[erlang-questions] Making an Ubuntu daemon out of a release while using heart

Eric Merritt <>
Mon Mar 14 15:23:06 CET 2011


Let me just encourage you to release this. I have run into this need
on several occasions and have a few adhoc approaches to it. Having a
decent well tested solution out in the community would be a very good


On Mon, Mar 14, 2011 at 2:00 AM, Sam Bobroff <> wrote:
> On 10/03/11 05:32, ori brost wrote:
>> I have a release of a server program in Erlang that I would like to turn
>> into a daemon. Currently I did this by writing a script (based on the
>> release management script generated by rebar) which runs the Erlang VM
>> synchronously, and writing an upstart .conf file which runs the script).
>> My problem is that I want to use erl -heart. I have noticed that the
>> whenever the VM dies, the heart process restarts it, but then the VM starts
>> a new heart process and kills the old one. This means I have no permanent
>> PIDs to follow. I was thinking of implementing my solution by having the
>> script run a while-loop that will only exit if there is no heart process in
>> the system (for now, assume there is no other erlang program running on the
>> machine), and have upstart think that the script is the daemon.
>> Does anyone have recommendation for a better solution? Or some general
>> recommendation on how to make a daemon out of an Erlang server? Preferably
>> using upstart?
>> Best Regards,
>> Ori Bar, Software Engineer
>> Nivertech Ltd
>> email:    
> Hi Ori,
>    We faced similar problems when deploying an Erlang application to
> RedHat machines and ended up writing our own replacement for "run_erl"
> and "heart" (as a single program) that we call "erld". If you're
> interested I could probably send you the source (we're intending to
> release it as open source eventually anyway). It's intended for running
> an Erlang VM as a "well behaved" Unix daemon.
>    The problems we hit (and which it solves), are, from memory:
> * PID confusion: The only PID that a unix init script can get hold of
> when starting Erlang is the PID of the beam.smp process, and when that
> is restarted by heart, it changes and the init script can't know what
> process to stop or kill. run_erl doesn't seem to support a "pidfile" option.
> * Zombie Erlang: If heart dies (or is killed), Erlang will beam.smp will
> restart it. If beam.smp dies, heart will restart it. This makes it
> rather hard to kill a system that is crashing badly (in fact if you
> don't know how to stop-but-not-kill a unix process you may have to
> reboot the server!).
> * Bad detach behavior: run_erl detaches from the console before it's
> actually started anything so an init script can't possibly report "OK"
> or "FAIL"... it just has to say "OK" and hope that the program has
> started. Admins have to check the logs every time to see if it's worked.
> (This is REALLY annoying to our system admins.) Properly behaved daemons
> won't detach until after they've started up *successfully*. Any fatal
> errors should be reported to the console.
> * Which log is current? The log rotation system that's built in has a
> bizarre rotation strategy that we don't like (the .1 .2 .4 .5 thing that
> you've probably seen).
> * Because run_erl will happily created any number of sockets in /tmp,
> it's easy to accidentally start multiple (probably non-functional)
> copies of your application.
> It also does a few other things:
> * Reopens log files on SIGHUP.
> * Captures any stdout from the Erlang VM.
> I suspect even fairly big Erlang Unix apps face these problems, but I
> haven't yet seen any other solutions (e.g. ejabberd, yaws). Does anyone
> know?
> Peace,
> Sam.
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