Connections in the FIN_WAIT_2 state and Apache
This document has not been fully updated to take into account changes made in the 2.0 version of the Apache HTTP Server. Some of the information may still be relevant, but please use it with care.
Starting with the Apache 1.2 betas, people are reporting
many more connections in the FIN_WAIT_2 state (as reported
netstat) than they saw using older
versions. When the server closes a TCP connection, it sends
a packet with the FIN bit set to the client, which then
responds with a packet with the ACK bit set. The client
then sends a packet with the FIN bit set to the server,
which responds with an ACK and the connection is closed.
The state that the connection is in during the period
between when the server gets the ACK from the client and
the server gets the FIN from the client is known as
FIN_WAIT_2. See the TCP RFC for
the technical details of the state transitions.
The FIN_WAIT_2 state is somewhat unusual in that there is no timeout defined in the standard for it. This means that on many operating systems, a connection in the FIN_WAIT_2 state will stay around until the system is rebooted. If the system does not have a timeout and too many FIN_WAIT_2 connections build up, it can fill up the space allocated for storing information about the connections and crash the kernel. The connections in FIN_WAIT_2 do not tie up an httpd process.
There are numerous reasons for it happening, some of them may not yet be fully clear. What is known follows.
Several clients have a bug which pops up when dealing with
persistent connections (aka
keepalives). When the connection is idle and the server
closes the connection (based on the
the client is programmed so that the client does not send
back a FIN and ACK to the server. This means that the
connection stays in the FIN_WAIT_2 state until one of the
- The client opens a new connection to the same or a different site, which causes it to fully close the older connection on that socket.
- The user exits the client, which on some (most?) clients causes the OS to fully shutdown the connection.
- The FIN_WAIT_2 times out, on servers that have a timeout for this state.
If you are lucky, this means that the buggy client will fully close the connection and release the resources on your server. However, there are some cases where the socket is never fully closed, such as a dialup client disconnecting from their provider before closing the client. In addition, a client might sit idle for days without making another connection, and thus may hold its end of the socket open for days even though it has no further use for it. This is a bug in the browser or in its operating system's TCP implementation.
The clients on which this problem has been verified to exist:
- Mozilla/3.01 (X11; I; FreeBSD 2.1.5-RELEASE i386)
- Mozilla/2.02 (X11; I; FreeBSD 2.1.5-RELEASE i386)
- Mozilla/3.01Gold (X11; I; SunOS 5.5 sun4m)
- MSIE 3.01 on the Macintosh
- MSIE 3.01 on Windows 95
This does not appear to be a problem on:
- Mozilla/3.01 (Win95; I)
It is expected that many other clients have the same problem. What a client should do is periodically check its open socket(s) to see if they have been closed by the server, and close their side of the connection if the server has closed. This check need only occur once every few seconds, and may even be detected by a OS signal on some systems (e.g., Win95 and NT clients have this capability, but they seem to be ignoring it).
Apache cannot avoid these FIN_WAIT_2 states unless it disables persistent connections for the buggy clients, just like we recommend doing for Navigator 2.x clients due to other bugs. However, non-persistent connections increase the total number of connections needed per client and slow retrieval of an image-laden web page. Since non-persistent connections have their own resource consumptions and a short waiting period after each closure, a busy server may need persistence in order to best serve its clients.
As far as we know, the client-caused FIN_WAIT_2 problem is present for all servers that support persistent connections, including Apache 1.1.x and 1.2.
While the above bug is a problem, it is not the whole
problem. Some users have observed no FIN_WAIT_2 problems
with Apache 1.1.x, but with 1.2b enough connections build
up in the FIN_WAIT_2 state to crash their server. The most
likely source for additional FIN_WAIT_2 states is a
lingering_close() which was
added between 1.1 and 1.2. This function is necessary for
the proper handling of persistent connections and any
request which includes content in the message body
(e.g., PUTs and POSTs). What it does is read any
data sent by the client for a certain time after the server
closes the connection. The exact reasons for doing this are
somewhat complicated, but involve what happens if the
client is making a request at the same time the server
sends a response and closes the connection. Without
lingering, the client might be forced to reset its TCP
input buffer before it has a chance to read the server's
response, and thus understand why the connection has
closed. See the appendix for more
The code in
lingering_close() appears to
cause problems for a number of factors, including the
change in traffic patterns that it causes. The code has
been thoroughly reviewed and we are not aware of any bugs
in it. It is possible that there is some problem in the BSD
TCP stack, aside from the lack of a timeout for the
FIN_WAIT_2 state, exposed by the
lingering_close code that causes the observed
There are several possible workarounds to the problem, some of which work better than others.
The obvious workaround is to simply have a timeout for the FIN_WAIT_2 state. This is not specified by the RFC, and could be claimed to be a violation of the RFC, but it is widely recognized as being necessary. The following systems are known to have a timeout:
- FreeBSD versions starting at 2.0 or possibly earlier.
- NetBSD version 1.2(?)
- OpenBSD all versions(?)
- BSD/OS 2.1, with the K210-027 patch installed.
- Solaris as of
around version 2.2. The timeout can be tuned by using
tcp_fin_wait_2_flush_interval, but the default should be appropriate for most servers and improper tuning can have negative impacts.
- Linux 2.0.x and earlier(?)
- HP-UX 10.x defaults
to terminating connections in the FIN_WAIT_2 state after
the normal keepalive timeouts. This does not refer to the
persistent connection or HTTP keepalive timeouts, but the
SO_LINGERsocket option which is enabled by Apache. This parameter can be adjusted by using
nettuneto modify parameters such as
tcp_keepstop. In later revisions, there is an explicit timer for connections in FIN_WAIT_2 that can be modified; contact HP support for details.
- SGI IRIX can be patched to support a timeout. For IRIX 5.3, 6.2, and 6.3, use patches 1654, 1703 and 1778 respectively. If you have trouble locating these patches, please contact your SGI support channel for help.
- NCR's MP RAS Unix 2.xx and 3.xx both have FIN_WAIT_2 timeouts. In 2.xx it is non-tunable at 600 seconds, while in 3.xx it defaults to 600 seconds and is calculated based on the tunable "max keep alive probes" (default of 8) multiplied by the "keep alive interval" (default 75 seconds).
- Sequent's ptx/TCP/IP for DYNIX/ptx has had a FIN_WAIT_2 timeout since around release 4.1 in mid-1994.
The following systems are known to not have a timeout:
- SunOS 4.x does not and almost certainly never will have one because it as at the very end of its development cycle for Sun. If you have kernel source should be easy to patch.
There is a patch available for adding a timeout to the FIN_WAIT_2 state; it was originally intended for BSD/OS, but should be adaptable to most systems using BSD networking code. You need kernel source code to be able to use it.
It is possible to compile Apache 1.2 without using the
lingering_close() function. This will result
in that section of code being similar to that which was in
1.1. If you do this, be aware that it can cause problems
with PUTs, POSTs and persistent connections, especially if
the client uses pipelining. That said, it is no worse than
on 1.1, and we understand that keeping your server running
is quite important.
To compile without the
-DNO_LINGCLOSE to the end of the
EXTRA_CFLAGS line in your
Configuration file, rerun
Configure and rebuild the server.
On most systems, there is an option called
SO_LINGER that can be set with
setsockopt(2). It does something very similar
lingering_close(), except that it is broken
on many systems so that it causes far more problems than
lingering_close. On some systems, it could
possibly work better so it may be worth a try if you have
no other alternatives.
To try it, add
-DNO_LINGCLOSE to the end of the
EXTRA_CFLAGS line in your
Configuration file, rerun
Configure and rebuild the server.
NOTEAttempting to use
lingering_close()at the same time is very likely to do very bad things, so don't.
- BSD based networking code:
BSD stores network data, such as connection states, in
something called an mbuf. When you get so many
connections that the kernel does not have enough mbufs
to put them all in, your kernel will likely crash. You
can reduce the effects of the problem by increasing the
number of mbufs that are available; this will not
prevent the problem, it will just make the server go
longer before crashing.
The exact way to increase them may depend on your OS; look for some reference to the number of "mbufs" or "mbuf clusters". On many systems, this can be done by adding the line
nis the number of mbuf clusters you want to your kernel config file and rebuilding your kernel.
If you are unable to do any of the above then you should, as a last resort, disable KeepAlive. Edit your httpd.conf and change "KeepAlive On" to "KeepAlive Off".
Below is a message from Roy Fielding, one of the authors of HTTP/1.1.
The need for a server to linger on a socket after a close is noted a couple times in the HTTP specs, but not explained. This explanation is based on discussions between myself, Henrik Frystyk, Robert S. Thau, Dave Raggett, and John C. Mallery in the hallways of MIT while I was at W3C.
If a server closes the input side of the connection while the client is sending data (or is planning to send data), then the server's TCP stack will signal an RST (reset) back to the client. Upon receipt of the RST, the client will flush its own incoming TCP buffer back to the un-ACKed packet indicated by the RST packet argument. If the server has sent a message, usually an error response, to the client just before the close, and the client receives the RST packet before its application code has read the error message from its incoming TCP buffer and before the server has received the ACK sent by the client upon receipt of that buffer, then the RST will flush the error message before the client application has a chance to see it. The result is that the client is left thinking that the connection failed for no apparent reason.
There are two conditions under which this is likely to occur:
- sending POST or PUT data without proper authorization
- sending multiple requests before each response (pipelining) and one of the middle requests resulting in an error or other break-the-connection result.
The solution in all cases is to send the response, close only the write half of the connection (what shutdown is supposed to do), and continue reading on the socket until it is either closed by the client (signifying it has finally read the response) or a timeout occurs. That is what the kernel is supposed to do if SO_LINGER is set. Unfortunately, SO_LINGER has no effect on some systems; on some other systems, it does not have its own timeout and thus the TCP memory segments just pile-up until the next reboot (planned or not).
Please note that simply removing the linger code will not solve the problem -- it only moves it to a different and much harder one to detect.