Wednesday, June 01, 2011

new rsyslog config system materializes...

The past weeks I have worked pretty hard on the new rsyslog config system. The legacy system was quite different from what you expect in modern software. Most importantly, the legacy system applied directives as the config file was read, which made it extremely hard to restructure the config file format. That also prevented features like privilege drop from working fully correct.

I have now basically changed the config system so that there is a clear difference between the config load phase and applying the config. Most importantly, this means privilege drop now works correctly in all cases (but I bet some users taking advantage of oddities of the old system will probably complain soon ;)). Other than that, there are no user-visible enhancements at the moment. However, the internal plumbing has changed dramatically and enables future change. Most importantly, this finally creates a path to a new config language, as we now have a clear interface as part of the in-memory representation of the config, which is config language agnostic.

With this initial release, there may still be some things inside the core that can be optimized. Right now, the system aims at the capability to have multiple config objects loaded (but not active) at the same time. However, there are some data instances where this is not cleanly followed in order to reuse some code. This is not a problem, because the rest of the rsyslog engine does not support dynamic config reload (and thus multiple configs at runtime) at all.

Also it must be noted that the current code is quite experimental. So there is some risk involved in running the initial 6.3.0 version. However, all dramatic changes were made to the config system. That means if the system initializes correctly, it will most probably run without any issues. The risk window is constrained to the initial startup, what should be quite controllable. Users that use privilege drop are advised to check that their configurations work as expected. The previous system did some initialization with full privileges. This is no longer the case, except for modules that actually require full privileges (e.g. imtcp to bind privileged ports). Most importantly, files are now created with dropped privileges right from the beginning. I expect that some (unclean) configurations will run into trouble with that. The good news about that is that the would run into trouble with older releases as well, but only after a HUP. Now things break immediately, what makes them much easier to diagnose.

So what's next in regard to the config? It depends a bit on the overall workload. I will probably try to have a look at the config language next, which is another non-trivial task. Also past discussions tell me that it is extremely hard to find a format that satisfies all needs. I have already reviewed the last elaborated discussion (June and July 2010 - search for "conf" on these pages) and begun to reconsider some of the options. But this is probably a topic for a separate blog posting...
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