Notes on setting up an ELK stack and logstash-forwarder

I set up the ELK stack a while ago and I want to jot down some notes on installing and configuring it.  I was going to write "before I forget how to do it", but that's not true anymore, because I have ansible playbooks and roles for this setup. As I said before, using ansible as executable documentation has been working really well for me. I still need to write this blog post though just so I refresh my memory about the bigger picture of ELK when I revisit it next.

Some notes:

  • Used Jeff Geerling's ansible-role-logstash for the main setup of the ELK server I have
  • Used logstash-forwarder (used to be called lumberjack) on all servers that need to send their logs to the ELK server
  • Wrapped the installation and configuration of logstash-forwarder into a simple ansible role which installs the .deb file for this package and copies over a templatized logstash-forwarder.conf file; here is my ansible template for this file
  • Customized the lumberjack input config file on the ELK server (still called lumberjack, but actually used in conjunction with the logstash-forwarder agents running on each box that sends its logs to ELK); here is my /etc/logstash/conf.d/01-lumberjack-input.conf file
  • Added my app-specific config file on the ELK server; here is my /etc/logstash/conf.d/20-app.conf file with a few things to note
    • the grok stanza applies the 'valid' tag only to the lines that match the APPLOGLINE pattern (see below for more on this pattern)
    • the 'payload' field of any line that matches the APPLOGLINE pattern is parsed as JSON; this is nice because I can change the names of the fields in the JSON object in the log file and all these fields will be individually shown in ELK
    • all lines that are not taggeed as 'valid' will be dropped
  • Created a file called myapp in the /opt/logstash/patterns directory on the ELK server; this file contains all my app-specific patterns referenced in the 20-app.conf file above, in this example just 1 pattern: 
    • APPLOGLINE \[myapp\] %{TIMESTAMP_ISO8601:timestamp}Z\+00:000 \[%{WORD:severity}\] \[myresponse\] \[%{NUMBER:response}\] %{GREEDYDATA:payload}
    • this patterns uses predefined logstash patterns such as TIMESTAMP_ISO8601, WORD, NUMBER and GREEDYDATA
    • note the last field called payload; this is the JSON payload that gets parsed by logstash


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