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Latest commit 0360c2e Aug 21, 2015 @jordansissel Update

logstash+elasticsearch storage experiments

These results are from an experiment done in 2012 and are irrelevant today.

Problem: Many users observe a 5x inflation of storage data from "raw logs" vs logstash data stored in elasticsearch.

Hypothesis: There are likely small optimizations we can make on the elasticsearch side to occupy less physical disk space.

Constraints: Data loss is not acceptable (can't just stop storing the logs)


  • Compression (LZF and Snappy)
  • Disable the '_all' field
  • For parsed logs, there are lots of duplicate and superluous fields we can remove.


The compression features really need no discussion.

The purpose of the '_all' field is documented in the link above. In logstash, users have reported success in disabling this feature without losing functionality.

In this scenario, I am parsing apache logs. Logstash reads lines from a file and sets the '@message' field to the contents of that line. After grok parses it and produces a nice structure, making fields like 'bytes', 'response', and 'clientip' available in the event, we no longer need the original log line, so it is quite safe to delete the @message (original log line) in this case. Doing this saves us much duplicate data in the event itself.

Test scenarios

  • 0: test defaults
  • 1: disable _all
  • 2: store compress + disable _all
  • 3: store compress w/ snappy + disable _all
  • 4: compress + remove duplicate things (@message and @source)
  • 5: compress + remove all superfluous things (simulate 'apache logs in json')
  • 6: compress + remove all superfluous things + use 'grok singles'

Test data

One million apache logs from

% du -hs /data/jls/million.apache.logs 
218M    /data/jls/million.apache.logs
% wc -l /data/jls/million.apache.logs
1000000 /data/jls/million.apache.logs


This should be unrelated to the experiment, but including for posterity if the run-time of these tests is of interest to you.

  • CPU: Xeon E31230 (4-core)
  • Memory: 16GB
  • Disk: Unknown spinning variety, 1TB


run space usage elasticsearch/original ratio run time (wall clock)
ORIGIN 218M /data/jls/million.apache.logs N/A N/A
0 1358M /data/jls/millionlogstest/0.yml 6.23x 6m47.343s
1 1183M /data/jls/millionlogstest/1.yml 5.47x 6m13.339s
2 539M /data/jls/millionlogstest/2.yml 2.47x 6m17.103s
3 537M /data/jls/millionlogstest/3.yml 2.47x 6m15.382s
4 395M /data/jls/millionlogstest/4.yml 1.81x 6m39.278s
5 346M /data/jls/millionlogstest/5.yml 1.58x 6m35.877s
6 344M /data/jls/millionlogstest/6.yml 1.57x 6m27.440s


This test confirms what many logstash users have already reported: it is easy to achieve a 5-6x increase in storage from raw logs caused by common logstash filter uses, for example grok.

Summary of test results:

  • Enabling store compression uses 55% less storage
  • Removing the @message and @source fields save you 26% of storage.
  • Disabling the '_all' field saves you 13% in storage.
  • Using grok with 'singles => true' had no meaningful impact.
  • Compression ratios in LZF were the same as Snappy.

Final storage size was 25% the size of the common case (1358mb vs 344mb!)


  • Always enable compression in elasticsearch.
  • If you don't need the '_all' field, disable it.
  • The 'remove fields' steps performed here will be unnecessary if you log directly in a structured format. For example, if you follow the 'apache log in json' logstash cookbook recipe, grok, date, and mutate filters here will not be necessary, meaning the only tuning you'll have to do is in disabling '_all' and enabling compression in elasticsearch.

Future Work

It's likely we can take this example of "ship apache 'combined format' access logs into logstash" a bit further and with some tuning improve storage a bit more.

For now, I am happy to have reduced the inflation from 6.2x to 1.58x :)