Configuring Fluent Bit to push logs from Tanzu Community Edition clusters to vRealize Log Insight

Update 2022-10-21: After just one year in the wild VMware announced on Oct 21 2022 that they would no longer update or maintain the TCE project and that by end of 2022 the Github project will be removed. For more information check out my blog post here

Most of the things mentioned in this post (outside of installing TCE) should still be valid for other Kubernetes distributions

Logging is an important part of any infrastructure service and a Kubernetes cluster is no different. In this post we'll see how we can use Fluent Bit to work with logs from containers running in a Kubernetes cluster.

Fluent Bit can output to a lot of different destinations, like the different public cloud providers logging services, Elasticsearch, Kafka, Splunk etc. I'm going to push my logs to vRealize Log Insight which is already running in my environment, and while there's no specific output for vRLI we will map it with the Syslog output.

The focus of this post will be how to get container logs from my TCE cluster in to vRLI and some of the parsing and filtering that can be performed. The different applications log structure might need different parsing/filtering.

Fluent Bit configuration

First step is to create a file for the configuration parameters and this took quite a bit of time as I wasn't very well aquianted to Fluent bit and how it works.

Fellow vExpert Robert Guske has made a great blog post which discusses both logging primitives in Cloud Native apps and how Fluent Bit works.

That blog post, and this from Sean McGeown, both uses Fluent Bit to send logs to vRLI, but they use TKG and not TCE in their setup so I had to do some tweaking to fit my use case.

What I ended up with was the following

 1namespace: logging
 3  config:
 4    service: |
 5      [SERVICE]
 6        Daemon              Off
 7        Flush                1
 8        Log_Level            info
 9        Parsers_File         parsers.conf
10        Parsers_File         custom_parsers.conf
11        HTTP_Server          On
12        HTTP_Listen
13        HTTP_Port            2020
14        Health_Check         On      
15    inputs: |
16      [INPUT]
17        Name                 tail
18        Path                 /var/log/containers/*.log
19        DB                   /var/log/flb_kube.db
20        parser               cri
21        Tag                  kube.*
22        Mem_Buf_Limit        5MB
23        Skip_Long_Lines      On      
24    parsers: |
25      [PARSER]
26        #
27        Name                 cri
28        Format               regex
29        Regex                ^(?<time>[^ ]+) (?<stream>stdout|stderr) (?<logtag>[^ ]*) (?<message>.*)$
30        Time_Key             time
31        Time_Format          %Y-%m-%dT%H:%M:%S.%L%z
32      [PARSER]
33        Name                 kube-custom
34        Format               regex
35        Regex                (?<tag>[^.]+)?\.?(?<pod_name>[a-z0-9](?:[-a-z0-9]*[a-z0-9])?(?:\.[a-z0-9]([-a-z0-9]*[a-z0-9])?)*)_(?<namespace_name>[^_]+)_(?<container_name>.+)-(?<docker_id>[a-z0-9]{64})\.log$      
36    filters: |
37      [FILTER]
38        Name                 record_modifier
39        Match                *
40        Record tce_cluster   tce-wld-1
41      [FILTER]
42        Name                 kubernetes
43        Match                kube.*
44        Kube_URL             https://kubernetes.default.svc.cluster.local:443
45        Kube_CA_File         /var/run/secrets/
46        Kube_Token_File      /var/run/secrets/
47        Kube_Tag_Prefix      kube.var.log.containers.
48        Merge_Log            On
49        Merge_Log_Key        log_processed
50        Keep_Log             Off
51        K8S-Logging.Parser   On
52        K8S-Logging.Exclude  On
53      [FILTER]
54        Name                 modify
55        Match                kube.*
56        Copy kubernetes      k8s
57      [FILTER]
58        Name                 nest
59        Match                kube.*
60        Operation            lift
61        Nested_Under         kubernetes      
62    outputs: |
63      [OUTPUT]
64        Name                 syslog
65        Match                *
66        Host       
67        Port                 514
68        Mode                 tcp
69        Syslog_Format        rfc5424
70        Syslog_Hostname_key  tce_cluster
71        Syslog_Appname_key   pod_name
72        Syslog_Procid_key    container_name
73        Syslog_Message_key   message
74        syslog_msgid_key     msgid
75        Syslog_SD_key        k8s
76        Syslog_SD_key        labels
77        Syslog_SD_key        annotations      

Most of this is standard configuration found on either the Fluent Bit documentation or the Tanzu Package repo. I've also added in some hints found on the blogs mentioned previously.

Note that the Fluent Bit Tanzu Package comes with some standard config which probably makes some of this yaml redundant. I've left out some of the inputs found in other examples (like the audit logs), mostly for trying to understand how Fluent Bit works.

While I'm still not claiming to be an expert on Fluent bit I want to point out a couple of things I've picked up:


There's several stages in the way Fluent Bit processes logs, illustrated from this picture taken from the Fluent Bit documentation.

Fluent Bit log parsing pipeline


The Input section is, not surprisingly, what is passed In to Fluent Bit.

2  Name                 tail
3  Path                 /var/log/containers/*.log
4  DB                   /var/log/flb_kube.db
5  parser               cri
6  Tag                  kube.*
7  Mem_Buf_Limit        5MB
8  Skip_Long_Lines      On

We're using the Tail plugin, and we're tailing log files which fits /var/log/containers/*.log.

We're specifying that we'll use the cri parser. We're also setting a tag of kube on the lines read.

A lot of the examples I've found are omitting the DB setting which, if I've understood things correctly, might have an impact as Fluent Bit will read each target file from the beginning without it.


After getting stuff in to Fluent Bit it needs to get Parsed. The parser is responsible for structuring the incoming data. There's multiple parsers available and we can create custom ones as we see fit. We've already mentioned that we're sending stuff to the cri parser.


The Filter lets us alter our data, i.e to add some metadata.

If we take a look at the data over in vRLI at this point I get this:

Data without filters

I haven't covered the Outputs yet, but in addition to vRLI I'm also outputting to stdout which means I can check it in the console so we can confirm it comes from our cluster

1kubectl -n logging logs ds/fluent-bit

Console output

Currently I have only this standard Kubernetes filter on

 2  Name                kubernetes
 3  Match               kube.*
 4  Kube_URL            https://kubernetes.default.svc.cluster.local:443
 5  Kube_CA_File        /var/run/secrets/
 6  Kube_Token_File     /var/run/secrets/
 7  Kube_Tag_Prefix     kube.var.log.containers.
 8  Merge_Log           On
 9  Merge_Log_Key       log_processed
10  Keep_Log            Off
11  K8S-Logging.Parser  On
12  K8S-Logging.Exclude On

After adding the following record_modifier filter we're getting a small step closer. Notice that we're adding the name of the cluster to a tag I've called tce_cluster. We're picking this up in the outputs which we'll discuss shortly.

2  Name                record_modifier
3  Match               *
4  Record tce_cluster  tce-wld-1

Record modifier filter

Let's add in two more filters

2  Name         modify
3  Match        kube.*
4  Copy         kubernetes k8s
6  Name         nest
7  Match        kube.*
8  Operation    lift
9  Nested_Under kubernetes

The first one uses modify to copy the kubernetes key (and it's values) to a key named k8s. The second one uses lift to map data by a key and lift up the records to what we've put in the Nested_Under parameter

The results in vRLI shows us that we now have fields filled with data which will make it easier to work with. Note that the mapping of metadata like pod and container names are done in the Outputs section which we'll see shortly.

Modify and Nesting filters

Buffer and Routing

There are a couple of steps in Fluent Bit we're not touching in this setup. Buffer and Routing. Check the documentation for more information about them and what they can do.


Lastly we're at our final destination, the Output. This is where we tell Fluent Bit to push the parsed and filtered data over to vRLI.

Fluent Bit has quite a few Output plugins available as we've already mentioned, but none for vRLI (at least not at the time of this writing). Luckily there is a Syslog plugin which we can use as vRLI can receive syslog data. If you're working with vRLI Cloud you can use the http output, check out the blog post from Sam McGeown mentioned earlier for that setup.

The configuration for the Syslog ouput covers the host address as well as the mapping of metadata to syslog fields. I'm using the following in my setup

 2  Name                 syslog
 3  Match                *
 4  Host        #vRLI host
 5  Port                 514 #vRLI port
 6  Mode                 tcp
 7  Syslog_Format        rfc5424
 8  Syslog_Hostname_key  tce_cluster #Note that this corresponds to the Record_modifier filtering we did
 9  Syslog_Appname_key   pod_name
10  Syslog_Procid_key    container_name
11  Syslog_Message_key   message
12  syslog_msgid_key     msgid
13  Syslog_SD_key        k8s #Note that this corresponds to the Modifier filtering we did where we copied the kubernetes map to k8s
14  Syslog_SD_key        labels
15  Syslog_SD_key        annotations

Deploy Fluent bit

With all of that covered we're ready to roll. I'm not going to cover in detail how to find information about and deploy Tanzu packages. Check out this post for more info on that, or take a look at the TCE documentation.

1tanzu package install fluent-bit -p -v 1.7.5 -f fluentbit-values.yaml

Fluent bit installed

Update config

When doing a lot of config testing I also got to test updating the installation. For that we use the tanzu package installed update command

1tanzu package installed update fluent-bit -v 1.7.5 -f fluentbit-values.yaml

This will update the deployment and i.e the config map with our configuration. It might take a few minutes to take affect though.


While working with this blog post has helped me understand the workings of FLuent Bit a bit better, but in no means I feel that I'm profound in it. Obviously working with logging (as with monitoring) requires that you know a bit about the applications and systems that we are receiving logs from, which makes it all the more challenging to work with.

This page was modified on October 22, 2022: Added TCE retirement info