All workers in 'D' state using sendfile

Maxim Dounin mdounin at
Sat May 12 11:18:11 UTC 2012


On Sat, May 12, 2012 at 08:28:14PM +1000, Drew Wareham wrote:

> Hello,
> I have tried to summarize this as much as possible but it's still a lot of
> text.  I apologize but wanted to make sure that I provide enough
> information to explain the issue properly.
> I'm hoping that somebody that uses nginx as a high traffic/concurrency
> download server will be able to shed some light on this issue.  I've tried
> as many things as I can think of and everything keeps pointing to it being
> an issue with nginx, not the server - but I am of course more than willing
> to try any suggestions provided.
> *Background:*
> Approx. 1,500 - 5,000 concurrent connections (peak / off-peak),
> Files vary in size from 5MB to 2GB,
> All downloads; only very small dynamic content scripts run on these servers
> and none take more than 1-3 seconds,
> File are hosted on direct-attached AoE storage with a dedicated 10GE link,
> Server is running nginx-1.0.11, php-fpm 5.3 and CentOS 5.8x64
> (
> Specs are: Dual Xeon E5649 (6 Core), 32GB RAM, 300GB 10k SAS HDD, AoE DAS
> over 10GE
> Download speeds are restricted by the PHP handoff using X-Accel-Redirect,
> but obviously not when I'm testing ;)
> *Issue:*
> After running for a short, but random period of time (5min ~ 90min) all
> nginx workers will eventually end up in a 'D' state according to ps/top.
> This causes all downloads to run extremely slowly (~25kb/s) but it doesn't
> seem to be caused by I/O because an scp of the same file will complete at
> the expected speed of ~750MB+/s.
> I usually run with worker_processes set to 13, but I've had to raise this
> to 50 to prevent the issue.  This works short term, but I'm guessing
> eventually I will need to restart nginx to fix it.
> *Config:*
> I'm using sendfile with epoll, and using the following events / http
> settings (I've removed the location block with the fastcgi handler, etc):

With rotational disks you have to optimize iops to minimize seeks.  
This includes:

1. Switch off sendfile, it works bad on such workloads under linux 
due to no ability to control readahead (and hence blocks read from 

2. Use large output buffers, something like

    output_buffers 1 512k

would be a good starting point.

3. Try using aio to ensure better disk concurrency (and note under 
linux it needs directio as well), i.e. something like this

    aio on;
    directio 512; 

(this will require newer kernel though, but using 2.6.18 nowadays 
looks like bad idea, at least if you need speed)

4. Try tuning io scheduler, there have been reports that deadline 
might be better for such workloads.

More details can be found here:

Maxim Dounin

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