Centralized logging with an ELK stack (Elasticsearch-Logstash-Kibana) on Ubuntu

Update 22/12/2015

I’ve reviewed the book Learning ELK stack by Packt Publishing, it’s available online for 5$ only: https://www.packtpub.com/big-data-and-business-intelligence/learning-elk-stack/?utm_source=DD-deviantonywp&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=OME5D2015

I’ve recently setup an ELK stack in order to centralize the logs of many services in my company, and it’s just amazing !

I’ve used the following versions of the softwares on Ubuntu 12.04 (also works on Ubuntu 14.04):

  • Elasticsearch 1.4.1
  • Kibana 3.1.2
  • Logstash 1.4.2
  • Logstash-forwarder 0.3.1

About the softwares


Elastichsearch is a RESTful distributed search engine using a NoSQL database and based on the Apache Lucene engine. Developped by the Elasticsearch company which also owns Kibana and Logstash.

Elasticsearch Homepage


Logstash is a tool used to harvest and filter logs, it’s developed in Java under Apache 2.0 license.

Logstash Homepage


Logstash-forwarder (previously named Lumberjack) is one of the many log shippers compliants with Logstash.

It has the following advantages:

  • a light footprint (written in Go, no need for a Java Virtual Machine to harvest logs)
  • uses a data compression algorithm
  • uses encryption to send data over the network

Logstash-forwarder Homepage


Kibana is a web UI allowing to search and display data stored by Logstash in Elasticsearch.

Kibana Homepage


Here is a simple schema of the expected architecture : We will use logstash-forwarder (using the lumberjack protocol) on each server where we want to harvest the logs. These nodes will send data to the indexer : logstash. This one will process them using filters and send the formatted data to elasticsearch.

Kibana, the UI, will allow to display and compile the data. This architecture is scalable, you can quickly add more indexers nodes by adding logstash instances. Same for elasticsearch, which works as a cluster of one node by default.

Setup the Elasticsearch node

NOTE: A one node elasticsearch cluster is not recommended for production, I’ve added another blog post describing the setup of a three node cluster on Ubuntu 12.04, see How to setup an Elasticsearch cluster with Logstash on Ubuntu 12.04.


elasticsearch is using Java, you need to ensure you’ve got a JDK installed on your system and that it is available in the PATH.

Install via repository

$ wget -O - http://packages.elasticsearch.org/GPG-KEY-elasticsearch | sudo apt-key add -
$ echo "deb http://packages.elasticsearch.org/elasticsearch/1.4/debian stable main" | sudo tee -a /etc/apt/sources.list.d/elasticsearch.list
$ sudo apt-get update && sudo apt-get install elasticsearch

You can also decide to start the elasticsearch service on boot using the following command:

$ sudo update-rc.d elasticsearch defaults 95 10


You must specify the path to the Java JDK in the file /etc/default/elasticsearch to start the service by adding the following variable:


If you want to tune your elasticsearch installation, the configuration is available in the file /etc/elasticsearch/elasticsearch.yml.

You can now start the service:

$ sudo service elasticsearch start

Automatic index cleaning via Curator

You can use the curator program to delete indexes. See more information in the github repository: https://github.com/elasticsearch/curator

You’ll need pip in order to install curator:

$ sudo apt-get install python-pip

Once it’s done, you can install curator:

$ sudo pip install elasticsearch-curator

Now, it’s easy to setup a cron to delete the indexes older than 30 days in /etc/cron.d/elasticsearch_curator:

@midnight     root        curator delete --older-than 30 >> /var/log/curator.log 2>&1

Cluster overview via Marvel

NOTE: marvel needs to be installed on each node of an elasticsearch cluster in order to supervise the whole cluster.

See marvel’s homepage for more info.

Install it:

$ /usr/share/elasticsearch/bin/plugin -i elasticsearch/marvel/latest

Restart the elasticsearch service:

$ sudo service elasticsearch restart

Now you can access the marvel UI via your browser on : http://elasticsearch-host:9200/_plugin/marvel

Setup the Logstash node


Logstash is using Java, you need to ensure you’ve got a JDK installed on your system and that it is available in the PATH.

Install via repository

$ wget -O - http://packages.elasticsearch.org/GPG-KEY-elasticsearch | sudo apt-key add -
$ echo "deb http://packages.elasticsearch.org/logstash/1.4/debian stable main" | sudo tee -a /etc/apt/sources.list.d/elasticsearch.list
$ sudo apt-get update && sudo apt-get install logstash

Generate a SSL certificate

Use the following command to generate a SSL certificate request and private key in /etc/ssl:

$ openssl req -x509 -newkey rsa:2048 -keyout /etc/ssl/logstash.key -out /etc/ssl/logstash.pub -nodes -days 1095


The logstash configuration is based in the /etc/logstash/conf.d directory by default. As the configuration can become quite messy with the time, I’ve managed to split the configuration in multiple files:

  • 00_input.conf
  • 02_filter_*.conf
  • 10_output.conf

This allows you to define separated sections for the logstash configuration:

Input section

You’ll define here all the inputs for the indexer, an input is a source on which logstash will read events. It can be file, a messaging queue connection… We are going to use the lumberjack input to communicate with the logstash-forwarder harvesters.

See: http://logstash.net/docs/1.4.2/inputs/lumberjack for more information.

Filter section

Filters are processing methods you will apply to the received events. For example, you can aplpy a calculation method on some numeric value, drop a specific event based on it’s text value… There is a LOT of filters you can use with logstash, see the documentation for more information.

I recommend using a specific configuration file for each service you want to process: 02_filter_apache.conf, 02_filter_mysql.conf

Output section

NOTE: There is another way to configure the logstash integration with an elasticsearch cluster, it’s more adaptable if have more than a node in your cluster, see How to setup an Elasticsearch cluster with Logstash on Ubuntu 12.04.

The output will define where will logstash send the processed events. We are going to use elasticsearch as the output destination:


output {
       elasticsearch {
                     host => "elasticsearch-node"
                     protocol => "http"

Optional: Logstash contrib plugins

Starting from the version 1.4 of logstash, some plugins have been separated of the project. A new project was born : logstash-contrib, gathering a lot of plugins inside one bundle.

See http://logstash.net/docs/1.4.2/contrib-plugins for more information. It’s also available on Github: https://github.com/elasticsearch/logstash-contrib.


$ /opt/logstash/bin/plugin install contrib

Setup the Kibana node


You’ll need a web server to use kibana, I’ve chosen apache:

$ sudo apt-get install apache2


You can retrieve the latest archive for kibana here: http://www.elasticsearch.org/overview/kibana/installation/

Download and extract the archive in your webserver root (replace VERSION with the right version):

$ wget https://download.elasticsearch.org/kibana/kibana/kibana-VERSION.tar.gz
$ tar xvf kibana-*.tar.gz -C /var/www
$ sudo mv /var/www/kibana-VERSION /var/www/kibana

Now setup the default dashboard:

$ cp /var/www/kibana/app/dashboards/default.json /var/www/kibana/app/dashboards/default.json.bak
$ mv /var/www/kibana/app/dashboards/logstash.json /var/www/kibana/app/dashboards/default.json

Update the elasticsearch value in /var/www/kibana/config.js to match your elasticsearch node:

      elasticsearch: "http://elasticsearch-host:9200",

You can now access the kibana UI: http://kibana-host/kibana

Setup the Logstash forwarder on a node

Install via repository

$ wget -O - http://packages.elasticsearch.org/GPG-KEY-elasticsearch | sudo apt-key add -
$ echo "deb http://packages.elasticsearch.org/logstashforwarder/debian stable main" | sudo tee -a /etc/apt/sources.list.d/elasticsearch.list
$ sudo apt-get update && sudo apt-get install logstash-forwarder


You’ll need to copy the public key you’ve generated previously on the logstash node in the same directory : /etc/ssl/logstash.pub

The configuration for the logstash-forwarder is defined in the file /etc/logstash-forwarder. You can see examples in my logstash recipes posts.

Logstash recipes

Here is a list of posts I’ve made for logstash recipes, they contain both logstash and logstash-forwarder configuration samples:

You can also check my post on how to debug your logstash filters.

Enjoy your logs !


7 thoughts on “Centralized logging with an ELK stack (Elasticsearch-Logstash-Kibana) on Ubuntu

  1. Hi this is kinda of off topic but I was wondering if blogs use
    WYSIWYG editors or if you have to manually code with HTML.
    I’m starting a blog soon but have no coding skills so I wanted to get
    advice from someone with experience. Any help would be greatly appreciated!

  2. I was wondering if you actually need to run this in a cluster or not. I would like this to monitor server is my environment for failed login attempts but don’t see the need at this time ti run any more then one server with plenty of RAM and HDD space. Any thoughts on this? I have a modest home lab to test this with and could maybe do 2-3 machines. Thanks for the post. Really informative and I’ll be looking at your other posts as well.

    1. Hello,

      Running it as a cluster will provide a replicated dataset, thus can help you to recover data and ensures high availability in case of one node failure. Of course, for a limited dataset size, you do not need a lot of resources.

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