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Deciphering the Network Noise: Syslog, the Unsung Hero

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Embracing syslog messages is essential for effectively navigating the intricate soundscape of modern networks. Systal’s Network Architect Andrej Kascak delves into the utilisation of syslog messages in today’s context.

Maintaining the health, security and performance of modern networks necessitates constant vigilance. Amidst the symphony of data emanating from diverse devices and applications, syslog messages serve as an invaluable diagnostic tool for network support teams.   

This article delves into the utilisation of syslog messages in today’s context, exploring four different approaches that our engineering teams at Systal can support:  

1. Rsyslog/syslog
2. Grafana
3. Azure 
4. OpenSearch 

1.Legacy Rsyslog/Syslog: The Bedrock of Log Management

Despite the emergence of newer technologies, rsyslog and syslog, the venerable syslog daemon, remain a cornerstone of log management, particularly in enterprise environments. The protocol that syslog utilises provides a standardised method for collecting and forwarding messages from diverse devices and applications to a central server.  

Rsyslog offers flexibility and adaptability, supporting various message formats and filtering options. This enables tailored log collection and transmission based on specific network requirements. When coupled with log management tools such as Splunk, ELK Stack (comprising of Elasticsearch, Logstash, and Kibana), or via integrating with newer tools such as Grafana rsyslog/syslog, a robust and familiar foundation for log management in legacy and hybrid environments is provided. Its enduring relevance is especially key in legacy and hybrid environments, where resource constraints and access limitations persist. Even in the simplest applications, deploying rsyslog requires more than spare capacity on a virtual machine running a Linux OS. This accessibility underscores its value as a reliable and straightforward solution for organisations seeking efficient log management practices.  

2.Grafana: Visualising the System Symphony  

Grafana, a leading open-source platform, specialises in data visualisation and exploration. As a key player in the data visualisation stack, Grafana can seamlessly ingest syslog messages, leveraging its diverse plugin ecosystem for compatibility with various logging sources.  This flexibility allows network support teams to consolidate log data from disparate sources into a unified interface, streamlining the monitoring and analysis process.  

Within Grafana, network support teams can craft customised dashboards with informative charts and graphs, enabling them to visualise trends, identify correlations, and spot deviations from typical patterns. Dashboards can be tailored to specific network segments, applications, or devices, providing granular insights into various operational aspects.  

Grafana’s alerting capabilities further enhance its value. Teams can establish rules to trigger notifications based on specific log message patterns or thresholds, ensuring prompt action is taken when potential issues arise. By visualising and correlating syslog data effectively, Grafana empowers network support teams to gain situational awareness and make informed decisions rapidly.  

3.Azure Log Analytics: Illuminating On-Premises Environments

Azure Log Analytics isn’t just confined to the cloud, it’s a versatile tool that extends its reach to on-premises environments, providing organisations with a unified solution for managing and analysing log data across hybrid infrastructures. By integrating Azure Log Analytics with on-premises devices and systems, organisations can gain comprehensive visibility into their entire IT landscape, regardless of where their resources are hosted.  

At its core, Azure Log Analytics offers robust data ingestion capabilities, allowing organisations to collect and centralise log data from a diverse range of on-premises devices, including servers, network appliances, and security appliances. By aggregating log data from on-premises sources into a centralised repository, Azure Log Analytics breaks down silos and enables organisations to gain holistic insights into the health, performance, and security of their on-premises infrastructure. With its powerful query language and analytics capabilities, Azure Log Analytics empowers organisations to delve deep into their on-premises log data, uncovering insights and trends that can inform decision-making and drive operational efficiency. Whether it’s diagnosing issues, optimising performance, or detecting security threats, Azure Log Analytics provides the tools and flexibility needed to extract actionable insights from on-premises log data.  

By extending Azure Log Analytics to their on-premises infrastructure, organisations can harness the power of centralised log management, advanced analytics, and rich visualisation tools to gain a comprehensive understanding of their entire IT environment. Whether in the cloud or on-premises, Azure Log Analytics serves as a beacon of insight, empowering organisations to optimise performance, enhance security, and drive innovation across their hybrid infrastructure.  

4. OpenSearch with Kubernetes: Orchestrating Network Insights

Deploying OpenSearch alongside Kubernetes represents the pinnacle of complexity and sophistication in log management solutions. As the open-source successor to Elasticsearch, OpenSearch boasts formidable capabilities for log aggregation and analysis, making it an ideal choice for organisations operating in dynamic and scalable environments. In conjunction with Kubernetes, the industry-leading container orchestration platform, OpenSearch offers unparalleled flexibility and scalability, enabling network support teams to tackle the most intricate log management challenges with ease.  

Kubernetes seamlessly integrates with Logstash, a powerful log forwarder, facilitating the transmission of syslog messages from containers to OpenSearch. This integration lays the foundation for a comprehensive and cohesive log management ecosystem, capable of handling vast volumes of log data with precision and efficiency. With OpenSearch’s robust indexing and querying engine at its core, organisations gain the ability to explore logs with unparalleled depth and granularity, uncovering insights that drive informed decision-making and proactive problem-solving. Furthermore, OpenSearch’s intuitive Kibana interface provides network support teams with a user-friendly platform for visualising and analysing log data. Through customisable filters, dynamic dashboards, and advanced alerting mechanisms, teams can swiftly identify anomalies and potential issues, streamlining the troubleshooting process and minimising downtime. Additionally, OpenSearch seamlessly integrates with other Kubernetes components, such as Prometheus and Grafana, to create a holistic observability platform that empowers proactive network management and ensures optimal performance and reliability. The combination of OpenSearch and Kubernetes represents the most sophisticated and comprehensive log management solution available, offering organisations unparalleled capabilities for orchestrating network insights and driving operational excellence.  

Conclusion: Symphony of Insights

Embracing syslog messages is essential for effectively navigating the intricate soundscape of modern networks. With rsyslog/syslog, Grafana, Azure Log Analytics or OpenSearch ELK, Systal network support teams have a diverse toolkit at their disposal. Each approach offers unique strengths, enabling Systal to tailor its log management strategy to suit each client’s specific infrastructure needs.  

By implementing these solutions effectively, Systal can:  

  • Gain deeper visibility into network operations, pinpointing anomalies and potential issues swiftly.  
  • Make data-driven decisions based on insightful visualisations and analysis.  
  • Proactively manage network health and performance, minimising downtime and disruptions.  
  • Reduce troubleshooting time through efficient log exploration and alerting.  

As technology evolves, the ability to harness the symphony of syslog messages will remain instrumental in ensuring the smooth operation and performance of modern networks. By mastering these tools, Systal can transform the cacophony of data into a harmonious melody of actionable insights, contributing to a more efficient and secure network environment.  

The final question remains: which solution to adopt?

In my experience, the best choice depends on your specific needs and how easy you want it to be to manage. For pure simplicity, using Syslog is a winner. It’s straightforward to set up and runs like clockwork once configured. However, if you need deeper insights, options like Grafana or Azure Log Analytics become attractive alternatives. These offer a richer view of your logs, especially if you’re already in the cloud (though using the cloud just for logs might not be cost-effective). Finally, OpenSearch is the most powerful option, but it requires real DevOps expertise. While it has a steeper learning curve, it promises very comprehensive log analysis capabilities.  

Ask a Systal Expert

To get a better understanding of which syslog solution to adopt, or for guidance on how to maintain and improve your business’s network health and performance,speak to one of our experts. 

Andrej Kascak is a Network Architect designing network solutions for customers in financial, retail, and utility segments, for Systal Technology Solutions. Andrej has over 13 years of experience in the networking field, focusing on security and tooling solutions and improvements in the operation to provide the best level of support to the customers.  

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