#file #logging #log

bin+lib tailsrv

A high-performance file-streaming server

5 releases (3 breaking)

0.7.0 Mar 13, 2023
0.6.1 Sep 21, 2022
0.6.0 Sep 14, 2022
0.5.0 Aug 17, 2022
0.4.0 Jan 25, 2022

#363 in HTTP server

39 downloads per month


208 lines


tailsrv watches a single file and streams its contents to multiple clients as it grows. It's like tail -f, but as a server.

  • When a client connects, tailsrv sends it data from the file.
  • If there is no new data to send, tailsrv waits until the file grows.
  • If the socket is full, tailsrv waits for the client to consume some data before sending more.
  • Clients can specify an initial byte-offset when they connect.

Some implementation details:

  • All data is sent using sendfile. This means that data is sent by the kernel directly from the pagecache to the network card. No data is ever copied into userspace. This gives tailsrv really good throughput. However, it also means that tailsrv will only run on Linux.
  • We use inotify to track modifications to the file. This means that if the file is not growing (and no new clients are connecting) tailsrv does no work.
  • We spawn one thread per client. This means that a slow client can recieve data at its own pace, without affecting other clients.

If you're interested in how tailsrv compares to Kafka, see here for a comparison.

Usage example

Let's say you have a machine called webserver. Pick a port number and start tailsrv:

$ tailsrv -p 4321 /var/log/nginx/access.log

tailsrv is now watching access.log. You can connect to tailsrv from your laptop and stream the contents of the file:

$ echo "1000" | nc webserver 4321

You will immediately see the contents of access.log, starting from byte 1000, up to the end of the file. The connection remains open, waiting for new data. As soon as nginx writes a line to access.log, it will appear on your laptop. It's more-or-less the same as if you did this:

$ ssh webserver -- tail -f -c+1000 /var/log/nginx/access.log

Rather than using netcat, however, you probably want to connect to tailsrv directly from your log-consuming application.

let sock = TcpStream::connect("webserver:4321")?;
writeln!(sock, "{}", 1000)?;
for line in BufReader::new(sock).lines() {
    /* handle log data */

The example above is written in rust, but as you can see it's very straightforward: you can to do this from any programming language without the need for a special client library.


Step 1: the client sends a header to tailsrv

The header is just an integer, in ASCII, terminated with a newline. If the integer is positive, it represents the initial byte offset. If the integer is negative, it is interpreted as meaning "counting back from the end of the file". Examples:

  • 0\n - start from the beginning of the file
  • 1000\n - start from byte 1000
  • -1000\n - send the last 1000 bytes

Step 2: tailsrv sends data to the client

Once it receives a header, tailsrv will start sending you file data.

...and that's it as far as the protocol goes. tailsrv will ignore everything you send to it after the newline. When you're done, just close the connection. tailsrv will not terminate the connection unless it is shutting down.

There's no in-band session control: if you want to seek to a different position in the file, close the connection and open a new one.

The file

tailsrv expects a file which will be appended to. If the watched file is deleted or moved, tailsrv will exit. If you modify the middle of the file - well, nothing disasterous will happen, but your clients might get confused.



Enables a dependency on tracing-journald crate and adds a new --journald command-line flag. This will redirect all the tracing output to the system journald which gives much richer information than the default output formatter. Especially useful if you're planning to run tailsrv as a systemd service.


Enables a dependency on sd-notify crate. tailsrv is going to send a systemd readiness notification once it starts accepting connections from clients. This is useful combined with a notify systemd service type.


This software is in the public domain. See UNLICENSE for details.


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