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Configuration of pmacct-to-elasticsearch

How it works

pmacct-to-elasticsearch reads pmacct output and sends it to ElasticSearch.

It works properly with two kinds of pmacct plugins: "memory" and "print". The former, "memory", needs data to be passed to pmacct-to-elasticsearch's stdin, while the latter, "print", needs a file to be written by pmacct daemons, where pmacct-to-elasticsearch is instructed to read data from.

For "memory" plugins, a crontab job is needed to run pmacct client and to redirect its output to pmacct-to-elasticsearch; for "print" plugins the pmacct daemon can directly execute pmacct-to-elasticsearch. More details will follow within the rest of this document.

Print plugins are preferable because, in case of pmacct daemon graceful restart or shutdown, data are written to the output file and the trigger is regularly executed.

1-to-1 mapping with pmacct plugins

For each pmacct's plugin you want to be processed by pmacct-to-elasticsearch a configuration file must be present in the CONF_DIR directory to tell the program how to process its output.

Configuration file's name must be in the format PluginName.conf, where PluginName is the name of the pmacct plugin to which the file refer to.



    ! nfacctd configuration example
    plugins: memory[my_mem], print[my_print]


Basically these files tell pmacct-to-elasticsearch:

  1. where to read pmacct's output from;

  2. how to send output to ElasticSearch;

  3. (optionally) which transformations must be operated.

To run pmacct-to-elasticsearch the first argument must be the PluginName, in order to allow it to figure out what to do:

    pmacct-to-elasticsearch my_print

Configuration file syntax

These files are in JSON format and contain the following keys:

  • LogFile [required]: path to the log file used by pmacct-to-elasticsearch to write any error encountered while processing the output.

    It can contain some macros, which are replaced during execution: $PluginName, $IndexName, $Type

    Log file will be automatically rotated every 1MB, for 3 times.

    Default: "/var/log/pmacct-to-elasticsearch-$PluginName.log"

  • ES_URL [required]: URL of ElasticSearch HTTP API.

    Default: "http://localhost:9200"

  • ES_AuthType [optional]: authentication method for ElasticSearch HTTP API. Can be one of "none", "basic" and "digest".

    Default: "none"

  • ES_UserName and ES_Password [optional]: username and password used in HTTP authentication. Required when ES_AuthType is "basic" or "digest".

  • ES_IndexName [required]: name of the ElasticSearch index used to store pmacct-to-elasticsearch output.

    It may contain Python strftime codes ( in order to have periodic indices.

    Example: "netflow-%Y-%m-%d" to have daily indices (netflow-YYYY-MM-DD)

    Default: no default provided

  • ES_Type [optional]: Used only for versions of ElasticSearch prior to 7. For versions of ES >= 7, do not set it.

    ElasticSearch document type (_type field) used to store pmacct-to-elasticsearch output. Similar to tables in relational DB.

    From the official reference guide

    Within an index, you can define one or more types. A type is a logical category/partition of your index whose semantics is completely up to you. In general, a type is defined for documents that have a set of common fields. For example, let.s assume you run a blogging platform and store all your data in a single index. In this index, you may define a type for user data, another type for blog data, and yet another type for comments data."

    Default: no default provided

  • ES_IndexTemplateFileName [required]: name of the file containing the template to be used when creating a new index. The file must be in the CONF_DIR directory.

    Default: new-index-template.json (included in pmacct-to-elasticsearch)

    The default template provided with pmacct-to-elasticsearch has the _source field enabled; if you want to save some storage disable it by editing the new-index-template.json file:

         "_source" : { "enabled" : false }

    If you are sure that your source/destination host/net fields will always contain IPv4 only addresses, please consider using the ip datatype ( by adding a mapping similar to the following one to the dynamic_templates section of your template file:

         "dynamic_templates": [
             "ipv4_template" : {
               "match_pattern": "regex",
               "match" : "_?(ip|net)_(src|dst)$",
               "mapping": { "type": "ip", "index": "not_analyzed" }
             "string_template" : {

    As of version 2.1 of Elasticsearch, IPv6 addresses are not supported yet in the ip datatype.

  • ES_FlushSize [required]: how often to flush data to ElasticSearch BULK API.

    Set it to 0 to only send data once the whole input has been processed.

    Default: 5000 lines

  • ReaderThreads [optional]: how many threads should be used to process input data.

    Default: 2

  • InputFile [optional]: used mainly when configuring pmacct print plugins. File used by pmacct-to-elasticsearch to read input data from (it should coincide with pmacct's print plugin output file). If omitted pmacct-to-elasticsearch will read data from stdin.

  • InputFormat [optional]: the input data format. Can be 'json' or 'csv'.

    Default: "json"

  • Transformations [optional]: the transformation matrix used to add new fields to the output document sent to ElasticSearch for indexing.

    More details in the file.

This is an example of a basic configuration file:

      "ES_IndexName": "netflow-%Y-%m-%d",
      "ES_Type": "ingress_traffic",
      "InputFile": "/var/lib/pmacct/ingress_traffic.json",

Plugins configuration

Memory plugins

For "memory" plugins, a crontab job is needed in order to periodically read (and clear) the in-memory-table that pmacct uses to store data:

Example of a command scheduled in crontab:

    pmacct -l -p /var/spool/pmacct/my_mem.pipe -s -O json -e | pmacct-to-elasticsearch my_mem

In the example above, the pmacct client reads the in-memory-table referenced by the /var/spool/pmacct/my_mem.pipe file and write the JSON output to stdout, which in turn is redirected to the stdin of pmacct-to-elasticsearch, that is executed with the my_mem argument in order to let it to load the right configuration from /etc/p2es/my_mem.conf.

Print plugins

For "print" plugins, the crontab job is not required but a feature of pmacct may be used instead: the print_trigger_exec config key. The print_trigger_exec key allows pmacct to directly run pmacct-to-elasticsearch once the output has been fully written to the output file. Since pmacct does not allow to pass arguments to programs executed using the print_trigger_exec key, a trick is needed in order to let pmacct-to-elasticsearch to understand what configuration to use: a trigger file must be created for each "print" plugin and it has to execute the program with the proper argument.



    ! nfacctd configuration example
    plugins: print[my_print]
    print_output_file[my_print]: /var/lib/pmacct/my_print.json
    print_output[my_print]: json
    print_trigger_exec[my_print]: /etc/p2es/triggers/my_print


    /usr/local/bin/pmacct-to-elasticsearch my_print &

 # chmod u+x /etc/p2es/triggers/my_print


            "InputFile": "/var/lib/pmacct/my_print.json"

In the example, the nfacctd daemon has a plugin named my_print that writes its JSON output to /var/lib/pmacct/my_print.json and, when done, executes the /etc/p2es/triggers/my_print program. The trigger program, in turn, runs pmacct-to-elasticsearch with the my_print argument and detaches it. The my_print.conf file contains the "InputFile" configuration key that points to the aforementioned JSON output file (/var/lib/pmacct/my_print.json), where the program will read data from.

The trigger program may also be a symbolic link to the default_trigger script provided, which runs pmacct-to-elasticsearch with its own file name as first argument:

 # cd /etc/p2es/triggers/
 # ln -s default_trigger my_print


      PLUGIN_NAME=`basename $0`
      /usr/local/bin/pmacct-to-elasticsearch $PLUGIN_NAME &

Otherwise, remember to use the full path of pmacct-to-elasticsearch in order to avoid problems with a stripped version of the PATH environment variable.