The rocket-fast system for log processing

Using php-syslog-ng with rsyslog

Written by Rainer Gerhards (2005-08-04)

Note: it has been reported that this guide is somewhat outdated. Most importantly, this guide is for the original php-syslog-ng and cannot be used for it successor logzilla. Please use the guide with care. Also, please note that rsyslog’s “native” web frontend is Adiscon LogAnalyzer, which provides best integration and a lot of extra functionality.


In this paper, I describe how to use php-syslog-ng with rsyslogd. Php-syslog-ng is a popular web interface to syslog data. Its name stem from the fact that it usually picks up its data from a database created by syslog-ng and some helper scripts. However, there is nothing syslog-ng specific in the database. With rsyslogd’s high customizability, it is easy to write to a syslog-ng like schema. I will tell you how to do this, enabling you to use php-syslog-ng as a front-end for rsyslogd - or save the hassle with syslog-ng database configuration and simply go ahead and use rsyslogd instead.*

Overall System Setup

The setup is pretty straightforward. Basically, php-syslog-ng’s interface to the syslogd is the database. We use the schema that php-syslog-ng expects and make rsyslogd write to it in its format. Because of this, php-syslog-ng does not even know there is no syslog-ng present.

Setting up the system

For php-syslog-ng, you can follow its usual setup instructions. Just skip any steps refering to configure syslog-ng. Make sure you create the database schema in MySQL. As of this writing, the expected schema can be created via this script:

USE syslog
CREATE TABLE logs(host varchar(32) default NULL,
                  facility varchar(10)
                  default NULL,
                  priority varchar(10) default NULL,
                  level varchar(10) default NULL,
                  tag varchar(10) default NULL,
                  date date default NULL,
                  time time default NULL,
                  program varchar(15) default NULL,
                  msg text,
                  seq int(10) unsigned NOT NULL auto_increment,
                  PRIMARY KEY (seq),
                  KEY host (host),
                  KEY seq (seq),
                  KEY program (program),
                  KEY time (time),
                  KEY date (date),
                  KEY priority (priority),
                  KEY facility (facility
                 ) TYPE=MyISAM;``

Please note that at the time you are reading this paper, the schema might have changed. Check for any differences. As we customize rsyslogd to the schema, it is vital to have the correct one. If this paper is outdated, let me know so that I can fix it.

Once this schema is created, we simply instruct rsyslogd to store received data in it. I wont go into too much detail here. If you are interested in some more details, you might find my paper “Writing syslog messages to MySQL” worth reading. For this article, we simply modify rsyslog.confso that it writes to the database. That is easy. Just these two lines are needed:

$template syslog-ng,"insert into logs(host, facility, priority, tag, date, time, msg) values ('%HOSTNAME%', %syslogfacility%, %syslogpriority%, '%syslogtag%', '%timereported:::date-mysql%', '%timereported:::date-mysql%', '%msg%')", SQL
*.*,           mysql-server,syslog,user,pass;syslog-ng

These are just two lines. I have color-coded them so that you see what belongs together (the colors have no other meaning). The green line is the actual SQL statement being used to take care of the syslog-ng schema. Rsyslogd allows you to fully control the statement sent to the database. This allows you to write to any database format, including your homegrown one (if you so desire). Please note that there is a small inefficiency in our current usage: the '%timereported:::date-mysql%' property is used for both the time and the date (if you wonder about what all these funny characters mean, see the rsyslogd property replacer manual) . We could have extracted just the date and time parts of the respective properties. However, this is more complicated and also adds processing time to rsyslogd’s processing (substrings must be extracted). So we take a full mysql-formatted timestamp and supply it to MySQL. The sql engine in turn discards the unneeded part. It works pretty well. As of my understanding, the inefficiency of discarding the unneeded part in MySQL is lower than the effciency gain from using the full timestamp in rsyslogd. So it is most probably the best solution.

Please note that rsyslogd knows two different timestamp properties: one is timereported, used here. It is the timestamp from the message itself. Sometimes that is a good choice, in other cases not. It depends on your environment. The other one is the timegenerated property. This is the time when rsyslogd received the message. For obvious reasons, that timestamp is consistent, even when your devices are in multiple time zones or their clocks are off. However, it is not “the real thing”. It’s your choice which one you prefer. If you prefer timegenerated … simply use it ;)

The line in red tells rsyslogd which messages to log and where to store it. The “*.*” selects all messages. You can use standard syslog selector line filters here if you do not like to see everything in your database. The “>” tells rsyslogd that a MySQL connection must be established. Then, “mysql-server” is the name or IP address of the server machine, “syslog” is the database name (default from the schema) and “user” and “pass” are the logon credentials. Use a user with low privileges, insert into the logs table is sufficient. “syslog-ng” is the template name and tells rsyslogd to use the SQL statement shown above.

Once you have made the changes, all you need to do is restart rsyslogd. Then, you should see syslog messages flow into your database - and show up in php-syslog-ng.


With minumal effort, you can use php-syslog-ng together with rsyslogd. For those unfamiliar with syslog-ng, this configuration is probably easier to set up then switching to syslog-ng. For existing rsyslogd users, php-syslog-ng might be a nice add-on to their logging infrastructure.

Please note that the MonitorWare family (to which rsyslog belongs) also offers a web-interface: Adiscon LogAnalyzer. From my point of view, obviously, phpLogCon is the more natural choice for a web interface to be used together with rsyslog. It also offers superb functionality and provides, for example,native display of Windows event log entries. I have set up a demo server., You can have a peek at it without installing anything.

References and Additional Material

See also

Help with configuring/using Rsyslog:

  • Mailing list - best route for general questions
  • GitHub: rsyslog source project - detailed questions, reporting issues that are believed to be bugs with Rsyslog
  • Stack Exchange (View, Ask) - experimental support from rsyslog community

See also

Contributing to Rsyslog:

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