Agent Control Commands

The VOLTTRON platform has several commands for controlling the lifecycle of agents. This page discusses how to use them, for details of operation please see Platform Configuration


These examples assume the VOLTTRON environment has been activated

. env/bin/activate

If not activating the VOLTTRON virtual environment, add “bin/” to all commands

Agent Packaging

The vpkg command is used for packaging and configuring agents. It is not necessary to have the platform running to use this command. The platform uses Python Wheel for its packaging and follows the Wheel naming convention.

To create an agent package, call:

vpkg <Agent Dir>

For instance: vpkg package examples/ListenerAgent

The package command uses the in the agent directory to create the package. The name and version number portion of the Wheel filename come from this. The resulting wheels are created at ~/.volttron/packaged. For example: ~/.volttron/packaged/listeneragent-3.0-py2-none-any.whl.

Agent Configuration

Agent packages are configured with:

vpkg configure <AgentPackage> <ConfigFile>

It is suggested that this file use JSON formatting but the agent can be written to interpret any format it requires. The configuration of a particular agent is opaque to the VOLTTRON platform. The location of the agent config file is passed as an environmental variable AGENT_CONFIG which the provided utilities read in and pass to the agent.

An example config file passing in some parameters:


    "agentid": "listener1",
    "message": "hello"

Agent Installation and Removal

Agents are installed into the platform using:

vctl install <package>

When agents are installed onto a platform, it creates a uuid for that instance of an agent. This allows multiple instances of the same agent package to be installed on the platform.

This allows the user to refer to the agent with --tag <tag> instead of the uuid when issuing commands. This tag can also distinguish instances of an agent from each other.

A stopped agent can be removed with:

  • vctl remove <AGENT_UUID>

  • vctl remove --tag <AGENT_TAG>

  • vctl remove --name <AGENT_NAME>

Tagging Agents

Agents can be tagged as they are installed with:

vctl install <TAG>=<AGENT_PACKAGE>

Agents can be tagged after installation with:

vctl tag <AGENT_UUID> <TAG>

Agents can be “tagged” to provide a meaningful user defined way to reference the agent instead of the uuid or the name. This allows users to differentiate between instances of agents which use the same codebase but are configured differently.


A user installs two instances of the Listener Agent, tagged with listen1 and listen2 respectively:

python scripts/ -s examples/ListenerAgent --tag listener1
python scripts/ -s examples/ListenerAgent --tag listener2

vctl status displays:

  AGENT             IDENTITY            TAG       STATUS          HEALTH
a listeneragent-3.3 listeneragent-3.3_2 listener2
6 listeneragent-3.3 listeneragent-3.3_1 listener1

Commands which operate off an agent’s UUID can optionally operate off the tag by using “–tag “. This can use wildcards to catch multiple agents at once. For example, vctl start --tag listener* will start both listener1 and listener2.


Removal by tag and name potentially allows multiple agents to be removed at once and should be used with caution. A “-f” option is required to delete more than one agent at a time.

Agent Control

Starting and Stopping an Agent

Agent that are installed in the platform can be launched with the start command. By default this operates off the agent’s UUID but can be used with --tag or --name to launch agents by those attributes.

This can allow multiple agents to be started at once. For instance: vctl start --name myagent-0.1 would start all instances of that agent regardless of their uuid, tag, or configuration information.

After an agent is started, it will show up in Agent Status as “running” with a process id.

Similarly, volttron-ctl stop <UUID> can also operate off the tag and name of agent(s). After an agent is stopped, it will show an exit code of 0 in Agent Status

Running an agent

For testing purposes, an agent package not installed in the platform can be run by using:

vctl run <PACKAGE>

Agent Status

vctl list shows the agents which have been installed on the platform along with their uuid, associated tag and priority.

  • uuid is the first column of the display and is displayed as the shorted unique portion. Using this portion, agents can be started, stopped, removed, etc.

  • AGENT is the “name” of this agent based on the name of the wheel file which was installed. Agents can be controlled with this using --name.


    If multiple instances of a wheel are installed they will all have the same name and can be controlled as a group.

  • IDENTITY is the VIP platform identity assigned to the agent which can be used to make RPC calls, etc. with the platform

  • TAG is a user provided tag which makes it simpler to track and refer to agents. --tag <tag> can used in most agent control commands instead of the UUID to control that agent or multiple agents with a pattern.

  • PRI is the priority for agents which have been “enabled” using the vctl enable command. When enabled, agents will be automatically started in priority order along with the platform.

  AGENT             IDENTITY            TAG          PRI
a listeneragent-3.3 listeneragent-3.3_2 listener2
6 listeneragent-3.3 listeneragent-3.3_1 listener1

The vctl status command shows the list of installed agents and whether they are running or have exited.

  AGENT             IDENTITY            TAG       STATUS          HEALTH
a listeneragent-3.3 listeneragent-3.3_2 listener2 running [12872] GOOD
6 listeneragent-3.3 listeneragent-3.3_1 listener1 running [12873] GOOD
  • AGENT, IDENTITY and TAG are the same as in the vctl list command

  • STATUS is the current condition of the agent. If the agent is currently executing, it has “running” and the process id of the agent. If the agent is not running, the exit code is shown.

  • HEALTH represents the current state of the agent. GOOD health is displayed while the agent is operating as expected. If an agent enters an error state the health will display as BAD

To get more information about a current agents’ health one can execute

# vctl health agent_uuid
vctl health a

The above command will output json such as the following:

    "peer": "listeneragent-3.2_1",
    "service_agent": false,
    "connected": "2020-11-02T14:26:07.749003",
    "last_heartbeat": "2020-11-02T14:26:12.762268",
    "message": "GOOD"


When an agent sets its health it can set the message to any serializable string.

Agent Autostart

An agent can be setup to start when the platform is started with the enable command. This command also allows a priority to be set (0-100, default 50) so that agents can be started after any dependencies. This command can also be used with the --tag or --name options.

vctl enable <AGENT_UUID> -p <PRIORITY>