Using Cloud Logging with Container-Optimized OS

Container-Optimized OS includes a logging agent which exports some system and container logs to Cloud Logging. Up until Container-Optimized OS 101, x86-based Container-Optimized OS images used a containerized logging agent based on fluentd. Container-Optimized OS 105 started shipping an alternative logging agent implementation, fluent-bit. As of Container-Optimized OS 109, the fluent-bit logging agent is the default. The legacy logging agent, fluentd, will be removed in Container-Optimized OS 113.

All versions of Arm-based Container-Optimized OS images ship the fluent-bit logging agent.

Enable the logging agent

The logging agent is disabled by default. You can enable this feature when creating a new instance or by updating an existing instance.

Access Requirements

Cloud Logging provides IAM roles that you can use to grant appropriate access. In order to view your logs in a project, you must have the roles/logging.viewer role and applications must have permission to write logs. You can grant this permission by assigning the IAM role roles/logging.logWriter to the service account for an application.

For more information about permissions and roles, see Predefined roles.

Create an instance with a logging agent enabled


To run a Compute Engine instance on Container-Optimized OS with the fluent-bit logging agent enabled, perform the following:

  1. Open the Compute Engine instance creation page on Google Cloud console.

    Create a new Compute Engine instance

  2. Specify a Name for your instance.

  3. In the Boot disk section, select a Container-Optimized OS image.

  4. Click on Management, security, disks, networking, sole tenancy to expand additional options.

  5. Under the Management tab, scroll to the Metadata section. Add a new metadata entry, with Key as google-logging-enabled and Value as true.

  6. Optionally, specify any other options for your use case. See Creating and configuring instances for more details.

  7. Click Create to create and boot the instance.


To run a Compute Engine instance on Container-Optimized OS with the logging agent enabled, use the gcloud compute instances create command, and include google-logging-enabled=true in the metadata. For example:

gcloud compute instances create instance-name \
    --image-family cos-stable \
    --image-project cos-cloud \
    --zone compute-zone \
    --metadata google-logging-enabled=true

Replace the following:

  • instance-name: the name of your VM instance.
  • compute-zone: the compute zone for your instance.

For more information on the gcloud command, see the gcloud compute instances create reference documentation. For more details on creating Container-Optimized OS instances, see Creating and configuring instances.

Selecting the logging agent

x86-based Container-Optimized OS 105 and 109 images ship two implementations of the logging agent: fluentd (legacy) and fluent-bit. Container-Optimized OS 105 uses fluentd by default and Container-Optimized OS 109 uses fluent-bit by default. You can use the google-logging-use-fluentbit metadata entry to change the default behavior.

To use fluent-bit logging agent on Container-Optimized OS 105 set google-logging-use-fluentbit value to true.

To use fluentd logging agent on Container-Optimized OS 109 set google-logging-use-fluentbit value to false.

Enable the logging agent in project metadata

Starting in milestone 97, logging can be enabled in project metadata:

  gcloud compute project-info add-metadata \
    --metadata google-logging-enabled=true

Access logs


  1. Go to the VM instances page.

    Go to the VM instances page

  2. Click on the name of the Container-Optimized OS instance you want to access logs from.

  3. Under the Logs section, click Cloud Logging.

  4. This opens the Logs Explorer for the given instance. For more information, see Using the Logs Explorer.


To access logs, use the gcloud logging read command. For example:

gcloud logging read \
"resource.type=gce_instance AND resource.labels.instance_id=instance-id" \
    --limit 10 \
    --format json \
    --freshness 30d

Replace the following:

  • instance-id: the id of your VM instance.

This command attempts to read logs from the VM instance with instance-id, limiting to 10 logs, in JSON format, from the last 30 days.

For more information on the gcloud command, see the gcloud logging read reference documentation.

How does it work?

The logging agent is configured by default to send logs from certain system critical services and user application containers to the Cloud Logging backend. For example, logs from docker containers, selected systemd services, audit logs, journal log errors, etc. See Container-Optimized OS specific configuration source (x86 images and Arm images) for complete default logging configuration.

For x86 images of Container-Optimized OS 105 and older, the logging agent is Google Cloud Observability's containerized legacy Logging agent. The docker command that starts the logging agent is defined in the Container-Optimized OS source for stackdriver-logging systemd service. The version of the containerized agent being run is defined in the Container-Optimized OS source app-admin/stackdriver directory.

For Arm images of all versions and x86 images for Container-Optimized OS 109 and later, the logging agent is a built-in OS package called fluent-bit. The agent is built into the OS and updated along with the OS images.

Known Limitations

Compatibility with gcplogs driver

Starting with milestone 89, if the logging agent included with Container-Optimized OS is enabled and Docker gcplogs logging driver is enabled for one or more containers, excessive warning logs may be output by the included logging agent. This may create log noise and/or increase Cloud Logging related charges.

A workaround is to not use gcplogs as a Docker logging driver, and to instead use the default driver as configured by Container-Optimized OS. Note that the logging agent included with Container-Optimized OS will export container logs to Cloud Logging, so using both solutions simultaneously is not necessary.

Logging agent configuration compatibility

The logging agent is a fluentd-based container on x86-based Container-Optimized OS images and a fluent-bit binary on Arm-based Container-Optimized OS images. The configurations of the two agents are not compatible. This is not a problem if you only rely on the default logging configuration built into the OS images. However, if you have a custom logging configuration, you might experience breakage when migrating workloads to images that are based on a different architecture or to a newer version of Container-Optimized OS.


  • Google Cloud Observability's legacy Logging agent documentation. The containerized logging agent included with Container-Optimized OS is a subset of the legacy Logging agent, so this documentation may provide context on the agent more generally, outside of the scope of Container-Optimized OS.
  • Google Cloud Observability documentation. Homepage for Google Cloud Observability documentation; may be useful for context.