[Sensu Go Workshop] Lesson 9: Introduction to Hooks

In this lesson we will introduce check hooks. You will learn how to use hooks to provide additional context to your check output.

This lesson is intended for operators of Sensu and assumes you have set up a local workshop environment.

By: Caleb Hailey

Lesson 9: Introduction to Hooks


In this lesson we will introduce check hooks. You will learn how to use hooks to provide additional context to your check output.

This lesson is intended for operators of Sensu and assumes you have set up a local workshop environment.

What are Hooks?

In Sensu a hook is a command that an agent executes in response to a check result. Because hooks are executed before the event is sent to the backend, they are great for enriching events with additional context.

We refer to this practice as automated diagnosis. Hooks automate the actions an SRE or operations engineer might take to triage an incident (e.g. tail a log file or check the process table). By automating these actions, Sensu makes it easier to differentiate between a false-positive alert and a priority incident.

EXERCISE 1: Capture Check Context Using a Hook


The disk-usage check is reporting an error because the disk is becoming full. It would be helpful to include a list of files in the temp directory to see if there is a large temp file that we could delete. Instead of shelling into the machine directly to get this information, you’d rather have Sensu capture it for you.


A check hook can be used to execute an additional command conditionally, based on the status of the check. We can create a hook to list the files in the temp directory, and include that output alongside the regular check output.


  1. Create a Hook to List Files in the Temp Directory

    Copy and paste the following contents to a file named ls-temp.yaml.

    type: HookConfig
    api_version: core/v2
      name: ls-temp
      command: ls -alh /var/tmp
      timeout: 10
      stdin: false
      runtime_assets: []

    Then create the hook using sensuctl create:

    sensuctl create -f ls-temp.yaml
  2. Add the Hook to the Check Configuration

    Modify the check template we created in Lesson 8 (e.g. disk.yaml), and replace the check_hooks: [] line with the following:

    - non-zero:
      - ls-temp

    Then update the check using sensuctl create:

    sensuctl create -f disk.yaml

    PROTIP: In practice, it is often convenient to bundle check hooks alongside the corresponding checks, by including both configurations in the same YAML file.

  3. Verify the Configuration

    Verify that the check was updated using sensuctl check info.

    sensuctl check info disk-usage --format yaml
  4. Verify the Output

    Verify that the hook output was included, by inspecting the event created by the disk-usage check:

    sensuctl event info workshop disk-usage --format json

    In the event JSON, the property .check.hooks should look something like this:

    Example Output

    "hooks": [
         "metadata": {
           "name": "ls-temp",
           "namespace": "default",
           "labels": {
             "sensu.io/managed_by": "sensuctl"
           "created_by": "sensu"
         "command": "ls -alh /var/tmp",
         "timeout": 10,
         "stdin": false,
         "runtime_assets": null,
         "duration": 0.021055335,
         "executed": 1634953321,
         "issued": 0,
         "output": "total 0\ndrwxrwxrwt   5 root     wheel   160B Oct 22 17:35 .\ndrwxr-xr-x  32 root     wheel   1.0K Oct 19 10:24 ..\ndrwxr-xr-x   3 root     wheel    96B Sep 15 10:52 aud\nsrw-r--r--   1 thoward  wheel     0B Sep 30 10:32 filesystemui.socket\ndrwxr-xr-x   2 root     wheel    64B Sep 15 10:52 kernel_panics\n",
         "status": 0


In this lesson you learned how to create a hook that added some additional context to a check.

Hooks are reusable resources that can enrich your data and save a lot of time when debugging.

Hooks are Not Remediations

It may seem like hooks would also be a perfect tool for automatic remediations. However, we strongly discourge using hooks for this.

Remediations are best done using handlers, like the sensu-remediation-handler, or the product-specific handlers for Ansible Tower, Rundeck, and SaltStack.

The main difference is that handlers are run by the backend, so logging, secret injection, auditing, and access via the dashboard are available. A hook is a simple command, run on the agent, without the rest of the infrastructure that the backend and pipeline provide.

Learn more about automated remediations in our Patterns and Workflows section (coming soon!).

Uses Cases

So, now that we know how you should not use hooks, here are some examples of use cases we do suggest:

  • Tail a log file
  • Check the system process table
  • Validate configuration files
  • Check file system metadata (e.g. last accessed or modified dates)
  • Inspect processes (e.g. use lsof to see what files or ports a process is accessing)
  • Check installed package version information
  • Check kernel version and platform information
  • Literally any action you might perform as an operator to get additional context about an alert

For full details, read the hooks reference documentation.

Hook Assets

Like checks, hooks are able to specify assets that they need to run. If your hook needs more complex behavior than a simple one-line shell action, consider packaging it as an asset instead of in-line in the YAML configuration.

Learn More

Next Steps

Next - Lesson 10: Introduction to Silencing & Scheduled Maintenance

Previous - Lesson 8: Introduction to Checks

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