What is the Elastic Stack?

May 21st, 2019

The Elastic Stack is a collection of freely downloadable products which enables engineers to implement search solutions. You may have heard of this called the "ELK" stack before. The Elastic Stack is an evolution of the ELK stack, but the underlying concepts haven't changed.

The stack components


Elasticsearch is a distributed search and analytics engine, built for speed, resilience, and scalability.

It's powered by a REST API that will be familiar to developers, and it offers a suite of SDKs so you can interact with Elasticsearch in your programming language of choice.


Logstash is an open source, server-side data processing pipeline that ingests data from a multitude of sources simultaneously, transforms it, and then sends it to Elasticsearch or another repository.

Beats is the platform for single-purpose data shippers. They send data from hundreds or thousands of machines and systems to Logstash or Elasticsearch.


Kibana is your window into the Elastic Stack. It features powerful visualizations which allow you to create dashboards, discover trends, and make sense of your data.

It also has a suite of management features to help you administer the Elastic Stack.

What can I do with the Elastic Stack?

You can do a lot! It turns out that many common engineering problems are just search problems in disguise:

Logging - Elasticsearch is a fantastic repository for your application and infrastructure logs.

Security Analytics - Discover bad actors and anomalies on your network or application services.

Application Performance Metrics("APM") - with agents for many of the popular programming languages, you can use the Elastic Stack to monitor your application performance in real-time.

Custom search experiences - implement your own custom search in your website or app.

So much more! - The Elastic Stack is as powerful as it is flexible. With a thriving developer community, there is no shortage of new and novel solutions.

Getting started example

The best way to get started is to download Elasticsearch, and take it for a spin! We'll walk through a quick example of ingesting ngix logs into Elasticsearch in order to visualize them in Kibana.

1) Download

For this example, we will need Elasticsearch, Kibana, and Filebeat. Download and extract to a location of your choosing:

Download and extract Filebeat

Download and extract Elasticsearch

Download and extract Kibana

2) Start Elasticsearch

Start Elasticsearch from your terminal by running ./bin/elasticsearch from the directory you chose in step 1. This will start Elasticsearch with the default configuration, on port 9200. You can see it's running by going to http://localhost:9200

3) Start Kibana

Start Kibana from your terminal by running ./bin/kibana from the directory you chose in step 1. This will start Kibana with the default configuration, on port 5601. You can see it's running by going to http://localhost:5601.

4) Configure Filebeat

Now that Elasticsearch and Kibana are both running, it's time to configure Filebeat. Like the other components, we are sticking with the default configuration here.

The first step is to enable the nginx module. Filebeat ships with a number of modules which make configuration a breeze. To enable, run ./filebeat modules enable nginx.

Next, it's time to run the setup command: ./filebeat setup. The setup command will configure Elasticsearch to expect data from Filebeat, and it will install sample Dashboards into Kibana, so you can get started easier!

Note: If your nginx logs are not in a standard location on your machine, then you can configure Filebeat to look for them elsewhere.

Now, Filebeat is fully configured! It's time to start it by running ./filebeat -e from the terminal.

5) Explore your data!

Go you your Kibana dashboards at http://localhost:5601/app/kibana#/dashboards to get started! You should already have a sample dashboard available from Step 4.

- Written by Larry Gregory

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