Friday, February 16, 2024

Changing log level for .net apps on the fly

Logging is very important to understand the behavior of an application. Logs can be used to analyze application behavior over an extended time period to understand trends or anomalies, but they're also critical to diagnose issues in production environments when the application is not behaving as expected.

How much logs an application should emit is a matter of tradeoffs. Writing too much logs may negatively impact application performance and increase data transfer and storage costs without adding value. Too few logs makes it very difficult to troubleshoot issues. This is why most logging frameworks allow configuring log levels so that the application developers can add as much logging as needed, but only logs with a specific level or below will actually be written to the destination.

The challenge is that you don't need all the logs all the time. You certainly can redeploy or reconfigure the application and restart it to change the log level, but this would be a bit disruptive. The good thig is that .net configuration system allows updating configuration values on the fly. Consider this simple web API:

var builder = WebApplication.CreateBuilder(args);


var app = builder.Build();

app.MapGet("/numbers", () =>

    return Enumerable.Range(0, 10);


With logging configuration file:

  "Logging": {
    "LogLevel": {
      "Default": "Error",
      "Microsoft.AspNetCore": "Warning"
When the /numbers endpoint is called, these logs are written to the console:
fail: ConfigReload[0]

This is clearly because the configured default log level is "Error". You can add a simple endpoint that changes the log level on the fly, like this:

app.MapGet("/config", (string level) => 
    if (app.Services.GetRequiredService<IConfiguration>() is not IConfigurationRoot configRoot)

    configRoot["Logging:LogLevel:Default"] = level;

When you issue the GET request /config?level=Information Then invoke the /numbers endpoint again, the log output will look like:

info: ConfigReload[0]
warn: ConfigReload[0]
fail: ConfigReload[0]

Similarly, to configure the log level to Debug, invoke /config?level=Debug. Very simple.

There are a few gotchas to consider:

  1. This the /config endpoint should be secured, only a privileged user should be able to invoke it as it changes the application behavior. I've intentionally ignored this in my example for simplicity.
  2. In case there are many instances serving the same API the /config invocation will be directed by the load balancer to only one instance of your application which most probably won't be sufficient. In this case you will need another approach to communicate with your application that the log level should be modified. One approach could be a pub-sub system that allows multiple consumers. This may be a subject of another blog post.

Another common approach for applications on the fly is by using a configuration source that refreshes automatically every specific time interval or based on config file change detection.
However the time based approach means that you have to wait until a certain time elapses for the application to reconfigure itself which may not be desirable as you want to change the log level as quickly as possible. A file change detection approach is not great for immutable deployments like container based applications or serverless functions.

Logging and monitoring are quality attributes that should be taken into consideration during the application design. In case you're not using a more advanced observability tooling that allow profiling for example then the technique proposed in this blog post may be of help.

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