Service Dependencies

1. Nagios' concept of Service Dependencies

Nagios allows you to define dependencies between services. With the object type servicedependency you can define that service A depends on service B. Why? It allows you to reduce the number of redundant notifications.

If B breaks and A depends on B, A will also break (well - that is what "dependent" means). Without a dependency definition Nagios will send out two notifications: one for A and one for B. In extreme cases one broken service (for example a database intance) can result in dozens of other broken services (for example that database instance's table spaces).

But if Nagios knows about the dependencies it can suppress the notification of all dependent services and only notify about the real cause of the problem.

Unfortunately that nice feature of Nagios is rarely used. The main reason is that the dependencies are tedious to configure. For each pair of dependent services you have to write a separate definition:

define servicedependency {
    use                           default
    host_name                     host123
    service_description           Service_B
    dependent_host_name           host123
    dependent_service_description Service_A

2. Service Dependencies in check_mk

Since version 1.0.33 check_mk greatly simplifies the definition of service dependencies, as long as you can live with the following restrictions:

  • Only dependencies on the same host can be defined.
  • Only services of check_mk can be used for dependencies.
  • No legacy_checks can be used
  • The dependencies can only be used for suppressing notifications - not for suppressing the checks.

Of course you can manually define further dependencies directly in Nagios.

The configuration is done in one single variable: service_dependencies. It is a configuration very similar to service_groups. You may use host tags in this list. The following example makes all services with the description NIC eth0 parameters dependent on the service NIC eth0 link on all hosts:
service_dependencies = [
 ( "NIC eth0 link", ALL_HOSTS, [ "NIC eth0 parameter" ] ),

The rightmost tuple argument is the list of dependent services. So in one single line can define several dependencies. Let's make NIC eth0 counters also dependent on the link state:
service_dependencies = [
 ( "NIC eth0 link", ALL_HOSTS, ["NIC eth0 parameter","NIC eth0 counters"]),

2.1. Matching and referring to substrings

Now what about eth1 and all other network interfaces? Making one definition for each possible interface would be possible. Easier is doing it with regular expressions: Each dependent service may contain one regex group in brackets - usually (.*). The service in the first tuple argument must contain exactly one %s:
service_dependencies = [
 ( "NIC %s link", ALL_HOSTS, ["NIC (.*) parameter","NIC (.*) counters"]),

Now that rule deals with all possible NIC names at once!

3. Nagios template

The servicedependency definitions that check_mk creates (while -S or -U), all use the template check_mk:

define servicedependency {
    use                           check_mk
    host_name                     localhost
    service_description           NIC eth0 link
    dependent_host_name           localhost
    dependent_service_description NIC eth0 parameters

You have to make sure that a servicedependency-template with the name check_mk is defined. The sample template file which you find in the documentation directory (usually /usr/share/doc/check_mk) defines such a template:

define servicedependency {
  name                            check_mk
  register                        0
  notification_failure_criteria   u,c
  inherits_parent                 1

4. Advanced aspects of service dependencies

4.1. Service aggregation

Service dependencies cannot be used for aggregated services. Only the base services can depend upon each other. That does not mean, that you cannot use service aggregation together with dependencies.

4.2. Missing services

When you use regular expressions and substrings as shown above, situations might arise where A depends on B but B does not exist. Checkmk will ignore such dependencies silently.

Here is one example: If you are using Linux' ethernet bridges you might have an ethernet interface eth0 and a bridge br0. Since the later is just a logical interface, it does not have a link state, but it does have counters. So NIC br0 counters exists but NIC br0 link does not exist. Nevertheless you can make NIC (.*) counters dependent on NIC %s link on all hosts without running into an error.

4.3. Cyclic dependencies and check order

If A depends on B then B cannot depend on A - at least not in check_mk. The reason for that is that check_mk orders all checks of a host such, that if A depends on B than B is always checked before A. Why?

Consider what would happen if this wasn't that way: A depends on B, but A is checked before B. Now A fails. Nagios does not yet know about B going to fail, too, in a couple of milliseconds. It looks at its current state of B - which is that of the previous check cycle. B is in an OK state from that point of view and the service dependency is not fireing (at least not if you have set max_check_attempts to 1).

If you have cycles in your dependency then check_mk cannot find a valid order for the checks and aborts the creation of the configuration files.