stream data

That was a bit of setup, but at this point it should be smooth sailing and we can get to the fun stuff of actually using Kapacitor.

A task in Kapacitor represents an amount of work to do on a set of data. There are two types of tasks, stream and batch tasks. We will be using a stream task first, and next we will do the same thing with a batch task.

Kapacitor uses a DSL called TICKscript to define tasks. Each TICKscript defines a pipeline that tells Kapacitor which data to process and how.

So what do we want to tell Kapacitor to do? As an example, we will trigger an alert on high cpu usage. What is high cpu usage? Let’s say when idle cpu drops below 70% we should trigger an alert.

Now that we know what we want to do, let’s write it in a way the Kapacitor understands. Put the script below into a file called cpu_alert.tick in your working directory:

    // Select just the cpu_usage_idle measurement from our example database.
        .crit(lambda: "value" <  70)
        // Whenever we get an alert write it to a file.

Now lets define the task and the databases and retention policies it can access:

kapacitor define \
    -name cpu_alert \
    -type stream \
    -tick cpu_alert.tick \
    -dbrp kapacitor_example.default

That’s it, Kapacitor now knows how to trigger our alert. However nothing is going to happen until we enable the task. Before we enable the task, we should test it first so we do not spam ourselves with alerts.

Record the current data stream for a bit so we can use it to test our task with:

kapacitor record stream -name cpu_alert -duration 20s

Since we defined the task with a database and retention policy pair, the recording knows to only record data from that database and retention policy.

Now grab that ID that was returned and lets put it in a bash variable for easy use later (your ID will be different):


OK, we have a snapshot of data recorded from the stream, so we can now replay that data to our task. The replay action replays data only to a specific task. This way we can test the task in complete isolation:

kapacitor replay -id $rid -name cpu_alert -fast

Notice the -fast flag. Since we already have the data recorded, we can just replay the data as fast as possible instead of waiting for real time to pass. If -fast is not set, then the data is replayed by waiting for the deltas between the timestamps to pass, though the result is identical whether real time passes or not. This is because time is measured on each node by the data points it receives.

Check the log using the command below, did we get any alerts? The file should contain lines of JSON, where each line represents one alert. The JSON contains the alert level and the data that triggered the alert.

cat /tmp/alerts.log

Depending on how busy the server was, maybe not. Let’s modify the task to be really sensitive so that we know the alerts are working. Change the .crit(lambda: "value" < 70) line in the TICKscript to .crit(lambda: "value" < 100). Now every data point that was received during the recording will trigger an alert.

Let’s replay it again and verify the results. Any time you want to update a task change the TICKscript and then run the define command again with just the -name and -tick arguments:

# edit threshold in cpu_alert.tick and redefine the task.
kapacitor define -name cpu_alert -tick cpu_alert.tick
kapacitor replay -id $rid -name cpu_alert -fast

NOTE: you can also run kapacitor show cpu_alert to see what definition Kapacitor has stored for the task.

Now that we know it’s working, let’s change it back to a more reasonable threshold. Are you happy with the threshold? If so, let’s enable the task so it can start processing the live data stream with:

kapacitor enable cpu_alert

Now you can see alerts in the log in real time. Here is a quick hack to use 100% of one core if you want to get some cpu activity:

while true; do i=0; done

Well, that was cool and all, but, just to get a simple threshold alert, there are plenty of ways to do that. Why all this pipeline TICKscript stuff? Well, it can quickly be extended to become much more powerful.

Extending Your TICKscripts

The TICKscript below will compute the running mean and compare current values to it. It will then trigger an alert if the values are more than 3 standard deviations away from the mean:

        // Compare values to running mean and standard deviation
        .crit(lambda: sigma("value") > 3)

Just like that, we have a dynamic threshold, and, if cpu usage drops in the day or spikes at night, we will get an alert! Let’s try it out. Use reload in order to get a running task to update based on a new definition:

kapacitor reload cpu_alert

Now tail the alert log:

tail -f /tmp/alerts.log

There shouldn’t be any alerts triggering just yet. Next, start a few while loops to add some load:

while true; do i=0; done

You should see an alert trigger in the log once you create enough load. Leave the loops running for a few minutes. After canceling the loops, you should get another alert that cpu usage has again changed. Using this technique you can get alerts for the raising and falling edges of cpu usage, as well as any outliers.

A Real-World Example

Now that we understand the basics, here is a more real world example. Once you get metrics from all your hosts streaming to Kapacitor, you can do something like: Aggregate and group the cpu usage for each service running in each datacenter, and then trigger an alert based off the 95th percentile. In addition to just writing the alert to a log, Kapacitor can integrate with third party utilities: currently Slack, PagerDuty and VictorOps are supported, as well as posting the alert to a custom endpoint or executing a custom script. You can also define a custom message format so that alerts have the right context and meaning. The TICKscript for this would look like:

    // create a new field called 'used' which inverts the idle cpu.
.eval(lambda: 100 - "value")
    .groupBy('service', 'datacenter')
    // calculate the 95th percentile of the used cpu.
.mapReduce(influxql.percentile('used', 95.0))
    .eval(lambda: sigma("percentile"))
        .keep('percentile', 'sigma')
        .id('{{ .Name }}/{{ index .Tags "service" }}/{{ index .Tags "datacenter"}}')
        .message('{{ .ID }} is {{ .Level }} cpu-95th:{{ index .Fields "percentile" }}')
        // Compare values to running mean and standard deviation
        .warn(lambda: "sigma" > 2.5)
        .crit(lambda: "sigma" > 3.0)

        // Post data to custom endpoint

        // Execute custom alert handler script

        // Send alerts to slack

        // Sends alerts to PagerDuty

        // Send alerts to VictorOps

Something so simple as defining an alert can quickly be extended to apply to a much larger scope. With the above script, you will be alerted if any service in any datacenter deviates more than 3 standard deviations away from normal behavior as defined by the historical 95th percentile of cpu usage, within 1 minute!

For more information on how the alerting works, see the AlertNode docs.

Trigger Alert from Batch data

Instead of just processing the data in streams, you can also tell Kapacitor to periodically query InfluxDB and then process that data in batches. While triggering an alert based off cpu usage is more suited for the streaming case, you can get the basic idea of how batch tasks work by following the same use case.

This TICKscript does the same thing as the earlier stream task, but as a batch task:

        SELECT mean(value)
        FROM "kapacitor_example"."default"."cpu_usage_idle"
        .crit(lambda: "value" < 70)

To define this task do:

kapacitor define -name batch_cpu_alert -type batch -tick batch_cpu_alert.tick -dbrp kapacitor_example.default

You can record the result of the query in the task like so (again, your ID will differ):

kapacitor record batch -name batch_cpu_alert -past 20m
# Save the id again

This will record the last 20 minutes of batches using the query in the batch_cpu_alert task. In this case, since the period is 5 minutes, the last 4 batches will be saved in the recording.

The batch recording can be replayed in the same way:

kapacitor replay -id $rid -name batch_cpu_alert

Check the alert log to make sure you received alerts to fire when you expected them to. You can also go back and use the sigma based alert for the batch data as well. Play around until you are comfortable updating, testing, and running tasks in Kapacitor.

What’s next?

Take a look at the examples page for more guides on how to use Kapacitor. These use cases demonstrate some of the more rich features of Kapacitor.