Alerting on numbers being too big or small is easy with Prometheus. But what if the numbers go missing?

In normal operations your Prometheus discovers your targets, scrapes them, and will run any alerting rules you have defined against them. But that can go wrong. Your instances might disappear from service discovery for example, which would result in any alerts such as avg by (job)(up) < 0.5 returning nothing rather than alerting. As previous discussed when there's no input, aggregators produce no output.

Accordingly it is advised to have alerts on all the targets for a job going away, for example:

- name: example
  - alert: MyJobMissing
    expr: absent(up{job="myjob"})
    for: 10m

This uses the absent function. If given selector doesn't match anything then a single time series with the value 1 and the labels of any equality matcher is returned. In this case for example the alert would have a label of job="myjob". If there are matched, then nothing is returned.

Prometheus can't know which sets of labels are meant to exist, so you'd need one such alert for each of your jobs. This only applies to absent and other cases where time series are missing though, if you just want to detect if a target is down you can do so with one alerting rule as usual.


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