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dCache has an alarms backend service which records failures (alarms) requiring more or less urgent intervention. The service stores alarms by either in an XML file or an RDBMS. The service is turned off by default.

The alarms service is contacted by the frontend service; alarms are collected using a simple time range query. Further filtering of the alarms occurs via the RESTful alarms API. The web dCache-View alarm page provides for both the timestamp range and the filtering and sorting of alarms by fields. Admins also have access to buttons which allow them to mark alarms as closed or to delete them altogether.

The basic setup

It is not necessary to run the alarms service in a separate domain, though depending on the individual system configuration it may still be advisable not to embed the service in a domain already burdened with higher memory requirements.

The alarms service stores only logging messages which are marked as alarms, regardless of the logging level at which these alarms are generated (usually as ERROR, but it is theoretically possible to create an alarm even as a TRACE logging event).

In order to capture any alarms from other domains at startup, it is also necessary to arrange for the alarm service to start before the other doors and pools.

Currently, no support is given for multiplexed alarms services; the frontend can only communicate with one such service.

Add the alarms service to a domain in the layout file in the usual manner:




Note that the storage type setting alarms.db.type must be defined either in the layout or /etc/dcache/dcache.conf file because its default value is off; this can be set to either xml, or rdbms. In the latter case, the standard set of properties can be used to configure the connection url, db user, and so forth. Before using the rdbms option for the first time, be sure to run:

        createdb -U alarms.db.user alarms

to create the database; as usual, the actual schema will be initialized automatically when the service is started.

For the XML option, the storage file is usually found in the shared directory for alarms (corresponding to alarms.dir); the usual path is /var/lib/dcache/store.xml, but the location can be changed by setting alarms.db.xml.path. This will automatically be propagated to alarms.db.url.

As a rule of thumb, the choice between XML and RDBMS is dictated by how much history is to be preserved. While the XML option is more lightweight and easier to configure, it is limited by performance, experiencing considerable read and write slowdown as the file fills (beyond 1000 entries or so). If you do not need to maintain records of alarms (and either manually delete alarms which have been serviced, or use the built-in cleanup feature – see below), then this option should be sufficient. Otherwise, the extra steps of installing postgreSQL on the appropriate node and creating the alarms database (as above) may be worth the effort.

Configure where the alarms service is running

The alarms infrastructure is actually a wrapper around the logging layer and makes use of a simple tcp socket logger to transmit logging events to the server. In each domain, the /etc/dcache/logback.xml configuration references the following properties to control remote logging:


As with the alarms service database type, remote logging is turned off by default. Under normal circumstances it should be sufficient to set this to warn in order to receive alarms. All alarms are currently in fact guaranteed to be sent at this logging level or higher. Setting this to a lower level should not affect performance, because even if there were alarms generated at, say, the INFO level, all events are filtered for being marked as alarms in the client before being sent over the wire; however, at present there is no need to set the level any lower.

For the alarms endpoint, if all of your dCache domains run on the same host, then the default localhost value will work. But usually your dCache will not be configured to run on a single node, so each node will need to know the destination of the remote logging events. On all the nodes except where the actual alarms service resides, you will thus need to modify the /etc/dcache/dcache.conf file or the layout file to set the dcache.log.server.host property (and restart dCache if it is already up). The default port should usually not need to be modified; in any case, it needs to correspond to whatever port the service is running on. From inspection of the /usr/share/dcache/alarms.properties file, you can see that the alarms-specific properties mirror the logger properties:

#  ---- Host on which this service is running
#  ---- TCP port the alarms service listens on

The first property should not need any adjustment, but if alarms.net.port is modified, be sure to modify the dcache.log.server.port property on the other nodes to correspond to it. In general, it is advisable to work directly with the dcache.log.server properties everywhere.

Example: An example of a dCache which consists of a head node, some door nodes and some pool nodes. If the head node contains the alarms service, set the property dcache.log.server.host on the pool nodes and on the door nodes to:


Types of Alarms

The dCache alarm system runs on top of the logging system (and more specifically, depends on the ch.qos.logback logging library). It promotes normal logging events to alarm status by a special marker. They all carry this general logging marker ALARM and also can carry sub-markers for type and uniqueness identifiers. They also carry information indicating the host, domain and service which emits them. All alarms are internally defined by dCache. For getting the list of types, see the commands below.

Alarm Priority

The notion of alarm or alert carries the implication that this particular error or condition requires user attention/intervention; there may be, however, differences in urgency which permit the ordering of such notices in terms of degree of importance. dCache allows the administrator complete control over this prioritization.

The available priority levels are:

  • HIGH
  • LOW

Any alarm can be set to whatever priority level is deemed appropriate. This can be done through the admin interface commands (see below). Without any customization, all alarms are given a default priority level. This level can itself be changed via the value of alarms.priority-mapping.default, which by default is critical.

Filtering based on priority is possible both in the webadmin page (see below), and for alarms sent via email (alarms.email.threshold; fuller discussion of how to enable email alarms is given in a later section).

Working with Alarms: Shell Commands

Some basic alarm commands are available as part of the dCache shell. The following is an abbreviated description; for fuller information, see the dCache man page.

alarm send Send an arbitrary alarm message to the alarm server. The remote server address is taken from the local values for dcache.log.server.host and dcache.log.server.port. If the [-t=TYPE] option is used, it must be a defined alarm type.

alarm list Displays a list of all alarm types currently defined in dCache code. Since these types can be modified with any incremental release, a listing in this manual would be of limited value. It is easy enough to check which ones currently are defined using this command or the predefined ls admin command.

Working with Alarms: Admin Commands

A similar set of commands is available through the admin interface. To see fuller information for each of these, do \h [command].

predefined ls Print a list of all internally defined alarms.

priority get default Get the current default alarm priority value.

priority ls [type] Print a single priority level or sorted list of priority levels for all known alarms.

priority reload [path] Reinitialize priority mappings from saved changes.

priority restore all Set all defined alarms to the current default priority value.

priority save [path] Save the current priority mappings to persistent back-up.

priority set type low|moderate|high|critical Set the priority of the alarm type.

priority set default low|moderate|high|critical Set the default alarm priority value.

send [OPTIONS] message Send an alarm to the alarm service.


It is possible to change the file location by setting the alarms.priority-mapping.path and/or alarms.dir properties in the layout or /etc/dcache/dcache.conf. As can be seen from the admin commands, it is also possible to specify the path as an option on the respective save and reload commands. Note, however, that this is meant mainly for temporary or back-up purposes, as the path defined in the local dcache configuration will remain unaltered after that command completes and the priority map will be reloaded from there once again whenever the domain is restarted.


Any changes made via the priority set default command are in-memory only. To change this default permanently, set the alarms.priority-mapping.default property in the layout or /etc/dcache/dcache.conf.

Working with Alarms: the dCache-View Alarms tab

The Alarms View is available to all users currently as read-only. To be able to open/close or delete alarms, the user must log in with the ‘admin’ role if that user has it. Please refer to the dCache-View and frontend documentation for further information.

The alarms table allows for filtering and sorting on all alarms fields, and also timestamped ranges for the basic query.

Advanced Service Configuration: enabling Automatic Cleanup

An additional feature of the alarms infrastructure is automatic cleanup of processed alarms. An internal thread runs every so often, and purges all alarms marked as closed with a timestamp earlier than the given window. This daemon can be configured using the properties alarms.enable.cleaner, alarms.cleaner.timeout, alarms.cleaner.timeout.unit, alarms.cleaner.delete-entries-before and alarms.cleaner.delete-entries-before.unit. The cleaner is off by default. This feature is mainly useful when running over an XML store, to mitigate slow-down due to bloat; nevertheless, there is nothing prohibiting its use with RDBMS.

Advanced Service Configuration: enabling email alerts

To configure the server to send alarms via email, you need to set a series of alarm properties. No changes are necessary to any logback.xml file. The most important properties:

alarms.enable.email, alarms.email.threshold Off (false) and critical by default.

alarms.email.smtp-host, alarms.email.smtp-port Email server destination. The port defaults to 25.

SMTP authentication and encryption The SMTP client used by dCache supports authentication via plain user passwords as well as both the STARTTLS and SSL protocols. Note that STARTTLS differs from SSL in that, in STARTTLS, the connection is initially non-encrypted and only after the STARTTLS command is issued by the client (if the server supports it) does the connection switch to SSL. In SSL mode, the connection is encrypted right from the start. Which of these to use is usually determined by the server.

If username and password are left undefined, unauthenticated sends will be attempted, which may not be supported by the server.

The values to use for plain user/password authentication default to undefined. NOTE: while using SSL will guarantee encryption over the wire, there is currently no way of storing an encrypted password. Two possible workarounds: a. Set up an admin account with a plaintext password that is protected by root privileges but which can be shared among adminstrators or those with access to the host containing this file; b. Set up a host-based authentication to the server; the email admin will usually require the client IP, and it will need to be static in that case.

sender and recipient Only one sender may be listed, but multiple recipients can be indicated by a comma-separated list of email addresses.

See the shared defaults /usr/share/dcache/alarms.properties file for additional settings.

Miscellaneous Properties of the Alarms Service

There are a number of other settings avaible for customization; check the files /usr/share/dcache/alarms.properties for the complete list with explanations.

Alarms SPI (Service Provider Interface)

It is possible to plug functionality into the alarms service by implementing the SPI interface. An example of this can be found here:


Alarms and Kakfa

Alarms is not a replicable service because it uses a logback client which requires a fixed URL. Enabling dcache.log.level.kafka to send alarms to a kafka service is, however, possible, though without the alarms service, one loses the ability to receive alarms in dCache-View, not to mention the deletion and close functions, and also the ability to use the SPI plugins.