What is Sensu?

Sensu is often described as the “monitoring router”. Essentially, Sensu takes the results of “check” scripts run across many systems, and if certain conditions are met; passes their information to one or more “handlers”. Checks are used, for example, to determine if a service like Apache is up or down. Checks can also be used to collect data, such as MySQL query statistics or Rails application metrics. Handlers take actions, using result information, such as sending an email, messaging a chat room, or adding a data point to a graph. There are several types of handlers, but the most common and most powerful is “pipe”, a script that receives data via standard input. Check and handler scripts can be written in any language, and the community repository continues to grow!

Fun Sensu facts:

  • Written in Ruby, using EventMachine.
  • Has great test coverage with continuous integration via Travis CI.
  • Can use existing Nagios plugins.
  • Configuration is all in JSON.
  • Has a message-oriented architecture, using RabbitMQ and JSON payloads.
  • Packages are “omnibus”, for consistency, isolation, and low-friction deployment.

Sensu is designed for modern infrastructures and to be driven by configuration management tools, designed for the “cloud”.


The Sensu framework is made up of a number of components.

The following is a diagram of the core components and how they interact with one another.

Sensu Diagram


All of the Sensu components require access to an instance of RabbitMQ, in order to communicate with each-other.

A few components require access to an instance of Redis, for storing persistent data.


Depends on: RabbitMQ, Redis

The Sensu server is responsible for orchestrating check executions, the processing of check results, and event handling. You may run one or more Sensu servers, tasks are distributed amongst them, and they can be ephemeral. Servers will inspect every check result, saving some of their information for a period of time. Check results that indicate a service failure or contain data such as metrics, will have additional context added to them, creating an event. The Sensu server passes events to handlers.


Depends on: RabbitMQ

The Sensu client runs on all of your systems that you want to monitor. The client receives check execution requests, executes the checks, and publishes their results. Clients can also schedule their own check executions, these are called “standalone” checks. The client provides a local TCP and UDP socket for external check result input, allowing applications to easily integrate with Sensu.


Depends on: RabbitMQ, Redis

The Sensu API provides a REST-like interface to Sensu’s data, such as registered clients and current events. You may run one or more Sensu APIs. The API is capable of many actions, such as issuing check execution requests, resolving events, and removing a registered clients.


Depends on: API

The Sensu dashboard is a web based dashboard, providing an overview of the health of your monitored infrastructure. The dashboard only communicates with the Sensu API, exposing its features/abilities, with a human friendly interface. The Sensu dashboard is not part of the Sensu “core”, as it’s common to create custom dashboards, however, it is included in the Sensu package.

Can't find what you're looking for? Jump on over to the support page for details on community and commercial support resources, including the official IRC channel and Incident Support (provided by Heavy Water Operations).