syslog-ng has been around for decades: I started coding the first version of syslog-ng in September 1998, circa 24 years ago. The adoption of syslog-ng skyrocketed soon after that: people installed it in place of the traditional syslogd across the globe. It was packaged for Debian, Gentoo, SUSE and even commercial UNIXes. It became a default logging daemon in some of these Linux distributions. Commercial products started embedding it as a system component. Over the years however I feel that syslog-ng has become a trusted piece of infrastructure, few people really care about. I set out to change that.
The use of syslog-ng has become so widespread and dominant, needing minimal maintenance, that after a point, people stopped noticing its existence. It became like the printer sitting in an office corner: we know it’s there, we use it regularly, we appreciate the function but we don’t really know or care about the details or the brand providing us with given service.
I see syslog-ng regularly in this spot today: its deployment might have been a big project in its time with its own challenges, but it has been a solved problem ever since.
Not that log management and log processing would be a static, boring field of IT & IT Security. Like all other fields of enterprise IT, there’s been tremendous activity in the last 10-15 years.
Markets and relevant trends:
- SIEM & User Behavior Analytics(LogLogic, ArcSight, QRadar, Splunk, …)
- Big Data (Hadoop, Kafka, Storm, Spark, NiFi)
- Enterprise SaaS services (Office365, Google Workspace, etc.)
- Containers and orchestration (Kubernetes, OpenShift, cloud & on-prem)
- Cloud Native Applications
All these changes naturally resulted in an equal frenzy in the tools processing and managing log data. New tools and services emerged, old tools gained new features. I could probably go on and get into details on these trends but that’s not why I am here today.
I started this blog as I wanted to show two things:
- That syslog-ng has not been the stoic figure in the corner and has incorporated important improvements over the years that are not widely known and unfortunately not even assumed.
- To solicit feedback on my future plans and with that help guide the development of syslog-ng to the future.
The intent behind this blog is to address the 2nd point.
The first point might sound a little strange at first: if there are indeed functionality in syslog-ng that its users don’t know or care about, that can only mean one of two things:
- Those features were not needed in the first place.
- The marketing/communication of syslog-ng as a project has not been very good.
As one of the engineers behind the changes I firmly believe #1 is not true. The features we added to syslog-ng over the years are important. I believe these features enable syslog-ng to address problems that only few people assume it could address. But I am not here to go into details on those features either.
My take on the marketing issue is different: other projects, open source or commercial, have been better at communicating their value propositions. They were more successful at communicating their release-by-release improvements and with that gained a more significant traction in the marketplace.
The reason behind this failure is an entire post on its own (let me know if you are interested!), my short and simple summary is a single word: focus.
I am the founder of the syslog-ng project. I founded a company that sponsored the syslog-ng project. But neither my or my company’s primary focus has ever been syslog-ng. Some of you may remember that syslog-ng was hosted on balabit.com. Balabit was a player in the Privileged Access Management space (e.g. the likes of CyberArk, BeyondTrust, e-DMZ, Wallix etc). Albeit we made an effort to combine log management with PAM, but truth be told we never really succeeded in doing so. syslog-ng grew from being my personal hobby to become the 2nd product in the Balabit portfolio.
This situation handicapped syslog-ng compared to those projects and companies that had logs as their primary focus.
Balabit was acquired 4 years ago: I spent my sabbatical, I learnt a couple of new hobbies (electronics mainly, welding is something I still want to learn), implemented home automation in my house (see http://bazsi.blogspot.com/), became a hobby angel investor and a management consultant. With all that I am somewhat bored. I love spending time with my family all these new things, but at the same time I need new challenges. There are too many “small” things I spend my time with and I have an itch to do something “bigger”.
I want to give syslog-ng a chance it never had: I want to make it my primary focus. The foundations and the technology are already there, let’s put the spotlights on, blow the dust off. Engage with users, understand their needs and communicate value. Understand things that are missing and fix them.
In a nutshell, I would like to relaunch syslog-ng as a project. Let’s reboot the process that keeps a product able to adapt to a changing market and continue to be relevant for more decades to come.
I am inviting you to be a part of it. Feedback, new use cases, feature requests and even bug reports are welcome. Strong points that you like, weak spots that you would like to see improved are very interesting.
Subscribe below and help me in this endeavour. Stay tuned!