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Version: VAST v3.0


VAST has a plugin system that makes it easy to hook into various places of the data processing pipeline and add custom functionality in a safe and sustainable way. A set of customization points allow anyone to add new functionality that adds CLI commands, receives a copy of the input stream, spawns queries, or implements integrations with third-party libraries.

There exist dynamic plugins that come in the form shared libraries, and static plugins that are compiled into libvast or VAST itself:

Plugins do not only exist for extensions by third parties, but VAST also implements core functionality through the plugin API. Such plugins compile as static plugins. Because they are always built, we call them builtins.

Plugin types

VAST offers several customization points to exchange or enhance functionality selectively. Here is a list of available plugin categories and plugin types:


The command plugin adds a new command to the vast executable, at a configurable location in the command hierarchy. New commands can have sub-commands as well and allow for flexible structuring of the provided functionality.


The component plugin spawns a component inside the VAST node. A component is an actor and runs in parallel with all other components.

This plugin is the most generic mechanism to introduce new functionality.


The analyzer plugin hooks into the processing path of data by spawning a new actor inside the server that receives the full stream of table slices. The analyzer plugin is a refinement of the component plugin.


The reader plugin adds a new format to parse input data, such as JSON (ASCII) or PCAP (binary).

Reader plugins automatically add the subcommand vast import <plugin name>.


The writer plugin adds a new format to print data, such as JSON (ASCII) or PCAP (binary).

Writer plugins automatically add the subcommand vast export <plugin name>.


A language plugin adds an alternative parser for a query expression. This plugin allows for replacing the query frontend while using VAST as backend execution engine.

For example, you could write a SQL plugin that takes an expression like SELECT * FROM zeek.conn WHERE id.orig_h = "" and executes it on historical data or runs it as live query.

Pipeline Operator

The pipeline operator plugin adds a new pipeline operator that users can reference in a pipeline definition.

Aggregation Function

The aggregation function plugin adds a new aggregation function for the summarize pipeline operator that performs an incremental aggregation over a set of grouped input values of a single type.


Inside a partition, the store plugin implements the conversion from in-memory Arrow record batches to the persistent format, and vice versa.

Store Actor

There exists a variant of the store plugin called the store actor plugin, which is more powerful and allows for customizing the control flow on top of providing a custom store backend. Unlike the store plugin, the store actor plugin is responsible for doing I/O itself.