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Finding Signal in the Monitoring Noise with Flapjack

Lindsay Holmwood (Australian Government Digital Transformation Office), Jesse Reynolds (Bulletproof Networks)
Tutorial Please note: to attend, your registration must include Tutorials on Monday.
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Working in operations can be a hard, overwhelming slog. And then you add monitoring. More applications are running in the cloud, the infrastructures we manage are getting bigger and bigger, and responsibility for that is being divided up across multiple teams. Then something breaks. All hell breaks loose. Your on-call engineer receives 900 SMS in 30 seconds. Her phone melts. You can’t distinguish the signal from the noise. It takes an hour to fix the problem.

Weren’t computers meant to solve these problems?

Enter Flapjack: a monitoring alert routing system. Flapjack sits at the end of your monitoring pipeline and works out who it should send alerts to. Sounds pretty simple? Flapjack tries to make it so. There are still really hard problems to solve when working out who to notify about a detected failure, and what to do when lots of things fail simultaneously.

You should be interested in Flapjack if:

  • You want to track down failures faster by rolling up your alerts across multiple monitoring systems.
  • You monitor large infrastructures that have multiple teams responsible for keeping them up.
  • You want to dip your toe in the water and try alternative check execution engines like Sensu in parallel to Nagios.

In this tutorial, Jesse Reynolds and Lindsay Holmwood will take you on a whirlwind tour of Flapjack – what it is, how it solves problems, where it’s going – with a hands on lab that you can start applying in your organisation tomorrow.

Attendees of this tutorial will come away with an understanding of:

  • How to install + configure Flapjack
  • How to use Flapjack when migrating away from Nagios as a check execution engine
  • How to work with Flapjack’s APIs to integrate with your existing systems


You will get the most out of the tutorial if you’ve got Flapjack running locally on your laptop beforehand. The simplest way to do this is to install flapjack as per the Quickstart, which involves installing VirtualBox and Vagrant, cloning vagrant-flapjack and running vagrant up within it.

There’s a bit to download with that, so it’s best to do this in your own time before the conference.

You don’t need to have done the rest of the quickstart, though it can’t hurt. The main thing is to have Flapjack running locally and to have Icinga or Nagios sending it check execution results. This is all taken care of by the vagrant up within vagrant-flapjack.

This information is also available on the Flapjack website, please visit it again in the days leading up to the tutorial in case we’ve added anything else.


* Attendee Preparation –

* Flapjack Quickstart –

* VirtualBox –

* Vagrant –

* Vagrant-flapjack –

Photo of Lindsay Holmwood

Lindsay Holmwood

Australian Government Digital Transformation Office

Lindsay Holmwood is an engineering manager living in the Australian Blue Mountains. He runs a distributed infracoders team at Bulletproof that builds hassle free tools, and was responsible for ensuring 100% uptime for the 2010 + 2011 + 2012 Movember campaigns.

A sucker for making better monitoring tools, he has authored Flapjack, cucumber-nagios, and Visage, in between travelling and speaking at international conferences.

In his spare time, Lindsay organises the monthly Sydney DevOps Meetups. He also won third place at the 1996 Sydney Royal Easter Show LEGO building competition.

Photo of Jesse Reynolds

Jesse Reynolds

Bulletproof Networks

Jesse is an infrastructure and web operations engineer, co-founding one of Australia’s first web development and hosting agencies, Virtual Artists, in 1993. He has since worked with Fujitsu Australia, the University of New South Wales, and Carbon Planet.

Marketing is not one of Jesse’s strong suits. He co-authored an awesome web-based CMS before CMSs were a thing, and failed entirely to capitalise on it. Jesse also created the VA RoboCam, an all-weather, democratic online surveillance camera that failed to bring about a backlash against public video surveillance, but did allow radio presenters in Canada to buy beers for punters in Adelaide, Australia.

One of Jesse’s shorter contracts ended not long after his wife found him lying on the couch, after an 18 hour day, moaning “No process! No rigour!” These days Jesse works from his home in the Adelaide Hills, hacking on Flapjack for Bulletproof, that has both process and rigour.