Sending Wavefront Data from the CLI
08 April 2018 ; Wavefront

Note: This article was originally published in July 2016. It has been updated to cover the new report feature, and the 2.x syntax. I have also written a complete guide to the Wavefront CLI.

Most Wavefront users have agents, like Telegraf or Collectd running on their hosts or alongside their containers, streaming metrics in via proxies.

Sometimes though it’s useful to be able to send metrics in a more ad-hoc way, and my Wavefront CLI can fill that gap.

The CLI has always had the write sub-command, which writes points to a proxy. But now Wavefront can receive metrics via its API, bypassing the proxies altogether. The CLI has grown a report subcommand which uses this new feature.

Let’s have a look at data ingestion from the command-line. All the examples use version 2.4.0 of the wavefront-cli gem, and talk to a 2018-10 Wavefront cluster or later. Any report operations require a token which holds the “direct data ingestion” privilege.

Single, Arbitrary Points

Sometimes – trust me – you want to poke just the odd point into Wavefront. The write point and report point sub-commands do just that. Here’s their syntax.

wf write point [-DnVq] [-c file] [-P profile] [-E proxy] [-p port]
               [-t time] [-H host] [-T tag...] <metric> <value>

wf report point [-DnV] [-c file] [-P profile] [-E endpoint] [-t token]
               [-s time] [-H host] [-T tag...] <metric> <value>

Pretty simple, right? The first form, wf write uses a proxy, specified by the -E option. The second, wf report is new, and specifies an endpoint with -E. This is because it writes directly to the API: no proxy required.

$ date
Mon Apr 09 15:55:38 BST 2018
$ wf write point dev.cli.example 1
          sent 1
      rejected 0
        unsent 0
$ wf report point dev.cli.example 1
Point received.
$ wf query --granularity=s --start=15:55 'ts("dev.cli.example")'
name         ts("dev.cli.example")
query        ts("dev.cli.example")
  label      dev.cli.example
  host       box
  data       2018-04-09   15:56:19    20.0
  label      dev.cli.example
  host       box
    env      lab
  data       2018-04-09   15:55:58    10.0

Note that the query results are in two sections, even though we sent two values on the same metric path. The directly ingested point (value 20) has no tags, but the one we sent via the proxy is tagged with env=lab. This is because my lab proxy has a preprocessor rule which tags everything going through it, and it shows that sending points directly, though useful in many cases, is not a straight substitute for using a proxy.

Most obviously, API calls are far more expensive. Sending a metric via report takes about a second for me, because that metric’s got to get from England to us-west-1, over HTTPS. Sending to a proxy listening on a Unix socket on the same subnet is pretty much instantaneous.

And the Wavefront proxy is not a thing you want to avoid. Even a modestly sized one can handle insane amounts of metrics, and it gives you great reliability through its buffering and retrying, and efficiency through batching and compressing of the data it sends. It lets you manipulate, mangle, or block points based on sophisticated rules. It can extract metrics from log files, tag things on the fly, understand all kinds of different formats. And it generates rich metrics of everything it does, which can be very useful when things don’t go as they should.

That’s not to say direct ingestion is without value. For instance, we made an IoT biscuit tin, and we wanted its metrics to go to Wavefront. That turned out to be a huge pain, because all our proxies, and indeed, all our hosts were in AWS, and our biscuit tin was in the office. Direct ingestion would have been perfect for a little job like that. We’ve also, at times, wanted to put a small amount of data from Lambda functions into Wavefront, but the Lambdas were running in VPCs without proxy access. We could peer, or stand up proxies, but direct ingestion would have been easier all round.

In both the write and report commands, we didn’t specify a timestamp for the point, so the CLI assumed “now”. There is a way to tiemstamp a point manually, but it’s the one difference between write and report.

When I wrote the original write command, direct ingestion did not exist and, since writing via a proxy didn’t require a token, I used -t for the timestamp of a point. “Why on earth not?”, I thought. It seemed like good common sense. Then report came along, and it uses the API, so it needs a token, and every other command uses -t for that. Gah!

Rather than break the existing write options, I chose to use -s for the timestamp on the report command, as it’s the other half of ts, which is the internal variable for a timestamp. I’m sorry if that annoys you: at least know that annoys me too.

When you set a timestamp, as in all wf subcommands, you can use epoch seconds or, anything naturally parseable by Ruby’s strptime() method.

$ wf write point -t 14:20:33 dev.cli.example 98.76
          sent 1
      rejected 0
        unsent 0

The “points sent” summary might get on your nerves after a while, but it can be silenced with -q. If anything goes wrong, even with -q specified, wf will exit nonzero and print the summary anyway.

You can write points with tags, using -T. Multiples are allowed.

$ wf write point -q -t 14:25 -T cmd=wf -T subcmd=write dev.cli.example 99.999

If I don’t specify a source (or “host”), the CLI will use what it thinks is the hostname of my machine. Up to now that’s been box.

$ wf write point -q -H made-up-host dev.cli.example 99

Tags and source names work exactly the same whether you are write-ing or report-ing.

Here are the points we just sent. Hover over them and you’ll see the tags. (If you can’t see the chart, you’ll have to enable third-party cookies for this page, because the embedded graphs use Typekit.)

I did not specify a proxy endpoint or port in any of the above examples. The write command respects the .wavefront config file, so I have my proxy stowed away in there:

$ grep -v token ~/.wavefront
endpoint =
format = human
proxy = wavefront.localnet

report uses the proxy and token just like any other wf command.

Multiple Points, From a File

Writing one point at a time is fine, and may well be just what you need, but it’s more likely that you want to push in a batch of points.

A while ago, I needed to push retrospective data into Wavefront. At the time I had to hack together some Ruby to do it, but now I could use the CLI.

Here’s an example file.

$ cat file1
1469008889 dev.cli.file1 10511
1469008890 dev.cli.file1 26042
1469008892 dev.cli.file1 20384
1469008893 dev.cli.file1 20326
1469008894 dev.cli.file1 21355
1469008895 dev.cli.file1 20997

It should be obvious that the three fields are epoch timestamp, metric path, and value. I can load in that file with the following ‘write file’ command. Supplying -V will show me the points in Wavefront wire format, as they go in.

$ wf write file -V -F tmv file1
Connecting to wavefront:2878.
Sending: dev.cli.file1 9105.0 1470327894 source=box
Sending: dev.cli.file1 12298.0 1470327895 source=box
Sending: dev.cli.file1 30598.0 1470327896 source=box
Sending: dev.cli.file1 31797.0 1470327897 source=box
Sending: dev.cli.file1 22708.0 1470327898 source=box
Sending: dev.cli.file1 766.0 1470327899 source=box
Sending: dev.cli.file1 25143.0 1470327900 source=box
Sending: dev.cli.file1 2993.0 1470327901 source=box
Sending: dev.cli.file1 29433.0 1470327902 source=box
Sending: dev.cli.file1 12263.0 1470327903 source=box
Closing connection to proxy.
Point summary: 10 sent, 0 unsent, 0 rejected.

And here’s the chart. Hover over the points and you’ll see the values from the file.

The key part of the wf write file command is the -F option. This lets the user describe the format of the file they wish wf to parse. t stands for timestamp; m for metric, and v for value. So, tmv, describes the format of file1.

The v column is mandatory, but the time and metric path can be set in other ways. For instance, the -m option allows you to define a metric path which will be applied to all data points in the file. So, the following file and command would be an identical data load to the example above.

$ cat file1
1471025043 144
1471025167 185
1471025253 157
1471025350 129
1471025384 48
1471025540 67
1471025549 172
$ wf write file -F tv -m dev.cli.file1 file1

You can also use -m to set a metric prefix, and have the final portion of the metric in your file. If you do that, the two parts will be concatenated. I’ll show you that later.

If you wish, you can even add point tags to a data load. For fine-grained control, put them at the end of each line to which they apply. To tag everything uniformly, use the -T key=val option. If you do both, you get both sets of tags. Tags have to be at the end of the line because there can be arbitrarily many for each data point, and the number may not be constant.

Oh, and all this works identically for wf report.

Multiple Points, from a Live Source

Though it’s more useful than sending a single point, I still think loading data in from a static file is something most people would use rarely, if ever. Far more useful to, in proper Unix style, set the input file to -, and read from standard in.

Maybe the simplest illustration is to generate some (pseudo) random data. (Disregarding the fact that Wavefront has a perfectly capable random() function.)

$ while true; do echo $RANDOM; sleep 1; done | wf write file -V -m dev.cli.demo -Fv -
Connecting to wavefront.localnet:2878.
Sending: dev.cli.demo 18718.0 source=box
Sending: dev.cli.demo 13481.0 source=box
Sending: dev.cli.demo 18154.0 source=box
Sending: dev.cli.demo 7834.0 source=box
Sending: dev.cli.demo 19986.0 source=box
Sending: dev.cli.demo 7418.0 source=box
Sending: dev.cli.demo 20295.0 source=box
Sending: dev.cli.demo 20602.0 source=box


That’s fine, but you’re more likely to want to plot the output of a command, so to illustrate that, here’s a little script which generates the points for a parabola. You can see it outputs pairs of numbers: the first is the abcissa, as a timestamp, and the second is the ordinate.

#!/usr/bin/env ruby

h, k, a = 25, 1000, 10

1.upto(49) do |x|
  $stdout.puts "#{} #{a * (x - h) ** 2 + k}"
  sleep 1

The $stdout stuff is necessary because otherwise the script will flush all its output when it exits, and I wanted to use wf’s -V option to watch the points flowing through when I was testing. (wf has a --noop flag which will not make a connection to the proxy, and will show you the points in Wavefront wire format, in real-time.)

Anyway, run the script, and pipe its output into wf, supplying a metric path and a description of the file format.

$ ./parabola.rb | wf write file -m dev.cli.demo -F tv -

Back in a previous article, I wrote some Ruby to wire DTrace into Wavefront. Now, I can use the write file command for simple D scripts.

Revisiting intr.d, I can describe the field format I expect, and wf will ignore lines which don’t match. The first field is the CPU ID, which I want as the final part of the metric path, and the second is the value to send (in this case, the total number of interrupts handled by that CPU). Because I am not supplying any timestamps, wf will use the current UTC time whenever it sends a point. -V is for verbosity.

# ./intr.d | wf write file -V -m dev.cli.d1 -F mv -
Connecting to proxy at wavefront:2878.
dtrace: script '/expor/home/rob/intr.d' matched 2 probes
WARNING: wrong number of fields. Skipping.
WARNING: wrong number of fields. Skipping.
Sending: dev.cli.d1.1 265 1469136415 source=shark
Sending: dev.cli.d1.3 268 1469136415 source=shark
Sending: dev.cli.d1.2 331 1469136415 source=shark
Sending: dev.cli.d1.0 647 1469136415 source=shark
WARNING: wrong number of fields. Skipping.
WARNING: wrong number of fields. Skipping.
Sending: dev.cli.d1.3 517 1469136416 source=shark
Sending: dev.cli.d1.1 550 1469136416 source=shark
Sending: dev.cli.d1.2 887 1469136416 source=shark

and, with the whole thing wrapped in a deriv() to turn a counter into a gauge, I see:

Or how about kstats? Say I’d like to see a chart of network throughput when I do an NFS copy between a couple of machines. That’s now a one-liner. (Or it would be if I didn’t have to break it because of formatting issues!) Let’s use direct ingestion, just to show that it works the same.

$ while true; do kstat link:0:net0:obytes64 | grep obytes; sleep 1; done | \
  wf report file -Fmv -m -

That required no setting up, and nothing beyond a local installation of the wavefront-cli gem. Now you have no excuse for not putting everything in Wavefront!