Prometheus doesn’t have an explicit boolean type or functionality. However there is a convention and enough power in PromQL to work with booleans.

By convention in Prometheus, boolean metrics have either the value 0 for false or 1 for true. The most well known example is `up`

, but there are others like the blackbox exporter’s `probe_success`

.

Alerting on these is quite common and easy, for example:

groups: - name: test.rules rules: - alert: InstanceDown expr: up{job="node"} == 0 for: 10m

This will alert for each node which is down, and thus has an `up`

of 0.

Sometimes you want to do something more sophisticated, and the standard boolean algebra operators are needed.

How about checking if at least one node is up? `max by (job)(up)`

will return 1 if at least one value is 1, and 0 otherwise. `max`

behaves as an OR operator.

Similarly for checking if all nodes are up, `min by (job)(up)`

will return 0 if at least one value is 0, and 1 otherwise. `min`

behaves as an AND operator.

We have AND and OR, what about NOT? `1 - up`

will return the negation, as 1 – 0 = 1 and 1 – 1 = 0.

With AND, OR, and NOT we can build NAND and NOR, from upon all other boolean operators can be built.

We can do a little better for XOR, though there’s two interpretations of how to deal with more than two inputs. If you mean the multi-input XOR where exactly one input must be true, then `sum by (job)(up) == bool 1`

will provide that. For the multi-input XOR where an odd number of inputs must be true, then `sum by (job)(up) % 2 == bool 1`

.

These take advantage of the `bool`

modifier on comparisons. Usually a comparison in PromQL will filter results, returning only the ones that match. With `bool`

instead you get a 0 or 1 result for every set of operands, indicating if they matched.

This can be used in a variety of ways. NOT could also be implemented as `up == bool 0`

. If you wanted a boolean indicating if at least 3 nodes were up you could use `sum by (job)(up) >= bool 3`

.

These examples are all within one metric. What if we want to do boolean algebra between two metrics `a`

and `b`

? AND is `a * b`

, OR is `a + b > bool 0`

, and XOR is `a + b == bool 1`

.

As PromQL supports floating point numbers, we can also do math that would be tricky with booleans alone. For example we can use `avg`

to calculate the ratio of up nodes, and alert if too high a proportion are down:

groups: - name: test.rules rules: - alert: InstancesDown expr: avg(up{job="node"}) BY (job) < 0.75 for: 10m

None of the behaviour above was added to PromQL with booleans in mind, rather it is taking advantage of the richness of PromQL combined with a little bit of computer science knowledge.

It's not often that you'll need full boolean algebra, but you can be confident that it'll be possible when it does come up.

*Can't figure out how to do what you want in PromQL? Contact us.*