Stackdriver Log Management with BindPlane

by Nate Coppinger on January 20, 2020

Update: Google Stackdriver is now Google Cloud Logging and Google Cloud Monitoring. BindPlane will continue to integrate and support both of these products.

Technical Contributions from Blue Medora Chief Systems Architect, Craig Lee.

This is part one of a three-part blog series on Log Management for Google Stackdriver with BindPlane

Proper Log Management

Whether you’re a multi-billion-dollar tech firm or a small startup, sorting your data in a usable and logical manner can prove to be a major challenge. No matter the size of your company, you are going to have individuals within your organization that only need access to specific data and information. Providing them with anything extra ends up slowing down workflows and creates digital clutter. When you first begin ingesting data with Google Stackdriver Logging, the amount of data can be overwhelming and you’ll almost immediately find a need for log management

Log Management, Google, Stackdriver, Stackdriver Logging, BindPlane logs

Unfiltered logs can greatly slow down the workflow when you are ingesting log data from multiple data centers, web apps, databases, etc.… especially when each team only requires data from specific sources. For example, without the proper ability to sort and filter your data between sources, it leaves your database team sifting through web-app and other irrelevant data to locate what they are searching for and vice versa. Even if you are pulling data from a single source, it can be difficult to find the specific log or log set that you need.

Users may be looking to keep an eye out for different severity levels, specific log types, or even a single specific log. All of this can be extremely difficult and time-consuming to sort out without proper log management. 71% of users reported that current tools give hints but rarely find root cause. They end up losing days of productivity in this fruitless search. This is where log management and tagging comes into play.

Why you need Log Tagging

Log tagging will prove to be one of the most useful tools in your log management arsenal. Once you have implemented tagging, all of your filtering challenges within Google Stackdriver will be a thing of the past. Google Stackdriver, out of the box, offers some basic tagging features. These allow users to sort logs by message severity, the namespace, the application that the log is sent from, and the respective Google Datacenter. These basic tags are a great tool to help teams sort out the majority of noise within their log ingestion, but still does not solve issues with sorting out individual log instances within these applications and data centers.

To really drill down into tagging and custom log management, that will require some custom FluentD work. Custom work can prove to be difficult without the assistance of a service like BindPlane. We’ll dig more into that in part 2 of the series. Below you will see an example if a Kubernetes log message with custom log tagging applied.

Example Kubernetes Log Message:

Namespace, node_name, container_name, and other tags are in the JSON Payload of the log message

Log Management, Google, Stackdriver, Stackdriver Logging, BindPlane logs

Log Management on a Global Scale

Tagging seems like such a simple concept, and you’re probably thinking it would be common sense to have it implemented. As we said earlier, creating custom tags and log management can be very difficult and time consuming without help. This was made evident when one of our clients came to us with the challenge of scaling their log monitoring on a global level.

Our client was running seven application services between two data centers in US East-1 and Europe West-2, ingesting logs from six data sources, being used by six different teams, that were running on 50 different servers. Wow, that was complicated to type out, let alone starting to manage the sorting of the data to the correct teams. Now you can see why tagging and log management are not as simple as it seems on paper. Currently, our client’s database admins have to administer their MySQL databases in US-East 1 but have no need to see irrelevant processes coming from order procurement in Europe West-2 or any of the multiple other teams working within the organization. But without proper sorting, critical signals will be lost as these teams manually sort through the flow of thousands of log messages. 

Custom Tagging with BindPlane

Basic tagging in Google Stackdriver logging is a good place to start for log management, but in this customer use case, it can get complicated to manage at scale. Implementing BindPlane to help monitor your logs allows you to easily customize your log tagging at any scale. BindPlane’s capabilities easily customize each individual source and can create templates to apply at any scale. These templates save you from having to manually recreate and input each tagging options into every single data source.

Once all of these customizations have been implemented to your different sources, users on different teams will save time and effort when trying to find exactly what they need. Now rather than the order processing team in South Carolina having to sort through the production team logs from Frankfurt , Germany manually, they can just filter logs coming from US-East 1, to the team they are related to (order processing team), or the specific application they are looking to grab log data from, such as MongoDB.

Example Log Message with Tags:

Note the bindplane_app, function, and location tags.

A screenshot of a cell phone

Description automatically generated

Effectively managing log data can be challenging if your organization does not have a way to easily tag and identify the logs that are important to them. Join us in part two of the series to learn how to customize your log tagging in BindPlane for Stackdriver Logging and how it can increase efficiency and completely change your workflow.

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