Today, continuous development and continuous delivery have become the de facto mode of application development for businesses seeking higher agility. With the continuous push to achieve higher efficiency and reliability in running software operations, container technologies like Docker, Kubernetes, and Mesos have become mainstream. Among these technologies, Docker is the most popular. Though Docker makes application delivery seamless, Docker logging isn’t simple, and it comes with its own share of challenges. In this article, we’ll discuss what makes Docker logging so challenging and how investing in a commercial, cloud-based log management tool can help simplify the process.
Why Do We Need Docker Logging?
With Docker, DevOps teams can release new software features more frequently than ever before. Docker facilitates these high-speed deliveries with an added layer of reliability by packaging all application dependencies together. However, applications may still experience performance issues for many reasons, so keeping a track of applications in the production environment has become increasingly crucial. Because most applications use a microservices architecture, teams may use numerous metrics and distributed transaction tracing to detect issues and performance bottlenecks. For deeper troubleshooting, however, teams still need to access Docker logs, which provide more detailed information. With Docker logging, they can get to the root cause of application issues and take remedial actions.
What Are the Challenges With Docker Logging?
Docker containers are transient and disposable; they’re spun up only when there’s a requirement, and they’re terminated once the job is done. When a Docker container shuts down, all the data or logs generated during its existence are erased by default. While this isn’t usually an issue, it isn’t rare for a container to shut down unexpectedly. Finding out what went wrong can be a nuisance, as Docker environments are complex; many applications require Docker Swarm, and there may be multiple containers running in a large cluster. Keeping track of these containers by mapping every log event with its respective container or app can be extremely challenging.
Furthermore, unlike traditional logging, there are different methods for logging in Docker. You can use data volumes for persistent log storage, even after a container shuts down. Teams can also consider configuring logging drivers to forward log events to a syslog running on their host. However, every method has its pros and cons. For instance, log parsing can be tricky when using logging drivers. The “docker logs” command for inspecting log files doesn’t always work, as it only supports JSON file logging drivers. Teams transitioning to the Docker environment may have to experiment and decide which method works best for them.
5 Reasons to Choose a Cloud-Based Docker Logging Tool
Organizations often consider creating a self-hosted logging setup with free, open-source tools like the ELK (Elasticsearch, Logstash, Kibana) Stack. There’s no doubt the ELK Stack can meet the most advanced logging needs and support complex logging requirements for containerized applications. However, configuring and managing all these tools isn’t easy. Furthermore, organizations often fail to accurately calculate the cost of ownership involved with using open-source tools. With a cloud logging solution or a logging as a service (LaaS) solution, teams don’t have to spend time and effort configuring multiple tools. Instead, they can start logging within minutes.
In modern enterprise environments, organizations often deal with a complex mix of legacy devices, networking equipment, and cloud-based containerized applications. Because all these devices create logs, organizations should look for a centralized log management solution. Managing logs in different places is not only inefficient but can slow down troubleshooting. Cloud-based log management tools offer an easier approach to manage and analyze logs. Provisioning additional capacity to meet growing demand doesn’t take time, and organizations can meet surges in log volumes with auto-scalability.
Cloud-based log management tools often use distributed search nodes, which expedite the processing of a large volume of logs. This means you can search through logs from the past several days for analysis and troubleshooting. These tools may improve the troubleshooting experience with intuitive event viewers and visual dashboards. Cloud-based Docker log viewers also integrate with several third-party tools for advanced alerting and collaboration.
Unlike open-source tools, which force organizations to rely on community support and several pages of online documentation, commercial log management tools offer dedicated technical support. Because every enterprise setup is different, organizations may face rare and unique challenges with their Docker logging, and support teams can prove to be instrumental in resolving such issues.
Lower Total Cost of Ownership (TCO)
Most cloud logging tools offer flexible pricing or pay-as-you-go models, which saves organizations from making heavy up-front investments in logging infrastructure. With a cloud-based log management tool, organizations can get higher retention periods and manage large volumes of logs at a much lower TCO compared to a self-hosted setup.
Where to Get Started With Docker Logging
Though cloud-based log management tools can simplify Docker logging, there are many vendors offering similar services. You can select a solution based on your organization’s logging requirements and budgets. However, implementing advanced solutions like Splunk, LogDNA, and Sumo Logic might prove to be challenging, as they offer numerous features for security information and event management (SIEM), DevSecOps, AIOps, and application performance management (APM). If you are seeking a simple Docker log viewer, consider solutions like SolarWinds® Papertrail™.
Papertrail offers cloud-based log management and can be set up within minutes. You can send logs from applications running in a Docker container to Papertrail using either the logspout container or remote_syslog2 and rsyslog. Docker syslog drivers can also help forward logs to Papertrail. With all your logs in one place, Papertrail can help you keep track of distributed applications. Its real-time event viewer supports live tail and allows you to skip to a specific time within a few clicks. It also supports common search operators and can save important searches to expedite troubleshooting in live environments. Additionally, you can integrate Papertrail with tools like Slack and PagerDuty to receive critical alerts. Starting with Papertrail is easy; you can get a free trial here.