[Sensu Go Workshop] Lesson 3: Introduction to Sensu Go

Sensu is a complete solution for monitoring and observability at scale. Learn more about the Sensu backend process!

By: Caleb Hailey

Web App

The Sensu backend process includes a web app that provides a unified view of your observability data (events, entities, and silences) and monitoring configuration (checks, handlers, etc) with user-friendly tools to reduce alert fatigue.


The Sensu web app homepage is a dashboard that provides a high level overview of the overall health of the systems under management by Sensu. The dashboard includes a summary of active incidents, a breakdown of incidents by severity, information about entities under management, and a high level overview of the namespaces (tenants). This dashboard complies with Sensu RBAC, so individual users will see summary information relevant to their access.

The Sensu dashboard

Figure 1: the Sensu dashboard.

Namespaces switcher

Beyond the overview dashboard, most Sensu data is accessed on a per-namespace basis. To select or switch namespaces, press the “Select Namespace” option from the sidebar, or press the Control + k keyboard shortcut from anywhere in the Sensu web app.

The namespace switcher modal

Figure 2: the namespace switcher.

The "Select Namespace" option in the navigation sidebar

Figure 3: the “Select Namespace” option in the navigation sidebar.

Event list & event detail views

The default view that will be opened when navigating to a namespace is the event list view. A filter is applied to this view by default to show only events with a “non-passing” status (i.e. event.check.state != 0-). The event list view provides a number of options for filtering and sorting the list by event status, related entities, and more. Select one or more events in the event list view to take bulk actions like resolving or silencing the event(s).

The event list view

Figure 4: the event list view. Note the default filter applied here (event.check.state != 0).

Selecting an event from the event list view will take you to the event detail view, which provides information about the event including the status, timeline, output, number of occurrences, event metadata (labels and annotations), related check configuration (if the event was produced by a service check), and the associated entity details.

The event detail view

Figure 5: the event detail view.

Entity list & entity detail views

The second most popular view in the Sensu web app is the entity list view, which provides realtime inventory information of endpoints under management by Sensu (for a given namespace). Select one or more events in the event list view to take bulk actions like resolving or silencing the event(s).

The entity list view

Figure 6: the entity list view.

Selecting an entity from the entity list view will take you to the entity detail view, which provides information about all associated events, system properties (e.g. operating system details and network interfaces), and entity metadata (labels and annotations).

The entity detail view

Figure 7: the entity detail view. Note that the “Events” tab is selected by default.


Users can use the Sensu web app to silence individual events (for a single entity), all events produced by a specific check (across multiple entities), or all events for a specific entity. Silencing may be applied from various different locations in the Sensu web app, with prompts to configure the silencing rules (which check and/or entity should be silenced), schedule (e.g. to begin immediately, or create a “scheduled maintenance” window), and reason.

The new silencing entry modal

Figure 8: the “new silencing entry” prompt.

The Silences list view provides access to all active silence entries.

The silenced list view

Figure 9: the silenced list view.


The Sensu web app also provides access to the core monitoring configuration, including Checks, Fitlers, Mutators, and Handlers. The configuration views may be accessed from the navigation sidebar. Each of the configuration resources provides list + detail views, as well as the ability to create and/or edit configuration resources (e.g. modify check or handler configuration), assuming the user has the appropriate RBAC permissions.

The configuration navigation

Figure 10: monitoring configuration views are accessible via the navigation sidebar.

The check list view

Figure 11: the check list view. A similar view is available for Filters, Mutators, and Handlers.

The check detail view

Figure 12: the check detail view. A similar view is available for Filters, Mutators, and Handlers.

The check edit view

Figure 13: the check edit view. A similar editor is available for Filters, Mutators, and Handlers.

EXERCISE 1: log in to the Sensu web app

  1. Log in to the Sensu web app.

    • Self guided users: please visit and login with the default workshop admin username (sensu) and password (sensu).
    • Instructor-led workshop users: please visit the URL provided by your instructor and login using the username and password provided by your instructor.

    TROUBLESHOOTING: if you are unable to reach the login screen, please consult with your instructor, or double-check that you completed all of the steps in SETUP.md before proceeding.

NEXT: if you were able to login you’re ready to move on to the next step.

Command line interface (CLI)

API client

Sensu’s monitoring as code solution is possible thanks to a robust set of APIs. The Sensu web app and CLI are effectively just API clients that streamline access to these APIs. Sensuctl is available for Linux, macOS, and Windows. Because all access to the Sensu APIs requires authentication, the Sensu CLI (sensuctl) must be configured with a username and password before you can use it.

$ sensuctl configure --api-url
? Authentication method: username/password
? Sensu Backend URL:
? Namespace: default
? Preferred output format: tabular
? Username: sensu
? Password: *****

To learn more about the Sensu APIs, please checkout the Sensu API Reference Documentation and Sensu Developer Workshop (coming soon).

Configuration management

The primary function of sensuctl is to manage Sensu resources. It works by calling Sensu’s underlying API to create, read, update, and delete (CRUD) resources including events and entities. The sensuctl create command allows you to idempotently create or update resources by reading from STDIN or a file (via the sensuctl create -f flag). The create command accepts Sensu resource definitions in yaml or wrapped-json formats.

All Sensu resource definitions generally have four top-level attributes:

  • type: resource type (e.g. CheckConfig or Handler)
  • api_version: resource version (e.g. core/v2)
  • metadata: resource namenamespacelabels, and annotations
  • spec: resource configuration attributes

Example check configuration

type: CheckConfig
api_version: core/v2
  name: nginx-status
  namespace: default
  labels: []
  annotations: []
  command: check-nginx-status.rb --url
  publish: true
    - nginx
  interval: 30
  timeout: 10
    - slack

Most Sensu resources are namespaced – meaning they must be created in a specific namespace. If a resource definition does not contain a namespace attribute, the namespace is provided by sensuctl. Sensuctl namespace assignment can happen implicitly (i.e. using the “current” namespace, which can be viewed via the sensuctl config view command, and updated via the sensuctl config set-namespace command), or explicitly using the sensuctl create --namespace flag.

PROTIP: Omitting the namespace attribute allows you to easily replicate resources across multiple namespaces without editing configuration templates.

Please visit the Sensu documentation for a list of supported resource types for sensuctl create. Please consult the reference documentation for details on how to configure resource definitions.


One of the more popular use cases for sensuctl is to manage entity resources, which effectively represent a realtime “inventory” of nodes under management by Sensu. For example, the sensuctl entity list and sensuctl entity info <entity_name> commands may be used to list and inspect entities in a given namespace.

Example output of the sensuctl entity list command:

$ sensuctl entity list
        ID         Class      OS                       Subscriptions                              Last Seen
 ──────────────── ─────── ────────── ───────────────────────────────────────────────── ───────────────────────────────
  0e94f1b82f3b     agent   linux      system/linux,workshop,devel,entity:0e94f1b82f3b   2021-03-22 11:53:00 -0700 PDT
  775a030edbcc     agent   linux      system/linux,workshop,devel,entity:775a030edbcc   2021-03-22 11:53:03 -0700 PDT
  911f827c7fb3     agent   linux      system/linux,workshop,devel,entity:911f827c7fb3   2021-03-22 11:53:00 -0700 PDT
  be180375009e     agent   linux      system/linux,workshop,devel,entity:be180375009e   2021-03-22 11:53:00 -0700 PDT
  cd27bec9c93c     agent   linux      system/linux,workshop,devel,entity:cd27bec9c93c   2021-03-22 11:53:00 -0700 PDT
  learn.sensu.io   proxy   Workshop   entity:learn.sensu.io                             N/A
  server-01        proxy              entity:server-01                                  N/A
  server-02        proxy              entity:server-02                                  N/A
  server-03        proxy              entity:server-03                                  N/A
  server-04        proxy              entity:server-04                                  N/A
  server-05        proxy              entity:server-05                                  N/A
  server-06        proxy              entity:server-06                                  N/A
  server-07        proxy              entity:server-07                                  N/A
  server-08        proxy              entity:server-08                                  N/A
  server-09        proxy              entity:server-09                                  N/A
  server-10        proxy              entity:server-10                                  N/A

Example output of the sensuctl entity info 0e94f1b82f3b command:

=== 0e94f1b82f3b
Name:                   0e94f1b82f3b
Entity Class:           agent
Subscriptions:          system/linux, workshop, devel, entity:0e94f1b82f3b
Last Seen:              2021-03-22 11:54:40 -0700 PDT
Hostname:               0e94f1b82f3b
OS:                     linux
Platform:               alpine
Platform Family:        alpine
Platform Version:       3.12.3
Auto-Deregistration:    true
Deregistration Handler:

These commands can be used in shell scripts for various automation purposes. However, for scripting an automation purposes, you may wish to output this information in a structed data format, which capability is discussed below.

Output Formats

Sensuctl supports the following output formats:

  • tabular: A user-friendly, columnar format (which is necessarily less verbose)
  • wrapped-json: An accepted format for use with sensuctl create
  • yaml: An accepted format for use with sensuctl create
  • json: The format used by the Sensu APIs

You may have noticed that we were prompted to select a “Preferred output format” when configuring sensuctl (i.e. sensuctl configure). After you are logged in, you can change the output format with sensuctl config set-format or set the output format per command with the --format flag (e.g. sensuctl entity info <entity_name> --format json).

Interactive and non-interactive modes

Certain sensuctl commands support both interactive and non-interactive modes. For example, the sensuctl configure command runs in interactive mode by default, and can be run non-interactively using the -n or --non-interactive flags.

Example non-interactive use of sensuctl configure (useful for integrating sensuctl with a CI/CD pipeline):

$ sensuctl configure -n\
  --namespace default\
  --username sensu\
  --password ${SENSU_PASSWORD}\
  --format json

EXERCISE 2: install and configure sensuctl

  1. Configure environment variables.

    NOTE: instructor-led workshop users will need to download an .envrc or .envrc.ps1 file at this time; please consult SETUP.md for more information.

    Mac and Linux users (.envrc):

    source .envrc
    env | grep SENSU

    Windows users (.envrc.ps1):

    . .\.envrc.ps1
    Get-ChildItem env: | Out-String -Stream | Select-String -Pattern SENSU

    The output should include a value for SENSU_VERSION (i.e. a supported Sensu version such as “6.2.7”).

  2. Download and install sensuctl.

    Mac users:

    curl -LO "https://s3-us-west-2.amazonaws.com/sensu.io/sensu-go/${SENSU_VERSION}/sensu-go_${SENSU_VERSION}_darwin_amd64.tar.gz"
    sudo tar -xzf "sensu-go_${SENSU_VERSION}_darwin_amd64.tar.gz" -C /usr/local/bin/
    rm sensu-go_${SENSU_VERSION}_darwin_amd64.tar.gz

    Windows users (Powershell):

    Invoke-WebRequest `
      -Uri "https://s3-us-west-2.amazonaws.com/sensu.io/sensu-go/${Env:SENSU_VERSION}/sensu-go_${Env:SENSU_VERSION}_windows_amd64.zip" `
      -OutFile "${Env:UserProfile}\sensu-go_${Env:SENSU_VERSION}_windows_amd64.zip"
     Expand-Archive `
      -LiteralPath "${Env:UserProfile}\sensu-go_${Env:SENSU_VERSION}_windows_amd64.zip" `
      -DestinationPath "${Env:UserProfile}\Sensu\bin"
    ${Env:Path} += ";${Env:UserProfile}\Sensu\bin"

    Linux users:

    curl -LO "https://s3-us-west-2.amazonaws.com/sensu.io/sensu-go/${SENSU_VERSION}/sensu-go_${SENSU_VERSION}_linux_amd64.tar.gz" &&\
    tar -xzf "sensu-go_${SENSU_VERSION}_linux_amd64.tar.gz" -C /usr/local/bin/ &&\
    rm "sensu-go_${SENSU_VERSION}_linux_amd64.tar.gz"
  3. Configure sensuctl.

    Configure the Sensu CLI to connect to your backend by running the sensuctl configure command. Sensuctl will prompt you to provide a Sensu Backend URL, username, password, namespace, and preferred output format.

    sensuctl configure

    Backend URL:

    • Self guided users: self-guided trainees who are running the workshop on their local workstation should use the default backend URL (, username (sensu), and password (sensu).
    • Instructor-led workshop users: please use the Backend URL, namespace, username, and password provided by your instructor (these values are available in your .envrc or .envrc.ps1 file).

    The sensuctl configure runs in interactive mode by default and will prompt you for the following settings:

    ? Authentication method: username/password
    ? Sensu Backend URL:
    ? Namespace: default
    ? Preferred output format: tabular
    ? Username: sensu
    ? Password: *****
  4. Verify your sensuctl configuration.

    If you do not receive an error message after entering your username and password you should have a successfully configured CLI. To confirm, let’s run a sensuctl command to verify our configuration:

    sensuctl config view

    The output should look something like the following:

    === Active Configuration
    API URL:        
    Namespace:                default
    Format:                   tabular
    Timeout:                  15s
    Username:                 sensu
    JWT Expiration Timestamp: 1234567890
    • Self guided users: if you’re running the workshop on your local workstation should you should see the default API URL (, namespace (default), and username (sensu).
    • Instructor-led workshop users: you should see the API URL provided by your instructor, and matching values for namespace and username (e.g. “caleb”). If namespace is set to “default”, you can update the configuration using the sensuctl config set-namespace <username> command (replacing <username> with your actual username).

NEXT: If you see output with a list of one or more namespaces you are ready to continue to the next step!

EXERCISE 3: use the sensuctl --help command

Sensuctl includes a --help flag for getting help with every command and subcommand.

Try running some of the following commands:

  1. See all available sensuctl commands and global flags:

    sensuctl --help
  2. See all of the available subcommands and flags for the sensuctl check command:

    sensuctl check --help
  3. See all of the available flags for the sensuctl check create subcommand:

    sensuctl check create --help

Learning how to navigate the sensuctl tool with the assistance of the --help flag will make the Sensu CLI much easier to use.

NEXT: after you’ve tried a few --help commands you’re ready to move on to the next step.

EXERCISE 4: inspect an event in JSON format

  1. Use the sensuctl event info command to get information about an event.

    sensuctl event info learn.sensu.io helloworld

    The Sensu CLI will use your default output format (which defaults to “tabular”) for displaying information about most resources. The tabular output format is usually easier to read, but doesn’t show all of the available properties for a given resource.

    Example tabular output:

    === learn.sensu.io - helloworld
    Entity:    learn.sensu.io
    Check:     helloworld
    Output:    Hello, workshop world.
    Status:    1
    Silenced:  false
    Timestamp: 2021-03-09 22:44:28 -0800 PST
    UUID:      7d0721c8-d203-4e80-a399-05070a914b20
  2. View event information in JSON format.

    To modify the output format on a per-command basis use the --format flag:

    sensuctl event info learn.sensu.io helloworld --format json

    NOTE: the --output flag is available for a variety of sensuctl commands, which can be quite helpful for writing scripts that leverage data from Sensu APIs.

NEXT: If sensuctl output a JSON formatted event, you’re ready to move on to the next step.

EXERCISE 5: explore Sensu resources using sensuctl

  1. Use the sensuctl namespace list command to get a list of namespaces.

    sensuctl namespace list

    NOTE: the output of this command is filtered based on RBAC, so different users may see different results.

  2. Use the sensuctl event list command to get a list of events.

    sensuctl event list

    NOTE (for trainees in instructor-led workshops): try adding --namespace default to get a list of events from the default namespace.

  3. Use the sensuctl entity list command to get a list of nodes under management.

    sensuctl entity list

    NOTE: try adding --format json or --format yaml to view the list in JSON or YAML format.

  4. Get information about a specific entity using the sensuctl entity info command.

    sensuctl entity info learn.sensu.io
  5. Try exploring some other resources.

    NOTE: don’t forget to use --help; for example, sensuctl --help will output a list of “management commands” which are effectively API resources that are accessible via sensuctl.

NEXT: when you’re done exploring sensuctl resource list and info commands, you’re ready to move on to the next step.

EXERCISE 6: create an API Key for personal use

  1. Use the sensuctl api-key grant command to create an API Key.

    sensuctl api-key grant sensu

    NOTE: self-guided trainees should grant an api-key for the default user (sensu), as shown above. Trainees in instructor-led workshops should create an api-key for their own user, using the username provided by the instructor (e.g. sensuctl api-key grant <username>).

    The output of this command will look like:

    Created: /api/core/v2/apikeys/xxxxxxxx-xxxx-xxxx-xxxx-xxxxxxxxxxxx
  2. Save the API Key for use in a future exercise.

    For the purposes of this workshop, we want to capture this API key (the xxxxxxxx-xxxx-xxxx-xxxx-xxxxxxxxxxxx part of the output) for use in a future exercise. You can either copy the output from the sensuctl api-key grant command manually, like this:

    Modify the provide .envrc file using your API Key. Uncomment the line that begins with # export SENSU_API_KEY so that it looks like the following example:

    export SENSU_API_KEY=xxxxxxxx-xxxx-xxxx-xxxx-xxxxxxxxxxxx

    Now reload the .envrc file into your environment:

    source .envrc

    PROTIP: if you like to automate things like this using shell scripts, you might already be thinking about how to parse the output of the sensuctl api-key grant command. The following example should do the trick for Mac and Linux users:

    export SENSU_API_KEY=$(sensuctl api-key grant sensu | awk -F "/" '{print $NF}')

    Verify that you have successfully set an environment variable with your API key:

    echo $SENSU_API_KEY

NEXT: If you see your API key, you’re ready to move on to the next step!

EXERCISE 7: export Sensu resources using sensuctl dump

The sensuctl dump command is a built-in solution for exporting & importing Sensu API resources. You can use sensuctl dump to output Sensu configuration resources to STDOUT (i.e. for viewing in the terminal), or to a file. The sensuctl dump command has a wide range of use cases from simple backup and restore, to inspecting configuration resources, scripting maintenance tasks (e.g. bulk deletion of entities), and more.

  1. Export all resources.

    sensuctl dump all
  2. Export resources for a single namespace.

    sensuctl dump all --namespace default
  3. Export specific resources, by type.

    sensuctl dump checks,handlers
    sensuctl dump checks > checks.yaml
    sensuctl dump handlers > handlers.yaml

    NOTE: at this stage in the workshop this command may not generate any output (becase we haven’t created any checks or handlers yet).

  4. Get a complete list of resource types supported by sensuctl dump.

    sensuctl describe-type all

    Notice that some resources have “short names” (e.g. core/v2.CheckConfig has the short name check). Try exporting a resource by its Fully Qualified Name.

    sensuctl dump core/v2.Entity --format wrapped-json
    sensuctl dump secrets/v1.Secret --format yaml

NEXT: once you have exported your secrets you’re ready to move on to the next step!

Learn more

Next steps

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Lesson 4: Introduction to Handlers & Handler Sets