Simple OTP app for managing Erlang VM system_monitor event messages
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Latest commit 90beffb Sep 5, 2014 Jared Morrow Merge branch '2.0'


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riak_sysmon is an Erlang/OTP application that manages the event messages that can be generated by the Erlang virtual machine's system_monitor BIF (Built-In Function). These messages can notify a central data-gathering process about the following events:

  • Processes that have their private heaps grow beyond a certain size.
  • Processes whose private heap garbage collection ops take too long
  • Ports that are busy, e.g., blocking file & socket I/O
  • Network distribution ports are busy, e.g., lots of communication with a slow peer Erlang node.

The problem with system_monitor events is that there isn't a mechanism within the Erlang virtual machine that limits the rate at which the events are generated. A busy VM can easily create many hundreds of these messages per second. Some kind of rate-limiting filter is required to avoid further overloading a system that may already be overloaded.

This app will use two processes for system_monitor message handling.

  1. A gen_server process to provide a rate-limiting filter.
  2. A gen_event server to allow flexible, user-defined functions to respond to system_monitor events that pass through the first stage filter.

There can be only one system_monitor process

(Silly reference to The Highlander omitted....)

The Erlang/OTP documentation is pretty clear on this point: only one process can receive system_monitor messages. But using the riak_sysmon OTP app, if multiple parties are interested in receiving system_monitor events, each party can add an event handler to the riak_sysmon_handler event handler.

The event handler process in this application uses the registered name riak_sysmon_handler. To add your handler, use something like: gen_event:add_sup_handler(riak_sysmon_handler, yourModuleName, YourInitialArgs).

See the gen_event documentation for add_sup_event/3 for API details. See the example event handler module in the source repository, src/riak_sysmon_example_handler.erl, for example usage.

Events sent to custom event handlers

The following events can be sent from the riak_sysmon filtering/rate-limiting process (a.k.a. riak_sysmon_filter) to the event handler process (a.k.a. riak_sysmon_handler).

  • {monitor, pid(), atom(), term()} ... These are system_monitor messages as they are received verbatim by the riak_sysmon_filter process. See the reference documentation for erlang:system_monitor/2 for details.
  • {suppressed, proc_events | port_events, Num::integer()} ... These messages inform your event handler that Num events of a certain type (proc_events or port_events) were suppressed in the last second (i.e. their arrival rate exceeded the configured rate limit).