Logs on Linux package installations

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GitLab includes an advanced log system where every service and component within GitLab will output system logs. Here are the configuration settings and tools for managing these logs on Linux package installations.

Tail logs in a console on the server

If you want to ‘tail’, i.e. view live log updates of GitLab logs you can use gitlab-ctl tail.

# Tail all logs; press Ctrl-C to exit
sudo gitlab-ctl tail

# Drill down to a sub-directory of /var/log/gitlab
sudo gitlab-ctl tail gitlab-rails

# Drill down to an individual file
sudo gitlab-ctl tail nginx/gitlab_error.log

Tail logs in a console and save to a file

Oftentimes, it is useful to both display the logs in the console and save them to a file for later debugging/analysis. You can use the tee utility to accomplish this.

# Use 'tee' to tail all the logs to STDOUT and write to a file at the same time
sudo gitlab-ctl tail | tee --append /tmp/gitlab_tail.log

Configure default log directories

In your /etc/gitlab/gitlab.rb file, there are many log_directory keys for the various types of logs. Uncomment and update the values for all the logs you want to place elsewhere:

# For example:
gitlab_rails['log_directory'] = "/var/log/gitlab/gitlab-rails"
puma['log_directory'] = "/var/log/gitlab/puma"
registry['log_directory'] = "/var/log/gitlab/registry"

Gitaly and Mattermost have different log directory configs:

gitaly['configuration'] = {
   logging: {
    dir: "/var/log/gitlab/registry"
mattermost['log_file_directory'] = "/var/log/gitlab/registry"

Run sudo gitlab-ctl reconfigure to configure your instance with these settings.

runit logs

The runit-managed services in Linux package installations generate log data using svlogd.

  • Logs are written to a file called current.
  • Periodically, this log is compressed and renamed using the TAI64N format, for example: @400000005f8eaf6f1a80ef5c.s.
  • The filesystem datestamp on the compressed logs will be consistent with the time GitLab last wrote to that file.
  • zmore and zgrep allow viewing and searching through both compressed or uncompressed logs.

Read the svlogd documentation for more information about the files it generates.

You can modify svlogd settings via /etc/gitlab/gitlab.rb with the following settings:

# Below are the default values
logging['svlogd_size'] = 200 * 1024 * 1024 # rotate after 200 MB of log data
logging['svlogd_num'] = 30 # keep 30 rotated log files
logging['svlogd_timeout'] = 24 * 60 * 60 # rotate after 24 hours
logging['svlogd_filter'] = "gzip" # compress logs with gzip
logging['svlogd_udp'] = nil # transmit log messages via UDP
logging['svlogd_prefix'] = nil # custom prefix for log messages

# Optionally, you can override the prefix for e.g. Nginx
nginx['svlogd_prefix'] = "nginx"


The logrotate service built into GitLab manages all logs except those captured by runit. This service will rotate, compress, and eventually delete the log data such as gitlab-rails/production.log and nginx/gitlab_access.log. You can configure common logrotate settings, configure per-service logrotate settings, and completely disable logrotate with /etc/gitlab/gitlab.rb.

Configuring common logrotate settings

Settings common to all logrotate services can be set in the /etc/gitlab/gitlab.rb file. These settings correspond to configuration options in the logrotate configuration files for each service. See the logrotate man page (man logrotate) for details.

logging['logrotate_frequency'] = "daily" # rotate logs daily
logging['logrotate_maxsize'] = nil # logs will be rotated when they grow bigger than size specified for `maxsize`, even before the specified time interval (daily, weekly, monthly, or yearly)
logging['logrotate_size'] = nil # do not rotate by size by default
logging['logrotate_rotate'] = 30 # keep 30 rotated logs
logging['logrotate_compress'] = "compress" # see 'man logrotate'
logging['logrotate_method'] = "copytruncate" # see 'man logrotate'
logging['logrotate_postrotate'] = nil # no postrotate command by default
logging['logrotate_dateformat'] = nil # use date extensions for rotated files rather than numbers e.g. a value of "-%Y-%m-%d" would give rotated files like production.log-2016-03-09.gz

Configuring individual service logrotate settings

You can customize logrotate settings for each individual service by using /etc/gitlab/gitlab.rb. For example, to customize logrotate frequency and size for the nginx service, use:

nginx['logrotate_frequency'] = nil
nginx['logrotate_size'] = "200M"

Disabling logrotate

You can also disable the built-in logrotate service with the following setting in /etc/gitlab/gitlab.rb:

logrotate['enable'] = false

Logrotate notifempty setting

The logrotate service runs with a non-configurable default of notifempty, resolving the following issues:

  • Empty logs being rotated unnecessarily, and often many empty logs being stored.
  • One-off logs that are useful for long term troubleshooting being deleted after 30 days, such as database migration logs.

Logrotate one-off and empty log handling

Logs are now rotated and recreated by logrotate as needed, and one-off logs are only rotated when they change. With this setting in place, some tidying can be done:

  • Empty one-off logs such as gitlab-rails/gitlab-rails-db-migrate*.log can be deleted.
  • Empty logs which were rotated and compressed by older versions of GitLab. These empty logs are usually 20 bytes in size.

Run logrotate manually

Logrotate is a scheduled job but it can also be triggered on-demand.

To manually trigger GitLab log rotation with logrotate, use the following command:

/opt/gitlab/embedded/sbin/logrotate -fv -s /var/opt/gitlab/logrotate/logrotate.status /var/opt/gitlab/logrotate/logrotate.conf

Increase how often logrotate is triggered

The logrotate script triggers every 50 minutes and waits for 10 minutes before attempting to rotate the logs.

To modify these values:

  1. Edit /etc/gitlab/gitlab.rb:

    logrotate['pre_sleep'] = 600   # sleep 10 minutes before rotating after start-up
    logrotate['post_sleep'] = 3000 # wait 50 minutes after rotating
  2. Reconfigure GitLab:

    sudo gitlab-ctl reconfigure

UDP log forwarding

Tier: Premium, Ultimate Offering: Self-managed

Linux package installations can utilize the UDP logging feature in svlogd as well as sending non-svlogd logs to a syslog-compatible remote system using UDP. To configure a Linux package installation to send syslog-protocol messages via UDP, use the following settings:

logging['udp_log_shipping_host'] = '' # Your syslog server
# logging['udp_log_shipping_hostname'] = nil # Optional, defaults the system hostname
logging['udp_log_shipping_port'] = 1514 # Optional, defaults to 514 (syslog)
Setting udp_log_shipping_host will add a svlogd_prefix for the specified hostname and service for each of the runit-managed services.

Example log messages:

Jun 26 06:33:46 ubuntu1204-test production.log: Started GET "/root/my-project/import" for at 2014-06-26 06:33:46 -0700
Jun 26 06:33:46 ubuntu1204-test production.log: Processing by ProjectsController#import as HTML
Jun 26 06:33:46 ubuntu1204-test production.log: Parameters: {"id"=>"root/my-project"}
Jun 26 06:33:46 ubuntu1204-test production.log: Completed 200 OK in 122ms (Views: 71.9ms | ActiveRecord: 12.2ms)
Jun 26 06:33:46 ubuntu1204-test gitlab_access.log: - - [26/Jun/2014:06:33:46 -0700] "GET /root/my-project/import HTTP/1.1" 200 5775 "" "Mozilla/5.0 (Macintosh; Intel Mac OS X 10_9_3) AppleWebKit/537.36 (KHTML, like Gecko) Chrome/35.0.1916.153 Safari/537.36"
2014-06-26_13:33:46.49866 ubuntu1204-test sidekiq: 2014-06-26T13:33:46Z 18107 TID-7nbj0 Sidekiq::Extensions::DelayedMailer JID-bbfb118dd1db20f6c39f5b50 INFO: start
2014-06-26_13:33:46.52608 ubuntu1204-test sidekiq: 2014-06-26T13:33:46Z 18107 TID-7muoc RepositoryImportWorker JID-57ee926c3655fcfa062338ae INFO: start

Using a custom NGINX log format

By default the NGINX access logs will use a version of the ‘combined’ NGINX format, designed to hide potentially sensitive information embedded in query strings. If you want to use a custom log format string you can specify it in /etc/gitlab/gitlab.rb - see the NGINX documentation for format details.

nginx['log_format'] = 'my format string $foo $bar'
mattermost_nginx['log_format'] = 'my format string $foo $bar'

JSON logging

Structured logs can be exported via JSON to be parsed by Elasticsearch, Splunk, or another log management system. The JSON format is enabled by default for all services that support it.

PostgreSQL does not support JSON logging without an external plugin. However, it does support logging in CSV format:
postgresql['log_destination'] = 'csvlog'
postgresql['logging_collector'] = 'on'

A restart of the database is required for this to take effect. For more details, see the PostgreSQL documentation.

Text logging

Customers with established log ingestion systems may not wish to use the JSON log format. Text formatting can be configured by setting the following in /etc/gitlab/gitlab.rb and then running gitlab-ctl reconfigure afterward:

gitaly['configuration'] = {
   logging: {
    format: ""
gitlab_shell['log_format'] = 'text'
gitlab_workhorse['log_format'] = 'text'
registry['log_formatter'] = 'text'
sidekiq['log_format'] = 'text'
gitlab_pages['log_format'] = 'text'
There are a few variations in attribute names for the log format depending on the service involved (for example, Container Registry uses log_formatter, Gitaly and Praefect both use logging_format). See Issue #4280 for more details.


GitLab ships with rbtrace, which allows you to trace Ruby code, view all running threads, take memory dumps, and more. However, this is not enabled by default. To enable it, define the ENABLE_RBTRACE variable to the environment:

gitlab_rails['env'] = {"ENABLE_RBTRACE" => "1"}

Then reconfigure the system and restart Puma and Sidekiq. To run this in a Linux package installation, run as root:

/opt/gitlab/embedded/bin/ruby /opt/gitlab/embedded/bin/rbtrace

Configuring log level/verbosity

You can configure the minimum log levels (verbosity) for GitLab Rails, Container Registry, GitLab Shell and Gitaly:

  1. Edit /etc/gitlab/gitlab.rb and set the log levels:

    gitlab_rails['env'] = {
    registry['log_level'] = 'info'
    gitlab_shell['log_level'] = 'INFO'
    gitaly['configuration'] = {
      logging: {
        level: "warn"
  2. Reconfigure GitLab:

    sudo gitlab-ctl reconfigure
You cannot edit the log_level for certain GitLab logs, for example production_json.log, graphql_json.log, and so on. See also Override default log level.

Setting a custom log group

GitLab supports assigning a custom group to the configured log directories

A global logging['log_group'] setting in your /etc/gitlab/gitlab.rb file can be configured as well as per-service log_group settings such as gitaly['log_group']. You will need to run sudo gitlab-ctl reconfigure to configure your instance when adding log_group settings.

Setting a global or per-service log_group will:

  • Change the permissions on the per-service log directories (or all log directories if using the global setting) to 0750 to allow the configured group members to read the contents of the log directory.

  • Configure runit to write and rotate logs using the specified log_group : either per-service or for all runit-managed services.

Custom log group limitations

Logs for services not managed by runit (e.g. the gitlab-rails logs in /var/log/gitlab/gitlab-rails) will not inherit the configured log_group setting.

The group must already exist on the host. Linux package installations don’t create the group when running sudo gitlab-ctl reconfigure.