Elastic Stack Guide Part – 1

As nowadays lots of our servers are deployed on Cloud and many applications are running on these servers , it is impossible to monitor and analyze logs by going to each servers . Central Logging and Monitoring solution is a must in present time  . 

In this Bog Series , we will learn about usage of Elastic Stack aka ELK  . 

Overview  :   

Elastic Stack is a group of open source products from Elastic designed to help users take data from any type of source and in any format and search, analyze, and visualize that data in real time. The product group was formerly known as ELK Stack, in which the letters in the name stood for the products in the group: ElasticSearch, Logstash and Kibana. A fourth product, Beats, was subsequently added to the stack, rendering the potential acronym unpronounceable. Elastic Stack can be deployed on premises or made available as Software as a Service

Architechture : 

For a small-sized development environment, the classic architecture will look  as follows :

Here there are many different types of beats you can read them from https://www.elastic.co/beats/ . Each beat have different set of usecases  . 

In this blog we will learn about two beats MetricBeat and FileBeat . 

Note – LogStash is an options part in the architecture and should not be needed in most of the cases  . Read more about Logstash at https://www.elastic.co/logstash/

Usage Elastic Stack : 

I am running experiments on CentOS7 machine and using rpm to setup the elastic stack . 

Elastic Search  Installation : 

Commands to install Elastic Search : 

curl -L -O https://artifacts.elastic.co/downloads/elasticsearch/elasticsearch-7.14.0-x86_64.rpm
sudo rpm -i elasticsearch-7.14.0-x86_64.rpm
sudo service elasticsearch start

How to check if Elastic Search is running : 

[root@localhost elk]# curl
  "name" : "localhost.localdomain",
  "cluster_name" : "elasticsearch",
  "cluster_uuid" : "MxKYDoJAQRG9D6krdFThsQ",
  "version" : {
    "number" : "7.14.0",
    "build_flavor" : "default",
    "build_type" : "rpm",
    "build_hash" : "dd5a0a2acaa2045ff9624f3729fc8a6f40835aa1",
    "build_date" : "2021-07-29T20:49:32.864135063Z",
    "build_snapshot" : false,
    "lucene_version" : "8.9.0",
    "minimum_wire_compatibility_version" : "6.8.0",
    "minimum_index_compatibility_version" : "6.0.0-beta1"
  "tagline" : "You Know, for Search"

If you are getting output like above , it means elastic search is installed successfully  . 

Note : To change listen address and port you can change in the following file : /etc/elasticsearch/elasticsearch.yml

Kibana :   

Kibana is the Front end tool which communicates to Elastic search where anyone can monitor and analyze logs . 

Commands to install kibana : 

curl -L -O https://artifacts.elastic.co/downloads/kibana/kibana-7.14.0-linux-x86_64.tar.gz
tar xzvf kibana-7.14.0-linux-x86_64.tar.gz
cd kibana-7.14.0-linux-x86_64/

Access kibana from the url :

Note :  configure vim config/kibana.yml   for port and ip addressed for listening  settings  . 


These will be installed on all servers from where we want to collect information  . they are like agents which will send data to Elastic Search  . 

Enabling Metric Beat : 

Every Beats supports different modules , it is up to the use that which module one wnts to enable in each beats  . if we talk about MetricBeat  it has many modules like System,Postgres,Nginx and so on . In this Blog we will see usage of System Module of MetricBeat . 

Commands to install MetricBeat  : 
curl -L -O https://artifacts.elastic.co/downloads/beats/metricbeat/metricbeat-7.14.0-x86_64.rpm
sudo rpm -vi metricbeat-7.14.0-x86_64.rpm
Enabling System Module  of Metric Beat :
sudo metricbeat modules enable system
sudo metricbeat setup -e
sudo service metricbeat start

Here we are only enabling system module of metri beats  ,  there are many odule for basic monitoring of aplications like postgresql , nginx , tomcat etc . 

Fo list of modules available in metric beats :  command is 

metricbeat modules list  

Yeipeee  Now we can Monitor System Data in kibana  as follows . 

Open [Metricbeat System] Host overview ECS   in Dashboards in kibana UI . There you can apply filter of host of which one wants to see data  .   

System Module MetricBeat Uses :   What analysis can be Done by System module of MetricBeat : 

Traditionally after accessing linux servers , we gather system information by using many different commands and tools which also takes time , specially when there is some running issue on production . 

Following is the list of information : 

  1. Size information of all partitions 
  2. Read/Write Performance of Hardisk 
  3. InboundOutBound Traffic analysis per Ethernet Port 
  4. Load Avergae analysis of system 
  5. Top Proesses consuming High CPU  and RAM 

All these type of information now can be seen in seconds for some particular host using kibana UI .

Following are some screenshots  : 

Enabling FileBeat

Whether you’re collecting from security devices, cloud, containers, hosts, or OT, Filebeat helps you keep the simple things simple by offering a lightweight way to forward and centralize logs and files.

Commands to install Filebeat : 
curl -L -O https://artifacts.elastic.co/downloads/beats/filebeat/filebeat-7.14.0-x86_64.rpm
rpm -ivh filebeat-7.14.0-x86_64.rpm

Note : For configuring filebeat that where to send data to elastic search or filebeat  configue in /etc/filebeat/filebeat.yml  , cureent as i have only one machine so no need to do an conf as defaut conf will work for me You can check the following lion : https://www.elastic.co/guide/en/beats/filebeat/7.14/configuring-howto-filebeat.html

enabling system logs module in filebeat : 
filebeat modules enable system
(for system logs if we want to set custom paths :   edit the file /etc/filebeat/modules.d/system.yml)  -- Generally no need to change these config in all cases 

filebeat setup -e
sudo service filebeat start

Like  Metric Beat , FileBeats also have list of modules like postgres,nginx , and it also supports logging of popular framework like spring and can collect logs of these applications and provides ways to analyze them easily . 

To check modules list available for filebeat use following command  : 

[root@localhost elk]# filebeat modules list | less

System Module Filebeat Uses :   

Now you can use Kibana UI to analyze system logs like messages etc  . 

Open [Filebeat System] Syslog dashboard ECS  in Dashboard Tab  in Kibana  . 

Following are some screen shots which one can see : 


Configure filebeat for custom log files  : 

Now we may have situation where none of Modules and integration with framework logging work in filebeat for our custom application log then in that case you can configure your input manually to configure path of logs to read and analayse them in logs and stream section in kibana UI

Follow the following link to configure your log path : https://www.elastic.co/guide/en/beats/filebeat/current/configuration-filebeat-options.html

you can watch logs by : 

Here you can search in logs by hostname , filepath  and can also search in whole message which is fetched . 

By default only message column is shown . One can configure then in settings tabs of logs tabs in kibana  . 

Following are some screenshot : 

By Default logs lines are only one column , if for advance debugging we want to break log tine into columns then we need to use Logstash with Grok Filter . 

In next blog we will see the usage of LogStash to break custom logs into columns for better understanding . 

ThankYou all 

How and when and what to log ?

We as a developers understand the importance of coding but most of us do not know the right way to log.

While seeing others code you must have seen various patterns of logging:

  • Log everything
    • on start of any function call
    • on every function call
    • before every return statement
  • Don’t log anything
    • just don’t log
  • Log only Exceptions
    • Log only when exceptions occur

I think everybody must have seen all type of developers, lets understand when to log and also in diff. scenarios , but before that first see the purpose of logging:

Purpose of Logging

  • Provides insights about the flow of your code, what happen , what are the parameters which were passed
  • You could virtually run the entire flow of your code and understand the problems while debugging any unexpected behavior in your code.

Lets go scenario by scenario

In the following i want you see the reasoning to when to log that may help you to decide in your scenarios.

  • Http Service Call / Any third party
    • to debug any service hit , you will require the following:
      • parameters which are passed to it log using info, always check whether in your environment it is already done by framework library code (like in rest filters , tomcat logs) then do not log, generally its a good practice to handle this at framework level rather than everybody taking care of this
      • Now if you are writing pure functions (not using global variables, not modifying any variable provided) then mostly you would not require to log any thing in those functions(will be writing a blog on the pure functions), as you could drive most of the things from the input.
      • If any specific decision that will completely change the flow of the code , we should generally log the decision and reason in info
      • Log any exception which happens in to the system with type error
      • any parameter you are reading from system , generally log this with fine as you can cross check this , do not just log , not a hardline if some function is called limited number of times
      • calling another http service –
        • generally you can log the parameters here with info , it becomes easy to debug the parameters passed rather than looking into other service log if it is on other machine only and no central logging.
  • Timer or Scheduler Jobs
    • In case of timer first thing is , if timer is every some seconds log the time in which it started
    • rest more or less remain the same as in above
  • Service to Service(within same process, Spring Services) Calls
    • When service call to another service the calling service should not log generally assuming the responsibility is with the called service. rest remain same as above in http one
  • Any Http Connections
    • generally we should log the parameters passed to http with info , and also should check if some parameters not to print as they are internal and should not leak
  • Microservice to Microservice Communications
    • Assuming you would be using some trace id , if that Service logs are not available generally the request and response , keeping in mind do not print business critical parameters(like password of some sort).
  • DB Queries
    • before calling a query we should generally log with info the parameters we are passing
  • Now when to log Fatal
    • In code is something very unexpected which happens like db configuration not provided log with fatal or other api url is not configured but that should be without it use case will not work the log with fatal
  • Now when to log fine
    • Generally anytime when there are decisions taken in the code one can log on fine. The configurations read by the system we can log with fine, Some internal data structures created or modified or any lifecycle event like DB connection closed we can log such things with fine. But do not add lots and lots of log , it can kill your system.

Some of the cross cutting concerns we should know

  • Flow Id or Trace Id :
    • for any logs which are part of a single flow (ie a single thread doing it in sync ) there should be a flow id or trace id in all logs.
    • Even if the flow which are started from logically the same flow but then one async api is called (@Async in Spring) in that also one should have the same flow id passed with some additional info.
    • For distributed we you can check the link .
  • What to Log:
    • Use some trace id like user id , or object id for which a set of API or function call is done so that it becomes easy to figure out for which function was called

As we can’t cover all of them i think you the above examples help to choose the right mix.

Also please be sure when you log as lots of logging could kill your system. Do read the link.

Naming is the most important thing

There are only two hard things in Computer Science: cache invalidation and naming things.

This quote is one of my favorite programming quotes and we will discuss the reason why here

We will discuss the naming things part here.

In your entire career in coding what you will do most is reading others code or reading others libraries or new technologies and understanding them, solving bugs in the existing code. If you agree lets move forward.

Now a small story, there was a bug in our existing system and one of my fellow programmer was working on that. The bug was in the core libraries written years back and to add to his woes there was no documentation neither external and nor on code.

He was working on it for days with no result and we were discussing the problem and he said i was unable to understand the code, now i start debugging with him and the bug was solved in minutes (not to brag about my skills), and he said how you are able to go to the problem class and function so easily. I said its just intuition from the naming of the classes and function.

Here i understood its still not natural or important for people the naming convention.

Story part over.

Lets discuss that – what is this intuition thing all about . What i learnt in my coding career that before naming a class first associate a purpose with that class and name the class such that one can understand most part of the purpose with that name and then start adding function in that class and any function if not in alignment to that class purpose then that function should not be there and also through the function name one should be able to make out its implementation without looking at the code.

Now people who read lots of code will realize that’s how most of the good code are written and most of the libraries you will come around will follow this.

Now with the intuition you got from the name without reading the code one can make out the functions and so on. This thing happen in real life as well, if i say something a screen you know mostly what it does (if you think in right context).

Similarly if we start naming our classes or functions correctly this not just help us but help other programmers who will be working on it later.

So be very careful about when you name anything (class , function ) it should convey the purpose.

Also as a developer you should and must build the intution from naming and read code.

Start naming things correctly and read code with the right intuition – dont just jump into the code.