systemd journal endlessly sends data to imjournal

When Fedora updated to rsyslog 7.4.0 in Fedora 19, they changed the default way how they obtain local log messages. In all previous releases, imuxsock, the traditional Unix/Linux input was used. That also works in conjunction with journal, at least as far as traditional syslog is involved. This is because journal provides these messages via the log socket it passes to rsyslog. Unfortunately, journal hides information if structured content is available. In order to obtain that, Red Hat has contributed a new module, imjournal, which reads the journal database via native journal APIs and as such gets hold of all data. With 7.4.0, the Fedora maintainers switched the default input in the desire to get full logging information into the system.

Unfortunately, rapidly many users begun to report serious problems with duplicate messages exhausting their system resources. As can be seen in this systemd journal database corruption Red Hat bug tracker, the root cause of this problem is that the journal database is corrupted and the native journal API thus endlessly returns the same messages ever and ever again.

The authors of imjournal did not use rsyslog’s ratelimiting capability in this module. Actually, there was good reason not to do it, as journal itself provides some rate-limiting, so doing it twice doesn’t sound like a good idea.

If you dig deeper into the journal bug, you’ll notice that this is not a new problem. It occurs with journal tools as well, and does so obviously for quite a while. In my opinion, it now surfaced as a big issue simply because imjournal was the first application ever to make serious use of the journal database.

After I received reports on this problem, I acted immediately. First and foremost, I put a warning message into imjournal telling about the risk on relying on the journal database. I can obviously not solve that problem, but then I mitigated it by adding rate-limiting to the module. The current git version by default does not permit more than 20,000 messages within a 10 minute interval, so even with a broken journal, no more than 120,000 messages per hour should be emitted. That’s as far as I can go handling this situation. Note that there is already a fix for the current problem in journal, it is also included in the bug tracker I mentioned above. However, in the past couple of weeks I talked to quite some folks on rsyslog/journal integration, and journal database corruption was frequently mentioned. Nobody told me about loops, but as I guard against future problems, I will keep the ratelimiting default active in imjournal.

Note that the rsyslog project “officially” always suggested to use imjournal only in cases where there is hard need for it (this was a result of talking to the end users). Thankfully I published a presentation on rsyslog and systemd journal integration including this fact just last week, so I can even proof that recommendation ;)

How will we go forward? If you need a quick patch, you should rebuild rsyslog from the git v7-stable branch. For a single patch that addresses the ratelimiting, you can use this one. The full patch set will be included in 7.4.1. We are working with Red Hat to release it ASAP, hopefully tomorrow.

Another viable solution is to simply disable imjournal in rsyslog.conf and replace it with the former imuxsock configuration. Please note that this problem does not affect any version of rsyslog installed from Adiscon’s repositories. This is because we never use imjournal by default.

I hope this clarifies the root cause of this problem, how to mitigate it and how the rsyslog team intends to prevent further harm from potential systemd journal database corruption.