Structured logging with C# and Seq (Datalust)

What is it?

Structured logging is the practice of implementing a consistent, predetermined message format for application logs that allows them to be treated as data sets rather than text. (https://www.sumologic.com/glossary/structured-logging/)

I wanted to have a good, like really good, but free, system to move my logs to.

Over the years, I have used PM2, journald and some self made logging files by Serilog / nLog. Debugging was waiting for the issue to happen and check the logs.

On the other side there is Azure AppInsignts that I have been using for customers. Unfortunately this is a payed version and I\’m not in control (enough) of the data itself.

The I found Seq, made by Datalust. It has all the features I needed and has a free license option for solo use.

In this blog I will depict how my setup has been scaffolded.

Technical overview

I have used the docker version of Seq. Opened port 80 and 5341 only to the loopback network interface. On top of that I have configured nginx to proxy the requests and support SSL.

Overview of the log flow

To start seq using docker, the following command was used:

PH=$(echo '<123>' | docker run --rm -i datalust/seq config hash)

docker run \
  --name seq \
  -d \
  --restart unless-stopped \
  -e ACCEPT_EULA=Y \
  -e SEQ_FIRSTRUN_ADMINPASSWORDHASH="$PH" \
  -v /home/log/data:/data \
  -p 127.0.0.1:8090:80 \
  -p 127.0.0.1:45341:5341 \
  datalust/seq

nginx was configured to

  • Listen on port 80 and redirect all traphic to https
  • Listen on port 5341 and forward it to the docker’s opened port 45341 (ingestion enpoint of seq)
  • Listen on port 443 and forward it to the web port of seq
  • Certbot was used to get a LetsEncrypt certificate
server {
        listen 80;
        server_name log.server;
        return 301 https://$host$request_uri;
}

server {
        listen 5341 ssl;
        server_name log.server;

        location ~ {
                proxy_pass      http://localhost:45341;
        }


}

server {
        location ~ {
                proxy_pass      http://localhost:8090;
        }

        server_name log.server;
        listen 443 ssl;

}

Test the setup

We can easily test the webpage, d0h.
The seq ingestion endpoint can be tested with postman, knowing that we get a response (even a forbidden response) indicates that the nginx and docker configuration are setup properly.

Next step was to really have a simple console application that was able to write logs to the seq ingestion endpoint. I strumbled upon https://jkdev.me/serilog-console/, and based on that I have created a small app.

using Serilog;
using Serilog.Core;
using System;
using System.Threading;

namespace SeqIngestionTester
{
	class Program
    {
        static void Main(string[] args)
        {
            Serilog.Debugging.SelfLog.Enable(Console.Error);
            AppDomain.CurrentDomain.UnhandledException += AppUnhandledException;

            using (var logger = BuildSerilog())
            {
                try
                {
                    logger.Information("Hello world");

                    var demo = new Thread(() => {
                        throw new Exception("It's a feature, I promise!");
                    });
                    //demo.Start();

                    //Task.Delay(10000).Wait();

                    logger.Error("Hello error");
                }
                catch (Exception e)
                {
                    UnhandledExceptions(e);
                }
            }
        }

        private static void AppUnhandledException(object sender, UnhandledExceptionEventArgs e)
        {
            if (Log.Logger != null && e.ExceptionObject is Exception exception)
            {
                UnhandledExceptions(exception);

                // It's not necessary to flush if the application isn't terminating.
                if (e.IsTerminating)
                {
                    Log.CloseAndFlush();
                }
            }
        }

        private static void UnhandledExceptions(Exception e)
        {
            Log.Logger?.Error(e, "Console application crashed");
        }

        private static Logger BuildSerilog()
        {
            var logger = new LoggerConfiguration()
                .WriteTo.Seq("https://log.server:5341", apiKey: "<123>")
                .WriteTo.Console()
                .CreateLogger();

            Log.Logger = logger;

            return logger;
        }
    }
}

The result is immediately visible in the seq dashboard