Useful Tricks and Best Practices for Docker Log Management

By on February 4, 2021

Docker containers have gained popularity over the years and are used to transfer software applications from production to live environment reliably. They provide an entire runtime environment setup for applications, including libraries, dependencies, and configuration files, to ensure faster deployment of applications across multiple systems. Docker containers offer:

  • Flexibility to work on bare metal servers and virtualized infrastructure
  • Portability to move applications easily
  • Improved security by isolating applications
  • Efficiency by maximum utilization of fewer resources

Challenges of Docker Logging

Docker containers are highly reliable when it comes to application delivery and eliminate dependency issues by isolating the components of the application within the container itself. However, applications can still face deployment and performance issues. Although Docker logs are extremely helpful in detecting the root cause of the issues, Docker log management is challenging due to its inherently complex architecture.

Another challenge is containerized applications generate a mix of log streams. These include structured, unstructured, and plain text messages in various formats. This continuous log production in massive volumes increases the complexity of managing and analyzing the container logs. It also becomes difficult for development teams to identify, track, and map log events with the right container or app generating it, making log parsing extremely slow and challenging.

Although there are several methods for the management of applications in Docker, identifying the most suitable method based on your specific requirements can be daunting.

This is when cloud-based centralized log management tools like SolarWinds® Papertrail play a significant role. The tool offers advanced log search and filter capabilities along with quick setup and support for common frameworks for log ingestion. Papertrail is designed to streamline troubleshooting, parse huge amounts of logs, and provide a real-time view of events.

Best Practices for Docker Logging

Outlined below are a few best practices developers must consider to streamline the Docker logging process.

  • Use of application-based logging. Application-based logging is helpful for teams who are working within traditional application environments. It helps developers have more control over the logging events. This approach works by using the application’s framework for logging and analysis. Application-based logging doesn’t require any additional functionality to transfer logs to the host. Instead, developers can use the application’s framework to handle logging processes.
  • Leveraging Docker logging drivers. Docker container offers log management mechanisms known as logging drivers. These mechanisms help you gain crucial information about containerized applications and services. Logging drivers can read log events directly from the container output. Moreover, developers can use dedicated plugins to add more functionalities to the Docker Engine.
  • Using data volumes. Containers are transient in nature. If they fail to function, all the log data and files inside the container are lost and cannot be regained. To ensure the data within the container is secure, developers must use data volumes—designated directories within containers used to store persistent or commonly shared log events. By using data volume, sharing of data with other containers becomes easier, and the probability of data loss is reduced.
  • Sidecar approach. Sidecar is a popular service deployed with the application within a container. It allows you to add multiple capabilities to the primary application without installing additional configurations. Sidecars are often attached to a parent application and run as a secondary process to extend the application’s functionalities. From a logging standpoint, this approach is useful for larger application deployments where specific logging information is required.
  • Dedicated logging container. Having a dedicated logging container helps with log management within a Docker container. It aggregates, monitors, analyzes, and transfers logs to a centralized location. Using this approach, development teams can manage logs and efficiently retrieve and scale log events. Moreover, logging containers don’t require installing a configuration code to perform such functions.

Papertrail: Use a Centralized Log Management Tool for Docker Log Management

SolarWinds Papertrail is a cloud-based log management tool designed to simplify Docker log management. In addition to Docker logging, it collects, monitors, analyzes, and centralizes logs generated from a wide range of devices, including servers, applications, networking devices, and more. Papertrail can also maintain a record of infrastructure logs and application logs to help ensure seamless functionality of the organization’s devices.

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With its intuitive interface and live tail feature, Papertrail allows development teams to view and monitor real-time events. Moreover, the tool can set instant alerts to notify teams about critical issues for faster resolution. Papertrail is easy to set up, offers advanced logging features, and provides fast search capabilities. Organizations can try its free demo to evaluate and discover its functionalities.

Conclusion

To ensure applications run smoothly, teams need to understand the functionality of Docker logging. Moreover, centralized log management tools like SolarWinds Papertrail can simplify Docker logging through real-time monitoring of container logs in its unified dashboards and configuring intelligent alerts to troubleshoot issues faster. Give Papertrail a try and opt for its free plan here.

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