How to Create a Graylog Container in Docker

These days I try to run as many applications in Docker as I can. Docker containers are much easier to maintain and upgrade. They are also extremely portable. Graylog is no exception.

I’ve been running Graylog for years to centralize my logs. However, my installation has grown long in the tooth. Here is how I upgraded to a Graylog Docker container.

What is Graylog?

Graylog is a suite of tools that allows you to collect, aggregate and process log files from servers, network appliances, applications and more. It supports many popular formats, like syslog, out of the box. If an application or service logs in a text format, Graylog can process it.

Graylog Login Page
Graylog Login Page.

Why would I want to use Graylog?

I’ve spoken about the merits of centralized logging before. Centralized logging is a great security practice because it allows you to do things like:

  • Receive notifications of break-in attempts anywhere on your network
  • Receive notifications of machines connecting to your network
  • Create security dashboards to monitor key metrics

It’s also good for maintenance and troubleshooting. You can receive alerts when certain events occur or search through log history to try and pinpoint issues.

What you need to get started

You don’t need too much to get started, especially if you are already familiar with Docker. Here’s what you’ll need:

  • A Docker host. You can follow how I set mine up here. It won’t take long.
  • A decent amount of disk space. How much you need really depends on how many logs you’ll be centralizing, and how long you plan on keeping them. For a home lab, 100GB is probably good enough for most people.
  • Systems to send log files. In my case, I have all my servers sending syslog outputs. I also have Docker containers sending outputs via Logspout in addition to my pfSense router, and my Omada controller for my wireless access points.
  • Probably 15 to 30 minutes of time.
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Note these instructions are on an Ubuntu 18.04 Docker installation, but can be easily ported to other OSs.

Step 1: Install Docker Compose

I decided to use docker compose because Graylog really is a combination of applications, and thus we need a combination of MongoDB, Elasticsearch, and Graylog containers.

On your Docker host you’ll want to use the latest docker-compose version, which you can get from Github:

sudo curl -L`uname -s`-`uname -m` -o /usr/local/bin/docker-compose

Then make sure docker-compose has execute permissions:

sudo chmod +x /usr/local/bin/docker-compose

Just like that, you’re ready to use Docker compose

Step 2: Create persistent storage locations

It’s a good practice to separate the data storage from the container image for Docker containers. This allows you to recreate and upgrade containers without fear of losing configuration settings or data. I have a drive setup specifically for storage that I use for systems with frequent writes (like my security cameras) that I also use for centralized logging.

You’ll probably want persistant data locations for:

  • The Mongo database
  • The Elasticsearch data
  • The Graylog journal and configuration directories

Step 3: Create your Docker Compose file

You’ll want to create a directory that will contain your docker-compose.yml file:

mkdir graylog
cd graylog
nano docker-compose.yml

Start by placing the following code in your docker-compose.yml file. This file is based on the official Graylog Docker documentation. They haven’t updated it for the latest Docker Compose version, but I was able to make it work for me. You will need to make changes to suit your needs as we’ll discuss later, but let’s start with this file:

version: '2'
  # MongoDB:
    image: mongo:3
  #DB in share for persistence
       - /video/graylog/mongodb:/data/db
  # Elasticsearch:
    #data folder in share for persistence
      - /video/graylog/elasticsearchdata:/usr/share/elasticsearch/data
      - node.max_local_storage_nodes=4
      - "ES_JAVA_OPTS=-Xms512m -Xmx512m"
        soft: -1
        hard: -1
    mem_limit: 1g
  # Graylog:
    image: graylog/graylog:3.0
    #journal and config directories in local NFS share for persistence
       - /video/graylog/journal:/usr/share/graylog/data/journal
       - /video/graylog/config:/usr/share/graylog/data/config
      # CHANGE ME (must be at least 16 characters)!
      - GRAYLOG_PASSWORD_SECRET=forpasswordencryption
      # Password: admin
      - GRAYLOG_ROOT_PASSWORD_SHA2=8c6976e5b5410415bde908bd4dee15dfb167a9c873fc4bb8a81f6f2ab448a918
      - [email protected]
      - mongodb:mongo
      - elasticsearch
      - mongodb
      - elasticsearch
      # Graylog web interface and REST API
      - 7555:7555
      # Syslog TCP
      - 8514:8514
      # Syslog UDP
      - 8514:8514/udp
      # GELF TCP
      - 12201:12201
      # GELF UDP
      - 12201:12201/udp

If you aren’t familiar with YAML, I want to make sure that you pay special attention to the indentations of each line. They need to be exact. Use spaces, not tabs. Now let’s walk through this file

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Graylog Docker Compose file overview

This file creates 3 containers:

  1. MongoDB
  2. Elasticsearch
  3. Graylog

These are the components needed for a basic Graylog installation. The links (line 49) and depends_on (line 52) indicate to Docker that these containers are interconnected and necessary for the container to work.

Each container specifies a few options which we’ll cover next.

Specifying your volumes

Earlier I mentioned that the advantage of creating persistent storage. Storing configuration files and data outside of the container allows for easy upgrade and recreation of containers without worrying about losing data. In order to do this, each container uses a volume option.

Lines 8, 14, 31, and 32 specify volumes for persistent storage for each of the containers. You should modify these lines for your configuration.

Graylog environment options

There are a few environment options for the Graylog container that you should understand and modify for your needs:

  • GRAYLOG_PASSWORD_SECRET – This field is used to encrypt Graylog passwords.
  • GRAYLOG_ROOT_PASSWORD_SHA2 – This is a SHA2 hash of the password for the admin user (above, the hash is for the password “admin”). You can generate your own password hash with the following command:
echo -n "Enter Password: " && head -1 </dev/stdin | tr -d '\n' | sha256sum | cut -d" " -f1
  • GRAYLOG_HTTP_BIND_ADDRESS – This specifies the network interface used by the Graylog web frontend. If you only have on network interface it is recommended you use Whatever port you specify here must also be in the “ports:” section.
  • GRAYLOG_HTTP_EXTERNAL_URI – The public URI of Graylog which will be used by the web interface to communicate with the Graylog REST API.
  • GRAYLOG_TRANSPORT options – These options specify the settings for the mail relay Graylog will use for sending notifications. You need to set these options appropriately if you want your Graylog instance to be able to email you with alerts and notifications.

Graylog ports

Here you need to specify the ports that will be used by the Graylog container. This includes the port for the web interface, and any ports you plan to use for log collection.

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Step 4: Putting it all together

Now that you’ve finalized your docker-compose.yml file you are ready to start up your containers:

sudo docker-compose up -d

Run this command in the directory containing your docker-compose.yml file and the containers will be brought to life. You should then be able to go to the URI you specified and start setting up your Graylog instance.

Graylog Getting Started Page
Graylog Getting Started Page

Final Thoughts

Using a Graylog as a centralized logging tool is a great option for monitoring your network, applications, machines and security. Graylog can be somewhat of a complicated install, but Docker, and Docker compose, make it much easier. All you have to do is modify the docker-compose.yml file above to your liking and you’ll have a working Graylog instance.

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How to Create a Graylog Container in Docker

by HomeTechHacker time to read: 6 min