Migrating RRD data to Graphite (from NAV 3 to NAV 4)

When upgrading from NAV 3 to NAV 4, you may want to keep historic traffic graphs and other time-series data collected into RRD files by NAV 3 and Cricket.

NAV 4.0 through 4.5 comes with a utility for converting NAV 3 RRD files into Whisper files (Whisper is the data format used by Graphite). This how-to documents usage of the utility and limitations of the conversion process.


You cannot upgrade directly from NAV 3 to 4.6 and keep your RRD data. You will either have make a decision to lose your old RRD data, or perform an intermediary upgrade via an NAV 4 version.


On the NAV server, run this program:

migrate_to_whisper.py <PATH>

where PATH is the directory where your whisper file hierarchy will be placed.

  • If your Graphite Carbon backend runs on the same server as NAV, this can point directly to its whisper storage directory (most commonly /opt/graphite/storage/whisper/).

  • If not, specify a temporary directory and move the files to your Carbon server.


Assumptions before we start:

  • You have stopped NAV 3 and installed NAV 4.

  • You have installed and configured Graphite according to Integrating Graphite with NAV.

  • py-rrdtool must still be installed on the NAV server, as well as whisper.

  • You have NOT started NAV 4.

On the NAV server, run this program:

migrate_to_whisper.py <PATH>

where PATH is the directory where your whisper file hierarchy will be placed.

  • If your Graphite Carbon backend runs on the same server as NAV, this can point directly to its whisper storage directory (most commonly /opt/graphite/storage/whisper/).

  • If not, specify a temporary directory and move the files to your Carbon server afterwards.

When conversion is complete and the Whisper files are on the target server, ensure they are readable/writable by the user that runs the Carbon daemon (e.g. chmod -R graphite:graphite /opt/graphite/storage/whisper/nav).

Runtime considerations

Conversion may take a long time to complete, depending on the amount of data you have to convert. We have only one data point so far:

On a reasonably modern computer (Intel i7 Quad core with 8GB RAM, an SSD and a 64-bit OS), converting 2512 RRD files to Whisper took approximately 19 minutes. This is from a small NAV installation with only 39 monitored IP devices and 108 monitored subnet prefixes on 63 VLANs.

Converting while NAV 4 is running

If you start NAV 4 before proceeding with the RRD conversion, NAV will begin to send metrics to Graphite; the Whisper files the conversion tool wants to produce will therefore already exist in Carbon’s storage directory.

Any Whisper files that already exist will not be overwritten by the conversion tool, but they will be updated with old data from the RRD file (aka. “backfilling”). You may think this will help you avoid downtime data gaps in your resulting graphs, but because of the precision mismatches detailed in the Data archives section, you may get multiple gaps in older data instead.


If you cannot live with this downtime, you can opt to start NAV 4 and have the conversion tool place Whisper files in a temporary directory. When the conversion process is over, you can overwrite the Whisper files in Carbon’s storage directory with those produced by NAV. You will, of course, still have the downtime gap in your graphs, but NAV will at least monitor and dispatch alerts as usual during the conversion.

Migrating between different platforms

The RRD file format is platform/architecture dependent, whereas Whisper files are not. If you are attempting to migrate your RRD data to a new NAV server, the two servers’ architectures must match. If they don’t, you must run the conversion step on the original server (a typical scenario is migrating from a 32-bit platform to a 64-bit platform).

Your only other option in the face of an architecture mismatch is to dump the RRD files to XML files on the original server, and then load those back into RRD files on the new server.

If you choose the latter option, things can get complicated quick. Here’s a suggestion that has been employed by the authors of NAV (and requires the rrdtool command line program to be present on both servers):

  1. Put the following shell script on your original NAV server, as /root/migrate-rrd.sh, and make sure it is executable:

    #!/usr/bin/env bash
    list_nav_rrdfiles() {
      sudo -u postgres psql nav -P format=unaligned -q -t -c "SELECT path || '/' || filename FROM rrd_file"
    list_nav_rrdfiles | while read RRD
        TARGETDIR=`dirname "$TARGET"`
        echo "mkdir -p \"$TARGETDIR\""
        echo "rm -f \"$TARGET\""
        echo "cat << EOF | rrdtool restore - \"$TARGET\""
        rrdtool dump $RRD
        echo "EOF"
  2. On the new NAV-server, run the following:

    cd /
    ssh root@oldnavserver /root/migrate-rrd.sh | bash

    This will make the old NAV server produce a stream of shell commands to load RRD files from XML and put these in the same paths as the originals. Piping these commands to a bash shell will execute them on the new server.


    Yes, we know this is an ugly hack; make sure you make a backup of everything, don’t run this as root if you can help it, and don’t blame us if anything goes wrong.


Data archives

What _rrdtool refers to as a Round Robin Archive (RRA) corresponds to what Whisper calls a “retention archive”. Each archive stores data points at a specific time resolution, for a specific period of time.

Conventional wisdom says “recent data is more interesting than old data”, meaning one wants high resolution on recent data, but low resolution on old data is OK. The convention is to have multiple archives covering increasing periods of time with decreasing resolution.

NAV ships with a Graphite/Carbon config file with recommended storage schemas for NAV data. The precisions and lengths of the defined retention archives will in some instances deviate from those used in NAV 3’s RRD files; some data will be stored at higher precision in NAV 4 compared to NAV 3.

For practical resons, the conversion tool will mirror the RRAs in RRD files as retention archives in the Whisper files it creates, regardless of this configuration. However, the highest precision archives are important, so if the recommended precision in NAV 4 is higher than what the old RRD file provides, the tool will create a higher precision archive and interpolate data from RRD into this.

Any new metrics collected by NAV will be subject to the storage schemas configured in Carbon.

Whisper comes with command line tools for altering/adding retention archives in existing Whisper files, if you wish to make changes after-the-fact. A common wish is to retain data for longer periods than the default - these tools would enable that.

Aggregation methods

What _rrdtool refers to as “consolidation functions” corresponds to what Whisper calls “aggregation methods”.

In an RRD file, consolidation functions are an attribute of each RRA, meaning you can have multiple, overlapping archives which consolidate data points in different ways. In Whisper, the aggregation method is an attribute of the Whisper file itself.

NAV 3 may have RRD files with overlapping archives to include maximum and average consolidation of the same data points. The default of the NAV 4 Graphite setup is to use the average aggregation for Whisper files. The conversion tool will therefore only extract the average values from the RRD files.

Network interface counter discontinuities

NAV 3’s RRD files use DERIVE-based data sources for interface counters (octet, packet and error counters, etc.), meaning the values stored in the RRD files are the actual traffic data rates. Whisper does not support DERIVE-type calculations at insert time, so NAV 4 will instead store the raw counter values in Graphite, and convert to rates when presenting graphs/data.

The rates stored in RRD files will therefore be converted to absolute counter values when inserted into the corresponding Whisper files. Unless there is a gap between the converted data and the new data collected by NAV 4, this may result in huge spikes in your graphs at the point in time you converted.

Environmental sensor precision changes

Some environmental sensor values are reported at a specific decimal precision.

NAV versions prior to 4.0 would configure Cricket to store raw values into the RRD files (meaning a Celsius temperature value of 314 with a precision of 1 would be stored as 314, not as 31.4, which is the actual temperature value).

NAV 4.0 will scale the values according to their precision before storing in Graphite. The conversion tool will, however, not scale old values from RRD files. Any sensor metric graphs with a decimal precision point will have a visible scale-related jump at the point in time you converted.