7.15. program: Sending messages to external applications

The program() driver starts an external application or script and sends the log messages to its standard input (stdin). Usually, every message is a single line (ending with a newline character), which your script can process. Make sure that your script runs in a loop and keeps reading the standard input — it should not exit. (If your script exits, syslog-ng OSE tries to restart it.)

The program() driver has a single required parameter, specifying a program name to start. The program is executed with the help of the current shell, so the command may include both file patterns and I/O redirections. For the list of available optional parameters, see Section 7.15.1, program() destination options.


  • The syslog-ng OSE application must be able to start and restart the external program, and have the necessary permissions to do so. For example, if your host is running AppArmor, you might have to modify your AppArmor configuration to enable syslog-ng OSE to execute external applications.

  • The syslog-ng OSE application executes program destinations through the standard system shell. If the system shell is not bash and you experience problems with the program destination, try changing the /bin/sh link to /bin/bash.

  • If the external program exits, the syslog-ng OSE application automatically restarts it. However it is not recommended to launch programs for single messages, because if the message rate is high, launching several instances of an application might overload the system, resulting in Denial of Service.

  • When the syslog-ng OSE application stops, it will automatically stop the external program. To avoid restarting the application when syslog-ng OSE is only reloaded, enable the keep-alive() option in the program destination.

  • Certain external applications buffer the log messages, which might cause unexpected latency and other problems. For example, if you send the log messages to an external Perl script, Perl uses a line buffer for terminal output and block buffer otherwise. You might want to disable buffering in the external application.

Example 7.31. Using the program() destination driver

The message format does not include the priority and facility values by default. To add these values, specify a template for the program destination, as shown in the following example. Make sure to end your template with a newline character (\n).

destination d_prog { program("/bin/script" template("<${PRI}>${DATE} ${HOST} ${MESSAGE}\n") ); };

The following shell script writes the incoming messages into the /tmp/testlog file.

while read line ; do
echo $line >> /tmp/testlog