Versions | v0.14 (td-agent3) | v0.12 (td-agent2)

Life of a Fluentd event

The following article describe a global overview of how events are processed by Fluentd using examples. It covers the complete cycle including Setup, Inputs, Filters, Matches and Labels.

Table of Contents

Basic Setup

The configuration files is the fundamental piece to connect all things together, as it allows to define which Inputs or listeners Fluentd will have and set up common matching rules to route the Event data to a specific Output.

We will use the in_http and the out_stdout plugins as examples to describe the events cycle. The following is a basic definition on the configuration file to specify an http input, for short: we will be listening for HTTP Requests:

<source>
  @type http
  port 8888
  bind 0.0.0.0
</source>

This definition specifies that a HTTP server will be listening on TCP port 8888. Now let’s define a Matching rule and a desired output that will just print the data that arrived on each incoming request to standard output:

<match test.cycle>
  @type stdout
</match>

The Match directive sets a rule that matches each Incoming event that arrives with a Tag equal to test.cycle will use the Output plugin type called stdout. At this point we have an Input type, a Match and an Output. Let’s test the setup using curl:

$ curl -i -X POST -d 'json={"action":"login","user":2}' http://localhost:9880/test.cycle
HTTP/1.1 200 OK
Content-type: text/plain
Connection: Keep-Alive
Content-length: 0

On the Fluentd server side the output should look like this:

$ bin/fluentd -c in_http.conf
2015-01-19 12:37:41 -0600 [info]: reading config file path="in_http.conf"
2015-01-19 12:37:41 -0600 [info]: starting fluentd-0.12.3
2015-01-19 12:37:41 -0600 [info]: using configuration file: <ROOT>
  <source>
    @type http
    bind 0.0.0.0
    port 8888
  </source>
  <match test.cycle>
    @type stdout
  </match>
</ROOT>
2015-01-19 12:37:41 -0600 [info]: adding match pattern="test.cycle" type="stdout"
2015-01-19 12:37:41 -0600 [info]: adding source type="http"
2015-01-19 12:39:57 -0600 test.cycle: {"action":"login","user":2}

Event structure

A Fluentd event consists of a tag, time and record.

  • tag: Where an event comes from. For message routing
  • time: When an event happens. Epoch time
  • record: Actual log content. JSON object

The input plugin is responsible for generating Fluentd events from specified data sources.
For example, in_tail generates events from text lines. If you have the following line in apache logs:

192.168.0.1 - - [28/Feb/2013:12:00:00 +0900] "GET / HTTP/1.1" 200 777

the following event is generated:

tag: apache.access # set by configuration
time: 1362020400   # 28/Feb/2013:12:00:00 +0900
record: {"user":"-","method":"GET","code":200,"size":777,"host":"192.168.0.1","path":"/"}

Processing Events

When a Setup is defined, the Router Engine already contains several rules to apply for different input data. Internally an Event will pass through a chain of procedures that may alter the Events cycle.

Now we will expand the previous basic example and add more steps in our Setup to demonstrate how the Events cycle can be altered. We will do this through the new Filters implementation.

Filters

A Filter aims to behave like a rule to either accept or reject an event. The following configuration adds a Filter definition:

<source>
  @type http
  port 8888
  bind 0.0.0.0
</source>

<filter test.cycle>
  @type grep
  exclude1 action logout
</filter>

<match test.cycle>
  @type stdout
</match>

As you can see, the new Filter definition added will be a mandatory step before passing control to the Match section. The Filter basically accepts or rejects the Event based on it type and the defined rule. For our example we want to discard any user logout action, we only care about the login action. The way this is accomplished is by the Filter doing a grep that will exclude any message where the action key has the string value “logout”.

From a Terminal, run the following two curl commands (please note that each one contains a different action value):

$ curl -i -X POST -d 'json={"action":"login","user":2}' http://localhost:8880/test.cycle
HTTP/1.1 200 OK
Content-type: text/plain
Connection: Keep-Alive
Content-length: 0

$ curl -i -X POST -d 'json={"action":"logout","user":2}' http://localhost:8880/test.cycle
HTTP/1.1 200 OK
Content-type: text/plain
Connection: Keep-Alive
Content-length: 0

Now looking at the Fluentd service output we can see that only the event with action equal to “login” is matched. The logout Event was discarded:

$ bin/fluentd -c in_http.conf
2015-01-19 12:37:41 -0600 [info]: reading config file path="in_http.conf"
2015-01-19 12:37:41 -0600 [info]: starting fluentd-0.12.4
2015-01-19 12:37:41 -0600 [info]: using configuration file: <ROOT>
<source>
  @type http
  bind 0.0.0.0
  port 9880
</source>
<filter test.cycle>
  @type grep
  exclude1 action logout
</filter>
<match test.cycle>
  @type stdout
</match>
</ROOT>
2015-01-19 12:37:41 -0600 [info]: adding filter pattern="test.cycle" type="grep"
2015-01-19 12:37:41 -0600 [info]: adding match pattern="test.cycle" type="stdout"
2015-01-19 12:37:41 -0600 [info]: adding source type="http"
2015-01-27 01:27:11 -0600 test.cycle: {"action":"login","user":2}

As you can see, the Events follow a step-by-step cycle where they are processed in order from top to bottom. The new engine on Fluentd allows integrating as many Filters as needed. Considering that the configuration file might grow and start getting a bit complex, a new feature called Labels has been added that aims to help manage this complexity.

Labels

The Labels implementation aims to reduce configuration file complexity and allows to define new Routing sections that do not follow the top to bottom order, instead acting like linked references. Using the previous example we will modify the setup as follows:

<source>
  @type http
  bind 0.0.0.0
  port 8880
  @label @STAGING
</source>

<filter test.cycle>
  @type grep
  exclude1 action login
</filter>

<label @STAGING>
  <filter test.cycle>
    @type grep
    exclude1 action logout
  </filter>

  <match test.cycle>
    @type stdout
  </match>
</label>

This new configuration contains a @label key on the source indicating that any further steps take place on the STAGING Label section. Every Event reported on the Source is routed by the Routing engine and continue processing on STAGING, skipping the old filter definition.

Buffers

In this example, we use stdout non-buffered output, but in production buffered outputs are often necessary, e.g. forward, mongodb, s3 and etc. Buffered output plugins store received events into buffers and are then written out to a destination after meeting flush conditions. Using buffered output you don’t see recieved events immediately, unlike stdout non-buffered output.

Buffers are important for reliability and throughput. See Output and Buffer articles.

Execution unit

This section describes the internal implementation.

Fluentd’s events are processed on input plugin thread by default. For example, if you have in_tail -> filter_grep -> out_stdout pipeline, this pipeline is executed on in_tail’s thread. The important point is filter_grep and out_stdout plugins don’t have own thread for processing.

For Buffered Output, output plugin has own threads for flushing buffer. For example, if you have in_tail -> filter_grep -> out_forward pipeline, this pipeline is executed on in_tail’s thread and out_forward’s flush thread. in_tail’s thread processes events until events are written into buffer. Buffer flush and its error handling is the output responsibility. This de-couples the input/output and this model has merits, separate responsibilities, easy error handling, good performance.

Conclusion

Once the events are reported by the Fluentd engine on the Source they can be processed step by step or inside a referenced Label, with any Event being filtered out at any moment. The new Routing engine behavior aims to provide more flexibility and simplifies the processing before events reach the Output plugin.

Learn More

Last updated: 2016-02-01 15:01:24 UTC

Versions | v0.14 (td-agent3) | v0.12 (td-agent2)

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

Interested in the Fluentd Newsletters?