Store the system logs in MariaDB

I’ve used Elasticsearch on OpenBSD to store my system logs for quite long now. And if it does the job, there are a few things I don’t like so much with it.

I only used a single instance so I was warned about availability. But a sudden power outage had severe impact on my daily data. Way much more than what I expected from a Production-ready software. Rebuilding and re-indexing the data was a real pain in the ass. From time to time, I also get errors about indexing that seem to go away without doing nothing.

The latter is probably due to my low memory server. But I want to store logs for only a couple of boxes. And I don’t want to reserve 4GB of RAM just for this. This “gimme more RAM” manner really annoys me. And as I also need RAM for Logstash (to parse the data and send them to Elasticsearch), this leads to way too much resources consumption.

That said, I decided to test another way for storing the logs : using a RDBMS, namely MariaDB. I already have one running smooth. And I read Grafana was able to read data from it using SQL commands.

How it’ll work

The stock syslogd(8) will be configured to send everything it gets to a local (or remote) syslog-ng daemon. The latter will parse, filter, format and store the logs into a (remote) MySQL / MariaDB instance.

Prepare the RDBMS

I’m using mariadb-server-10.0.34v1 on OpenBSD 6.3/amd64.

First of all, I want to be able to compress the (text) data from the logs. So I had to enable a few InnoDB related options.

# vi /etc/my.cnf
innodb_file_per_table = 1
innodb_file_format = barracuda
innodb_strict_mode = 1

# rcctl restart mysqld

Then, I simply created a database and the credentials that’d be used by syslog-ng.

# mysql -u root -p
> CREATE database logsink;
> GRANT ALL PRIVILEGES ON logsink.* TO 'syslog-ng'@'%' IDENTIFIED BY 'changeme';

Install and configure Syslog-NG

There are drivers required by syslog-ng to store data into mysql.

# pkg_add syslog-ng libdbi-drivers-mysql

Syslog-NG will listen on all interfaces, UDP and TCP ports. This way, any other box can send its logs to him.

# vi /etc/syslog-ng/syslog-ng.conf
source s_net {
destination d_mysql_compressed {
        host("") username("syslog-ng") password("changeme")
            "seq        bigint(20) unsigned NOT NULL AUTO_INCREMENT PRIMARY KEY",
            "unixtime   bigint NOT NULL",
            "facility   varchar(16)",
            "priority   varchar(16)",
            "level      varchar(16)",
            "host       varchar(64) NOT NULL",
            "program    varchar(64) NOT NULL",
            "pid        smallint",
            "message    text",
            "tag        varchar(32)"
            "", "${UNIXTIME}", "$FACILITY_NUM", "$PRIORITY", "$LEVEL_NUM",
            "${HOST}", "$PROGRAM", "${PID}", "${MSGONLY}", "$TAG"
        indexes("unixtime", "host", "program", "tag")
log { source(s_net); filter(f_all); destination(d_mysql_compressed); };
# rcctl enable syslog_ng
# rcctl start syslog_ng

When this is done, configure syslogd(8).

# vi /etc/syslog.conf
*.* @

# rcctl restart syslogd

Explore the logs

From here, the logs should be stored in MariaDB / MySQL.

A first look at the tables shows “COMPRESSED” is better than the standard storage ; regarding disk usage.

| _all           | InnoDB | Compressed |      92409 |     6561792 |      5275648 |   2097152 |
| _all_compact   | InnoDB | Compact    |      93643 |    14172160 |     10551296 |   7340032 |

From the filesystem POV, the gain is also clearly visible.

-rw-rw----   1 _mysql  _mysql   3.3K Aug  3 16:22 _all.frm
-rw-rw----   1 _mysql  _mysql  16.0M Aug  6 15:52 _all.ibd
-rw-rw----   1 _mysql  _mysql   3.3K Aug  3 16:22 _all_compact.frm
-rw-rw----   1 _mysql  _mysql  36.0M Aug  6 15:52 _all_compact.ibd

Have a look at the most verbose programs is just a matter of writing SQL sentence:

> SELECT program, COUNT(program) AS messages FROM _all GROUP BY program ORDER BY messages DESC;
| program             | messages |
| monit               |    47596 |
| smtpd               |    19689 |
| rspamd              |    12884 |
| doas                |     4546 |
| collectd            |     4265 |
| sshd                |     3018 |
| cron                |     2545 |

The logs can be accessed and rendered by Grafana. A simple query can print the last logs. Add alerting when some value appear and you have a nice event-based monitoring tool.

Organize storage

There are logs that I don’t want to store. And there are some that I want to store in a specific table. This can be done in Syslog-NG using filters.

filter f_all {
      not program("fetchmail");
  and not program("monit");
  and not filter(f_unbound);
  and not filter(f_apache);

This will not send messages from fetchmail or monit to the compressed table. Nor will it send messages that match the f_unbound and f_apache filters. Those two guys are used to store messages in a specific table with a dedicated schema. I’ll probably write about the details some day…

Now… send all your logs to Syslog-NG rather than Logstash. Count to 10 and get your RAM back! So far, MariaDB seem to handle it pretty well.

Author: Joel Carnat

@work Technical Architect and SysAdmin ; @home OpenBSD and FOSS, Karate, Kobudō, Jōdō, Bodyweight workout, Photography & Music

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