If you deploy a lot of micro-services with Spring Boot (or any other technology), you will have a hard time collecting and making sense of the all logs of your different applications.

In this article, I will show you a simple way to redirect your logs to Elastic Search with a Logback appender.

The demo project is available on github.

While this approach requires very little configuration, the 12 factors app manifesto actually recommends logging to stdout.

We will see how we can leverage docker to do that in the conclusion.

The EFK stack

A lot of people refer to the triptych Elastic Search + Logstash + Kibana as the ELK stack.

In this stack, Logstash is the log collector. Its role will be to redirect our logs to Elastic Search. Your app can either send its logs directly to Logstash/Fluentd as we will see in this example, or write them to a file that Logstash will regularly process.

Elastic Search is used to store and process a large amount of logs.

We can then use Kibana as a dashboard to analyze them:

Instead of Logstash, we will use Fluentd, an alternative log collector which is really easy to set up.

Docker compose to run your EFK

With docker-compose, setting up the EFK stack is really straightforward:

  image: elasticsearch:2
# The following will store es data in your boot2docker vm
    - /srv/docker/es:/usr/share/elasticsearch/data
    - 9200:9200
    - 9300:9300

  image: kibana
    - 5601:5601
    - es:elasticsearch

  build: fluent-es/
    - 24224:24224
    - es:es

If you are running docker inside a VM, like me on my Mac, you cannot easily use volumes to persist Elastic Search data because the owner of the directory must be elasticsearch. So above is a little trick to easily overcome this.

To delete this directory, connect to your boot2docker vm with docker-machine ssh default.

The fluentd part points to a custom docker image in which I installed the Elastic Search plugin as well as redefined the fluentd config to look like this:

type forward
port 24224

<match **>
type elasticsearch
logstash_format true
host "#{ENV['ES_PORT_9200_TCP_ADDR']}" # dynamically configured to use Docker's link feature
port 9200
flush_interval 5s

In this config, we use the environment variable that docker-compose automatically sets when we use links to find the Elastic Search host.

Configure logback to send logs to fluentd

Add the following dependencies to you build configuration:

compile 'org.fluentd:fluent-logger:0.3.2'
compile 'com.sndyuk:logback-more-appenders:1.1.1'

We use logback-more-appenders, which includes a fluentd appender. It’s not available on central so you will have to add the follwing maven repo:

repositories {
    maven { url 'http://sndyuk.github.com/maven' }

Here is the logback configuration:

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>
    <include resource="org/springframework/boot/logging/logback/base.xml"/>
    <property name="FLUENTD_HOST" value="${FLUENTD_HOST:-${DOCKER_HOST:-localhost}}"/>
    <property name="FLUENTD_PORT" value="${FLUENTD_PORT:-24224}"/>
    <appender name="FLUENT" class="ch.qos.logback.more.appenders.DataFluentAppender">

    <logger name="fluentd" level="debug" additivity="false">
        <appender-ref ref="CONSOLE" />
        <appender-ref ref="FILE" />
        <appender-ref ref="FLUENT" />

Note that we use the FLUENTD_HOST and FLUENTD_PORT environment variables to connect to Fluentd so this can be overridden in production.

Use docker to natively redirect logs to Fluentd

Redirecting to fluentd directly is kind of cool but, the 12 factors app manifesto says we should write our logs to stdout instead.

If you use docker to deploy your services, you can use a native docker feature called log drivers to redirect your standard output to fluentd!

docker run --log-driver=fluentd --log-opt fluentd-address= ubuntu echo "Hello world"

See the manual for more information.


In a cloud environment, redirecting your app’s logs to a file is not practical. Sometimes, it is not even an option (no persistent filesystem available on your host).

Elastic Search tends to become the de-facto standard logging solution for the cloud era.

Don’t forget to checkout the project on github and tell me what you think!

Geoffroy Warin

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