Insignificant Truths

Monitoring Go applications with Monit


Out-of-Memory (OOM) occurs when the operating system can’t find free memory to allocate. When this happens an already running process has to be sacrificed to free up enough memory. Which process is killed, by the OOM killer, depends on a time-tested heuristic that selects for bad OOM score. OOM score (also known as badness score) is a cumulative statistic of how well or poorly a process uses system resources. Usually when a process uses a lot of memory, it has a high badness score, which consequently makes it a prime target of the OOM killer.

Go and OOMs

It’s well-known that OOMs are tough on Go applications. Go 1.11 memory management improvements promise to keep the OOM killer at a safe distance. But that respite isn’t always enough. As I write this, my long running Go application (compiled with 1.11, of course) has a badness score of 181, which puts it right in the crosshairs of the killer. The application under consideration is a concurrent audio streams recorder and processor. At the peak of its activity it hoards a significant amount of memory. This memory requirement won’t change. Likewise the OOM killer won’t relent. I mean, with such a reputation the OOM killer is bound to develop an appetite for terminating my crucial but memory-intensive application. Fair.

Hence, I needed a solution which will resurrect the application after it has been killed.

The Solution

If you’re familiar with Erlang or Elixir, you probably jumped ahead and said, yup, what you need is a supervisor2. And you’re probably right.

Unfortunately, Go, like most other programming languages, lacks a supervision tree in the manner of Erlang/Elixir’s. You could build one, specific to your application, but I found Monit to be exactly the process monitor I needed. Besides, whatever I was going to build wasn’t going to give me the assurance of the Erlang/Elixir supervisor nor the low footprints of Monit.


Monit is a small utility for managing and monitoring Unix systems. It can monitor a process and respond to specific events with pre-defined actions. Monit runs in cycles (defaults to 2 minutes apart), and during each run it figures out the state of the process. If the process is dead it will be restarted with the start program action.


If there isn’t a package for your Linux/Unix distribution, you can follow the instructions here to download and install Monit on your system. On Ubuntu, my Linux distro, it’s as simple as

 $ sudo apt install monit 

and after a successful installation, started with

$ monit


In my case I wanted to monitor the main process of my Go application and restart whenever it fell prey to the OOM killer. I added recorder.monit to my application root with the following contents:

check process recorder with pidfile /var/run/
  start program = "/etc/init.d/recorder start"
  stop program = "/etc/init.d/recorder stop"

Next I symlinked to a directory from which Monit loads extra configurations. Which means that next time Monit (re)starts, the recorder process, whose pid is written to /var/run/ will be monitored. And that is where the pid of my memory intensive Go application is written to. All set, but I don’t reload Monit yet.

$ ln -s /path/to/recorder.monit /etc/monit/conf.d/recorder

As you can see in the Monit configuration above, I opted for an init script for starting and stopping the application. Below is the contents of, my init script, which I added to the root of the application files:

#! /bin/sh
set -e

# Provides:          recorder
# Required-Start:    $local_fs $network
# Required-Stop:     $local_fs $network
# Default-Start:     2 3 4 5
# Default-Stop:      0 1 6
# Short-Description: AF Radio audio stream recorder
# Description:       AF Radio audio stream recorder

export PATH=$PATH:/usr/local/bin


PIDFILE=/var/run/ # managed by app
RECORDER_PIDFILE=/var/run/$ # managed by start-stop-daemon
RECORDER_DESC="AF Radio Audio Recorder"

# log_begin_msg, log_end_msg, log_warning_msg
source /lib/lsb/init-functions

# Handle start, stop, status, restart
case "$1" in
    log_begin_msg "Starting $RECORDER_DESC"
    start-stop-daemon --start --background \
      --no-close \
      --oknodo \
      --exec "$LINUX_BIN" \
      --pidfile "$RECORDER_PIDFILE" \
      --make-pidfile \
      -- \
        -pidfile "$PIDFILE" \
        -logfile "$LOGFILE" \
        -db "$DB_PATH"

    log_end_msg $?

    if [ -f "$RECORDER_PIDFILE" ]; then
      log_begin_msg "Stopping $RECORDER_DESC"
      start-stop-daemon --stop --pidfile "$RECORDER_PIDFILE" --retry 1

      log_end_msg $?
      log_warning_msg "Recorder already stopped."

  recorder_pid=`cat "$RECORDER_PIDFILE" 2>/dev/null`
  [ -n "$recorder_pid" ] \
    && ps -p $recorder_pid >/dev/null 2>&1 \
    && $0 stop
  $0 start

    status_of_proc -p "$RECORDER_PIDFILE" "$BASE" "$RECORDER_DESC"

    echo "Usage: service recorder {start|stop|restart|status}"
    exit 1

exit 0

Next, is made executable, symlinked to /etc/init.d/ directory, and added to the list of programs that should be started on boot. Then

$ chmod +x /path/to/
$ ln -s /path/to/ /etc/init.d/recorder
$ update-rc.d recorder defaults
$ systemctl start recorder

Now I’m ready to reload Monit:

$ monit reload

It’s a good feeling of liberation when you know your application will be restarted no matter how many times it goes down, and without manual intervention. Well, as long as Monit itself stays alive. As such I still check in once in a while (but less frequently), to see how both Monit and my application are doing, and usually I see statistics like this

The Monit daemon 5.16 uptime: 2h 20m

Process 'recorder'
  status                            Running
  monitoring status                 Monitored
  pid                               12339
  parent pid                        1
  uid                               0
  effective uid                     0
  gid                               0
  uptime                            2h 20m
  threads                           6
  children                          0
  memory                            18.8 MB
  memory total                      18.8 MB
  memory percent                    0.5%
  memory percent total              0.5%
  cpu percent                       0.0%
  cpu percent total                 0.0%

Got comments or corrections for factual errors? There’s a Hacker News thread for that.

  1. I should mention that this isn’t an indictment on Go’s memory management; it’s the nature of the application under consideration. It records audio tracks (to hard disk), reads them into memory for processing, before uploading to S3 storage. 

  2. Erlang and Elixir have a thing called the supervisor tree. Roughly put, one (or more) of the processes started by your application acts as a supervisor of all child processes, and is able to bring them back up when they go down.