carbon-c-relay man page

carbon-c-relay -- graphite relay, aggregator and rewriter


carbon-c-relay -f config-file [ options ... ]


carbon-c-relay accepts, cleanses, matches, rewrites, forwards and aggregates graphite metrics by listening for incoming connections and relaying the messages to other servers defined in its configuration. The core functionality is to route messages via flexible rules to the desired destinations.

carbon-c-relay is a simple program that reads its routing information from a file.  The command line arguments allow to set the location for this file, as well as the amount of dispatchers (worker threads) to use for reading the data from incoming connections and passing them onto the right destination(s).  The route file supports two main constructs: clusters and matches.  The first define groups of hosts data metrics can be sent to, the latter define which metrics should be sent to which cluster.  Aggregation rules are seen as matches.

For every metric received by the relay, cleansing is performed.  The following changes are performed before any match, aggregate or rewrite rule sees the metric:


These options control the behaviour of carbon-c-relay.

Configuration Syntax

The config file supports the following syntax, where comments start with a # character and can appear at any position on a line and suppress input until the end of that line:

` cluster <name>
   < <forward | anyof | failover> [useall] |
     <carbonch | fnv1ach | jumpfnv1a_ch> [replication <count>] >
       <host[:port][=instance] [proto <udp | tcp>]> ...

cluster <name>
   file [ip]
       </path/to/file> ...

       <* | expression ...>
   [validate <expression> else <log | drop>]
   send to <cluster ... | blackhole>

rewrite <expression>
   into <replacement>

       <expression> ...
   every <interval> seconds
   expire after <expiration> seconds
   [timestamp at <start | middle | end> of bucket]
   compute <sum | count | max | min | average |
            median | percentile<%> | variance | stddev> write to
   [compute ...]
   [send to <cluster ...>]

send statistics to <cluster ...>
   ; statistics
   [submit every <interval> seconds]
   [reset counters after interval]
   [prefix with <prefix>]
   [send to <cluster ...>]

include </path/to/file/or/glob>
   ; `

Multiple clusters can be defined, and need not to be referenced by a match rule.   All clusters point to one or more hosts, except the file cluster which writes to files in the local filesystem.  host may be an IPv4 or IPv6 address, or a hostname.  Since host is followed by an optional : and port, for IPv6 addresses not to be interpreted wrongly, either a port must be given, or the IPv6 address surrounded by brackets, e.g. [::1].  An optional proto udp or proto tcp may be added to specify the use of UDP or TCP to connect to the remote server.  When omitted this defaults to a TCP connection.

The forward and file clusters simply send everything they receive to all defined members (host addresses or files).  The any_of cluster is a small variant of the forward cluster, but instead of sending to all defined members, it sends each incoming metric to one of defined members.  This is not much useful in itself, but since any of the members can receive each metric, this means that when one of the members is unreachable, the other members will receive all of the metrics.  This can be useful when the cluster points to other relays.  The any_of router tries to send the same metrics consistently to the same destination.  The failover cluster is like the any_of cluster, but sticks to the order in which servers are defined.  This is to implement a pure failover scenario between servers.  The carbon_ch cluster sends the metrics to the member that is responsible according to the consistent hash algorithm (as used in the original carbon), or multiple members if replication is set to more than 1.  The fnv1a_ch cluster is a identical in behaviour to carbon_ch, but it uses a different hash technique (FNV1a) which is faster but more importantly defined to get by a limitation of carbon_ch to use both host and port from the members.  This is useful when multiple targets live on the same host just separated by port.  The instance that original carbon uses to get around this can be set by appending it after the port, separated by an equals sign, e.g. for instance a.  When using the fnv1a_ch cluster, this instance overrides the hash key in use.  This allows for many things, including masquerading old IP addresses, but mostly to make the hash key location to become agnostic of the (physical) location of that key.  For example, usage like would allow to change port and/or ip address of the server that receives data for the instance key.  Obviously, this way migration of data can be dealt with much more conveniently.  The jump_fnv1a_ch cluster is also a consistent hash cluster like the previous two, but it does not take the server information into account at all.  Whether this is useful to you depends on your scenario.  The jump hash has a much better balancing over the servers defined in the cluster, at the expense of not being able to remove any server but the last in order.  What this means is that this hash is fine to use with ever growing clusters where older nodes are also replaced at some point.  If you have a cluster where removal of old nodes takes place often, the jump hash is not suitable for you.  Jump hash works with servers in an ordered list without gaps.  To influence the ordering, the instance given to the server will be used as sorting key.  Without, the order will be as given in the file.  It is a good practice to fix the order of the servers with instances such that it is explicit what the right nodes for the jump hash are.

DNS hostnames are resolved to a single address, according to the preference rules in RFC 3484  The any_of, failover and forward clusters have an explicit useall flag that enables expansion for hostnames resolving to multiple addresses.  Each address returned becomes a cluster destination.

Match rules are the way to direct incoming metrics to one or more clusters.  Match rules are processed top to bottom as they are defined in the file.  It is possible to define multiple matches in the same rule.  Each match rule can send data to one or more clusters.  Since match rules "fall through" unless the stop keyword is added, carefully crafted match expression can be used to target multiple clusters or aggregations.  This ability allows to replicate metrics, as well as send certain metrics to alternative clusters with careful ordering and usage of the stop keyword.  The special cluster blackhole discards any metrics sent to it.  This can be useful for weeding out unwanted metrics in certain cases.  Because throwing metrics away is pointless if other matches would accept the same data, a match with as destination the blackhole cluster, has an implicit stop. The validation clause adds a check to the data (what comes after the metric) in the form of a regular expression.  When this expression matches, the match rule will execute as if no validation clause was present.  However, if it fails, the match rule is aborted, and no metrics will be sent to destinations, this is the drop behaviour. When log is used, the metric is logged to stderr.  Care should be taken with the latter to avoid log flooding.  When a validate clause is present, destinations need not to be present, this allows for applying a global validation rule.  Note that the cleansing rules are applied before validation is done, thus the data will not have duplicate spaces.

Rewrite rules take a regular expression as input to match incoming metrics, and transform them into the desired new metric name.  In the replacement, backreferences are allowed to match capture groups defined in the input regular expression.  A match of server\.(x|y|z)\. allows to use e.g. role.\1. in the substitution.  A few caveats apply to the current implementation of rewrite rules.  First, their location in the config file determines when the rewrite is performed.  The rewrite is done in-place, as such a match rule before the rewrite would match the original name, a match rule after the rewrite no longer matches the original name.  Care should be taken with the ordering, as multiple rewrite rules in succession can take place, e.g. a gets replaced by b and b gets replaced by c in a succeeding rewrite rule.  The second caveat with the current implementation, is that the rewritten metric names are not cleansed, like newly incoming metrics are.  Thus, double dots and potential dangerous characters can appear if the replacement string is crafted to produce them.  It is the responsibility of the writer to make sure the metrics are clean.  If this is an issue for routing, one can consider to have a rewrite-only instance that forwards all metrics to another instance that will do the routing. Obviously the second instance will cleanse the metrics as they come in. The backreference notation allows to lowercase and uppercase the replacement string with the use of the underscore (_) and carret (^) symbols following directly after the backslash.  For example, role.\_1. as substitution will lowercase the contents of \1.  The dot (.) can be used in a similar fashion, or followed after the underscore or caret to replace dots with underscores in the substitution.  This can be handy for some situations where metrics are sent to graphite.

The aggregations defined take one or more input metrics expressed by one or more regular expresions, similar to the match rules.  Incoming metrics are aggregated over a period of time defined by the interval in seconds.  Since events may arrive a bit later in time, the expiration time in seconds defines when the aggregations should be considered final, as no new entries are allowed to be added any more.  On top of an aggregation multiple aggregations can be computed.  They can be of the same or different aggregation types, but should write to a unique new metric.  The metric names can include back references like in rewrite expressions, allowing for powerful single aggregation rules that yield in many aggregations.  When no send to clause is given, produced metrics are sent to the relay as if they were submitted from the outside, hence match and aggregation rules apply to those.  Care should be taken that loops are avoided this way.  For this reason, the use of the send to clause is encouraged, to direct the output traffic where possible.  Like for match rules, it is possible to define multiple cluster targets.  Also, like match rules, the stop keyword applies to control the flow of metrics in the matching process.

The send statistics to construct is deprecated and will be removed in the next release.  Use the special statistics construct instead.

The statistics construct can control a couple of things about the (internal) statistics produced by the relay.  The send to target can be used to avoid router loops by sending the statistics to a certain destination cluster(s).  By default the metrics are prefixed with carbon.relays.<hostname>, where hostname is determinted on startup and can be overridden using the -H argument.  This prefix can be set using the prefix with clause similar to a rewrite rule target.  The input match in this case is the pre-set regular expression ^(([^.]+)(\..*)?)$ on the hostname.  As such, one can see that the default prefix is set by carbon.relays.\.1.  Note that this uses the replace-dot-with-underscore replacement feature from rewrite rules. Given the input expression, the following match groups are available: \1 the entire hostname, \2 the short hostname and \3 the domainname (with leading dot).  It may make sense to replace the default by something like carbon.relays.\_2 for certain scenarios, to always use the lowercased short hostname, which following the expression doesn´t contain a dot.  By default, the metrics are submitted every 60 seconds, this can be changed using the submit every <interval> seconds clause.
To obtain a more compatible set of values to, use the reset counters after interval clause to make values non-cumulative, that is, they will report the change compared to the previous value.

In case configuration becomes very long, or is managed better in separate files, the include directive can be used to read another file.  The given file will be read in place and added to the router configuration at the time of inclusion.  The end result is one big route configuration.  Multiple include statements can be used throughout the configuration file.  The positioning will influence the order of rules as normal.  Beware that recursive inclusion (include from an included file) is supported, and currently no safeguards exist for an inclusion loop.  For what is worth, this feature likely is best used with simple configuration files (e.g. not having include in them).


carbon-c-relay evolved over time, growing features on demand as the tool proved to be stable and fitting the job well.  Below follow some annotated examples of constructs that can be used with the relay.

Clusters can be defined as much as necessary.  They receive data from match rules, and their type defines which members of the cluster finally get the metric data.  The simplest cluster form is a forward cluster:

cluster send-through

Any metric sent to the send-through cluster would simply be forwarded to the server at IPv4 address  If we define multiple servers, all of those servers would get the same metric, thus:

cluster send-through

The above results in a duplication of metrics send to both machines. This can be useful, but most of the time it is not.  The any_of cluster type is like forward, but it sends each incoming metric to any of the members.  The same example with such cluster would be:

cluster send-to-any-one

This would implement a multipath scenario, where two servers are used, the load between them is spread, but should any of them fail, all metrics are sent to the remaining one.  This typically works well for upstream relays, or for balancing carbon-cache processes running on the same machine.  Should any member become unavailable, for instance due to a rolling restart, the other members receive the traffic.  If it is necessary to have true fail-over, where the secondary server is only used if the first is down, the following would implement that:

cluster try-first-then-second

These types are different from the two consistent hash cluster types:

cluster graphite

If a member in this example fails, all metrics that would go to that member are kept in the queue, waiting for the member to return.  This is useful for clusters of carbon-cache machines where it is desirable that the same metric ends up on the same server always.  The carbon_ch cluster type is compatible with carbon-relay consistent hash, and can be used for existing clusters populated by carbon-relay.  For new clusters, however, it is better to use the fnv1a_ch cluster type, for it is faster, and allows to balance over the same address but different ports without an instance number, in constrast to carbon_ch.

Because we can use multiple clusters, we can also replicate without the use of the forward cluster type, in a more intelligent way:

` cluster dc-old
   carbonch replication 2
   ; cluster dc-new1
   fnv1ach replication 2
   ; cluster dc-new2
   fnv1a_ch replication 2

   send to dc-old
   ; match
   send to
   ; `

In this example all incoming metrics are first sent to dc-old, then dc-new1 and finally to dc-new2.  Note that the cluster type of dc-old is different.  Each incoming metric will be send to 2 members of all three clusters, thus replicating to in total 6 destinations.  For each cluster the destination members are computed independently. Failure of clusters or members does not affect the others, since all have individual queues.  The above example could also be written using three match rules for each dc, or one match rule for all three dcs.  The difference is mainly in performance, the number of times the incoming metric has to be matched against an expression.  The stop rule in dc-new match rule is not strictly necessary in this example, because there are no more following match rules.  However, if the match would target a specific subset, e.g.  ^sys\., and more clusters would be defined, this could be necessary, as for instance in the following abbreviated example:

` cluster dc1-sys ... ; cluster dc2-sys ... ;

cluster dc1-misc ... ; cluster dc2-misc ... ;

match ^sys. send to dc1-sys; match ^sys. send to dc2-sys stop;

match send to dc1-misc; match send to dc2-misc stop; `

As can be seen, without the stop in dc2-sys´ match rule, all metrics starting with sys. would also be send to dc1-misc and dc2-misc.  It can be that this is desired, of course, but in this example there is a dedicated cluster for the sys metrics.

Suppose there would be some unwanted metric that unfortunately is generated, let´s assume some bad/old software.  We don´t want to store this metric.  The blackhole cluster is suitable for that, when it is harder to actually whitelist all wanted metrics.  Consider the following:

   send to blackhole

This would throw away all metrics that end with some_legacy, that would otherwise be hard to filter out.  Since the order matters, it can be used in a construct like this:

` cluster old ... ; cluster new ... ;

match * send to old;

match unwanted send to blackhole stop;

match * send to new; `

In this example the old cluster would receive the metric that´s unwanted for the new cluster.  So, the order in which the rules occur does matter for the execution.

Validation can be used to ensure the data for metrics is as expected.  A global validation for just number (no floating point) values could be:

match *
   validate ^[0-9]+\ [0-9]+$ else drop

(Note the escape with backslash \ of the space, you might be able to use \s or [:space:] instead, this depends on your libc implementation.)

The validation clause can exist on every match rule, so in principle, the following is valid:

match ^foo
   validate ^[0-9]+\ [0-9]+$ else drop
   send to integer-cluster
   ; match ^foo
   validate ^[0-9.e+-]+\ [0-9.e+-]+$ else drop
   send to float-cluster

Note that the behaviour is different in the previous two examples.  When no send to clusters are specified, a validation error makes the match behave like the stop keyword is present.  Likewise, when validation passes, processing continues with the next rule. When destination clusters are present, the match respects the stop keyword as normal.  When specified, processing will always stop when specified so.  However, if validation fails, the rule does not send anything to the destination clusters, the metric will be dropped or logged, but never sent.

The relay is capable of rewriting incoming metrics on the fly.  This process is done based on regular expressions with capture groups that allow to substitute parts in a replacement string.  Rewrite rules allow to cleanup metrics from applications, or provide a migration path.  In it´s simplest form a rewrite rule looks like this:

rewrite ^server\.(.+)\.(.+)\.([a-zA-Z]+)([0-9]+)
   into server.\_1.\2.\3.\3\4

In this example a metric like server.DC.role.name123 would be transformed into For rewrite rules hold the same as for matches, that their order matters.  Hence to build on top of the old/new cluster example done earlier, the following would store the original metric name in the old cluster, and the new metric name in the new cluster:

` match * send to old;

rewrite ... ;

match * send to new; `

Note that after the rewrite, the original metric name is no longer available, as the rewrite happens in-place.

Aggregations are probably the most complex part of carbon-c-relay.  Two ways of specifying aggregates are supported by carbon-c-relay.  The first, static rules, are handled by an optimiser which tries to fold thousands of rules into groups to make the matching more efficient.  The second, dynamic rules, are very powerful compact definitions with possibly thousands of internal instantiations.  A typical static aggregation looks like:

   every 10 seconds
   expire after 35 seconds
   timestamp at end of bucket
   compute sum write to
   compute average write to
   compute max write to
   compute count write to

In this example, four aggregations are produced from the incoming matching metrics.  In this example we could have written the two matches as one, but for demonstration purposes we did not.  Obviously they can refer to different metrics, if that makes sense.  The every 10 seconds clause specifies in what interval the aggregator can expect new metrics to arrive.  This interval is used to produce the aggregations, thus each 10 seconds 4 new metrics are generated from the data received sofar. Because data may be in transit for some reason, or generation stalled, the expire after clause specifies how long the data should be kept before considering a data bucket (which is aggregated) to be complete. In the example, 35 was used, which means after 35 seconds the first aggregates are produced.  It also means that metrics can arrive 35 seconds late, and still be taken into account.  The exact time at which the aggregate metrics are produced is random between 0 and interval (10 in this case) seconds after the expiry time.  This is done to prevent thundering herds of metrics for large aggregation sets. The timestamp that is used for the aggregations can be specified to be the start, middle or end of the bucket.  Original uses start, while carbon-c-relay´s default has always been end. The compute clauses demonstrate a single aggregation rule can produce multiple aggregates, as often is the case.  Internally, this comes for free, since all possible aggregates are always calculated, whether or not they are used.  The produced new metrics are resubmitted to the relay, hence matches defined before in the configuration can match output of the aggregator.  It is important to avoid loops, that can be generated this way.  In general, splitting aggregations to their own carbon-c-relay instance, such that it is easy to forward the produced metrics to another relay instance is a good practice.

The previous example could also be written as follows to be dynamic:

   every 10 seconds
   expire after 35 seconds
   compute sum write to\1.replication_delay
   compute sum write to
   compute sum write to
   compute sum write to

Here a single match, results in four aggregations, each of a different scope.  In this example aggregation based on hostname and cluster are being made, as well as the more general all targets, which in this example have both identical values.  Note that with this single aggregation rule, both per-cluster, per-host and total aggregations are produced.  Obviously, the input metrics define which hosts and clusters are produced.

With use of the send to clause, aggregations can be made more intuitive and less error-prone.  Consider the below example:

` cluster graphite fnv1a_ch ip1 ip2 ip3;

aggregate ^sys.somemetric
   every 60 seconds
   expire after 75 seconds
   compute sum write to
   send to graphite

match * send to graphite; `

It sends all incoming metrics to the graphite cluster, except the sys.somemetric ones, which it replaces with a sum of all the incoming ones.  Without a stop in the aggregate, this causes a loop, and without the send to, the metric name can´t be kept its original name, for the output now directly goes to the cluster.


When carbon-c-relay is run without -d or -s arguments, statistics will be produced.  By default they are sent to the relay itself in the form of carbon.relays.<hostname>.*.  See the statistics construct to override this prefix, sending interval and values produced.  While many metrics have a similar name to what would produce, their values are likely different.  By default, most values are running counters which only increase over time. The use of the nonNegativeDerivative() function from graphite is useful with these.

The following metrics are produced under the carbon.relays.<hostname> namespace:


Please report them at:


Fabian Groffen &lt;;

See Also

All other utilities from the graphite stack.

This project aims to be a fast replacement of the original Carbon relay carbon-c-relay aims to deliver performance and configurability. Carbon is single threaded, and sending metrics to multiple consistent-hash clusters requires chaining of relays.  This project provides a multithreaded relay which can address multiple targets and clusters for each and every metric based on pattern matches.

There are a couple more replacement projects out there, which are carbon-relay-ng and graphite-relay .

Compared to carbon-relay-ng, this project does provide carbon´s consistent-hash routing.  graphite-relay, which does this, however doesn´t do metric-based matches to direct the traffic, which this project does as well.  To date, carbon-c-relay can do aggregations, failover targets and more.


This program was originally developed for  With approval from, the code was generalised and published as Open Source on GitHub, for which the author would like to express his gratitude. Author no longer works for


April 2017