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Checkmk on the command line

1. Why Command Line?

When a Checkmk-System has been installed, it can be 100% configured and operated using the web interface. There are nonetheless situations in which it is useful to dive into the depths of the command line, for example:

  • when searching for the source of problems
  • when automating the administration of Checkmk
  • when programming and testing your own extensions
  • to be able to understand how Checkmk functions internally
  • if you simply enjoy working with the command line!

This article will present the most important commands, files and directories on Checkmk's command line.

2. The instance user

2.1. Login as instance user

When administering Checkmk, with a few exceptions you need never work as the root-user. In this article we will generally assume that you are logged in as an instance user. That is done with, e.g.:

root@linux# su - mysite

It is also possible to make a direct SSH-login to an instance without a detour via root. Since the instance user is a ‘completely normal’ Linux user, you must simply assign a password for this (which requires root-permissions, once only, for the configuration):

root@linux# passwd mysite
Enter new UNIX password: *******
Retype new UNIX password: *******
passwd: password updated successfully

Afterwards an SSH-login directly from another computer should be possible (Windows-users preferably use PuTTY for this). From Linux this login is simply performed in the command line using the ssh command:

user@otherhost> ssh mysite@mycmkserver
mysite@localhost's password: *******

At the first login a ‘warning’ regarding an unknown host key will probably be received. When you are certain that in this brief moment no attacker has taken over your operating system's IP-address, you can simply verify it with yes.

You can also work with the command line on the Checkmk-appliance. How that is done is explained in its own article.

2.2. Profile and environment variables

So that as few problems as possible arise, particularly as a result of individual distributions or differing operating system configurations, the Checkmk-system ensures that the instance user – and likewise all of the monitoring's processes – always have a clearly defined environment. Along with the home directory and the permissions, the environment variables (Environment) play an important role.

Among other things, when logging in as an instance user the following variables will be set or modified. These variables are available for use in all processes running within the instance. This also applies to scripts that are indirectly invoked by these processes (for example, a user's own notification scripts).

OMD_SITE The instance's name (mysite). In custom scripts this variable should always be used rather than a hard coded instance name (e.g. with $OMD_SITE in the shell). With this the script can also be used unchanged in other instances.
OMD_ROOT The path for the instance directory (/omd/sites/mysite)
PATH Directories in which executable programs will be searched for. For example, Checkmk keeps the instance's bin/ here. If duplicate names are foundgeschützt Checkmk programs have priority – this is important, e.g., for the mail command, a special version of which is provided with a Checkmk installation.
LD_LIBRARY_PATH Directories in which additional binary libraries are searched for. Using this variable Checkmk ensures that libraries provided with Checkmk have priority over those installed in the normal operating system.
PYTHONPATH Search path for the Python module. Checkmk's module alternatives have priority here as well.
PERL5LIB Search path for the Perl module. The same conditions as for Python apply here.
LANG The language setting for command line commands. This setting is adopted from the Linux installation. This variable is automatically deleted in the instance's processes, and the setting reverts to the default English! This also affects other regional settings.

Removing LANG is very important, since a number of standard Nagios plug-ins, for example, the German language setting, uses a comma for the decimal separator instead of a point. Your output can thus not be accurately processed.

With the env command you can output all of the environment variables – adding |sort to this command arranges the list a bit more clearly:

OMD[mysite]:~$ env | sort

Under Linux the environment is an attribute of a process. Every process has its own variables, which it automatically passes on to subprocesses. These start initially with the same, inherited variables, but can also alter them.

With the env command you can always only view the the current shell's environment. If you suspect there is an error in a particular process's environment, with a small trick you can nonetheless output a listing of its environment. For this you only need the process-ID (PID). You can identify this with, e.g., ps ax, pstree -p or top. With this you can then access the process's environ file directly via the /proc file system. Here as an example is a suitable command for the PID 13222:

OMD[mysite]:~$ tr \\0 \\n < /proc/13222/environ | sort

If you require custom variables for your own scripts or other software to be run in the instance, store them in the etc/environment file which has been specially created for this purpose. All variables defined here will be available everywhere within the instance:

# Custom environment variables
# Here you can set environment variables. These will
# be set in interactive mode when logging in as site
# user and also when starting the OMD processes with
# omd start.
# This file has shell syntax, but without 'export'.
# Better use quotes if your values contain spaces.
# Example:
# FOO="bar"
# FOO2="With some spaces"

2.3. Customising the shell and similar actions

If you wish to customise your shell (Prompt or other things), you can perform this as usual in the .bashrc file. Environment variables nonetheless belong to etc/environment, so that they are certain to be available to all processes.

There is also nothing to prevent you having your own .vimrc file if you like working with VIM.

3. The directory structure

3.1. The separation of software and data

The following graphic shows the most important directories in a Checkmk-Installation, and as an example an instance named mysite which uses the Checkmk-Version 1.4.0p1:

The basis for this structure is provided by the /omd directory. Without exception, all of the files for Checkmk are found here. /omd is in fact a symbolic link to /opt/omd, while the actual physical data is located in /opt – but all data paths in Checkmk always use /omd.

Important is the separation of data (highlighted yellow) and software (blue). The instance's data is found in /omd/sites, and the installed software in /omd/versions.

3.2. The instance directory

Like every Linux user, the instance user also has a home directory, which we refer to as the instance directory. If your instance is named mysite it will be found in /omd/sites/mysite. As usual in Linux the shell abreviates the its own home directory with a tilde (~) (or swung dash). Since immediately following a login you will actually be in this directory, the tilde appears automatically in the input prompt:


Subdirectories of the instance directory are shown relative to the tilde:

OMD[mysite]:~$ cd var/log

A number of subdirectories are located within the instance directory, these can be listed with ll:

OMD[mysite]:~$ ll
total 16
lrwxrwxrwx  1 mysite mysite   11 Jan 24 11:56 bin -> version/bin/
drwxr-xr-x 19 mysite mysite 4096 Jan 24 11:56 etc/
lrwxrwxrwx  1 mysite mysite   15 Jan 24 11:56 include -> version/include/
lrwxrwxrwx  1 mysite mysite   11 Jan 24 11:56 lib -> version/lib/
drwxr-xr-x  5 mysite mysite 4096 Jan 24 11:56 local/
lrwxrwxrwx  1 mysite mysite   13 Jan 24 11:56 share -> version/share/
drwxr-xr-x  2 mysite mysite 4096 Jan 24 09:57 tmp/
drwxr-xr-x 12 mysite mysite 4096 Jan 24 11:56 var/
lrwxrwxrwx  1 mysite mysite   29 Jan 24 11:56 version -> ../../versions/1.4.0p1/

As can be seen, the directories bin, lib, include, share and version are symbolic links. The rest are ‘normal’ directories. This mirrors the separation of software and and data as explained above. The software directory must be accessible as a subdirectory in the instance, but it is physically located in /omd/versions, and can also possibly be used by other instances.

Software Data
Directory bin include lib share etc local tmp var
Owner root instance user (mysite)
Created by Checkmk installation creation of the instance, configuration, and monitoring
Physical location /omd/versions/1.4.0p1/ /omd/sites/mysite/
File type symbolic links normal directories

3.3. The software

The software directories, as usual under Linux, belong to root and thus may not be altered by an instance user. The following subdirectories are present – those in the example are physically located within the /omd/versions/1.4.0p1, and they are accessible via symbolic links from the instance directory:

bin/ Directory for executable programs. Here the cmk command is found, for example.
lib/ C-directories, plug-ins for Apache and Python – and in the nagios/plugins subdirectory – standard monitoring plug-ins, which are mostly written in C or Perl.
share/ The main part of the installed software. Very many components are located in share/check_mk – among others, well over 1,300 Check plug-ins.
include/ Contains Include-files for C-programs, which should be linked to libraries in lib/. This directory is not important and is only used if you wish to translate C-programs yourself.

The version/ symbolic link is a ‘intermediate stop’ and serves as a relay point for the version used by the instance. During a software update this will be switched from the old to the new version. Nonetheless, please do not attempt to perform an update manually by altering the link, since an update requires a number of other further steps – which will fail.

3.4. The Data

The actual data for an instance is found in the remaining subdirectories in the instance directory. Without exception, these belong to the instance user. The instance directory itself is also included. Checkmk stores nothing apart from the directories listed there. You can create your own files and directories without problem here, in which tests, downloaded data, copies of log files, etc. can be kept as desired.

The following directories have been predefined:

etc/ Configuration files. These can be edited either by hand or by using WATO. Note: The scripts in etc/init.d are actually also ‘configuration’ files, since they are found in etc/. This is based on the same pattern as found in every Linux system under /etc/init.d/. We do advise against changing this script however, since this can lead to conflicts during a software update. Changes to the scripts are not necessary.
var/ Runtime data. All data generated by the monitoring will be stored here. Depending on the number of hosts and services, an immense volume of data can be accumulated – of which the largest part is the performance data recorded in the RRDs.
tmp/ Volatile data. Checkmk and other components store temporary data (which does not need to be retained) here. A tmpfs is therefore mounted here. This is a file system which manages data in RAM, thus generating zero Disk-IO. Restarting the computer results in the loss of all data in tmp/! Stopping and starting the instance does not delete the data.

Data such as sockets, pipes and PID-files can be found in tmp/run – these are necessary for communication and managing the server processes.

Do not use tmp/ for storing your own data, since this directory lies im RAM in which space is limited. Store your own data directly in the instance directory, or in your own subdirectory within it.

local/ Own extensions. A ‘shadow’ hierarchy of the software directories bin/, lib/ and share/ can be found in local/. These are intended for your own changes or extensions to the software.

Also applicable here: Under no circumstances store test files, log files, security copies or anything else that does not belong there, in local/. Checkmk could attempt to execute these files as a part of the software. Likewise, in a distributed monitoring the data will also be duplicated to all slaves.

3.5. Modifying and extending Checkmk – the local-hierarchy

As just shown in the above table, the local directory with its numerous subdirectories is intended for your own extensions. In a new instance, all of the directories in >local/ are initially empty.

With the practical tree command you can quickly get an overview of the structure of local. The -L 3 option restricts the depth to 3:

OMD[mysite]:~$ tree -L 3 local
|-- bin
|-- lib
|   |-- apache
|   |-- icinga -> nagios
|   |-- nagios
|   |   `-- plugins
|   `-- python
`-- share
    |-- check_mk
    |   |-- agents
    |   |-- alert_handlers
    |   |-- checkman
    |   |-- checks
    |   |-- inventory
    |   |-- mibs
    |   |-- notifications
    |   |-- pnp-rraconf
    |   |-- pnp-templates
    |   |-- reporting
    |   `-- web
    |-- diskspace
    |-- doc
    |   `-- check_mk
    |-- dokuwiki
    |   `-- htdocs
    |-- icinga
    |   `-- htdocs
    |-- nagios
    |   `-- htdocs
    |-- nagvis
    |   `-- htdocs
    `-- snmp
        `-- mibs

All of the directories in the lowest level are actively integrated in the software. A file stored here will be treated in the same way as if it was in the directory with the same name within /omd/versions/... (or respectively, in the logical path from the instance under bin, lib or share).

Example: In the instance, executable programs will be searched for in bin and in local/bin.

Here it applies that in the case of identical names the file in local always has priority. This enables modification of the software without the need to change installation files in /omd/versions/. The precedure is simple:

  1. Copy the desired file to the appropriate directory in local.
  2. Modify this file.
  3. Restart the appropriate service so that the change can take effect.

Regarding point 3 above, if it is not known exactly which service to which the change applies, simply restart the complete instance with omd restart.

3.6. Log files

In Checkmk – as already-described – the log files are stored in the file directory var/. All components of the relevant log file can be found there:

OMD[mysite]:~$ ll -R var/log/
total 48
-rw-r--r-- 1 mysite mysite  759 Sep 21 16:54 alerts.log
drwxr-xr-x 2 mysite mysite 4096 Sep 21 16:52 apache/
-rw-r--r-- 1 mysite mysite 8603 Sep 21 16:54 cmc.log
-rw-r--r-- 1 mysite mysite  313 Sep 21 16:54 liveproxyd.log
-rw-r--r-- 1 mysite mysite   62 Sep 21 16:54 liveproxyd.state
drwxr-xr-x 2 mysite mysite 4096 Sep 20 13:44 mkeventd/
-rw-r--r-- 1 mysite mysite  676 Sep 21 16:54 mkeventd.log
-rw-r--r-- 1 mysite mysite  310 Sep 21 16:54 mknotifyd.log
-rw-r--r-- 1 mysite mysite  327 Sep 21 16:54 notify.log
-rw-r--r-- 1 mysite mysite  458 Sep 21 16:54 rrdcached.log
-rw-r--r-- 1 mysite mysite    0 Sep 21 16:52 web.log

total 32
-rw-r--r-- 1 mysite mysite 26116 Sep 21 16:54 access_log
-rw-r--r-- 1 mysite mysite   841 Sep 21 16:54 error_log
-rw-r--r-- 1 mysite mysite     0 Sep 22 10:21 stats

total 0

Via the Global Settings on the web interface the comprehensiveness of the data to be recorded in the log files can be easily configured:

Alternatively it is of course possible to also customise the LogLevel on the global.mk file's command line. This is in the directory for configuration files. Specify the entries if they are not already present:

cmc_log_rrdcreation = None
notification_logging = 1
cmc_log_levels = {
 'cmk.alert'        : 5,
 'cmk.carbon'       : 5,
 'cmk.core'         : 5,
 'cmk.downtime'     : 5,
 'cmk.helper'       : 5,
 'cmk.livestatus'   : 5,
 'cmk.notification' : 5,
 'cmk.rrd'          : 5,
 'cmk.smartping'    : 5,
alert_logging = 1

The LogLevel increases with the incrementation of the count. For notification_log and alert_logging there are two levels (1 and 2), and for cmc_log_levels there are 8 levels (0 to 7). For cmc_log_rrdcreation there are two levels and also the deactivation ('terse', 'full' and None).

The level for the web interface log can be altered as required here:

log_levels = {
 'cmk.web'                : 50,
 'cmk.web.auth'           : 10,
 'cmk.web.bi.compilation' : 30,
 'cmk.web.ldap'           : 20,

In contrast to the other logs, this LogLevel increases inversely as the count decreases. The lowest Loglevel is 50, and can be reduced by steps of ten – thus 10 represents the highest LogLevel.

The LogLevel for the Liveproxydaemon is set in the following file. The syntax is the same as with the web interface log:

liveproxyd_log_levels = {'cmk.liveproxyd': 30}

Important: Log files can quickly become very large if a high level has been set. It is generally advisable to use such settings for a 'temporary' customisation, as an aid in problem identification for example.

4. The cmk command

Along with the important command omd, which serves for starting and stopping instances, for the basic configuration of components, and for software updates, cmk is the most important command. With this a configuration for a monitoring core can be created, checks executed manually, a service discovery performed, and much more.

4.1. General options for cmk

The cmk command is actually an abreviation of check_mk, which was introduced to make typing the command easier. The command includes a built-in online help, that can as usual be called up with --help:

OMD[mysite]:~$ cmk --help
 cmk [-n] [-v] [-p] HOST [IPADDRESS]  check all services on HOST
 cmk -I [HOST ..]                     discovery - find new services
 cmk -II ...                          renew discovery, drop old services
 cmk -N [HOSTS...]                    output Nagios configuration
 cmk -B                               create configuration for core

A number of options always work – regardless of the mode with which the command is executed:

-v ‘Verbose’: Prompts cmk to produce a detailed dump of its current activity
-vv ‘Very verbose’: the same as the above, with even more details
--debug If an error occurs, this option ensures that it will no longer be intercepted, rather the original Python-Exception will be displayed in full. This can be important information for the developer, by showing the exact program location in which the error is located. It will also be very helpful with locating errors in self-written check plug-ins.

If when invoking cmk an error is encountered which should be reported to support or feedback, repeat the request with the added --debug option, and attach the Python trace to your email.

4.2. Commands for the monitoring core

The  Checkmk Enterprise Editions utilise the CMC as its monitoring core, the  Checkmk Raw Edition uses Nagios. An important task for the cmk is the generation of a configuration file that is readable for the core, and which contains all of the configured hosts, services, contacts, contact groups, time periods, etc. On the basis of this information the core knows which checks are to be executed and which objects it should provide using the GUI's Livestatus.

For Nagios as well as for the CMC, it is fundamental that the number of hosts, services and other objects always remains static during the operation, and that this number can only be altered through the generation of a new configuration, followed by a reloading of the core. With Nagios a restart of the core is also needed. The CMC has a very efficient function for the reloading of its configuration during active processing.

The following table highlights important differences between the configurations of both cores:

Nagios CMC
Config. file etc/nagios/conf.d/check_mk_objects.cfg var/check_mk/core/config
File type Text file with define-commands Compressed and optimised binary file
Activation Core restart Core command for reloading the configuration
Command cmk -R cmk -O

Regenerating the configuration is always necessary if the contents of the configuration file in etc/check_mk/conf.d, or automatically-detected services in var/check_mk/autochecks have been modified. WATO keeps a record of such changes and highlights them in the GUI. Should you ‘bypass’ WATO by modifying the configuration manually or with a script, you will also need to attend to the activation manually. The following commands serve this function:

Short Longform Function
cmk -R --restart Generates a new configuration for the core and restarts the core (analogous to omd restart core). This is the method provided for Nagios.
cmk -O --reload Generates the configuration for the core and loads this without a restart of the active processing (analogous to omd reload core). This is the recommended variant with the CMC.

Attention: With Nagios as the core this option still functions, but it can lead to memory holes and other instabilities. Apart from that, this option does in any case not perform a genuine reload, rather it internally stops and restarts the process, as it were.
cmk -C --compile Only useful for Nagios: it generates new versions of the precompiled Python files in var/check_mk/precompiled, which greatly accelerates the operation of Checkmk during the monitoring. This procedure is included in cmk -R.
cmk -U --update Generates the configuration for the core without activating it. Additionally, in Nagios the action cmk -C will be executed automatically.
cmk -B Generates the configuration for the core without activating it. With Nagios as the core, here cmk -C will not also be executed.
cmk -N Only Nagios: For diagnostic purposes, this outputs the configuration to be generated on the standard output, without altering the actual configuration file. Here you can enter the host's name simply in order to view the host's configuration (z. B. cmk -N myserver123).

To summarise: If you want to customise a Checkmk-configuration und activate the changes, in Nagios you will subsequently require:

OMD[mysite]:~$ cmk -R

And with the CMC:

OMD[mysite]:~$ cmk -O

4.3. Manually executing checks

A second mode in Checkmk deals with the execution of a host's Checkmk-based checks. With this you can allow all automatically detected, and also manually configured services, to be immediately checked, without needing to bother yourself with the monitoring core or the GUI. Simply enter the cmk command and the name of a host configured in the monitoring directly. Furthermore, you should always add both of the following options:

-v Check results output: Without this option we will only see the output from the Checkmk-service itself, and not the results from the other service.
-n Dry run: Results are not passed to the core, the performance counter is not updated.
OMD[mysite]:~$ cmk -nv myserver123
Check_MK version 2017.01.16
CPU load             OK - 15 min load 0.22 at 8 Cores (0.03 per Core)
CPU utilization      OK - user: 1.2%, system: 0.8%, wait: 0.0%, steal: 0.0%, guest: 0.0%, 
Disk IO SUMMARY      OK - Utilization: 0.1%, Read: 0.00 B/s, Write: 52.21 kB/s, Average Wa
Filesystem /         WARN - 82.0% used (177.01 of 215.81 GB), (warn/crit at 80.00/90.00%),
Interface 2          OK - [wlan0] (up) MAC: 6c:40:08:92:e6:54, speed unknown, in: 1.78 kB/
Kernel Context Switches OK - 2283/s
Kernel Major Page Faults OK - 0/s
Kernel Process Creations OK - 10/s
Memory               OK - RAM used: 2.24 GB of 15.58 GB (14.4%),
Mount options of /   OK - mount options exactly as expected
NTP Time             OK - sys.peer - stratum 2, offset 16.62 ms, jitter 5.19 ms, last reac
Nullmailer Queue     OK - Mailqueue length is 4 having a size of 28.00 B
Number of threads    OK - 532 threads
TCP Connections      OK - ESTABLISHED: 35, TIME_WAIT: 4, LISTEN: 14
Temperature Zone 0   OK - 56.0 °C
Uptime               OK - up since Thu Jan 26 09:59:14 2017 (0d 05:55:35)
OK - Agent version 1.4.0i4, execution time 0.1 sec|execution_time=0.128 user_time=0.010 system_time=0.000

Further tips:

  • Do not use this command in monitored production hosts which use Log file monitoring. Log messages are only sent once by agents, and it can happen that a manual cmk -nv ‘catches’ these and that they will then be lost from the monitoring. In such a situation use the --no-tcp option.
  • If Nagios is being used for the core and -n is omitted, the effect will be an immediate actualisation of the check results in the core and in the GUI.
  • The command is useful when developing your own check plug-ins, because it enables a quicker test than by using the GUI. If the check fails und returns an UNKNOWN, the --debug option can help to find the problem location in the code.

The following options influence the command:

--cache If the host is already currently being monitored from the core, the host's intended agent data in tmp/check_mk/cache will be being used, and the agent will not be contacted. This, for example, avoids the problem with the log files as described above.
--no-tcp This is like --cache, however it will interrupt with an error if a cache file is absent or not current. Thus in any situation you can suppress an access of the agents.
--usewalk For SNMP-hosts: instead of accessing the SNMP-agent this uses a stored SNMP-Walk, that has been predefined with cmk --snmpwalk myserver123. These Walks are stored in var/check_mk/snmpwalks.
--checks=df,uptime Restricts the execution to the check plug-ins df and uptime. In the case of SNMP-hosts, only the data required for these will be retrieved. This option is practical if you develop your own check plug-ins and only want to test these.

4.4. Executing a service discovery manually

An automatic service discovery can be started with cmk -I or cmk -II on the command line, and by specifying one or more hosts:

OMD[mysite]:~$ cmk -vI myserver123

There are two modes for this:

cmk -I Finds and adds missing services.
cmk -II Deletes all previously discovered services, and runs a complete new discovery.

All of the applicable details for this theme can be found in the relevant chapter in the article on the services.

4.5. Auxiliary commands

The cmk command has a number of modes that are useful generally for diagnoses and troubleshooting. Here is an overview:

cmk -d myserver123 Retrieves and outputs data from Checkmk-agents.
cmk -D myserver123 Display the configurations of host tags, groups and services.
cmk --paths Important Checkmk directories: what is located where?
cmk -X Check the syntax of configurations in main.mk and etc/check_mk/conf.d.
cmk -l Output the names of all configured hosts.
cmk --list-tag mytag Output the names of all configured hosts with the tag mytag.
cmk -L Output a list of all check plug-ins.
cmk -m Open an interactive catalogue of documentation for check plug-ins.
cmk -M df Display documentation for the check plug-in df.

In the following section we will show how the commands can be used. The examples are mostly shown in an abreviated form.

Retrieving agent output

cmk -d retrieves and displays the outputs from a host's Checkmk-agents. This is not always the same as a telnet to Port 6556 in a target host, since here possible settings for Datasource programs, an encryption of the agent's output and other factors are taken into account. The agent data is thus retrieved with cmk -d in the same way as with the actual monitoring.

OMD[mysite]:~$ cmk -d myserver123
Version: 1.4.0i4
AgentOS: linux
Hostname: Klappfisch
AgentDirectory: /etc/check_mk
DataDirectory: /var/lib/check_mk_agent
SpoolDirectory: /var/lib/check_mk_agent/spool
PluginsDirectory: /usr/lib/check_mk_agent/plugins
LocalDirectory: /usr/lib/check_mk_agent/local
udev              devtmpfs     8155492         4   8155488       1% /dev
tmpfs             tmpfs        1634036      1208   1632828       1% /run
/dev/sda5         ext4       226298268 175047160  39732696      82% /
none              tmpfs              4         0         4       0% /sys/fs/cgroup

You can even call up cmk -d using the name or IP-Address of a host that is not installed in the monitoring. In this case the standard settings for the host will be assumed (i.e., TCP-connection to Port 6556, no encrytion, no datasource program).

Host configuration overview

For a specified host, cmk -D displays the configured services, host tags and other attributes. Because the list of services is so extensive it can look somewhat confusing on the terminal. Send the output through less -S to avoid a break:

OMD[mysite]:~$ cmk -D myserver123 | less -S
Tags:                   /wato/, cmk-agent, lan, prod, tcp, wato
Host groups:
Contact groups:         all
Type of agent:          TCP (port: 6556)
Is aggregated:          no
  checktype        item              params
  ---------------- ----------------- ------------
  cpu.loads        None              (5.0, 10.0)
  kernel.util      None              {}

Path overview for Checkmk

The cmk --paths command displays in which directories Checkmk expects which things. This list does not cover the complete Checkmk system, rather only those things that the command line tool cmk itself works with. Nonetheless it sometimes helps to locate things more quickly:

OMD[mysite]:~$ cmk --paths
Files copied or created during installation
  Main components of check_mk             : /omd/sites/mysite/share/check_mk/modules/
  Checks                                  : /omd/sites/mysite/share/check_mk/checks/
  Notification scripts                    : /omd/sites/mysite/share/check_mk/notifications/
  Inventory plugins                       : /omd/sites/mysite/share/check_mk/inventory/
  Agents for operating systems            : /omd/sites/mysite/share/check_mk/agents/
  Documentation files                     : /omd/sites/mysite/share/doc/check_mk/
  Check_MK's web pages                    : /omd/sites/mysite/share/check_mk/web/
  Check manpages (for check_mk -M)        : /omd/sites/mysite/share/check_mk/checkman/
  Binary plugins (architecture specific)  : /omd/sites/mysite/lib/
  Templates for PNP4Nagios                : /omd/sites/mysite/share/check_mk/pnp-templates/

Configuration files edited by you
  Directory that contains main.mk         : /omd/sites/mysite/etc/check_mk/
  Directory containing further *.mk files : /omd/sites/mysite/etc/check_mk/conf.d/

Configuration check

If you manually edit configuration files in etc/check_mk/, the configuration check using cmk -X is practical. Not only does it show errors in the Python syntax, it also identifies incorrectly coded or undefined variables:

OMD[mysite]:~$ cmk -X
Invalid configuration variable 'foo'
--> Found 1 invalid variables
If you use own helper variables, please prefix them with _.

Output configured hosts

The cmk -l command simply lists the names of all configured hosts:

OMD[mysite]:~$ cmk -l

Because the data is provided ‘naked’ and ‘unprocessed’, it is easy to use in scripts – for example a loop across all host names can be easily constructed:

OMD[mysite]:~$ for host in $(cmk -l) ; do echo "Host: $host" ; done
Host: myserver123
Host: myserver124
Host: myserver125

If, instead of echo you insert a command that performs something meaningful, this can be really useful.

The cmk --list-tag invocation likewise outputs host names, but also offers the possibility of filtering by host tags. Simply enter a host tag and you will receive all hosts having this tag. The following example lists all hosts that are monitored by SNMP:

OMD[mysite]:~$ cmk --list-tag snmp

Enter multiple tags and they will be linked with ‘and’. The below delivers all hosts that are monitored by both SNMP and normal agents:

OMD[mysite]:~$ cmk --list-tag snmp tcp

Overview of the Check plug-ins

Checkmk provides a large number of ready to use plug-ins as standard. In every release a few new ones are added, and Version 1.4.0 already includes around 1,300 plug-ins. Three of the call types give access to the list of available plug-ins. At the same time, any self-written plug-ins stored in local/ will also be listed.

cmk -L produces a table of all plug-ins with their name, type and a description. The following are possible types:

tcp Evaluates the data from a Checkmk-agent. This is (normally) retrieved via TCP Port 6556 – hence the abreviation.
snmp Serves the monitoring of devices via SNMP.
active Calls a standard type of Nagios-compatible plug-in for the monitoring. Here Checkmk actually only adopts the configuration.

The list can of course be filtered simply with grep if something specific is being searched for:

OMD[mysite]:~$ cmk -L | grep f5
f5_bigip_chassis_temp     snmp  F5 Big-IP: Chassis temperature
f5_bigip_cluster          snmp  F5 Big-IP: Cluster state, up to firmware version 10
f5_bigip_cluster_status   snmp  F5 Big-IP: active/active or passive/active cluster status
f5_bigip_cluster_v11      snmp  F5 Big-IP: Cluster state for firmware version >= 11
f5_bigip_conns            snmp  F5 Big-IP: number of current connections
f5_bigip_cpu_temp         snmp  F5 Big-IP: CPU temperature
f5_bigip_fans             snmp  F5 Big-IP: System fans
f5_bigip_interfaces       snmp  F5 Big-IP: Special Network Interfaces
f5_bigip_pool             snmp  F5 Big-IP: Load Balancing Pools
f5_bigip_psu              snmp  F5 Big-IP: Power Supplies
f5_bigip_snat             snmp  F5 Big-IP: Source NAT
f5_bigip_vserver          snmp  F5 Big-IP: Virtual servers

If you want more information on the plug-ins, documentation can be called up with cmk -M:

OMD[mysite]:~$ cmk -M f5_bigip_pool

This produces the following output:

Using cmk -m with no further options will access a complete catalogue of all Check-Manpages.

OMD[mysite]:~$ cmk -m

You can navigate interactively in this catalogue:

5. Configuration without WATO

5.1. Where is the documentation?

WATO is a great web-based configuration tool. There are however many reasons to prefer a configuration with text data in the good, old Linux tradition. If you are of the same opinion there is some good news: Checkmk can be completely configured using text data. And since WATO does no more than process (this same) text data, this is not even an either/or situation.

If you are expecting a comprehensive compendium covering the exact structure of all of the configuration files used by Checkmk, we will unfortunately have to disappoint you here. The complexity and diversity contained in the configuration files is simply too much to describe completely in a handbook.

The following example shows an entire completed parameter set for the Check plug-in which monitors file systems in Checkmk. Because of the many parameters, the screenshot is divided into four parts, and set in lower-case characters:

The corresponding passage in the configuration file looks like this (somewhat more nicely formatted):

{ 'inodes_levels'      : (10.0, 5.0),
  'levels'             : (80.0, 90.0),
  'levels_low'         : (50.0, 60.0),
  'magic'              : 0.8,
  'magic_normsize'     : 20,
  'show_inodes'        : 'onlow',
  'show_levels'        : 'onmagic',
  'show_reserved'      : True,
  'trend_mb'           : (100, 200),
  'trend_perc'         : (5.0, 10.0),
  'trend_perfdata'     : True,
  'trend_range'        : 24,
  'trend_showtimeleft' : True,
  'trend_timeleft'     : (12, 6)},

As can be seen, here there are no fewer than 14 different parameters, each with its own individual logic. Some are configured using floating-point numbers, (0.8), some with integers (24), some with keywords ('onlow'), some with boolean values (True), and others using tuples to code various combinations of these ((5.0, 10.0)).

This is just one example from over 1,000 plug-ins. And there are of course other configurations possible as check parameters: One only needs to think of time periods, event console rules, user profiles, and many more.

Of course that doesn't mean you cannot use text data to generate a configuration! If you don't yet know the exact syntax for your chosen configuration task, you only need the correct tool for it – and this tool we call WATO:

  1. Create a Checkmk test instance.
  2. Use WATO to configure the desired parameters in the instance.
  3. Search for the processed configuration files using WATO (more on this below).
  4. Carry over the exact syntax from the relevant section of this file in your production system.

You thus only need to know in which file WATO writes.

5.2. Which file is correct?

There is a practical command for finding out which file WATO has just changed: find. By invoking ‘find’ with the following paramters you can find all files (-type f) under etc/ which have been altered within the last minute (-mmin -1):

OMD[mysite]:~$ find etc/ -mmin -1 -type f

The basis of a configuration is always the etc/check_mk directory. Below this is a subdivision into various domains, which generally apply to a specific service. At the same time each has a directory with the suffix .d, under which all files with the suffix .mk will be read automatically in alphabetic order. In some there will also be a main file which is read first of all. This is intended only for manual alteration, and is never modified by WATO.

Domain Directory Main file Changes aktivated
Monitoring conf.d/ main.mk cmk -O, bzw. cmk -R
GUI multisite.d/ multisite.mk automatically
Event Console mkeventd.d/ mkeventd.mk omd reload mkeventd
notification spooler mknotifyd.d/ automatically

5.3. Working with WATO

The wato subdirectory is always found under the conf.d/-directory, e.g., etc/check_mk/conf.d/wato. WATO fundamentally only reads and writes here. The actual service reads the remaining files from conf.d if you have stored some manually-created files there. This means:

  • If it is required that the manual configuration be visible and editable in WATO, use identical data paths as used in WATO.
  • If it is required that the configuration simply functions, but is not visible in WATO, then use your own files externally to WATO/.
  • If it is required that the configuration be visible in WATO, but not changeable, some of the files can be locked.

Locking WATO files

A common reason for generating configuration files without WATO is needing to import hosts to be monitored from a CMDB. Here, in contrast to methods using the Web-API, with a script you directly generate the folder for the hosts and its included hosts.mk file, and optionally the .wato file which contains the folder's attributes.

If this import is not just a one-off, rather it is to be repeated regularly because the CMDB is the leading system, it would be very impractical if your users make any changes to the files using WATO, as these will be lost with the next export.

A hosts.mk-file can be locked by including the following line:

# Created by WATO
# encoding: utf-8

_lock = True

A user attempting to access the relevant folder in WATO will receive this response:

All actions which would alter the hosts.mk file are thus locked in the GUI. This does not apply to the service discovery of course. A host's configured services are stored in var/check_mk/autochecks/.

The folder attributes can also be locked. This is achieved with an entry in dict in the folder's .wato file:

{'attributes': {},
 'lock': True,
 'lock_subfolders': False,
 'num_hosts': 1,
 'title': u'Main Directory'}

Also set the lock_subfolders attribute, so that the creation and deletion of subfolders is also prevented.

Locking of other files – such as rules.mk, for example – is not currently possible.

5.4. The files syntax

In purely formal terms, all of Checkmk's configuration files are written in Python 2 syntax. There are two types of files:

  • Those which are executed like a script by Python. Among these is, e.g., hosts.mk.
  • Those which are read in as values by Python. Among these is, e.g., .wato.

The executable files can be recognised by their having variables which are substituted for assignments with values (=). The other files usually contain a Python-Dictionary which begin with an opening bracket '{'. Sometimes they are simple values.

If a non-ASCII character is required in a file (a German Umlaut (ä, ö, ü), for example), the following comment must be coded in the first or second line:

# encoding: utf-8

A syntax error will otherwise occur when reading the file. For further tips on Python syntax we recommend visiting a specialist site, for example: The Python Language Reference.