Nanolog: Super Fast Logging for Go

I’ve released a new package called nanolog!

Nanolog is super fast, as low as 70ns to log a line, and works with concurrent loggers. It uses a somewhat different model than most people are used to for the API; you can think of it like prepared statements for logging. It is currently at version 0.1.0.

This package was inspired by a project of the same name for C++.



I actually don’t have a driving use case where I need logging to be as fast as possible. I am also not trying to thumb my nose at other loggers (Uber’s Zap has gotten a lot of attention for its speed). This was more of a technical itch that I just had to scratch.

And, just for bragging rights, this logger actually is 0 allocs, except for the conversion to an interface to pass in the arguments.

func BenchmarkLogSequential(b *testing.B) {
	w = bufio.NewWriter(ioutil.Discard)
	h := AddLogger("foo thing bar thing %i64. Fubar %s foo. sadfasdf %u32 sdfasfasdfasdffds %u32.")
	args := []interface{}{int64(1), "string", uint32(2), uint32(3)}

	for i := 0; i < b.N; i++ {
		Log(h, args...)
BenchmarkLogSequential-8       10000000       114 ns/op       0 B/op       0 allocs/op


At runtime (logging)

The following code is from the test program in the package that tests out the package in a real program type scenario.

As I said above, the API and, actually, the inner workings are very similar to the way a database has prepared statements where only the changing bits get sent. In any file, log lines can be created like so:

var (
    logWorking = nanolog.AddLogger("Worker %u8, working on task %i, attempt %i.")

Well, that looks a little different.

Nanolog has its own syntax for the format strings, but for good reason. It uses the interpolation tokens (e.g. %u16) to map that gap in the string to a specific reflect.Kind. This is what enables it to be so fast; it is able to write just the data that changes in each log line and knows what types come out on the other end.

The nanolog.AddLogger method returns a nanolog.Handle to internal data structures that hold the metadata about that particular log line. New log lines can be created at any time, but normally, this should be at program init and happen only once. As log lines are created, their metadata is serialized into the output stream for the logger.

In the main file of the program, the main function should set up the nanolog package with an io.Writer that is set to write to the stream you want as your log data. This could be os.Stdout, a file handle, or any other implementation of io.Writer. Ideally, this is a raw stream and not intermediated.

var (
	logWorking nanolog.Handle

func init() {
	logWorking = nanolog.AddLogger("Worker %u8, working on task %i, attempt %i.")

	// Set up nanolog writer
	nanologout, err := os.Create("foo.log")
	if err != nil {

func main() {

When a new writer is set, nanolog will flush the data it has stored up and switch to the new stream. At initialization time, this data is actually all stored in memory, which is why main should set up the I/O as soon as it starts. The init data will get written to the first writer passed in.

This also enables a program to possibly do log rotation by replacing the writer every so often. This would be a fun secondary project to do as a wrapper package. It would, however, lose the “context” for determining which log line matches which actual log entry. I don’t have a solution for this as of yet.

Later on, of course, you’ll want to actually log a line during the course of your program’s execution:

// id, i, and j are in context here. See example code.
nanolog.Log(logWorking, id, i, j)

This line will serialize the log line to the internal buffer and may write to the underlying writer. Eventually, your program will want to shut down. The nanolog package currently does not have a way to detect when the program is shutting down, so if you need the last log lines to be written to the log before the program exits (which you normally would), you need to ensure that you call nanolog.Flush() immediately before exiting.

func main() {


After runtime (reading the logs)

The log itelf is a binary format that is not human-readable. These files, especially for programs that have longer log lines, will be much smaller than the typical log file. In order to read the logs, they need to be “inflated.” (Side note: if anyone has a better term for this, let me know.) This requires using the command on the file. The output files are self-contained and are append-able, meaning you don’t need any additional metadata and you can append to the same file and the inflate program will work just fine.

In the examples given above, if would be:

$ go build
$ ./inflate -f foo.log

The inflate command will dump the inflated log to its standard output, so you can direct it to a file, grep through it, or do anything else you want to.


Because of the way the logger is built, there is a maximum number of log lines that can be created with AddLogger. This number is 10240, however it can be changed by simply changing the MaxLoggers constant in the package if you have a vendored version. There’s no real technical reason it couldn’t be higher, 10240 just seemed like a reasonable upper bound.

Future Work

At this point, most of the time is spent in the lock and unlock of the mutex protecting the writes. I’d like to see if I can get a multiple-producer single-consumer blocking ring buffer set up such that both sides can operate independently and both sides can scale better. This might end up being assisted by sharding these buffers to reduce contention on the atomic ints, or I may be barking up the wrong tree :).

There’s a few more things I could do, such as:

Of course, PR’s are welcome. I’ll be trying to make sure that I use issues to capture ideas so others can follow along (if anyone were so inclined).

Please let me know what you thought of this article in the comments below or @sgmansfield on twitter. Thank you for stopping by!

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