Did We Miss Something Important? Studying and Exploring Variable-Aware Log Abstraction
Due to the sheer size of software logs, developers rely on automated techniques for log analysis. One of the first and most important steps of automated log analysis is log abstraction, which parses the raw logs into a structured format. Prior log abstraction techniques aim to identify and abstract all the dynamic variables in logs and output a static log template for automated log analysis. However, these abstracted dynamic variables may also contain important information that is useful to different tasks in log analysis. In this paper, we investigate the characteristics of dynamic variables and their importance in practice, and explore the potential of a variable-aware log abstraction technique. Through manual investigations and surveys with practitioners, we find that different categories of dynamic variables record various information that can be important depending on the given tasks, the distinction of dynamic variables in log abstraction can further assist in log analysis. We then propose a deep learning based log abstraction approach, named VALB, which can identify different categories of dynamic variables and preserve the value of specified categories of dynamic variables along with the log templates (i.e., variable-aware log abstraction). Through the evaluation on a widely used log abstraction benchmark, we find that VALB outperforms other state-of-the-art log abstraction techniques on general log abstraction (i.e., when abstracting all the dynamic variables) and also achieves a high variable-aware log abstraction accuracy that further identifies the category of the dynamic variables. Our study highlights the potential of leveraging the important information recorded in the dynamic variables to further improve the process of log analysis.