Vector quickstart

Get up and running

Welcome to Vector! Vector is a high-performance observability data pipeline that enables you to collect, transform, and route all of your logs and metrics.

In this quickstart guide, we walk you through using Vector for the first time. We’ll install Vector and create our first observability data pipeline so that you can begin to see what Vector can do.

Install Vector

We can install Vector using an installation script or Docker:

docker pull timberio/vector:0.39.0-debian

In addition to debian, distroless-libc, distroless-static, and alpine distributions are also available.

If you install Vector using Docker, we recommend using an alias to run the commands throughout this tutorial:

alias vector='docker run -i -v $(pwd)/:/etc/vector/ --rm timberio/vector:0.39.0-debian'
curl --proto '=https' --tlsv1.2 -sSfL | bash

Other installation methods are available.

Once Vector is installed, let’s check to make sure that it’s working correctly:

vector --version

Configure Vector

Vector topologies are defined using a configuration file that tells it which components to run and how they should interact. Vector topologies are made up of three types of components:

  • Sources collect or receive data from observability data sources into Vector
  • Transforms manipulate or change that observability data as it passes through your topology
  • Sinks send data onwards from Vector to external services or destinations

Let’s create a configuration file called vector.yaml:

    type: "stdin"

      - "in"
    type: "console"
      codec: "text"

Each component has a unique id and is prefixed with the type of the component, for example sources for a source. Our first component,, uses the stdin source, which tells Vector to receive data over stdin and is given the ID in.

Our second component, sinks.out, uses console sink, which tells Vector to print the data to stdout, while the encoding.codec option tells Vector to print data as plain text (unencoded).

The inputs option of the sinks.out component tells Vector where this sink’s events are coming from. In our case, events are received from our other component, the source with ID in.

Hello world!

That’s it for our first config. Now let’s pipe an event through it:

echo 'Hello world!' | vector

The echo statement sends a single log to Vector via stdin. The vector... command starts Vector with our previously created config file.

The event we’ve just sent is received by our component, then sent onto the sinks.out component, which in turn echoes it back to the console:

... some logs ...
Hello World!
JSON encoding
If you want to see something cool, try setting encoding.codec = "json" in the sink config.

Hello Syslog!

Echoing events into the console isn’t terribly exciting. Let’s see what we can do with some real observability data by collecting and processing Syslog events. To do that, we’ll add two new components to our configuration file. Here’s our updated vector.yaml configuration file:

    type:   "demo_logs"
    format: "syslog"
    count:  100

      - "generate_syslog"
    type:   "remap"
    source: |
            structured = parse_syslog!(.message)
            . = merge(., structured)            

      - "remap_syslog"
    type: "console"
      codec: "json"

The first component uses the demo_logs source, which creates sample log data that enables you to simulate different types of events in various formats.

Wait, I thought you said “real” observability data? We choose generated data here because it’s hard for us to know which platform you’re trying Vector on. That means it’s also hard to document a single way for everyone to get data into Vector.

The second component is a transform called remap. The remap transform is at the heart of what makes Vector so powerful for processing observability data. The transform exposes a simple language called Vector Remap Language that allows you to parse, manipulate, and decorate your event data as it passes through Vector. Using remap, you can turn static events into informational data that can help you ask and answer questions about your environment’s state.

You can see we’ve added the sources.generated_syslog component. The format option tells the demo_logs source which type of logs to emit, here syslog, and the count option tells the demo_logs source how many lines to emit, here 100.

In our second component, transforms.remap_syslog, we’ve specified an inputs option of generate_syslog, which means it will receive events from our generate_syslog source. We’ve also specified the type of transform: remap.

Inside the source option of the remap_syslog component is where we start to see Vector’s power. The source contains the list of remapping transformations to apply to each event Vector receives. We’re only performing one operation: parse_syslog. We’re passing this function a single field called message, which contains the Syslog event we’re generating. This all-in-one function takes a Syslog-formatted message, parses its contents, and emits it as a structured event. Wait, I can hear you saying? What have you done with my many lines of Syslog parsing regular expressions? Remap removes the need for this and allows you to focus on the event’s value, not on how to extract that value.

We support parsing a variety of logging formats. Of course, if you have an event format that we don’t support, you can also specify your own custom regular expression using remap too! The ! after the parse_syslog function tells Vector to emit an error if the message fails to parse, meaning you’ll know if some non-standard Syslog is received, and you can adjust your remapping to accommodate it!

Lastly, we’ve updated the ID of our sink component to emit_syslog, updated the inputs option to process events generated by the remap_syslog transform, and specified that we want to emit events in JSON-format.

Let’s re-run Vector. This time we don’t need to echo any data to it; just run in on the command line. It’ll process 100 lines of generated Syslog data, emit the processed data as JSON, and exit:


Now you should have a series of JSON-formatted events, something like this:

{"appname":"benefritz","facility":"authpriv","hostname":"","message":"We're gonna need a bigger boat","msgid":"ID191","procid":9473,"severity":"crit","timestamp":"2021-01-20T19:38:55.329Z"}
{"appname":"meln1ks","facility":"local1","hostname":"","message":"Take a breath, let it go, walk away","msgid":"ID451","procid":484,"severity":"debug","timestamp":"2021-01-20T19:38:55.329Z"}
{"appname":"shaneIxD","facility":"uucp","hostname":"","message":"A bug was encountered but not in Vector, which doesn't have bugs","msgid":"ID428","procid":3093,"severity":"alert","timestamp":"2021-01-20T19:38:55.329Z"}

We can see that Vector has parsed the Syslog message and created a structured event containing all of the Syslog fields. All with one line of Vector’s remap language. This example is just the beginning of Vector’s capabilities. You can receive logs and events from dozens of sources. You can use Vector and remap to change data, add fields to decorate data, convert logs into metrics, drop fields, and dozens of other tasks you use daily to process your observability data. You can then route and output your events to dozens of destinations.

What’s next?

We’re just scratching the surface in this post. To get your hands dirty with Vector check out: