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Adjusting Logging Verbosity

Sometimes when an issue happens in production, you will want to enable tracing for a specific type or namespace dynamically, without rebuilding the application. To prepare for this scenario, you need to add as much logging as is reasonable at build time, but disable it by default at run time, and then enable it selectively.

You can configure verbosity at run time using an XML configuration file or programmatically, using an API. You can store the XML configuration file online and specify an auto-reload interval.

You can also configure the logging verbosity differently for each request or transaction.

This topic contains the following sections:

This article shows how to configure verbosity with a configuration file. You can also change it programmatically. For details, see Adjusting Logging Verbosity Programmatically.

Configuring logging verbosity

Thanks to the PostSharp.Patterns.Diagnostics.Configuration package, you can modify your logging verbosity policies dynamically without redeploying or even restarting your application. All you have to do is to author an XML file, to store it online with public access (preferably under a secret URL), and to call the ConfigureFromXmlWithAutoReloadAsync(LoggingBackend, Uri, TimeSpan, CancellationToken) method. Note that you can also configure verbosity from a local file or without automatic reload using the ConfigureFromXml() method.

To configure logging verbosity with auto reload:

  1. Add the PostSharp.Patterns.Diagnostics.Configuration package to your top-level project (the one with the Program class).

  2. Create a logging verbosity configuration file based on the example below. It first defines the default logging level to be warning by default, but debug for the Foo namespace and trace for the Foo.Bar class. Note that the order of the source elements are important: a record overrides the previous ones for anything under its namespace.

    XML
    <logging>
        <verbosity level='warning'>
        <source name='Foo' level='debug' />
        <source name='Foo.Bar' level='trace' />
      </verbosity>
    </logging>

    For details regarding this file format, see LoggingConfigurationModel.

  3. Store this file on any file service offering HTTPS access.

    Security note Security Note

    Note that the XML file can contain code that will execute on the device from which you call this method. One cannot exclude the possibility for a malicious attacker to create file that would cause breaches of data or denial of service. Therefore, you must ensure that only authorized personnel have access in writing to the remote file. Additionally, this file must be publicly accessible in reading. Therefore, it should not include any sensitive piece of information (there should be no reason to do so).

  4. Finish the configuration of your back-end by calling ConfigureFromXmlWithAutoReloadAsync(LoggingBackend, Uri, TimeSpan, CancellationToken) .

  5. Run your application and check the error logs. Mistakes in the policy file will not throw exceptions into your application but report errors to your logs.

Configuring per-request or per-transaction logging

PostSharp Logging makes it so easy to add logging to your application that you can easily end up capturing gigabytes of data every minute. As it goes, most of this data won't ever be useful, but takes a performance overhead, and you still need to pay for storage and bandwidth. The ability to trace an application at a high level of detail is very useful, but only if you are be able to select when you want to log.

For instance, if you are running a web application, it is probably useless to log every single request with the highest level of detail, especially for types of requests that are served 100 times per second. Therefore, it is important to be able to decide, at run-time, which requests need to be logged. You may choose to disable logging by default and to enable logging for select requests only. We call that per-request or, more generally, per-transaction logging.

The first thing to do is to define transaction boundaries in your application. Here is how to enable this with the new and the old ASP.NET. To define your own transaction type, see Defining Your Own Logging Transactions.

To enable per-request logging for ASP.NET Core:

  1. Add the PostSharp.Patterns.Diagnostics.AspNetCore package to your top-level project (the one with the Startup class).

  2. In your Program.Main method, call the Initialize(ICorrelationProtocol, Predicate<HttpRequest>, LogEventMetadata) method:

    C#
    AspNetCoreLogging.Initialize();
  3. Define per-transaction logging in your logging verbosity configuration file and set the type attribute of the /logging/transactions/policy element to AspNetCoreRequest, for instance:

    XML
    <logging>
        <verbosity level='warning'/>
        <transactions>
            <policy type='AspNetCoreRequest' 
                    if='t.Request.Path.StartsWith("/invoices")' 
                    name='Policy1'>
                <verbosity>
                    <source level='debug'/>
                </verbosity>
            </policy>
        </transactions>
    </logging>

To enable per-request logging for the legacy IIS-based ASP.NET:

  1. Add the PostSharp.Patterns.Diagnostics.AspNetFramework package to your top-level project (the one with the Startup class).

  2. Add PostSharpLoggingHttpModule as an HTTP module in your Web.config file.

    XML
    <configuration>
      <system.webServer>
        <modules>
          <add name="PostSharpLogging" type="PostSharp.Patterns.Diagnostics.Adapters.AspNetFramework.PostSharpLoggingHttpModule"/>
        </modules>
      </system.webServer>
    </configuration>
  3. Define per-transaction logging in your logging verbosity configuration file and set the type attribute of the logging/transactions/policy to AspNetFrameworkRequest, for instance:

    XML
    <logging>
        <verbosity level='warning'/>
        <transactions>
            <policy type='AspNetFrameworkRequest' 
                    if='t.Request.Path.StartsWith("/invoices")' 
                    name='Policy1'>
                <verbosity>
                    <source level='debug'/>
                </verbosity>
            </policy>
        </transactions>
    </logging>

The policy files above (which are identical except the transaction type) first define the default logging level to be warning, the verbosity is raised to debug for all incoming HTTP requests whose path start with /invoices:

The most interesting part of the example above is the if attribute. This is a C#-like expression that takes a parameter t of type OpenTransactionExpressionModel<T> and must return a bool. OpenTransactionExpressionModel<T> is a generic type. The type of its Request property is determined by the value of the type attribute of the policy element:

The if attribute is interpreted using Dynamic Expresso, an expression engine that emulates C#. It accepts the functions defined in the TransactionPolicyExpressionFunctions class (which you must use without type prefix). The Matches(String, String) function allows you to match a string against a regular expression.

Configuring sampled logging

In the example above, all requests that match the if expression would be assigned the same logging verbosity. That could mean hundreds of requests per second. Instead of logging all requests that match a given predicate, you can choose to log only a fraction of them. This can be done with the sample attribute. In this attribute, you would typically call one of these sample functions: Random(Double) or OnceEveryXSeconds(Double, String)

The following policy file defines two transaction policies: the first catches a random 10% sample of all ASP.NET Core requests whose path starts with /invoices, and the second catches maximally 1 request per minute for all requests whose path starts with /orders. Both transactions raise the verbosity to debug, but only for those transactions.

XML
<logging>
    <verbosity level='warning'/>
    <transactions>
        <policy type='AspNetCoreRequest' 
                if='t.Request.Path.StartsWith("/invoices")' 
                sample='Random(0.1)' 
                name='Policy1'>
            <verbosity>
                <source level='debug'/>
            </verbosity>
        </policy>
        <policy type='AspNetCoreRequest' 
                if='t.Request.Path.StartsWith("/orders")' 
                sample='OnceEveryXSeconds(60, t.Request.Path)' 
                name='Policy2'>
            <verbosity>
                <source level='debug'/>
            </verbosity>
        </policy>
    </transactions>
</logging>