Friday, November 06, 2009

A solution for invalid syslog message formats...

In syslog, we traditionally have a myriad of message formats, causing lots of trouble in real-world deployments. There are a number of industry efforts underway trying to find a common format. To me, it currently does not look like one of them has received the necessary momentum to become "the" dominating standard, so it looks like we need to live with various presentations of the same information for some more time.

The past two weeks, I have begun to make additions to rsyslog that hopefully will help solve this unfortunate situation. I know that I have no real cure to offer, but at least baby steps toward it. I have introduced so called message parsers, which can be utilized to convert malformed messages into rsyslog's well-formed internal structure.

Why is it not a solution? Because what I really introduced was actually an interface, which permits to write different parsers for the myriad of devices. I have not provided a generic solution to do that, so the individual parsers need to be written. And secondly, I have not yet defined any more standard properties than those specified in the recent IETF syslog rfc series, most importantly RFC5424.

So why I hope this will lead to a long-term solution?
First of all, there are some hopes that the IETF effort will bring more standard items. Also, we could embed other specifications within the RFC5424 framework, so this could become the lingua franca of syslog message content over time. And secondly, I hope that rsyslog's popularity will help in getting parsers at least for core RFC5424 information objects, which would be the basis for everything else. Now we have the capability to add custom parsers, and we have an interface that third parties can develop to (and do so with relative ease).

All in all, I think this development is a huge step into the right direction. The rest will be seen by history ;) To me, the probably most interesting question is if we will actually attract third party developers. If there are any, I'll definitely will help get them going with the rsyslog API.

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