Long-running processes, such as the background services managed by daemontools, must be carefully written. The presence of programming errors that result in memory leaks, or files not being closed, can lead to unexpected resource exhaustion. Processes that chew through resources may degrade the performance of the server over time, and ultimately crash the whole system.
The softlimit utility may be used to mitigate the effects of such problems, and constrain the use of system resources within specific limits. It is an important tool to protect your server from runaway processes.
Usage of softlimit is common in daemontools "run" scripts. The general syntax is:
softlimit options program ...
That is, softlimit sets resource limits described by options, then runs program within this environment. Any changes to resource limits are subsequently propagated to all the child processes that follow.
Here is a summary of softlimit options. The "resources.h" column describes the associated rlimit. See man 2 getrlimit for more information, and to find out if each of these constraints is supported on your system.
|softlimit -d bytes||data segment||memory||RLIMIT_DATA|
|softlimit -s bytes||stack segment||memory||RLIMIT_STACK||SIGSEGV|
|softlimit -l bytes||locked physical pages||memory||RLIMIT_MEMLOCK|
|softlimit -a bytes||all segments||memory||RLIMIT_AS|
|softlimit -m bytes||memory,
-d b -s b -l b -a b
|softlimit -r bytes||resident set size||memory||RLIMIT_RSS|
|softlimit -o n||open file descriptors||files||RLIMIT_NOFILE|
|softlimit -f bytes||file size||files||RLIMIT_FSIZE||SIGXFSZ|
|softlimit -c bytes||core file size||files||RLIMIT_CORE||SIGXFSZ|
|softlimit -p n||processes per uid||processes||RLIMIT_NPROC|
|softlimit -t secs||cpu time||cpu||RLIMIT_CPU||SIGXCPU|
This table shows the syntax used for setting a limit on a particular resource. That is, to set the soft limit on the data segment of a process to 3 million bytes, use:
softlimit -d 3000000
Each system resource actually has two associated limits, described as "soft" and "hard". The softlimit utility uses the capabilities of the setrlimit(2) system call to set only the soft limits. Note: the softlimit utility provides no way to change the hard limit of a resource.
We mention this difference because softlimit actually sets the soft limit of a resource to the lesser of:
That is, a soft limit may never be greater than its hard limit. If you want to increase the value of a soft limit up to its hard limit, use an equal sign ("=") as an argument to the option, in place of a value. This sets the soft limit to the current value of the hard limit:
softlimit -d =
We have never seen this usage in a run script, however. Generally, one uses softlimit to reduce resource limits in a process environment, rather than increase them.
Of course, resource limits may also be viewed and set by shell built-in commands. Use ulimit in Bourne-type shells, and limit in C-type shells. For example, to see the resource constraints in a Bash shell environment:
$ ulimit -a core file size (blocks, -c) unlimited data seg size (kbytes, -d) 524288 file size (blocks, -f) unlimited max locked memory (kbytes, -l) unlimited max memory size (kbytes, -m) unlimited open files (-n) 7293 pipe size (512 bytes, -p) 1 stack size (kbytes, -s) 65536 cpu time (seconds, -t) unlimited max user processes (-u) 3646 virtual memory (kbytes, -v) unlimited
Notice that the options and arguments to ulimit are similar to softlimit, but not identical.
Open a new shell under softlimit and check the results:
$ softlimit -c 0 -m 3000000 -o 256 bash -l $ ulimit -a core file size (blocks, -c) 0 data seg size (kbytes, -d) 2929 file size (blocks, -f) unlimited max locked memory (kbytes, -l) 2929 max memory size (kbytes, -m) unlimited open files (-n) 256 pipe size (512 bytes, -p) 1 stack size (kbytes, -s) 2929 cpu time (seconds, -t) unlimited max user processes (-u) 3646 virtual memory (kbytes, -v) 2929 $ ulimit -Ha core file size (blocks, -c) unlimited data seg size (kbytes, -d) 524288 file size (blocks, -f) unlimited max locked memory (kbytes, -l) unlimited max memory size (kbytes, -m) unlimited open files (-n) 7293 pipe size (512 bytes, -p) 1 stack size (kbytes, -s) 65536 cpu time (seconds, -t) unlimited max user processes (-u) 3646 virtual memory (kbytes, -v) unlimited
Here is a new shell with decreased soft limits, and we can see the lower limits for memory, open files, and size of core dump file.
Notice, however, the hard limits have not changed.
If a resource limit is set lower than a process requires, the process will usually fail to run:
$ softlimit -m 50000 bash -l Abort trap
If your run script is failing, this is a common source of the error. One indicator is when you see your daemon restarting once every second, --continuously repeating the "*** Starting ..." banner we echo into every service log-- as supervise tries to restart it every time it dies. If this is happening, try the following:
Edit the run script and temporarily remove the softlimit invocation.
Restart the daemon (svc -du). Then follow the logs and the output from svstat. If the service runs fine without softlimit, the problem was in one or more of the soft limits being set too tight.
Add softlimit back into the script, increasing the parameters and restarting the service until the service runs properly.
This is a trial-and-error process, and each service will have its own resource requirements, some more than others. But you will quickly converge on some basic values that will be generally satisfactory for a given platform. These can then be used as a starting point for other run scripts on the system.
Copyright © 2004, Wayne Marshall.
All rights reserved.
Last edit 2004.03.15, wcm.