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Last updated: 19 Apr 2021

Reboot a machine

Under normal circumstances most machines reboot automatically when an update is required. Some machines need to be rebooted manually.

Note that much of the following documentation assumes you have correctly set up your fabric scripts.

Automatic rebooting

If machines are not rebooting automatically, there may be a problem with the locking mechanism. See next section.

Checking locking status

locksmith manages unattended reboots to ensure that systems are available. It is possible that a problem could occur where they can’t reboot automatically.

$ fab <environment> all locksmith.status

If a lock is in place, it will detail which machine holds the lock.

You can remove it with:

$ fab <environment> -H <machine-name> locksmith.unlock:"<machine-name>"

Machines that are safe to reboot should then do so at the scheduled time.

Manual rebooting

Before rebooting anything manually, see if any special cases apply to the type of machine you need to reboot.

Rules of manual rebooting

  • Do not reboot more than one machine of the same class at the same time.
  • There are Icinga alerts that warn if machines need rebooting. Those alerts will tell you if it’s a manual reboot, and whether it’s in- or out-of-hours.
  • There is extra guidance if the machine you are rebooting is in AWS. You may wish to pair with the RE interruptible/on call person.

Rebooting one machine

First check whether the machine is safe to reboot. This information is stored in puppet in hieradata. For example, here is an example of a machine that cannot be safely rebooted. The default is safe_to_reboot::can_reboot: 'yes'.

If there is an incident which requires the rebooting of a machine otherwise marked as ‘no’, then it may be done provided any downstream effects of this reboot have been considered.

If you want to reboot the machine immediately:

  1. Schedule downtime in Icinga, or let 2ndline know that there will be alerts for a machine being down.

  2. SSH into it and run:

   sudo reboot

Rebooting guidance for AWS

If rebooting machines in AWS, extended reboot times may result in the relevant machine being terminated automatically. If this happens, a new machine will be created automatically.

There have been a few cases when a reboot in AWS has not come back successfully and RE will be able to help in these cases. It also means RE can investigate any problems so it doesn’t happen again and we have confidence in our ability to reboot machines in AWS.

There’s a section on rebooting cache machines in AWS.

Special cases

Rebooting Jenkins CI agents

Sometimes a CI agent starts continually erroring on Jenkins jobs, and the most straightforward way of fixing the issue is to reboot the machine.

First, visit the Jenkins nodes list. Click on the problematic agent and then “Mark this node temporarily offline”. You’ll need to provide a reason, which could just be “to reboot problematic agent”. This will stop the agent from being used for new jobs.

SSH into the agent; the machine number to SSH into will match the agent number. For example:

gds govuk connect ssh -e integration ci_agent:6

Reboot the machine: sudo reboot.

Finally, go back into the Jenkins nodes list to take the node online and then to “Launch agent”. You’ll be taken to the live log for the agent, where you should see the output Agent successfully connected and online.

Rebooting Cache machines in AWS

The cache machines run the router app which handles live user traffic. To safely reboot them without serving too many errors to users, we must remove them from the AWS load balancer target groups before rebooting.

The tool for rebooting cache machines is in the govuk-puppet repository. This is the recommended way to reboot a cache machine:

cd govuk-puppet
gds aws govuk-integration-poweruser -- ./tools/ -e integration

The tool takes an environment and a private DNS name, which are provided by the Icinga alert.

You can also follow this process manually:

  1. Login to the AWS Console for the relevant environment (gds aws govuk-<environment>-<your-role> -l).
  2. Find the Instance ID of the critical machine(s) (probably all 8 blue-cache machines)
  3. Navigate to the blue-cache Auto Scaling Group (ASG)
  4. Put the instance into a “Standby” state, which will detach the instance from its Target Groups
  5. Once the instance is in a Standby state, SSH onto the machine (find this from the reboots required alert listing)
  6. Check the traffic has reduced to only be the Smokey healthchecks now: tail -f /var/log/nginx/lb-access.log.
  7. Schedule downtime in icinga and run sudo reboot on the remote machine like normal.
  8. In the blue-cache ASG, move the instance back to the “InService” state, which will re-add the instance to the Target Groups
  9. Check the traffic is flowing from the load balancer with tail -f /var/log/nginx/lb-access.log again.

Rebooting MongoDB machines

You can see our MongoDB machines by running:

$ fab $environment puppet_class:mongodb::server hosts

All secondary Mongo machines will reboot overnight. If you don’t need to reboot the cluster right now, step the current primary down and allow it to reboot overnight:

$ fab $environment -H $hostname mongo.step_down_primary


$ fab aws_production -H mongo.step_down_primary

(note that the example IP is fake)

The general approach for rebooting machines in a MongoDB cluster is:

  • Check cluster status with fab $environment -H $hostname mongo.status
  • Using fab $environment -H $hostname mongo.safe_reboot
    • Reboot the secondaries
    • Reboot the primary. The mongo.safe_reboot Fabric task automates stepping down the primary and waiting for the cluster to recover before rebooting.

Rebooting Redis machines

Unless there are urgent updates to apply, these machines should not be rebooted during working hours in production. Other services rely directly on particular Redis hosts and may error if they are unvailable.

Reboots of these machines, in the production environment, should be organised by On Call staff and search-api workers must be restarted (by re-deploying the latest release) after the reboot.

They may be rebooted in working hours in other environments, however you should notify colleagues before doing so as this may remove in-flight jobs that Sidekiq has added to the Redis queues but not yet processed.

Rebooting RabbitMQ machines

There’s a Fabric task to reboot all nodes in the RabbitMQ cluster, waiting for the cluster to recover before rebooting the next node.


We have had a couple of incidents after running this script, so it should only be done in-hours and requires careful monitoring. See:

1) No non-idle RabbitMQ consumers - This required killing RabbitMQ processes to resolve.

2) Publishing API jobs became stuck - This required restarting Publishing API workers to resolve.

If there are problems with the cluster (eg, a partition has happened), the safe_reboot script will not reboot anything, and you’ll need to take manual action to resolve the problem.

  • Reboot the nodes in the cluster:
fab <environment> class:rabbitmq rabbitmq.safe_reboot

If any applications start alerting due to rabbitmq-1 being rebooted then either add a note here about how to make that application recover, or get the team responsible to make it point to the cluster.

Rebooting rabbitmq may cause alerts for other apps which can be restarted, for example email-alert-api.

You can ssh into individual machines to restart the service:

sudo service email-alert-api restart

Rebooting asset primary and secondary machines

Unless there are urgent updates to apply the primary machine should not be rebooted in production during working hours - as the primary machine is required for attachments to be uploaded.

The secondary machines can be rebooted as they hold a copy of data and are resynced regularly.

Reboots of the step_down_primary machine should be organised by On Call staff, for the production environment.

You may reboot the primary machine in the staging environment during working hours however it is prudent to warn colleagues that uploading attachments will be unavailable during this period.

Rebooting router-backend machines

Router backend machines are instances of MongoDB machines and can be rebooted as per the MongoDB rebooting guidance.

Rebooting jumpbox machines

These machines are safe to reboot during the day. During the night they are involved in a data sync processes and rebooting could cause the data sync to fail.

sudo reboot

Rebooting docker-management

It is safe to reboot while no other unattended reboot is underway - see