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Technical Concepts

This chapter provides insights into specific Icinga 2 components, libraries, features and any other technical concept and design.


Features are implemented in specific libraries and can be enabled using CLI commands.

Features either write specific data or receive data.

Examples for writing data: DB IDO, Graphite, InfluxDB. GELF, etc. Examples for receiving data: REST API, etc.

The implementation of features makes use of existing libraries and functionality. This makes the code more abstract, but shorter and easier to read.

Features register callback functions on specific events they want to handle. For example the GraphiteWriter feature subscribes to new CheckResult events.

Each time Icinga 2 receives and processes a new check result, this event is triggered and forwarded to all subscribers.

The GraphiteWriter feature calls the registered function and processes the received data. Features which connect Icinga 2 to external interfaces normally parse and reformat the received data into an applicable format.

The GraphiteWriter uses a TCP socket to communicate with the carbon cache daemon of Graphite. The InfluxDBWriter is instead writing bulk metric messages to InfluxDB’s HTTP API.



Icinga 2 uses its own certificate authority (CA) by default. The public and private CA keys can be generated on the signing master.

Each node certificate must be signed by the private CA key.

Note: The following description uses parent node and child node. This also applies to nodes in the same cluster zone.

During the connection attempt, an SSL handshake is performed. If the public certificate of a child node is not signed by the same CA, the child node is not trusted and the connection will be closed.

If the SSL handshake succeeds, the parent node reads the certificate’s common name (CN) of the child node and looks for a local Endpoint object name configuration.

If there is no Endpoint object found, further communication (runtime and config sync, etc.) is terminated.

The child node also checks the CN from the parent node’s public certificate. If the child node does not find any local Endpoint object name configuration, it will not trust the parent node.

Both checks prevent accepting cluster messages from an untrusted source endpoint.

If an Endpoint match was found, there is one additional security mechanism in place: Endpoints belong to a Zone hierarchy.

Several cluster messages can only be sent “top down”, others like check results are allowed being sent from the child to the parent node.

Once this check succeeds the cluster messages are exchanged and processed.

CSR Signing

In order to make things easier, Icinga 2 provides built-in methods to allow child nodes to request a signed certificate from the signing master.

Icinga 2 v2.8 introduces the possibility to request certificates from indirectly connected nodes. This is required for multi level cluster environments with masters, satellites and clients.

CSR Signing in general starts with the master setup. This step ensures that the master is in a working CSR signing state with:

  • public and private CA key in /var/lib/icinga2/ca
  • private TicketSalt constant defined inside the api feature
  • Cluster communication is ready and Icinga 2 listens on port 5665

The child node setup which is run with CLI commands will now attempt to connect to the parent node. This is not necessarily the signing master instance, but could also be a parent satellite node.

During this process the child node asks the user to verify the parent node’s public certificate to prevent MITM attacks.

There are two methods to request signed certificates:

  • Add the ticket into the request. This ticket was generated on the master beforehand and contains hashed details for which client it has been created. The signing master uses this information to automatically sign the certificate request.

  • Do not add a ticket into the request. It will be sent to the signing master which stores the pending request. Manual user interaction with CLI commands is necessary to sign the request.

The certificate request is sent as pki::RequestCertificate cluster message to the parent node.

If the parent node is not the signing master, it stores the request in /var/lib/icinga2/certificate-requests and forwards the cluster message to its parent node.

Once the message arrives on the signing master, it first verifies that the sent certificate request is valid. This is to prevent unwanted errors or modified requests from the “proxy” node.

After verification, the signing master checks if the request contains a valid signing ticket. It hashes the certificate’s common name and compares the value to the received ticket number.

If the ticket is valid, the certificate request is immediately signed with CA key. The request is sent back to the client inside a pki::UpdateCertificate cluster message.

If the child node was not the certificate request origin, it only updates the cached request for the child node and send another cluster message down to its child node (e.g. from a satellite to a client).

If no ticket was specified, the signing master waits until the ca sign CLI command manually signed the certificate.


Push notifications for manual request signing is not yet implemented (TODO).

Once the child node reconnects it synchronizes all signed certificate requests. This takes some minutes and requires all nodes to reconnect to each other.

CSR Signing: Clients without parent connection

There is an additional scenario: The setup on a child node does not necessarily need a connection to the parent node.

This mode leaves the node in a semi-configured state. You need to manually copy the master’s public CA key into /var/lib/icinga2/certs/ca.crt on the client before starting Icinga 2.

The parent node needs to actively connect to the child node. Once this connections succeeds, the child node will actively request a signed certificate.

The update procedure works the same way as above.

High Availability

High availability is automatically enabled between two nodes in the same cluster zone.

This requires the same configuration and enabled features on both nodes.

HA zone members trust each other and share event updates as cluster messages. This includes for example check results, next check timestamp updates, acknowledgements or notifications.

This ensures that both nodes are synchronized. If one node goes away, the remaining node takes over and continues as normal.

Cluster nodes automatically determine the authority for configuration objects. This results in activated but paused objects. You can verify that by querying the paused attribute for all objects via REST API or debug console.

Nodes inside a HA zone calculate the object authority independent from each other.

The number of endpoints in a zone is defined through the configuration. This number is used inside a local modulo calculation to determine whether the node feels responsible for this object or not.

This object authority is important for selected features explained below.

Since features are configuration objects too, you must ensure that all nodes inside the HA zone share the same enabled features. If configured otherwise, one might have a checker feature on the left node, nothing on the right node. This leads to late check results because one half is not executed by the right node which holds half of the object authorities.

High Availability: Checker

The checker feature only executes checks for Checkable objects (Host, Service) where it is authoritative.

That way each node only executes checks for a segment of the overall configuration objects.

The cluster message routing ensures that all check results are synchronized to nodes which are not authoritative for this configuration object.

High Availability: Notifications

The notification feature only sends notifications for Notification objects where it is authoritative.

That way each node only executes notifications for a segment of all notification objects.

Notified users and other event details are synchronized throughout the cluster. This is required if for example the DB IDO feature is active on the other node.

High Availability: DB IDO

If you don’t have HA enabled for the IDO feature, both nodes will write their status and historical data to their own separate database backends.

In order to avoid data separation and a split view (each node would require its own Icinga Web 2 installation on top), the high availability option was added to the DB IDO feature. This is enabled by default with the enable_ha setting.

This requires a central database backend. Best practice is to use a MySQL cluster with a virtual IP.

Both Icinga 2 nodes require the connection and credential details configured in their DB IDO feature.

During startup Icinga 2 calculates whether the feature configuration object is authoritative on this node or not. The order is an alpha-numeric comparison, e.g. if you have master1 and master2, Icinga 2 will enable the DB IDO feature on master2 by default.

If the connection between endpoints drops, the object authority is re-calculated.

In order to prevent data duplication in a split-brain scenario where both nodes would write into the same database, there is another safety mechanism in place.

The split-brain decision which node will write to the database is calculated from a quorum inside the programstatus table. Each node verifies whether the endpoint_name column is not itself on database connect. In addition to that the DB IDO feature compares the last_update_time column against the current timestamp plus the configured failover_timeout offset.

That way only one active DB IDO feature writes to the database, even if they are not currently connected in a cluster zone. This prevents data duplication in historical tables.

Health Checks


This built-in check provides the possibility to check for connectivity between zones.

If you for example need to know whether the master zone is connected and processing messages with the child zone called satellite in this example, you can configure the cluster-zone check as new service on all master zone hosts.

vim /etc/zones.d/master/host1.conf

object Service "cluster-zone-satellite" {
  check_command = "cluster-zone"
  host_name = "host1"

  vars.cluster_zone = "satellite"

The check itself changes to NOT-OK if one or more child endpoints in the child zone are not connected to parent zone endpoints.

In addition to the overall connectivity check, the log lag is calculated based on the to-be-sent replay log. Each instance stores that for its configured endpoint objects.

This health check iterates over the target zone (cluster_zone) and their endpoints.

The log lag is greater than zero if

  • the replay log synchronization is in progress and not yet finished or
  • the endpoint is not connected, and no replay log sync happened (obviously).

The final log lag value is the worst value detected. If satellite1 has a log lag of 1.5 and satellite2 only has 0.5, the computed value will be 1.5..

You can control the check state by using optional warning and critical thresholds for the log lag value.

If this service exists multiple times, e.g. for each master host object, the log lag may differ based on the execution time. This happens for example on restart of an instance when the log replay is in progress and a health check is executed at different times. If the endpoint is not connected, both master instances may have saved a different log replay position from the last synchronisation.

The lag value is returned as performance metric key slave_lag.

Icinga 2 v2.9+ adds more performance metrics for these values:

  • last_messages_sent and last_messages_received as UNIX timestamp
  • sum_messages_sent_per_second and sum_messages_received_per_second
  • sum_bytes_sent_per_second and sum_bytes_received_per_second