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From Garren Smith <>
Subject Re: [DISCUSS] Improve load shedding by enforcing timeouts throughout stack
Date Thu, 18 Apr 2019 14:58:22 GMT
I'm +1 on this. With partition queries, we added a few more timeouts that
can be enabled which Cloudant enable. So having the ability to shed old
requests when these timeouts get hit would be great.


On Tue, Apr 16, 2019 at 2:41 AM Adam Kocoloski <> wrote:

> Hi all,
> For once, I’m coming to you with a topic that is not strictly about
> FoundationDB :)
> CouchDB offers a few config settings (some of them undocumented) to put a
> limit on how long the server is allowed to take to generate a response. The
> trouble with many of these timeouts is that, when they fire, they do not
> actually clean up all of the work that they initiated. A couple of examples:
> - Each HTTP response coordinated by the “fabric” application spawns
> several ephemeral processes via “rexi" on different nodes in the cluster to
> retrieve data and send it back to the process coordinating the response. If
> the request timeout fires, the coordinating process will be killed off, but
> the ephemeral workers might not be. In a healthy cluster they’ll exit on
> their own when they finish their jobs, but there are conditions under which
> they can sit around for extended periods of time waiting for an overloaded
> gen_server (e.g. couch_server) to respond.
> - Those named gen_servers (like couch_server) responsible for serializing
> access to important data structures will dutifully process messages
> received from old requests without any regard for (of even knowledge of)
> the fact that the client that sent the message timed out long ago. This can
> lead to a sort of death spiral in which the gen_server is ultimately
> spending ~all of its time serving dead clients and every client is timing
> out.
> I’d like to see us introduce a documented maximum request duration for all
> requests except the _changes feed, and then use that information to aid in
> load shedding throughout the stack. We can audit the codebase for
> gen_server calls with long timeouts (I know of a few on the critical path
> that set their timeouts to `infinity`) and we can design servers that
> efficiently drop old requests, knowing that the client who made the request
> must have timed out. A couple of topics for discussion:
> - the “gen_server that sheds old requests” is a very generic pattern, one
> that seems like it could be well-suited to its own behaviour. A cursory
> search of the internet didn’t turn up any prior art here, which surprises
> me a bit. I’m wondering if this is worth bringing up with the broader
> Erlang community.
> - setting and enforcing timeouts is a healthy pattern for read-only
> requests as it gives a lot more feedback to clients about the health of the
> server. When it comes to updates things are a little bit more muddy, just
> because there remains a chance that an update can be committed, but the
> caller times out before learning of the successful commit. We should try to
> minimize the likelihood of that occurring.
> Cheers, Adam
> P.S. I did say that this wasn’t _strictly_ about FoundationDB, but of
> course FDB has a hard 5 second limit on all transactions, so it is a bit of
> a forcing function :).Even putting FoundationDB aside, I would still argue
> to pursue this path based on our Ops experience with the current codebase.

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