Heka is an open source stream processing software system developed by Mozilla. Heka is a “Swiss Army Knife” type tool for data processing, useful for a wide variety of different tasks, such as:

  • Loading and parsing log files from a file system.
  • Accepting statsd type metrics data for aggregation and forwarding to upstream time series data stores such as graphite or InfluxDB.
  • Launching external processes to gather operational data from the local system.
  • Performing real time analysis, graphing, and anomaly detection on any data flowing through the Heka pipeline.
  • Shipping data from one location to another via the use of an external transport (such as AMQP) or directly (via TCP).
  • Delivering processed data to one or more persistent data stores.

The following resources are available to those who would like to ask questions, report problems, or learn more:

Heka is a heavily plugin based system. Common operations such as adding data to Heka, processing it, and writing it out are implemented as plugins. Heka ships with numerous plugins for performing common tasks.

There are six different types of Heka plugins:


Input plugins acquire data from the outside world and inject it into the Heka pipeline. They can do this by reading files from a file system, actively making network connections to acquire data from remote servers, listening on a network socket for external actors to push data in, launching processes on the local system to gather arbitrary data, or any other mechanism.

Input plugins must be written in Go.


Splitter plugins receive the data that is being acquired by an input plugin and slice it up into individual records. They must be written in Go.


Decoder plugins convert data that comes in through the Input plugins to Heka’s internal Message data structure. Typically decoders are responsible for any parsing, deserializing, or extracting of structure from unstructured data that needs to happen.

Decoder plugins can be written entirely in Go, or the core logic can be written in sandboxed Lua code.


Filter plugins are Heka’s processing engines. They are configured to receive messages matching certain specific characteristics (using Heka’s Message Matcher Syntax) and are able to perform arbitrary monitoring, aggregation, and/or processing of the data. Filters are also able to generate new messages that can be reinjected into the Heka pipeline, such as summary messages containing aggregate data, notification messages in cases where suspicious anomalies are detected, or circular buffer data messages that will show up as real time graphs in Heka’s dashboard.

Filters can be written entirely in Go, or the core logic can be written in sandboxed Lua code. It is also possible to configure Heka to allow Lua filters to be dynamically injected into a running Heka instance without needing to reconfigure or restart the Heka process, nor even to have shell access to the server on which Heka is running.


Encoder plugins are the inverse of Decoders. They generate arbitrary byte streams using data extracted from Heka Message structs. Encoders are embedded within Output plugins; Encoders handle the serialization, Outputs handle the details of interacting with the outside world.

Encoder plugins can be written entirely in Go, or the core logic can be written in sandboxed Lua code.


Output plugins send data that has been serialized by an Encoder to some external destination. They handle all of the details of interacting with the network, filesystem, or any other outside resource. They are, like Filters, configured using Heka’s Message Matcher Syntax so they will only receive and deliver messages matching certain characteristics.

Output plugins must be written in Go.

Information about developing plugins in Go can be found in the Extending Heka section. Details about using Lua sandboxes for Decoder, Filter, and Encoder plugins can be found in the Sandbox section.


The core of the Heka system is the hekad daemon. A single hekad process can be configured with any number of plugins, simultaneously performing a variety of data gathering, processing, and shipping tasks. Details on how to configure a hekad daemon are in the Configuring hekad section.

hekad Command Line Options

Output the version number, then exit.
-config config_path
Specify the configuration file or directory to use; the default is /etc/hekad.toml. If config_path resolves to a directory, all files in that directory must be valid TOML files. (See hekad.config(5).)


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