Log management has been around for a long time, but how we manage our logs has changed profoundly over the years. For effective log management, there are times when you may have to trade off the new for the old, and vice versa. A clear understanding of log agents and log libraries will help assess what works best for different applications and infrastructures.
Log agent/ log shipper: A log agent is used to read and aggregate logs from various sources within the applications and infrastructure. When configured, agents then parse the logs into a log management tool in an indexed, readable, and analysis-conducive format. A good example of an agent that performs this process with textbook perfection is observIQ’s log agent, Stanza – the logging agent natively integrated into the open telemetry platform. Logging agents are built with strategies to deal with different data formats, data sources, and the ability to read logs from a file system that captures events from TCP or UDP. A log agent essentially functions as a transporter that, in addition to transporting, also enriches the quality of your logs.
Features of a log agent:
- Log agents are installed to the source to aggregate logs from that source.
- Log agents are easy to use and you can attach multiple log sources to a single log agent, making them a highly scalable solution.
- Log agents fetch data from sources that do not log to a destination such as routers and switches
- Upgrading agent versions is handled within the agent’s installation at the source and it does not affect the source’s performance or functions in any way.
- Advanced logging agents, such as Stanza, are built to be sleek, highly reliable, and are optimized for very high throughout.
- Great log agents are format-agnostic. An agent installed on any application or infrastructure can read logs irrespective of the format or destination within the application where the logs are saved.
- Log agents handle multi-threaded and asynchronous logging seamlessly
- Agents enrich logs with all the data organized and indexed in logical key-value pairs for analysis. Advanced log agents come with auto-parsing capabilities, eliminating the need for manually configuring parsing and indexing logic.
- Log agents handle network issues or retardations efficiently using buffering and logically sequencing back to aggregation at the point when the issue started.
Log libraries come built-in with most development platforms. The structure, format, and mode of transmission for logs output to log libraries are modified using their APIs. Log libraries are integrated within the application, making them a lighter version for log output. A good example of a logging library is Lograge from Rails logging.
Features of log libraries:
- Log libraries come with a default logging setup. You may choose to use them as is or customize them based on application needs.
- There are preset levels for logs in most logging libraries, classifying them based on criticality and call-to-action.
- By default, most log libraries have the logging set to be noisy and verbose. You can tune that down based on application needs.
- Configuring logging libraries through an external file or API call makes it easy to turn logging on or off without having to redeploy the entire application.
- There are third-party libraries specific to certain tech stacks such as Winston for the MEAN stack.
- They offer the option to rotate the logs to keep the logs saved to files that are smaller and manageable sizes.
To answer the big question, if you must opt for a log agent or use an existing log library, the answer is to handle based on needs, application type, scalability requirements, analysis needs, and compliance requirements. While log libraries come built into your development framework, they have presets that may or may not work well for detailed analysis. Doing individual configurations for each of the log libraries could turn into a very time-consuming task. Log agents come with the benefit of scalability and ease of use, and some log management software, like observIQ, offer a free tier to manage your logs. Evaluate, try, and choose. Send us your comments or suggestions. We love to hear from you.