Config File Syntax

This article describes the basic concepts of Fluentd configuration file syntax.

Introduction: The Lifecycle of a Fluentd Event

Here is a brief overview of the lifecycle of a Fluentd event to help you understand the rest of this page:

The configuration file allows the user to control the input and output behavior of Fluentd by 1) selecting input and output plugins; and, 2) specifying the plugin parameters. The file is required for Fluentd to operate properly.

See also: Lifecycle of a Fluentd Event

Config File Location

RPM, Deb or DMG

If you install Fluentd using the td-agent packages, the config file should be at /etc/td-agent/td-agent.conf.

$ sudo vi /etc/td-agent/td-agent.conf

Gem

If you install Fluentd using the Ruby Gem, you can create the configuration file using the following commands:

$ sudo fluentd --setup /etc/fluent
$ sudo vi /etc/fluent/fluent.conf

Sending a SIGHUP signal will reload the config file.

Docker

For a Docker container, the default location of config file is /fluentd/etc/fluent.conf. To mount a config file from outside of Docker, use a bind-mount.

docker run -ti --rm -v /path/to/dir:/fluentd/etc fluentd -c /fluentd/etc/<conf-file>

FLUENT_CONF Environment Variable

You can change the default configuration file location via FLUENT_CONF. For example, /etc/td-agent/td-agent.conf is specified via FLUENT_CONF inside td-agent scripts.

-c option

See Command Line Option article.

Character Encoding

Fluentd assumes configuration file is UTF-8 or ASCII.

List of Directives

The configuration file consists of the following directives:

  1. source directives determine the input sources

  2. match directives determine the output destinations

  3. filter directives determine the event processing pipelines

  4. system directives set system wide configuration

  5. label directives group the output and filter for internal routing

  6. @include directives include other files

Let's actually create a configuration file step by step.

1. source: where all the data come from

Fluentd input sources are enabled by selecting and configuring the desired input plugins using source directives. Fluentd standard input plugins include http and forward. The http provides an HTTP endpoint to accept incoming HTTP messages whereas forward provides a TCP endpoint to accept TCP packets. Of course, it can be both at the same time. You may add multiple source configurations as required.

# Receive events from 24224/tcp
# This is used by log forwarding and the fluent-cat command
<source>
@type forward
port 24224
</source>
# http://<ip>:9880/myapp.access?json={"event":"data"}
<source>
@type http
port 9880
</source>

Each source directive must include a @type parameter to specify the input plugin to use.

Interlude: Routing

The source submits events to the Fluentd routing engine. An event consists of three entities: tag, time and record. The tag is a string separated by dots (e.g. myapp.access), and is used as the directions for Fluentd internal routing engine. The time field is specified by input plugins, and it must be in the Unix time format. The record is a JSON object.

Fluentd accepts all non-period characters as a part of a tag. However, since the tag is sometimes used in a different context by output destinations (e.g. table name, database name, key name, etc.), it is strongly recommended that you stick to the lower-case alphabets, digits and underscore (e.g. ^[a-z0-9_]+$).

In the previous example, the HTTP input plugin submits the following event:

# generated by http://<ip>:9880/myapp.access?json={"event":"data"}
tag: myapp.access
time: (current time)
record: {"event":"data"}

Didn't find your input source? You can write your own plugin!

You can add new input sources by writing your own plugins. For further information regarding Fluentd input sources, please refer to the Input Plugin Overview article.

2. "match": Tell fluentd what to do!

The match directive looks for events with matching tags and processes them. The most common use of the match directive is to output events to other systems. For this reason, the plugins that correspond to the match directive are called output plugins. Fluentd standard output plugins include file and forward. Let's add those to our configuration file.

# Receive events from 24224/tcp
# This is used by log forwarding and the fluent-cat command
<source>
@type forward
port 24224
</source>
# http://<ip>:9880/myapp.access?json={"event":"data"}
<source>
@type http
port 9880
</source>
# Match events tagged with "myapp.access" and
# store them to /var/log/fluent/access.%Y-%m-%d
# Of course, you can control how you partition your data
# with the time_slice_format option.
<match myapp.access>
@type file
path /var/log/fluent/access
</match>

Each match directive must include a match pattern and a @type parameter. Only events with a tag matching the pattern will be sent to the output destination (in the above example, only the events with the tag myapp.access are matched. See the section below for more advanced usage). The @type parameter specifies the output plugin to use.

Just like input sources, you can add new output destinations by writing your own plugins. For further information regarding Fluentd output destinations, please refer to the Output Plugin Overview article.

3. "filter": Event processing pipeline

The filter directive has the same syntax as match but filter could be chained for processing pipeline. Using filters, event flow is like this:

Input -> filter 1 -> ... -> filter N -> Output

Let's add standard record_transformer filter to match example.

# http://this.host:9880/myapp.access?json={"event":"data"}
<source>
@type http
port 9880
</source>
<filter myapp.access>
@type record_transformer
<record>
host_param "#{Socket.gethostname}"
</record>
</filter>
<match myapp.access>
@type file
path /var/log/fluent/access
</match>

The received event {"event":"data"} goes to record_transformer filter first. The record_transformer filter adds host_param field to the event; and, then the filtered event {"event":"data","host_param":"webserver1"} goes to the file output plugin.

You can also add new filters by writing your own plugins. For further information regarding Fluentd filter destinations, please refer to the Filter Plugin Overview article.

4. Set system wide configuration: the "system" directive

System-wide configurations are set by system directive. Most of them are also available via command line options. For example, the following configurations are available:

  • log_level

  • suppress_repeated_stacktrace

  • emit_error_log_interval

  • suppress_config_dump

  • without_source

  • process_name (Only available in system directive. No fluentd option)

Example:

<system>
# equal to -qq option
log_level error
# equal to --without-source option
without_source
# ...
</system>

See also System Configuration article for more detail.

process_name

If this parameter is set, fluentd supervisor and worker process names are changed.

<system>
process_name fluentd1
</system>

With this configuration, ps command shows the following result:

% ps aux | grep fluentd1
foo 45673 0.4 0.2 2523252 38620 s001 S+ 7:04AM 0:00.44 worker:fluentd1
foo 45647 0.0 0.1 2481260 23700 s001 S+ 7:04AM 0:00.40 supervisor:fluentd1

This feature requires Ruby 2.1 or later.

5. Group filter and output: the "label" directive

The label directive groups filter and output for internal routing. The label reduces the complexity of tag handling.

The label parameter is a builtin plugin parameter so @ prefix is needed.

Here is a configuration example:

<source>
@type forward
</source>
<source>
@type tail
@label @SYSTEM
</source>
<filter access.**>
@type record_transformer
<record>
# ...
</record>
</filter>
<match **>
@type elasticsearch
# ...
</match>
<label @SYSTEM>
<filter var.log.middleware.**>
@type grep
# ...
</filter>
<match **>
@type s3
# ...
</match>
</label>

In this configuration, forward events are routed to record_transformer filter / elasticsearch output and in_tail events are routed to grep filter / s3 output inside @SYSTEM label.

The label parameter is useful for event flow separation without tag prefix.

@ERROR label

The @ERROR label is a builtin label used for error record emitted by plugin's emit_error_event API.

If <label @ERROR> is set, the events are routed to this label when the related errors are emitted e.g. buffer is full or invalid record.

6. Reuse your config: the "@include" directive

The directives in separate configuration files can be imported using the @include directive:

# Include config files in the ./config.d directory
@include config.d/*.conf

The @include directive supports regular file path, glob pattern, and http URL conventions:

# absolute path
@include /path/to/config.conf
# if using a relative path, the directive will use
# the dirname of this config file to expand the path
@include extra.conf
# glob match pattern
@include config.d/*.conf
# http
@include http://example.com/fluent.conf

Note that for the glob pattern, files are expanded in alphabetical order. If there are a.conf and b.conf then fluentd parses a.conf first. But, you should not write the configuration that depends on this order. It is so error-prone, therefore, use multiple separate @include directives for safety.

# If you have a.conf, b.conf, ..., z.conf and a.conf / z.conf are important
# This is bad
@include *.conf
# This is good
@include a.conf
@include config.d/*.conf
@include z.conf

Share the Same Parameters

The @include directive can be used under sections to share the same parameters:

# config file
<match pattern>
@type forward
# ...
<buffer>
@type file
path /path/to/buffer/forward
@include /path/to/out_buf_params.conf
</buffer>
</match>
<match pattern>
@type elasticsearch
# ...
<buffer>
@type file
path /path/to/buffer/es
@include /path/to/out_buf_params.conf
</buffer>
</match>
# /path/to/out_buf_params.conf
flush_interval 5s
total_limit_size 100m
chunk_limit_size 1m

How do the match patterns work?

As described above, Fluentd allows you to route events based on their tags. Although you can just specify the exact tag to be matched (like <filter app.log>), there are a number of techniques you can use to manage the data flow more efficiently.

Wildcards, Expansions and other tips

The following match patterns can be used in <match> and <filter> tags:

  • * matches a single tag part.

    • For example, the pattern a.* matches a.b, but does not match a or a.b.c

  • ** matches zero or more tag parts.

    • For example, the pattern a.** matches a, a.b and a.b.c

  • {X,Y,Z} matches X, Y, or Z, where X, Y, and Z are match patterns.

    • For example, the pattern {a,b} matches a and b, but does not match c

    • This can be used in combination with * or ** patterns. Examples

      include a.{b,c}.* and a.{b,c.**}.

  • /regular expression/ is for complex patterns

    • For example, the pattern /(?!a\.).*/ matches non-a. started tags like b.xxx

    • This feature is supported since fluentd v1.11.2

  • #{...} evaluates the string inside brackets as a Ruby expression. (See Embedding Ruby Expressions section below).

  • When multiple patterns are listed inside a single tag (delimited by one or more whitespaces), it matches any of the listed patterns. For example:

    • The patterns <match a b> match a and b.

    • The patterns <match a.** b.*> match a, a.b, a.b.c (from the

      first pattern) and b.d (from the second pattern).

Note on Match Order

Fluentd tries to match tags in the order that they appear in the config file. So, if you have the following configuration:

# ** matches all tags. Bad :(
<match **>
@type blackhole_plugin
</match>
<match myapp.access>
@type file
path /var/log/fluent/access
</match>

then myapp.access is never matched. Wider match patterns should be defined after tight match patterns.

<match myapp.access>
@type file
path /var/log/fluent/access
</match>
# Capture all unmatched tags. Good :)
<match **>
@type blackhole_plugin
</match>

Of course, if you use two same patterns, the second match is never matched. If you want to send events to multiple outputs, consider out_copy plugin.

The common pitfall is when you put a <filter> block after <match>. It will never work since events never go through the filter for the reason explained above.

# You should NOT put this <filter> block after the <match> block below.
# If you do, Fluentd will just emit events without applying the filter.
<filter myapp.access>
@type record_transformer
...
</filter>
<match myapp.access>
@type file
path /var/log/fluent/access
</match>

Embedding Ruby Expressions

Since Fluentd v1.4.0, you can use #{...} to embed arbitrary Ruby code into match patterns. Here is an example:

<match "app.#{ENV['FLUENTD_TAG']}">
@type stdout
</match>

If you set the environment variable FLUENTD_TAG to dev, this evaluates to app.dev.

Supported Data Types for Values

Each Fluentd plugin has its own specific set of parameters. For example, in_tail has parameters such as rotate_wait and pos_file. Each parameter has a specific type associated with it. The types are defined as follows:

  • string: the field is parsed as a string. This is the most generic type,

    where each plugin decides how to process the string.

    • The string has three literals: non-quoted one line string, '

      single-quoted string and " double-quoted string.

    • See Format Tips section and literal examples.

  • integer: the field is parsed as an integer.

  • float: the field is parsed as a float.

  • size: the field is parsed as the number of bytes. There are several

    notational variations:

    • <INTEGER>k or <INTEGER>K: number of kilobytes

    • <INTEGER>m or <INTEGER>M: number of megabytes

    • <INTEGER>g or <INTEGER>G: number of gigabytes

    • <INTEGER>t or <INTEGER>T: number of terabytes

    • Otherwise, the field is parsed as integer, and that integer is the

      number of bytes.

  • time: the field is parsed as a time duration.

    • <INTEGER>s: seconds

    • <INTEGER>m: minutes

    • <INTEGER>h: hours

    • <INTEGER>d: days

    • Otherwise, the field is parsed as float, and that float is the

      number of seconds. This option is useful for specifying sub-second

      time durations such as 0.1 (0.1 second = 100 milliseconds).

  • array: the field is parsed as a JSON array. It also supports the shorthand

    syntax. These are same values:

    • normal: ["key1", "key2"]

    • shorthand: key1,key2

  • hash: the field is parsed as a JSON object. It also supports the shorthand

    syntax. These are same values:

    • normal: {"key1": "value1", "key2": "value2"}

    • shorthand: key1:value1,key2:value2

The array and hash types are JSON because almost all programming languages and infrastructure tools can generate JSON values easily than any other unusual format.

NOTE: Each parameter's type should be documented. If not, please let the plugin author know.

Common Plugin Parameters

These parameters are reserved and are prefixed with an @ symbol:

  • @type: specifies the plugin type

  • @id: specifies the plugin id. in_monitor_agent uses this value for

    plugin_id field

  • @label: specifies the label symbol. See

    label

    section.

  • @log_level: specifies per plugin log level. See Per Plugin Log section.

The type, id and log_level parameters are supported for backward compatibility.

Check Configuration File

The configuration file can be validated without starting the plugins using the --dry-run option:

$ fluentd --dry-run -c fluent.conf

Format Tips

This section describes some useful features for the configuration file.

Multiline support for " quoted string, array and hash values

You can write multiline values for " quoted string, array and hash values.

str_param "foo # Converts to "foo\nbar". NL is kept in the parameter
bar"
array_param [
"a", "b"
]
hash_param {
"k": "v",
"k1": 10
}

Fluentd assumes [ or { is a start of array / hash. So, if you want to set [ or { started but non-JSON parameter, please use ' or ".

Example # 1: mail plugin

<match **>
@type mail
subject "[CRITICAL] foo's alert system"
</match>

Example # 2: map plugin

<match tag>
@type map
map '[["code." + tag, time, { "code" => record["code"].to_i}], ["time." + tag, time, { "time" => record["time"].to_i}]]'
multi true
</match>

This restriction will be removed with the configuration parser improvement.

Embedded Ruby Code

You can evaluate the Ruby code with #{} in " quoted string. This is useful for setting machine information e.g. hostname.

host_param "#{Socket.gethostname}" # host_param is actual hostname like `webserver1`.
env_param "foo-#{ENV["FOO_BAR"]}" # NOTE that foo-"#{ENV["FOO_BAR"]}" doesn't work.

Since v1.1.0, hostname and worker_id shortcuts are available:

host_param "#{hostname}" # This is same with Socket.gethostname
@id "out_foo#{worker_id}" # This is same with ENV["SERVERENGINE_WORKER_ID"]

The worker_id shortcut is useful under multiple workers. For example, for a separate plugin id, add worker_id to store path in s3 to avoid file conflict.

Since v1.8.0, helper methods use_nil and use_default are available:

some_param "#{ENV["FOOBAR"] || use_nil}" # Replace with nil if ENV["FOOBAR"] isn't set
some_param "#{ENV["FOOBAR"] || use_default}" # Replace with the default value if ENV["FOOBAR"] isn't set

Note that these methods not only replace the embedded Ruby code but the entire string with nil or a default value.

some_path "#{use_nil}/some/path" # some_path is nil, not "/some/path"

The config-xxx mixins use "${}", not "#{}". These embedded configurations are two different things.

In double quoted string literal, \ is escape character

The forward slash \ is interpreted as an escape character. You need \ for setting ", \r, \n, \t, \ or several characters in double-quoted string literal.

str_param "foo\nbar" # \n is interpreted as actual LF character

If this article is incorrect or outdated, or omits critical information, please let us know. Fluentd is an open-source project under Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF). All components are available under the Apache 2 License.