limit_req_zone to sleep instead of an error 504 or 404

CM Fields cmfileds at
Fri Jun 22 00:55:02 UTC 2012

Please disregard my previous email.

The issue was on my side when I setup error_page with a delay, but
then forgot to setup the proper error response.

On Thu, Jun 21, 2012 at 5:55 PM, CM Fields <cmfileds at> wrote:
> I would like to propose to replace the error code "limit_req_zone" sends back
> to a user with a simple sleep statement instead.
> I am using limit_req_zone on some production servers to limit the amount of
> downloads each ip can execute over time. "fastcgi_param" is used to execute
> an external fastcgi script to deliver the data to the client from a
> back end cluster.
> Users are accessing the nginx front end using automated scripts and accessing
> data without problem as long as they stay below our limit_req_zone value of 200
> requests per 60 seconds.
> When they hit the limit_req_zone value the clients are being limited correctly
> and being delayed until their requests per minute goes below the
> specified value.
> My issue is when a user hits the limit an error 503 (for local files) or an
> error 404 (for fastcgi scripts) is sent back to the user. The error
> 503 is documented
> on the nginx site and expected as "service unavailable". The error 404
> for fastcgi is
> not mentioned and took some trial and error to figure out why it was
> in the logs.
> For those interested, here is a sanitized copy of the error.log. The
> client does a
> head request and has exceeded 200 req/min by 0.094 req/min. At this
> point I would
> imagine a 503 would be sent back to the client. Instead, the second error line
> shows nginx trying to look for the URI on the local file system. The problem is
> file.bz2 is the file the fastcgi script would serve out and is _not_ a
> local file in
> htdocs. The script is really located at /disk/web/cgi/getter .
> Here is the nginx.conf for getting a file through the fast cgi method:
> limit_req_zone  $binary_remote_addr  zone=one:10m   rate=30r/m;
> root /disk/web/htdocs;
> limit_req   zone=one  burst=100 nodelay;
>     location ~* ^/script/[\w.-]+$ {
>             gzip off;
>             fastcgi_max_temp_file_size 0;
>             fastcgi_split_path_info ^((?U).+script)(/?.+)$;
>             fastcgi_intercept_errors on; #<--------
>             fastcgi_pass unix:/var/run/fcgiwrap.socket;
>             include /usr/local/nginx/conf/fastcgi_params;
>             fastcgi_param DOCUMENT_ROOT $document_root;
>             fastcgi_param PATH_INFO $fastcgi_path_info;
>             fastcgi_param SCRIPT_NAME /cgi/getter;
>             fastcgi_param SCRIPT_FILENAME /disk/web/cgi/getter;
>     }
> 2012/06/21 15:04:43 [error] 19685#0: *11354 limiting requests, excess:
> 200.094 by zone "one", client: 128.x.x.x, server: ourserver, request:
> "HEAD /cgi/getter/file.bz2 HTTP/1.1", host: "ourserver"
> 2012/06/21 15:04:53 [error] 19685#0: *11354 open()
> "/disk/web/htdocs/cgi/getter/file.bz2" failed (2: No such file or
> directory), client: 128.x.x.x, server: ourserver, request: "HEAD
> /cgi/getter/file.bz2 HTTP/1.1", host: "ourserver"
> Sending back an error 404 (File not found) for a file that does exist through
> an external script causes a lot of confusion to the user. This is may be just
> a unforeseen coding issue though.
> I propose a better situation is to limit users, but when they hit the predefined
> limit_req_zone value have the options to sleep for a few seconds, check if
> they are under the request limit and then complete the original request. A
> simple delay in responding to the client, similar to Maxim's ngx_http_delay,
> would be invaluable.
> Perhaps adding an option to the limit_req_zone directive would be good.
> limit_req_zone  $binary_remote_addr  zone=one:10m   rate=30r/m; error=2sec
>  (or if you want to send an error)
> limit_req_zone  $binary_remote_addr  zone=one:10m   rate=30r/m; error=504
> Another idea is for limit_req_zone to trigger an unused error code (12345) and
> allow the nginx config to trap it. This way the admin could delay the response
> or even send back an error.
> error_page 12345 @abuse
>   location /abuse {
>            delay 5s;
>   }
> I am going to look in the nginx source for where nginx is sending the 504 for
> limit_req_zone from. If anyone has any other ideas I would be happy to hear
> them and very open to suggestions.

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