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syslog-ng Premium Edition 6.0.21 - Administration Guide

Preface Chapter 1. Introduction to syslog-ng Chapter 2. The concepts of syslog-ng Chapter 3. Installing syslog-ng Chapter 4. The syslog-ng PE quick-start guide Chapter 5. The syslog-ng PE configuration file Chapter 6. Collecting log messages — sources and source drivers Chapter 7. Sending and storing log messages — destinations and destination drivers Chapter 8. Routing messages: log paths, reliability, and filters Chapter 9. Global options of syslog-ng PE Chapter 10. TLS-encrypted message transfer Chapter 12.  Reliable Log Transfer Protocol™ Chapter 13. Reliability and minimizing the loss of log messages Chapter 14. Manipulating messages Chapter 15. Parsing and segmenting structured messages Chapter 16. Processing message content with a pattern database Chapter 17. Statistics and metrics of syslog-ng Chapter 18. Multithreading and scaling in syslog-ng PE Chapter 19. Troubleshooting syslog-ng Chapter 20. Best practices and examples

The configuration syntax in detail

Every syslog-ng configuration file must begin with a line containing the version information of syslog-ng. For syslog-ng version 6 LTS, this line looks like:

@version: 6.0

Versioning the configuration file was introduced in syslog-ng 3.0. If the configuration file does not contain the version information, syslog-ng assumes that the file is for syslog-ng version 2.x. In this case it interprets the configuration and sends warnings about the parts of the configuration that should be updated. Version 3.0 and later will correctly operate with configuration files of version 2.x, but the default values of certain parameters have changed since 3.0.

Example 5.1. A simple configuration file

The following is a very simple configuration file for syslog-ng: it collects the internal messages of syslog-ng and the messages from /dev/log into the /var/log/messages_syslog-ng.log file.

@version: 6.0

source s_local { unix-dgram("/dev/log"); internal(); };

destination d_file { file("/var/log/messages_syslog-ng.log"); };

log { source(s_local); destination(d_file); };

As a syslog-ng user described on a mailing list:

The syslog-ng's config file format was written by programmers for programmers to be understood by programmers. That may not have been the stated intent, but it is how things turned out. The syntax is exactly that of C, all the way down to braces and statement terminators.

--Alan McKinnon
  • The main body of the configuration file consists of object definitions: sources, destinations, log paths define which log message are received and where they are sent. All identifiers, option names and attributes, and any other strings used in the syslog-ng configuration file are case sensitive. Objects must be defined before they are referenced in another statement. Object definitions (also called statements) have the following syntax:

    object_type object_id {<options>};
    • Type of the object: One of source, destination, log, filter, parser, rewrite rule, or template.

    • Identifier of the object: A unique name identifying the object. When using a reserved word as an identifier, enclose the identifier in quotation marks.


      Use identifiers that refer to the type of the object they identify. For example, prefix source objects with s_, destinations with d_, and so on.

    • Parameters: The parameters of the object, enclosed in braces {parameters}.

    • Semicolon: Object definitions end with a semicolon (;).

    For example, the following line defines a source and calls it s_internal.

    source s_internal { internal(); };

    The object can be later referenced in other statements using its ID, for example, the previous source is used as a parameter of the following log statement:

    log { source(s_internal); destination(d_file); };
  • The parameters and options within a statement are similar to function calls of the C programming language: the name of the option followed by a list of its parameters enclosed within brackets and terminated with a semicolon.

    option(parameter1, parameter2); option2(parameter1, parameter2);

    For example, the file() driver in the following source statement has three options: the filename (/var/log/apache/access.log), follow-freq(), and flags(). The follow-freq() option also has a parameter, while the flags() option has two parameters.

    source s_tail { file("/var/log/apache/access.log"
        follow-freq(1) flags(no-parse, validate-utf8)); };

    Objects may have required and optional parameters. Required parameters are positional, meaning that they must be specified in a defined order. Optional parameters can be specified in any order using the option(value) format. If a parameter (optional or required) is not specified, its default value is used. The parameters and their default values are listed in the reference section of the particular object.

    Example 5.2. Using required and optional parameters

    The unix-stream() source driver has a single required argument: the name of the socket to listen on. Optional parameters follow the socket name in any order, so the following source definitions have the same effect:

    source s_demo_stream1 {
            unix-stream("<path-to-socket>" max-connections(10) group(log)); };
    source s_demo_stream2 {
            unix-stream("<path-to-socket>" group(log) max-connections(10)); };

  • Some options are global options, or can be set globally, for example, whether syslog-ng PE should use DNS resolution to resolve IP addresses. Global options are detailed in Chapter 9, Global options of syslog-ng PE.

    options { use-dns(no); };
  • All identifiers, attributes, and any other strings used in the syslog-ng configuration file are case sensitive.

  • Objects can be used before definition.

  • To add comments to the configuration file, start a line with # and write your comments. These lines are ignored by syslog-ng.

    # Comment: This is a stream source
    source s_demo_stream {
            unix-stream("<path-to-socket>" max-connections(10) group(log)); };


Before activating a new configuration, check that your configuration file is syntactically correct using the syslog-ng --syntax-only command.

To activate the configuration, reload the configuration of syslog-ng using the /etc/init.d/syslog-ng reload command.

Notes about the configuration syntax

When you are editing the syslog-ng configuration file, note the following points:

  • The configuration file can contain a maximum of 6665 source / destination / log elements.

  • When writing the names of options and parameters (or other reserved words), the hyphen (-) and underscore (_) characters are equivalent, for example max-connections(10) and max_connections(10) are both correct.

  • Numbers can be prefixed with + or - to indicate positive or negative values. Numbers beginning with zero (0) or 0x are treated as octal or hexadecimal numbers, respectively.

  • You can use commas (,) to separate options or other parameters for readability, syslog-ng completely ignores them. The following declarations are equivalent:

    source s_demo_stream {
            unix-stream("<path-to-socket>" max-connections(10) group(log)); };
    source s_demo_stream {
            unix-stream("<path-to-socket>", max-connections(10), group(log)); };
  • When enclosing object IDs (for example the name of a destination) between double-quotes ("mydestination"), the ID can include whitespace as well, for example:

    source "s demo stream" {
            unix-stream("<path-to-socket>" max-connections(10) group(log)); };
  • For notes on using regular expressions, see the section called “Regular expressions”.

Global and environmental variables

Starting with syslog-ng PE version 4 F1, it is possible to define global variables in the configuration file. Global variables are actually name-value pairs. When syslog-ng processes the configuration file during startup, it automatically replaces `name` with value. To define a global variable, use the following syntax:

@define name "value"

The value can be any string, but special characters must be escaped. To use the variable, insert the name of the variable enclosed between backticks (`, similarly to using variables in Linux or UNIX shells) anywhere in the configuration file. If backticks are meant literally, repeat the backticks to escape them. For example, ``not-substituted-value``.

The value of the global variable can be also specified using the following methods:

  • Without any quotes, as long as the value does not contain any spaces or special characters. In other word, it contains only the following characters: a-zA-Z0-9_..

  • Between apostrophes, in case the value does not contain apostrophes.

  • Between double quotes, in which case special characters must be escaped using backslashes (\).


The environmental variables of the host are automatically imported and can be used as global variables.

Example 5.3. Using global variables

For example, if an application is creating multiple log files in a directory, you can store the path in a global variable, and use it in your source definitions.

@define mypath "/opt/myapp/logs"
        source s_myapp_1 { file("`mypath`/access.log" follow-freq(1)); };
        source s_myapp_2 { file("`mypath`/error.log" follow-freq(1)); };
        source s_myapp_3 { file("`mypath`/debug.log" follow-freq(1)); };

The syslog-ng PE application will interpret this as:

@define mypath "/opt/myapp/logs"
        source s_myapp_1 { file("/opt/myapp/logs/access.log" follow-freq(1)); };
        source s_myapp_2 { file("/opt/myapp/logs/error.log" follow-freq(1)); };
        source s_myapp_3 { file("/opt/myapp/logs/debug.log" follow-freq(1)); };

Logging configuration changes

Every time syslog-ng is started, or its configuration is reloaded, it automatically logs the SHA-1 fingerprint of its configuration file using the internal() message source. That way any modification of the configuration of your syslog-ng clients is visible in the central logs. Note that the log message does not contain the exact change, nor can the configuration file be retrieved from the fingerprint. Only the fact of the configuration change can be detected.


Modular configuration files that are included in the main configuration file of syslog-ng PE are included when the fingerprint is calculated. However, other external files (for example, scripts used in program sources or destinations) are excluded, therefore their modifications do not change the fingerprint.

The fingerprint can be examined with the logchksign command-line application, which detects that the fingerprint was indeed generated by a syslog-ng application. Just paste the hashes from the log message after the logchksign command like in the following example:

bin/logchksign "cfg-fingerprint='832ef664ff79df8afc66cd955c0c8aaa3c343f31', cfg-nonce-ndx='0', cfg-signature='785223cfa19ad52b855550be141b00306347b0a9'"
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