Getting started with the ELK Stack on Scalingo

The Elastic Stack (formerly known as the ELK Stack) is a powerful collection of softwares that lets you collect data from any source using any format. It gives you the tools to search, visualize and analyze it in real time.

This tutorial will show you how to deploy the ELK stack on Scalingo in under 5 minutes.

What is the ELK Stack?

The ELK stack is based on three major components:

  • Elasticsearch®
  • Logstash
  • Kibana

Elasticsearch® is a distributed full-text search engine, able to store JSON document and index them efficiently, it is responsible for the storage of all the incoming data.

Logstash is a data processing pipeline, any source sends data as input. It is able to format and modify data on the fly before forwarding it to the chosen destination (usually an Elasticsearch® database).

Kibana is a powerful web-based data visualization tool providing everything you need to explore your data and build useful and efficient dashboards.


Let’s start by bootstrapping the Logstash container. This instance will take data from an authenticated input and send them to an Elasticsearch® database. This is the EL part in ELK.

To get started, you can use our boilerplate:

$ git clone
$ cd logstash-boilerplate

Next, create an application on Scalingo that will run our Logstash app:

$ scalingo create my-awesome-logstash

Add the Scalingo for Elasticsearch® addon to this application:

$ scalingo --app my-awesome-logstash addons-add elasticsearch elasticsearch-starter-1024

All the Scalingo for Elasticsearch® plans are described here.

Of course, not everyone should be able to send data to your Logstash instance, it should be protected via HTTP basic auth. It is already handled in the boilerplate but the environment variables USER and PASSWORD should be set first:

$ scalingo --app my-awesome-logstash env-set USER=my-awesome-logstash-user PASSWORD=iloveunicorns

Logstash is greedy in memory, it requires at least a container of size L, configure the app to use one.

$ scalingo --app my-awesome-logstash scale web:1:L

Edit the logstash.conf file to change the index name of the Elasticsearch® output. The goal is to make it fit semantically to the data which will be stored:

output {
  elasticsearch {
    # OLD
    index => "change-me-%{+YYYY.MM.dd}"
    # NEW
    index => "unicorns-%{+YYYY.MM.dd}"

Commit your changes

$ git add logstash.conf
$ git commit -m "Update the index name"

And you’re all set, git push scalingo master and your Logstash instance will be up and running!

You can now try to send some data to your Logstash instance:

$ curl --request POST '' --data 'Hi!'

It’s time to verify all the indices that are stored in the Elasticsearch® database:

$ scalingo --app my-awesome-logstash run bash

yellow open unicorns-2018.01.26 _0XNpJKzQc2kjhTyxf4DnQ 5 1 1 0 6.6kb 6.6kb

Logstash has created the unicorn index which can now be requested:

> curl $SCALINGO_ELASTICSEARCH_URL/unicorns-2018.01.26/_search | json_pp
   "_shards" : {
    // [...]
   // [...]
   "hits" : {
      "total" : 1,
      "max_score" : 1,
      "hits" : [
            "_type" : "logs",
            "_score" : 1,
            "_source" : {
               "name" : "Alanala",
               "message" : "Hi!",
               "url" : "?name=Alanala",
               "@timestamp" : "2018-01-26T11:57:03.155Z"
               // [...]
            // [...]

The result of the above search contains a document having with a field name set to Alanala and a field message set to Hi!.

Custom Configuration for Logstash

The cloned boilerplate used to deploy your application contains a config directory. All the files in this folder will be copied in the Logstash configuration directory at runtime, allowing you to customize exactly how you want Logstash to run.

For instance, if you want to edit the logging behavior of Logstash, edit config/

git add config/
git commit -m "Update how Logstash is logging"
git push scalingo master


To deploy Kibana on Scalingo, you are invited to use our one-click button over here: Deploy on

The ELASTICSEARCH_URL environment variable from the previously created Logstash application should be used in the deployment process:

scalingo --app my-awesome-logstash env | grep SCALINGO_ELASTICSEARCH_URL

Then, a username and a password should be defined to configure Kibana authentication.

Note: a new Scallingo for Elasticsearch® database will be provisionned. You can safely delete it if you use the one from Logstash as described above.

Once deployed, index patterns need to be configured. This is required to inform Kibana about the indices of Elasticsearch® it need to look at.

In this example, the unicorns-* pattern will be used.

Click on create and you’re all set, the test input done in the previous section should appear in the Discover tab of Kibana dashboard.

With TLS connection on Elasticsearch®

If your Scalingo for Elasticsearch® addon has the Force TLS option enabled, you must set the environment variable ELASTICSEARCH_TLS_CA_URL on your Kibana application with the URL of our CA certificate. The CA certificate URL is available on the database dashboard.

Send your application logs to your own ELK stack

One of the multiple usages of the ELK stack is log parsing, storing and exploration. If you’ve set up your ELK stack for this, we have a feature called log drains that will automatically send every log line generated by an application to an ELK stack. Here is how to add a log drain to your application.

When using this configuration, the application name and container index will be passed in the http query and the message will be in the request body. To parse this and create meaningful index, you can use the following Logstash configuration (if your logs are JSON formatted):

input {
  http {
    port => "${PORT}"
    user => "${USER}"
    password => "${PASSWORD}"

filter {
  grok {
    match => [ "[headers][request_path]", "%{URIPARAM:url}" ]
    remove_field => ["headers"]

  kv {
    source => "url"
    field_split => "&"
    trim_key => "?"

  mutate {
    rename => {
      "appname" => "source"
      "hostname" => "container"
    replace => {
      "host" => "%{source}-%{container}"

  json {
    source => "message"
    target => "msg"

output {
  elasticsearch {
    hosts => "${ELASTICSEARCH_HOST}"
    user => "${ELASTICSEARCH_USER}"
    password => "${ELASTICSEARCH_PASSWORD}"
    index => "unicorns-%{+YYYY.MM.dd}"


Installing Curator

Since logs are only relevant for a short period of time, it is current practice to remove logs that are too old to be relevant. This is done to reduce the load on the database and limit the disk usage.

This is where Curator is needed. This project is designed to let you manage your indices life cycle.

Curator can be installed on the existing Logstash application my-awesome-logstash. As Curator is written in Python, you have to modify your .buildpacks file to add the Python buildpack, so that it ends up like this:

To instruct the Python buildpack to install Curator and its dependencies, create a file named requirements.txt at the root of your application:


Configuring Curator

Next step is to configure Curator. First, you need to configure how Curator connects to your database. Create a file curator.yml with the following content:


  loglevel: INFO
  logformat: default

Curator cannot use the ELASTICSEARCH_URL environment variable. You need to define three other environment variables on your app, duplicating ELASTICSEARCH_URL content. Hence, if your ELASTICSEARCH_URL variable is set to http://user:password@host:port, you need to define:


Now you have to configure your indices life cycle. This is based on your indices names. Create a file named log-clean.yml. This configuration parses the indices names stored in Elasticsearch® and removes the ones that are too old.

    action: delete_indices
    description: Delete old log indices
      ignore_empty_list: True
      disable_action: False
    - filtertype: pattern
      kind: prefix
      value: ${LOGS_INDICES_PREFIX}
    - filtertype: age
      source: name
      direction: older
      timestring: '%Y.%m.%d'
      unit: days
      unit_count: ${LOGS_RETENTION_DAYS}

You now need to add two environment variables:


The first environment variable is LOGS_INDICES_PREFIX. It configures the index pattern that should be affected by this policy. Setting this variable to unicorns prevent Curator from deleting the other indices that are stored in the same database.

The second environment variable is LOGS_RETENTION_DAYS. It configures the retention time of your logs (in days). Setting this variable to 10, Curator will delete an index if it is 10+ days old.

Scheduling the Curator Task

Curator is not a daemon, it is designed as a one-off process. To be able to run it on Scalingo you can leverage our Scheduler.

At the root of your Logstash directory, create a file named cron.json to setup your recurring task. The following example starts curator everyday at 03:00 (3 AM) and 15:00 (3 PM):

  "jobs": [
      "command": "0 3,15 * * * curator --config curator.yml log-clean.yml"

The last step is to trigger a new deployment of your Logstash instance by pushing your changes to your Scalingo remote.

That’s all folks!

This tutorial is based on an article published on our blog.

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Getting started with the ELK Stack on Scalingo

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