How to debug a charm

See also: Tools for debugging

This section will show how to debug a charm if it isn’t working as intended.


View Juju and charm logs at once

See also: Juju | juju debug-log, Juju | juju model-config, Juju | juju model-defaults

To view all of the Juju messages from Juju and charm logs at the same time, run juju debug-log. The logs can show you the detailed inner workings of Juju as well as any juju-log messages that are run from the charm code.

In the case of charm logs, the Operator Framework Ops sets up a Python logging.Handler which forwards all of your logging messages to juju-log, so you’ll see those also.

By default logging is set to the INFO level for newly-created models so, if you have debug messages logging in your code, you’ll need to run this to see them:

juju model-config logging-config="<root>=INFO;unit=DEBUG"

Alternatively, you can do this for every model created by a controller, or on a per-controller basis using the model-defaults command:

juju model-defaults -c <controller name> logging-config='<root>=INFO; unit=DEBUG'

See the Juju logs documentation for details about what you can do with logs: replay them, filter them, send to a remote target, check audit logs, and more.

View integration data

Before juju v.3.0 , ‘integrations’ were called ‘relations’. Remnants of this persist in the names, options, and output of certain commands, and in integration event names.

When an integration between charms is established, Juju offers several ways to view the state of the integration. If many integrations have been established, you may want to be very explicit about the integration and data you are querying. In other cases, you may want to see all the integration data a given unit has access to.

Specific interface

If you want to be specific, you can get a list of which integrations are established on a specified interface, then query a specific integration to find the application on the other side, and finally get the data for that integration.

$ juju run --unit your-charm/0 "relation-ids foo"
$  juju run --unit your-charm/0 "relation-list -r bar:foo"
$ juju run --unit nova-compute/0 "relation-get -r foo:30 - other-charm/0"
password: passw0rd
private-address: 2.3.45.
somekey: somedata

All data

In other cases, it may be preferable to interrogate a unit for all of the data it can see.

$ juju show-unit grafana/0
  opened-ports: []
  charm: local:focal/grafana-k8s-20
  leader: true
  - endpoint: grafana-peers
    related-endpoint: grafana-peers
    application-data: {}
      in-scope: true
  - endpoint: grafana-source
    related-endpoint: grafana-source
      grafana_source_data: '{"model": "lma", "model_uuid": "c80e14c0-39c0-41b1-8c2b-c9d92abbc2ed",
        "application": "prometheus", "type": "prometheus"}'
        in-scope: true
  provider-id: grafana-0

The show-unit command can return a more fined-tuned result with additional arguments.

View past logs

Since log messages stream in real time, it is possible to miss messages while using the debug-log command. If you need to view log entries from before you ran the juju debug-log command, you can pass the --replay option.

Alternatively, you can SSH to the machine and view the log files. To access the individual machine use juju ssh <machine-number> to get access to the machine. For Kubernetes charms, you can SSH to a unit with juju ssh your-charm/0 for the first unit, juju ssh your-charm/1 for the second unit, and so on.

The Juju log files can be found in the /var/log/juju directory for machine charms.

View controller logs

The machine running the controller is not represented in the Juju model and therefore not accessible by machine number. If you need the log files from the controller, you have a few options. More directly, you can change to the controller context in Juju and SSH by number:

juju switch controller
juju ssh 0

Alternatively, if you’re dealing with a Kubernetes charm, you can SSH to the controller with juju ssh -m controller 0.

See also: How to get logs from a Kubernetes charm.

View logs live

See also: Juju | juju debug-code, Python | pdb

If you’re dealing with a charm written with the Ops library, you can jump into live debugging using pdb without needing to change the charm code at all by running the following command:

juju debug-code --at=hook <unit>

This will make the Operator framework automatically interrupt the running charm at the beginning of the registered callback method(s) for any events and/or actions. A tmux window will be opened, and it will wait status until a hook or callback executes.

When that happens, it will place you into an interactive debugging session with pdb.

Example output:

2021-06-18 12:50:25,494 DEBUG    Operator Framework 1.2.0 up and running.
2021-06-18 12:50:25,503 DEBUG    Legacy hooks/config-changed does not exist.
2021-06-18 12:50:25,538 DEBUG    Emitting Juju event config_changed.

Starting pdb to debug charm operator.
Run `h` for help, `c` to continue, or `exit`/CTRL-d to abort.
Future breakpoints may interrupt execution again.
More details at

> /var/lib/juju/agents/unit-content-cache-k8s-0/charm/src/
-> msg = 'Configuring workload container (config-changed)'
(Pdb) n
> /var/lib/juju/agents/unit-content-cache-k8s-0/charm/src/
(Pdb) n
2021-06-18 12:50:32,831 INFO     Configuring workload container (config-changed)
> /var/lib/juju/agents/unit-content-cache-k8s-0/charm/src/
-> self.model.unit.status = MaintenanceStatus(msg)
(Pdb) self.model.unit
<ops.model.Unit content-cache-k8s/0>
(Pdb) self.model.unit.status
(Pdb) n
> /var/lib/juju/agents/unit-content-cache-k8s-0/charm/src/
-> self.configure_workload_container(event)
(Pdb) self.model.unit.status
MaintenanceStatus('Configuring workload container (config-changed)')
(Pdb) n
2021-06-18 12:50:47,213 INFO     Assembling k8s ingress config
2021-06-18 12:50:47,305 INFO     Assembling environment configs
2021-06-18 12:50:47,356 INFO     Assembling pebble layer config
2021-06-18 12:50:47,380 INFO     Assembling Nginx config
2021-06-18 12:50:47,414 INFO     Updating Nginx site config
2021-06-18 12:50:47,484 INFO     Updating pebble layer config
2021-06-18 12:50:47,533 INFO     Stopping content-cache
2021-06-18 12:50:47,922 INFO     Starting content-cache
2021-06-18 12:50:49,018 INFO     Ready
> /var/lib/juju/agents/unit-content-cache-k8s-0/charm/src/>None
-> self.configure_workload_container(event)

Typing n at this point (execute the next command) will run the final line of the config-changed handler, and then end the pdb session.

As you can see, during this process we were able to inspect Operator Framework primitives directly at runtime, such as self.model.unit and self.model.unit.status. For more information about what you can do with pdb, see Python | pdb.

You can also pass the name of the event or action if you only want to debug or inspect a specific event or action:

juju debug-code --at=hook <unit> config-changed

This will interrupt your running charm at the beginning of the handler for the config-changed event, which might be defined in your code as follows:

self.framework.observe(self.on.config_changed, self._on_config_changed)

If you prefer to set a specific breakpoint at a particular line of code in your charm, you can add this at the relevant place:


Then run juju debug-code <unit>, and your pdb session would begin whenever the above line is reached. No need to specify --at=


While you’re debugging one unit, execution of all hooks on that machine or related to that charm is blocked, since Juju locks the model until the hook is resolved.

This is generally helpful, because you don’t want to have to contend with concurrent changes to the runtime environment while you’re debugging, but you should be aware that multiple debug-code sessions for units assigned to the same machine will block one another, and that you can’t control relative execution order directly other than by erroring out of hooks you don’t want to run yet, and retrying them later.

View the Pebble plan

See also: Pebble

If your workload is running on Kubernetes, it’s often useful to be able to inspect the running Pebble plan. To do so, you should juju ssh into the workload container for your charm, and run /charm/bin/pebble plan. Here’s an example:

$ juju ssh --container concourse-worker concourse-worker/0
# /charm/bin/pebble plan
        summary: concourse worker node
        startup: enabled
        override: replace
        command: /usr/local/bin/ worker
            CONCOURSE_TSA_PUBLIC_KEY: /concourse-keys/
            CONCOURSE_TSA_WORKER_PRIVATE_KEY: /concourse-keys/worker_key
            CONCOURSE_WORK_DIR: /opt/concourse/worker

In some cases, your workload container might not allow you to run things in it, if, for instance, it’s based on a “scratch” image. To get around this, you can run the same command from your charm container with a small modification to point to the correct location for the pebble socket.

$ juju ssh concourse-worker/0
# PEBBLE_SOCKET=/charm/containers/concourse-worker/pebble.socket /charm/bin/pebble plan
        summary: concourse worker node
        startup: enabled
        override: replace
        command: /usr/local/bin/ worker
            CONCOURSE_TSA_PUBLIC_KEY: /concourse-keys/
            CONCOURSE_TSA_WORKER_PRIVATE_KEY: /concourse-keys/worker_key
            CONCOURSE_WORK_DIR: /opt/concourse/worker

Debug a single failing hook

See also: Juju | juju debug-hooks, jhack, Python | pdb

This section references jhack (in particular jhack sync, but you can probably do without it, if you know how to handle rsync, or juju ssh the files you touch when you like to.

Suppose you notice you have a unit of <your app> erroring out on, say, X-relation-changed. Some bug in the Python code.

To debug, you can start a debug-hooks session for any hook or for a specific hook:

juju debug-hooks mysql/0                     # for any hook
juju debug-hooks mysql/0 X-relation-changed  # for a specific hook
More details

A debugging session lands you in /var/lib/juju, and as soon as a hook fires, the tmux session automatically takes you to /var/lib/juju/agents/unit-mysql-0/charm.

There, you need to execute hook manually. This means running ./dispatch, which launches your charm code with the current hook’s context. You can ./dispatch multiple times, modifying your charm code in between, as your investigation progresses. You could:

  • directly edit src/ in the tmux session; or
  • manually sync with juju scp or rsync; or
  • automatically sync with jhack sync; etc.

Moreover, if you (temporarily) include import pdb; pdb.set_trace() anywhere in your code, then you’ll be placed in a pdb session whenever ./dispatch encouters a set_trace() statement.

For example:

  1. Run juju debug-hooks mysql/0 X-relation-joined.
  2. Create the integration (juju integrate ...).
  3. Wait for the debug-hooks session to start.
  4. Start a jhack sync session including whatever file is surfacing the error.

Expand to see how

cd into the charm root folder on your local filesystem.

If the code raising the exception is in /lib or /src, you don’t have to do anything special. If not, check the documentation for jhack sync to see how you can include the file.

Run jhack sync <name of broken unit>.

This will start listening for changes in your local tree and push them to the unit. Whatever edits you make locally will be ssh’d into the live running unit.

  1. Write wherever you like: import pdb; pdb.set_trace() and save (so that jhack will sync the change).
  2. In the debug-hooks shell, type ./dispatch (a small shell script located in the charm folder on the unit that executes the charm code) .
  3. Welcome to pdb.

This recipe is interesting because it allows you to run the same event handler over and over while making changes to the code. You can run ./dispatch, debug at will, exit the debugger. Remove the pdb call, try dispatching again. Once, twice… Is the bug gone? Very well, you’re done. Not gone? Rinse and repeat.

Example: Debug a tracing relation in a testing environment

Suppose you have a unit of tempo and a tester charm that relate over a tracing relation.

Suppose that the hook you need to debug is tracing_relation_created.

# in shell A
$ juju debug-hooks tester/0 tracing-relation-joined 

# in shell B
$ jhack nuke tester:tracing
$ juju relate tester tempo

# in shell A
tmux kill-session -t tester/0 # or, equivalently, CTRL+a d 
4. CTRL+a is tmux prefix.                                  
More help and info is available in the online documentation                 

# in shell B
$ cd /path/to/tester/charm/root
$ jhack sync tester/0

$ vim ./src/
# insert at some line: 
#import pdb; pdb.set_trace(header="hello debugger-world")

At this point you’re set. If you save the file, jhack sync will push it to tester/0. That means that if you dispatch the event, you will execute the code you just changed.

# in shell A:
$ ./dispatch
hello debugger-world                                                           
> /var/lib/juju/agents/unit-tester-0/charm/src/          
-> self.container: Container = self.unit.get_container(self._container_name)   
(Pdb) self                                                                     
<__main__.TempoTesterCharm object at 0x7f3af724e370>                           

Debug a flow

See also: jhack

This section references jhack (in particular jhack sync, but you can probably do without it, if you know how to handle rsync, or juju ssh the files you touch when you like to.

  1. Start a jhack sync session on the charm root (see note in recipe 1).
  2. jhack fire the event you wish to debug or work on the unit you’re syncing to.
  3. Look at the logging or the resulting state (charm status, app data, workload config, etc…).

What is good about this flow is that:

  1. You’re not forced to wait for an event to occur “for real” in order to execute the handler for it.
  2. You can easily test several handlers in succession by firing different events. For example, relation-created, relation-changed

What is risky about this flow is that the context that the event normally occurs in is not granted to be there. If you jhack fire X-relation-created while in fact there is no relation X, your charm might make some bad assumptions (which is why you should always write your charm code making basically no assumptions).

Example: again the tracing relation

Working with the same example as in Debug a single failing hook above, the commands would be:

# in shell A
$ cd /path/to/tester/charm/root
$ jhack sync tester/0

# in shell B
jhack fire tester/0 tracing-relation-changed

And you’re basically set up. In your editor you can locally make any change you like to the tester source, and when you’re done you can manually trigger the event.

@rbarry I wonder if we should add juju show-unit here as an additional tool to debug charms, since it is a very convenient way to show relation data among other things.

In the “Log file location” we say:

The Juju log files can be found in the /var/log/juju directory.

But the directory /var/log/juju does not exist neither in the workload container nor in the charm container.

ubuntu@charm-dev:~$ juju ssh --container agent grafana-agent-k8s/0 ls -l /var/log
total 48
drwxr-xr-x 1 root root  4096 Dec  8 13:03 apt
-rw-rw---- 1 root utmp     0 Dec  1 00:00 btmp
-rw-r--r-- 1 root root  4541 Dec  8 13:03 dpkg.log
-rw-r--r-- 1 root root  3232 Dec  1 00:00 faillog
-rw-rw-r-- 1 root utmp 29492 Dec  1 00:00 lastlog
-rw-rw-r-- 1 root utmp     0 Dec  1 00:00 wtmp

ubuntu@charm-dev:~$ juju ssh --container charm grafana-agent-k8s/0 ls -l /var/log
total 308
-rw-r--r-- 1 root root   4355 Mar 30  2021 alternatives.log
drwxr-xr-x 1 root root   4096 Mar 30  2021 apt
-rw-r--r-- 1 root root  58592 Mar 25  2021 bootstrap.log
-rw-rw---- 1 root utmp      0 Mar 25  2021 btmp
-rw-r--r-- 1 root root 191603 Mar 30  2021 dpkg.log
-rw-r--r-- 1 root root   3232 Mar 25  2021 faillog
-rw-rw-r-- 1 root utmp  29492 Mar 25  2021 lastlog
-rw-r----- 1 root root   2624 Feb  7 15:05 machine-lock.log
-rw-rw-r-- 1 root utmp   7680 Feb  7 15:05 wtmp

I think adding a reference to juju show-unit would also help people debugging relation data.

Updated to add show-unit as well as the “slow” way.

Log file location updated to reflect that it’s only true for machine charms

Slightly changed the first sentence in the first section (View Juju and charm logs at once) as follows:

Was: To view of all the Juju messages from Juju and charm logs at the same time, run … Now: To view all of the Juju messages from Juju and charm logs at the same time, run …

1 Like

Adjusted the juju model-defaults to add -c flag that was required to run a per-controller model default:

ubuntu@charm-dev:~$ juju model-defaults juju-controller logging-config='<root>=INFO;unit=DEBUG'
ERROR cannot get value and set key=value pairs simultaneously
ubuntu@charm-dev:~$ juju model-defaults -c juju-controller  logging-config='<root>=INFO;unit=DEBUG'