rsyslogd is a tried and true piece of middleware to collect and aggregate syslogs.

Once aggregated into the central server (which is also running rsyslogd), the syslog data is periodically bulk loaded into various data backends like databases, search indexers and object storage systems.

The above architecture can be improved in a few ways:

  1. Adding a new data consumer requires scripting: each new data source requires a data load script that needs to be written and maintained. This means an engineering overhead that grows linearly with the number of data consumers.
  2. Data is pulled, not pushed: because data is pulled by data consumers and not pushed by the aggregator rsyslogd, the scripts need to run very frequently to get fresh data. A better alternative is to have the aggregator push data to each data consumer, but there is no out-of-the-box way to do this with rsyslogd.

By replacing the central rsyslogd aggregator with Fluentd addresses both 1. and 2.

  1. Fluentd supports many data consumers out of the box. By installing an appropriate output plugin, one can add a new data source with a few configuration changes.
  2. Fluentd pushes data to each consumer with tunable frequency and buffering settings.

The rest of the article shows how to set up Fluentd as the central syslog aggregator to stream the aggregated logs into Elasticsearch.

Prerequisites

  • A basic understanding of Fluentd and rsyslogd
  • A running instance of Elasticsearch

In this guide, we assume we are running td-agent on Ubuntu Precise.

Setup: rsyslogd

If remote rsyslogd instances are already collecting data into the aggregator rsyslogd, the settings for rsyslog should remain unchanged. However, if this is a brandnew setup, start forward syslog output by adding the following line to /etc/rsyslogd.conf

*.* @182.39.20.2:42185

You should replace "182.39.20.2" with the IP address of your aggregator server. Also, there is nothing special about port 42185 (do make sure this port is open though).

Setup: Fluentd

On your aggregator server, set up Fluentd. See here for the details.

$ curl -L http://toolbelt.treasuredata.com/sh/install-ubuntu-precise.sh | sh 

Next, the Elasticsearch output plugin needs to be installed. Run

/usr/sbin/td-agent-gem install fluent-plugin-elasticsearch

If you are using vanilla Fluentd, run

fluent-gem install fluent-plugin-elasticsearch

You might need to sudo to install the plugin.

Finally, configure /etc/td-agent/td-agent.conf as follows.

<source>
  type syslog
  port 42185
  tag  rsyslog
</source>

<match rsyslog.**>
  type copy
  <store>
    # for debug (see /var/log/td-agent.log)
    type stdout
  </store>
  <store>
    type elasticsearch
    logstash_format true
    flush_interval 10s # for testing.
    host YOUR_ES_HOST
    port YOUR_ES_PORT
  </store>
</match>

Restart and Confirm That Data Flow into Elasticsearch

Restart td-agent with sudo service td-agent restart. Then, run tail against /var/log/td-agent.log. You should see the following lines:

2014-06-01 19:41:28 +0000 rsyslog.kern.info: {"host":"precise64","ident":"kernel","message":"[49851.032200] docker0: port 2(veth6091) entering disabled state"}

Then, query Elasticsearch to make sure the data is in there. For example, one can aggregate and filter data based on hostname.

What's Next?

In production, you might want to remove writing output into stdout. So, use the following output configuration:

<match rsyslog.*>
  type elasticsearch
  logstash_format true
  host YOUR_ES_HOST
  port YOUR_ES_PORT
</match>

Do you wish to store rsyslogd logs into other systems? Check out other data outputs!.

What's Next?

Interested in other data sources and output destinations? Check out the following resources:

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