VMAlert command-line tool

Unit testing for rules#

You can use vmalert-tool to run unit tests for alerting and recording rules. It will perform the following actions:

  • sets up an isolated VictoriaMetrics instance;
  • simulates the periodic ingestion of time series;
  • queries the ingested data for recording and alerting rules evaluation like vmalert;
  • checks whether the firing alerts or resulting recording rules match the expected results.

See how to run vmalert-tool for unit test below:

# Run vmalert-tool with one or multiple test files via `--files` cmd-line flag
# Supports file path with hierarchical patterns and regexpes, and http url.
./vmalert-tool unittest --files /path/to/file --files http://<some-server-addr>/path/to/test.yaml

vmalert-tool unittest is compatible with Prometheus config format for tests except promql_expr_test field. Use metricsql_expr_test field name instead. The name is different because vmalert-tool validates and executes MetricsQL expressions, which aren’t always backward compatible with PromQL.


  • vmalert-tool evaluates all the groups defined in rule_files using evaluation_interval(default 1m) instead of interval under each rule group.
  • vmalert-tool shares the same limitation with vmalert on chaining rules under one group:

by default, rules execution is sequential within one group, but persistence of execution results to remote storage is asynchronous. Hence, user shouldn’t rely on chaining of recording rules when result of previous recording rule is reused in the next one;

For example, you have recording rule A and alerting rule B in the same group, and rule B’s expression is based on A’s results. Rule B won’t get the latest data of A, since data didn’t persist to remote storage yet. The workaround is to divide them in two groups and put groupA in front of groupB (or use group_eval_order to define the evaluation order). In this way, vmalert-tool makes sure that the results of groupA must be written to storage before evaluating groupB:

- name: groupA
  - record: A
    expr: sum(xxx)
- name: groupB
  - alert: B
    expr: A >= 0.75
    for: 1m 

Test file format#

The configuration format for files specified in --files cmd-line flag is the following:

# Path to the files or http url containing [rule groups](https://docs.victoriametrics.com/vmalert/#groups) configuration.
# Enterprise version of vmalert-tool supports S3 and GCS paths to rules.
  [ - <string> ]

# The evaluation interval for rules specified in `rule_files`
[ evaluation_interval: <duration> | default = 1m ]

# Groups listed below will be evaluated by order.
# Not All the groups need not be mentioned, if not, they will be evaluated by define order in rule_files.
  [ - <string> ]

# The list of unit test files to be checked during evaluation.
  [ - <test_group> ]


# Interval between samples for input series
interval: <duration>
# Time series to persist into the database according to configured <interval> before running tests.
  [ - <series> ]

# Name of the test group, optional
[ name: <string> ]

# Unit tests for alerting rules
  [ - <alert_test_case> ]

# Unit tests for Metricsql expressions.
  [ - <metricsql_expr_test> ]

# External labels accessible for templating.
  [ <labelname>: <string> ... ]


# series in the following format '<metric name>{<label name>=<label value>, ...}'
# Examples:
#      series_name{label1="value1", label2="value2"}
#      go_goroutines{job="prometheus", instance="localhost:9090"}
series: <string>

# values support several special equations:
#    'a+bxc' becomes 'a a+b a+(2*b) a+(3*b) … a+(c*b)'
#     Read this as series starts at a, then c further samples incrementing by b.
#    'a-bxc' becomes 'a a-b a-(2*b) a-(3*b) … a-(c*b)'
#     Read this as series starts at a, then c further samples decrementing by b (or incrementing by negative b).
#    '_' represents a missing sample from scrape
#    'stale' indicates a stale sample
# Examples:
#     1. '-2+4x3' becomes '-2 2 6 10' - series starts at -2, then 3 further samples incrementing by 4.
#     2. ' 1-2x4' becomes '1 -1 -3 -5 -7' - series starts at 1, then 4 further samples decrementing by 2.
#     3. ' 1x4' becomes '1 1 1 1 1' - shorthand for '1+0x4', series starts at 1, then 4 further samples incrementing by 0.
#     4. ' 1 _x3 stale' becomes '1 _ _ _ stale' - the missing sample cannot increment, so 3 missing samples are produced by the '_x3' expression.
values: <string>


vmalert by default adds alertgroup and alertname to the generated alerts and time series. So you will need to specify both groupname and alertname under a single <alert_test_case>, but no need to add them under exp_alerts. You can also pass --disableAlertgroupLabel to skip alertgroup check.

# The time elapsed from time=0s when this alerting rule should be checked.
# Means this rule should be firing at this point, or shouldn't be firing if 'exp_alerts' is empty.
eval_time: <duration>

# Name of the group name to be tested.
groupname: <string>

# Name of the alert to be tested.
alertname: <string>

# List of the expected alerts that are firing under the given alertname at
# the given evaluation time. If you want to test if an alerting rule should
# not be firing, then you can mention only the fields above and leave 'exp_alerts' empty.
  [ - <alert> ]


# These are the expanded labels and annotations of the expected alert.
# Note: labels also include the labels of the sample associated with the alert
  [ <labelname>: <string> ]
  [ <labelname>: <string> ]


# Expression to evaluate
expr: <string>

# The time elapsed from time=0s when this expression be evaluated.
eval_time: <duration>

# Expected samples at the given evaluation time.
  [ - <sample> ]


# Labels of the sample in usual series notation '<metric name>{<label name>=<label value>, ...}'
# Examples:
#      series_name{label1="value1", label2="value2"}
#      go_goroutines{job="prometheus", instance="localhost:9090"}
labels: <string>

# The expected value of the Metricsql expression.
value: <number>


This is an example input file for unit testing which will pass. test.yaml is the test file which follows the syntax above and alerts.yaml contains the alerting rules.

With rules.yaml in the same directory, run ./vmalert-tool unittest --files=./unittest/testdata/test.yaml.


  - rules.yaml

evaluation_interval: 1m

  - interval: 1m
      - series: 'up{job="prometheus", instance="localhost:9090"}'
        values: "0+0x1440"

      - expr: subquery_interval_test
        eval_time: 4m
          - labels: '{__name__="subquery_interval_test", datacenter="dc-123", instance="localhost:9090", job="prometheus"}'
            value: 1

      - eval_time: 2h
        groupname: group1
        alertname: InstanceDown
          - exp_labels:
              job: prometheus
              severity: page
              instance: localhost:9090
              datacenter: dc-123
              summary: "Instance localhost:9090 down"
              description: "localhost:9090 of job prometheus has been down for more than 5 minutes."

      - eval_time: 0
        groupname: group1
        alertname: AlwaysFiring
          - exp_labels:
              datacenter: dc-123

      - eval_time: 0
        groupname: group1
        alertname: InstanceDown
        exp_alerts: []

      datacenter: dc-123


# This is the rules file.

  - name: group1
      - alert: InstanceDown
        expr: up == 0
        for: 5m
          severity: page
          summary: "Instance {{ $labels.instance }} down"
          description: "{{ $labels.instance }} of job {{ $labels.job }} has been down for more than 5 minutes."
      - alert: AlwaysFiring
        expr: 1

  - name: group2
      - record: job:test:count_over_time1m
        expr: sum without(instance) (count_over_time(test[1m]))
      - record: subquery_interval_test
        expr: count_over_time(up[5m:])