Use Fluent Bit to Enrich Logs with Kubernetes Metadata, Automatically
If you’re in the world of application orchestration (microservices, CI/CD, multi-cloud deployments, data pipelines), Kubernetes is likely an essential tool in your tech stack. This robust platform provides new ways for application deployment and scaling and has revolutionized how we manage and scale containerized apps.
Kubernetes may be your best buddy on most days, but it also can produce an overwhelming amount of event data. This can make it difficult to pinpoint issues, especially when you’ve started getting alerts for your workloads, support tickets, and endless notifications on Slack from the stakeholders about service degradation running on Kubernetes. That’s where logs come in, helping you to identify your system’s point of failure.
If you are using K8s on a public cloud provider odds are that you are already running Fluent Bit, an open source high-performance data collection agent, by default. In many cases the out-of-the-box Fluent Bit instance is configured to route data to the public cloud providers’ backend (e.g. CloudWatch, Azure Monitor Logs, or Google Cloud Logging). What a lot of developers don’t know is that you can also customize Fluent Bit to enrich logs with metadata and route them to multiple locations.
With the blog below you will learn how you can take advantage of the same high performance and low resource utilization with rich metadata enrichment and leverage any of the 100+ backends supported by Fluent Bit.
Today we are going to talk about the value of Kubernetes metadata and how using this with Fluent Bit can enable you to enhance traceability and enrich diagnostics.
Understanding Kubernetes Metadata
Metadata, in its simplest form, is the “info about the info.” It’s like looking up your favorite movie on IMDB — it tells you who’s in it, who directed it, how long it is, and so on.
In the context of Kubernetes, metadata contains the details of your running workloads. It covers names, namespaces, labels, annotations, and more.
To illustrate, let’s consider a simple example. Suppose you have a pod named “checkout-service-2” in the “checkout” namespace. This pod might have a label like “app=checkout-service” and an annotation like “product-owner=J. Doe.” This information might seem basic, but this information can be a lifesaver during a disaster. Later in this blog, we'll share some valuable tips and best practices for creating and managing good metadata, aiming to optimize your operations.
Let’s dig a little deeper.
How Metadata can reduce MTTR (Mean Time to Repair)
When your workloads generate extensive logs without the right tools, it can become quite challenging to manage the data. This is where metadata becomes invaluable.
Let’s say you have received an alert about higher-than-normal response times in your e-commerce application. Naturally, you’d begin to check your logs. Since your e-commerce application runs on multiple pods, all logging simultaneously, it’s not easy to isolate the problem.
This is where the Kubernetes metadata can help. By sorting sample logs by response time, you are able to determine that the endpoints are related to checkout service. The “app=checkout-service” label on the pod will enable you to quickly isolate logs associated with this particular service in your Kubernetes cluster.
The Kubernetes metadata will enable you to dig even deeper. By looking at the metadata, you are able to determine that each slow request is associated with a particular pod, “checkout-service-2.” Now that you have narrowed down the issue to a specific pod, you uncover that this pod had been scheduled to a node in a bad state. A quick reschedule later, your e-commerce application is back to running properly.
Using metadata to navigate your logs will help your operations to become more efficient and streamlined, reducing downtime and minimizing disruption to the user experience. This proactive approach will enable you to anticipate issues before they become significant problems, further increasing your manager's confidence in your abilities and the robustness of the system.
Automating Kubernetes Metadata with Fluent Bit
Fluent Bit, the lightweight and highly performant log processor and forwarder, excels when dealing with Kubernetes metadata. Fluent Bit is designed to automatically enrich your logs with Kubernetes metadata, tagging each log entry with helpful information such as the pod name, namespace, labels, and more.
In addition to capturing and enriching logs, Fluent will ship your logs, fully loaded with metadata, to your preferred log analysis platform. Fluent Bit has more than 100 built-in integrations, including Elasticsearch, AWS Cloudwatch, and more.
In the context of Fluent Bit, filters are components that allow you to manipulate and process the data logs before they are sent to output. Fluent Bit Kubernetes Filter allows you to enrich your log files with Kubernetes metadata.
After adding Kubernetes Filter block to your Fluent Bit configuration, this filter aims to perform the following operations:
Analyze the Tag and extract the following metadata:
Query Kubernetes API Server to obtain extra metadata for the POD in question:
The data is cached locally in memory and appended to each record.
You may find the example configuration below:
Metadata Best Practices: Labels & Annotations
Now that you’ve seen the importance of Kubernetes metadata in action, let’s share some best practices.
Use labels to categorize your Kubernetes objects. Some examples of label best practices include:
Create a label to group all the components of a specific application running across different microservices.
Create a label to distinguish the environment of particular workloads.
Annotations, meanwhile, are like Post-it notes on your workloads. They’re excellent for storing extra details like a description of the workload, the person in charge, etc. In essence, labels are for identifying, and annotations provide additional context.
We’ve discussed Kubernetes metadata and how it brings value to your logging process. We’ve explored how it turns the challenging task of troubleshooting into a straightforward process. Additionally, we’ve seen how Fluent Bit automates the enrichment of your logs with metadata and ships them to your preferred log analysis platform, such as Datadog, Splunk or AWS S3.
Just remember, as powerful as Kubernetes metadata is, it’s only as good as your usage. Use labels and annotations effectively. Enrich your logs with as much context as possible. Make certain that your tooling preserves the information as the logs are routed downstream. And above all, embrace the metadata.
If you are new to Fluent Bit, we provide free hands-on learning labs using ephemeral sandbox environments. For more advanced users, we recommend our Fluent Bit Summer webinar series with topics such as advanced processing and routing to help you optimize your Fluent Bit usage. All webinars are available on-demand following the live presentation.
Also, look for our upcoming training sessions starting in September.
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