Issue with flooded warning and request limiting

Peter Booth peter_booth at
Mon Nov 20 16:19:16 UTC 2017

FWIW - I have found rate limiting very useful (with hardware LB as well as nginx) but, because of the inherent burstiness of web traffic, I typically set my threshold to 10x or 20x my expected “reasonable peak rate.” 
The rationale is that this is a very crude tool, just one of many that need to work together to protect the backend from both reasonable variations in workload and malicious use. 

When combined with smart use of browser cache, CDN, microcaching in nginx, canonical names, smart cache key design you can get an inexpensive nginx server to offer similar functionality to a $50k F5 BigIP LTM+WAF at less than 1/10 the cost. 

But all of these features need to be used delicately, if you want to avoid rejecting valid requests.


Sent from my iPhone

> On Nov 20, 2017, at 9:28 AM, Stephan Ryer <sr at> wrote:
> Thank you very much for clearing this out. All I need to do is "limit_req_log_level warn;" and then I see limits as warn-logs and delaying as info, and hence I only view warn+ levels, it is omitted from the logfile completely.
> ---
> Med venlig hilsen / Best Regards
> Stephan Ryer Møller
> Partner & CTO
> inMobile ApS
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> 2017-11-20 14:01 GMT+01:00 Maxim Dounin <mdounin at>:
>> Hello!
>> On Mon, Nov 20, 2017 at 11:33:26AM +0100, Stephan Ryer wrote:
>> > We are using nginx as a proxy server in front of our IIS servers.
>> >
>> > We have a client who needs to call us up to 200 times per second. Due to
>> > the roundtrip-time, 16 simultanious connections are opened from the client
>> > and each connection is used independently to send a https request, wait for
>> > x ms and then send again.
>> >
>> > I have been doing some tests and looked into the throttle logic in the
>> > nginx-code. It seems that when setting request limit to 200/sec it is
>> > actually interpreted as “minimum 5ms per call” in the code. If we receive 2
>> > calls at the same time, the warning log will show an “excess”-message and
>> > the call will be delayed to ensure a minimum of 5ms between the calls..
>> > (and if no burst is set, it will be an error message in the log and an
>> > error will be returned to the client)
>> >
>> > We have set burst to 20 meaning, that when our client only sends 1 request
>> > at a time per connection, he will never get an error reply from nginx,
>> > instead nginx just delays the call. I conclude that this is by design.
>> Yes, the code counts average request rate, and if it sees two
>> requests with just 1ms between them the averate rate will be 1000
>> requests per second.  This is more than what is allowed, and hence
>> nginx will either delay the second request (unless configured with
>> "nodelay"), or will reject it if the configured burst size is
>> reached.
>> > The issue, however, is that a client using multiple connections naturally
>> > often wont be able to time the calls between each connection. And even
>> > though our burst has been set to 20, our log is spawned by warning-messages
>> > which I do not think should be a warning at all. There is a difference
>> > between sending 2 calls at the same time and sending a total of 201
>> > requests within a second, the latter being the only case I would expect to
>> > be logged as a warning.
>> If you are not happy with log levels used, you can easily tune
>> them using the limit_req_log_level directive.  See
>> for details.
>> Note well that given the use case description, you probably don't
>> need requests to be delayed at all, so consider using "limit_req
>> .. nodelay;".  It will avoid delaying logic altogether, thus
>> allowing as many requests as burst permits.
>> > Instead of calculating the throttling by simply looking at the last call
>> > time and calculate a minimum timespan between last call and current call, I
>> > would like the logic to be that nginx keeps a counter of the number of
>> > requests withing the current second, and when the second expires and a new
>> > seconds exists, the counter Is reset.
>> This approach is not scalable.  For example, it won't allow to
>> configure a limit of 1 request per minute.  Moreover, it can
>> easily allow more requests in a single second than configured -
>> for example, a client can do 200 requests at 0.999 and additional
>> 200 requests at 1.000.  According to your algorithm, this is
>> allowed, yet it 400 requests in just 2 milliseconds.
>> The current implementation is much more robust, and it can be
>> configured for various use cases.  In particular, if you want to
>> maintain limit of 200 requests per second and want to tolerate
>> cases when a client does all requests allowed within a second at
>> the same time, consider:
>>     limit_req_zone $binary_remote_addr zone=one:10m rate=200r/s;
>>     limit_req zone=one burst=200 nodelay;
>> This will switch off delays as already suggested above, and will
>> allow burst of up to 200 requests - that is, a client is allowed
>> to do all 200 requests when a second starts.  (If you really want
>> to allow the case with 400 requests in 2 milliseconds as described
>> above, consider using burst=400.)
>> --
>> Maxim Dounin
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