collectd plugin to write to Carbon (frontend for Graphite's Whisper storage format)
Latest commit b566c06 Feb 3, 2014 @indygreg Merge pull request #27 from pburkholder/master
Sanitize double quotes


collectd-carbon is a collectd plugin that writes obtained values to Carbon.

Carbon is a frontend to Whisper, which is a storage engine (similar to RRD). At this time, Carbon and Whisper are likely encountered alongside Graphite, a nifty real-time graphing application.

Short version: collectd-carbon is an alternative data writer to RRD.


  • Collectd 4.9 or later (for the Python plugin) (A patch may be required to fix the Python plugin - see below)
  • Python 2.4 or later
  • A running Carbon LineReceiver server (such as

If you don't have Python configured and still wish to write Collectd information to Graphite/Carbon, see for a similar plugin written in C.

Version Information

collectd-carbon does not currently maintain release versions. The policy (at least on indygreg's original Github repository) is that the master branch should always be stable and production ready.

As always, it is probably best to exercise discretion. If a commit has landed recently, you may want to consider looking it over and/or waiting a little while for others to test it for you.


The plugin requires some configuration. This is done by passing parameters via the config section in your Collectd config. The following parameters are recognized:

  • LineReceiverHost - hostname or IP address where a Carbon line receiver is listening
  • LineReceiverPort - port on which line receiver is listening
  • LineReceiverProtocol - method in which you wish to send the packet to the line receiver. Options are: tcp or udp (default = tcp)
  • TypesDB - file(s) defining your Collectd types. This should be the sames as your TypesDB global config parameters. If not specified, the plugin will not work.
  • DifferentiateCounters - If present, the plugin will normalize COUNTER and DERIVE types by recording the difference between two subsequent values. See the section below.
  • DifferentiateCountersOverTime - If present, the plugin will divide the values of COUNTER and DERIVE types by the interval between the two subsequent values. Implies DifferentiateCounters. See the section below.
  • LowercaseMetricNames - If present, all metric names will be converted to lower-case.
  • MetricPrefix - If present, all metric names will contain this string prefix. Do not include a trailing period.
  • HostPostfix - If present, all hostnames will contain this string postfix (my_host_name.HostPostfix). Do not include a trailing period.
  • HostSeparator - If present, will change the default behavior of inserting a "_" between the hostname (my_host_name) to this value.
  • MetricSeparator - If present, will change the default behavior of inserting a "." within type and type_instances. This can be used to prevent deep paths in Graphite/carbon for IPs and hostnames.


The following is an example Collectd configuration for this plugin:

<LoadPlugin "python">
    Globals true

<Plugin "python">
    # is at path /opt/collectd-plugins/
    ModulePath "/opt/collectd-plugins/"

    Import "carbon_writer"

    <Module "carbon_writer">
        LineReceiverHost "myhost.mydomain"
        LineReceiverPort 2003
        LineReceiverProtocol "tcp"
        DifferentiateCountersOverTime true
        LowercaseMetricNames true
        TypesDB "/usr/share/collectd/types.db"

Operational Notes

If the connection to the line receiver cannot be established or goes bad, the plugin will automatically attempt to reconnect. If connections fail, the plugin will reconnect at most once every 10 seconds. This prevents many likely failures from occurring when the server is down.

The plugin needs to parse Collectd type files. If there was an error parsing a specific type (look for log messages at Collectd startup time), the plugin will fail to write values for this type. It will simply skip over them and move on to the next value. It will write a log message every time this happens so you can correct the problem.

The plugin needs to perform redundant parsing of the type files because the Collectd Python API does not provide an interface to the types information (unlike the Perl and Java plugin APIs). Hopefully this will be addressed in a future version of Collectd.

Data Mangling

Collectd data is collected/written in discrete tuples having the following:

(host, plugin, plugin_instance, type, type_instance, time, interval, metadata, values)

values is itself a list of { counter, gauge, derive, absolute } (numeric) values. To further complicate things, each distinct type has its own definition corresponding to what's in the values field.

Graphite, by contrast, deals with tuples of ( metric, value, time ). So, we effectively need to mangle all those extra fields down into the metric value.

This plugin mangles the fields to the metric name:


Where data_source is the name of the data source (i.e. ds_name) in the type being written.

For example, the Collectd distribution has a built-in df type:

df used:GAUGE:0:1125899906842623, free:GAUGE:0:1125899906842623

The data_source values for this type would be used and free yielding the metrics (along the lines of) hostname_domain.plugin.df.used and


Collectd data types, like RRDTool, differentiate between ABSOLUTE, COUNTER, DERIVE, and GAUGE types. When values are stored in RRDTool, these types invoke special functionality. However, they do nothing special in Carbon. And, if you are using Graphite, they complicate matters because you'll want to apply a derivative function to COUNTER and DERIVE types to obtain any useful values.

When the plugin is configured with the DifferentiateCounters flag, the plugin will send the difference between two data points to Carbon. Please note the following regarding behavior:

  • Data is sent to Carbon after receiving the 2nd data point. This is because the plugin must establish an initial value from which to calculate the difference.
  • The plugin is aware of the minimum and maximum values and will handle overflows and wrap-arounds properly.
  • An overflow for a type with max value U is treated as an initial value. i.e. you will lose one data point.
  • A minimum value of U is treated as 0.

Please note that DifferentiateCounters stores the difference, not the actually time-derivative, between 2 values. This can lead to some unexpected, but still valid, behavior. For example, with a Collectd polling interval of 10s, values dispatches from the CPU plugin will be normalized to around 1000 (100 per each second). RRD, by contrast, would normalize values to around 100. If graphed, the values should form the same shapes, but off by a scale of 10:1.

If DifferentiateCountersOverTime is configured, the actual time-derivative betwen the values is stored. This results in CPU plugin results that are normalized to around 100 (like RRD).

DifferentiateCountersOverTime implies DifferentiateCounters.


You can see the raw values dispatched to carbon by packet sniffing:

$ sudo ngrep -qd any . tcp dst port 2003


$ sudo ngrep -qd any . udp dst port 2003

Collectd Python Write Callback Bug

Collectd versions through 4.10.2 and 4.9.4 have a bug in the Python plugin where Python would receive bad values for certain data sets. The bug would typically manifest as data values appearing to be 0. The original author of this plugin identified the bug and sent a fix to the Collectd development team.

Collectd versions 4.9.5, 4.10.3, and 5.0.0 are the first official versions with a fix for this bug. If you are not running one of these versions or have not applied the fix (which can be seen at, you will likely dispatch wrong values to Carbon.

Collectd 4.10.3 on EL5 ImportError

Using the plugin with collectd-4.10.3 from EPEL5 on RHEL or CentOS 5.x may produce the following error:

Jul 20 14:54:38 mon0 collectd[2487]: plugin_load_file: The global flag is not supported, libtool 2 is required for this.
Jul 20 14:54:38 mon0 collectd[2487]: python plugin: Error importing module "carbon_writer".
Jul 20 14:54:38 mon0 collectd[2487]: Unhandled python exception in importing module: ImportError: /usr/lib64/python2.4/lib-dynload/ undefined symbol: PyExc_ValueError
Jul 20 14:54:38 mon0 collectd[2487]: python plugin: Found a configuration for the "carbon_writer" plugin, but the plugin isn't loaded or didn't register a configuration callback.
Jul 20 14:54:38 mon0 collectd[2488]: plugin_dispatch_values: No write callback has been registered. Please load at least one output plugin, if you want the collected data to be stored.
Jul 20 14:54:38 mon0 collectd[2488]: Filter subsystem: Built-in target `write': Dispatching value to all write plugins failed with status 2 (ENOENT). Most likely this means you didn't load any write plugins.

This may also occur on other operating systems. It is caused by a libtool/libltdl quirk described in this mailing list thread. As per the workarounds detailed there, you may either:

  1. Modify the init script.

    @@ -25,7 +25,7 @@
            echo -n $"Starting $prog: "
            if [ -r "$CONFIG" ]
    -               daemon /usr/sbin/collectd -C "$CONFIG"
    +               LD_PRELOAD=/usr/lib64/ daemon /usr/sbin/collectd -C "$CONFIG"
                    [ $RETVAL -eq 0 ] && touch /var/lock/subsys/$prog
  2. Modify the RPM and rebuild.

    @@ -182,7 +182,7 @@
    -%configure \
         --disable-static \
         --disable-ascent \
         --disable-apple_sensors \