Posts Tagged ‘wait’

WordPress Plugins to monitor and debug WP enabled plugins – Find Errors / Warnings and Remove WP problematic plugins slowing down your Website (blog) database

Thursday, February 19th, 2015


Recent days, I'm spending a lot of time again trying to optimize my wordpress blog. Optimizing WP for better efficiency is becoming harder and harder task day by day as the website file content data is growing along with SQL databases. Moreover situation gets even worse because the number of plugins enabled on my blog is incrementally growing with time because, there is more and more goodies I'd like to add.
Optimizing WordPress to run for Speed on a server is a whole a lot of art and its a small universe in itself, because as of time of writting this post the count (number) of WordPress available PLUGINS is 36,197 ! 

1. Manually Tracking WordPress  Plugins causing Slow SQL Queries (MySQL bottleneck) issues directly using console / SSH

Because of its open source development and its nice modular design wordpress has turned into a standard for building small, middle sized and large websites (some WordPress based blogs and sites have from 50 000 to 100 000 unique pages!). My blog is still a small WordPress site with only 1676 posts, so I still haven't reached the high volume traffic optimization requirements but still even though I have a relatively good server hardware  8GB RAM / (2×2.70 Ghz Intel CPU) / 500 GB (7400 RPM HDD) at times I see Apache Webservers is unable to properly serve coming requests because of MySQL database (LEFT JOIN) requests being slow to serve (taking up to few seconds to complete) and creating a MySQL table lock, putting all the rest SQL queries to stay in a long unserved queues line, I've realized about this performance issue by using a a mysql cli (command) client and few commands and console command (tool) called mytop (also known as mtop). MyTop refreshes every 3 seconds, so the slow query will immediately stay on screen to view moer info about it press "f" and type the  in query ID.



Finally it is very useful to run  for a while MySQL server logging to /var/log/mysql/slow-query.log:
Slow query is enabled (on my Debian 7 Wheezy host) by adding to /etc/mysql/my.cnf
after conf section


vim /etc/mysql/my.cnf
# * Logging and Replication
# Both location gets rotated by the cronjob.
# Be aware that this log type is a performance killer.
# As of 5.1 you can enable the log at runtime!
#general_log_file        = /var/log/mysql/mysql.log
#general_log             = 1
# Error logging goes to syslog due to /etc/mysql/conf.d/mysqld_safe_syslog.cnf.
# Here you can see queries with especially long duration




slow_query_log = 1
slow_query_log_file = /var/log/mysql/slow-query.log
long_query_time = 2


And then to make new mysql configuration load restarted mysql server:


debian-server:~# /etc/init.d/mysql restart
Stopping MySQL database server: mysqld.
Starting MySQL database server: mysqld ..
Checking for tables which need an upgrade, are corrupt or were
not closed cleanly..


Leaving mysql-slow.log to be enabled for 30 minutes to an 1 hrs is a good time to track most problematic slow queries and based on this queries, I took parts of  SQL UPDATE / SELECT / INSERT etc. Db queries which was problematic and grepped throughout /var/www/blog/wp-content/plugin files in order to determine which WordPress Plugin is triggering the slow query, causing blog to hang when too many clients try to see it in browser.

My main problematic SQL query having long execution time  (about 2 to 3 seconds!!!) most commonly occuring in slow-query.log was:


SELECT DISTINCT post_title, ID, post_type, post_name FROM wp_posts wposts LEFT JOIN wp_postmeta wpostmeta ON wposts.ID = wpostmeta.post_id LEFT JOIN wp_term_relationships ON (wposts.ID = wp_term_relationships.object_id) LEFT JOIN wp_term_taxonomy ON (wp_term_relationships.term_taxonomy_id = wp_term_taxonomy.term_taxonomy_id) WHERE (post_type='page' OR (wp_term_taxonomy.taxonomy = 'category' AND wp_term_taxonomy.term_id IN(11))) AND post_status = 'publish' AND LENGTH(post_title)>=5 ORDER BY LENGTH(post_title) ASC LIMIT 500

Because above query uses SQL Column names and Tables which are not hard coded in PHP code, to find out which plugins is most probably to launch this complex LEFT JOIN query, I used a quick bash one-liner:


# cd /var/www/blog/wp-content/plugins


# for i in $(grep -rli 'SELECT DISTINCT' *); do grep -rli 'LEFT JOIN' $i; done 


I wanted to put less load on CPU during grep so looked for string only in .PHP extensioned files with:


 # for i in $(find . -iname '*.php' -exec grep -rli 'SELECT DISTINCT' '{}' \;); do grep -rli 'LEFT JOIN' $i; done

As you can see the complex query is being called from PHP file belonging to one of 3 plugins

  • SEO Automatic Links – this is SEO Smart Links WP plugin (Does internal bliog interlinking in order to boast SEA)
  • WP PostViews – WordPress Post Views plugin (Which allows me to show how many times an article was read in WP Widget menu)
  • Yet Another Related Posts – Which is WP plugin I installed / enabled to show Related posts down on each blog post

2. Basic way to optimize MySQL slow queries (EXPLAIN / SHOW CREATE TABLE)

Now as I have a basic clue on plugins locking my Database, I disabled them one by one while keeping enabled mysql slow query log and viewing queries in mytop and I figure out that actually all of the plugins were causing a short time overheat (lock) on server Database because of LEFT JOINs. Though I really like what this plugins are doing, as they boast SEO and attract prefer to disable them for now and have my blog all the time responsible light fast instead of having a little bit better Search Engine Optimization (Ranking) and loosing many of my visitors because they're annoyed to wait until my articles open

Before disabling I tried to optimize the queries using MySQL EXPLAIN command + SHOW CREATE TABLE (2 commands often used to debug slow SQL queries and find out whether a Column needs to have added INDEX-ing to boast MySQL query).

Just in case if you decide to give them a try here is example on how they're used to debug problematic SQL query:

  1. mysql> explain SELECT DISTINCT post_title, ID, post_type, post_name
  2.     -> FROM wp_posts wposts LEFT JOIN wp_postmeta wpostmeta
  3.     -> ON wposts.ID = wpostmeta.post_id LEFT JOIN wp_term_relationships
  4.     -> ON (wposts.ID = wp_term_relationships.object_id) LEFT JOIN wp_term_taxonomy
  5.     -> ON (wp_term_relationships.term_taxonomy_id = wp_term_taxonomy.term_taxonomy_id)
  6.     -> WHERE (post_type='page'
  7.     -> OR (wp_term_taxonomy.taxonomy = 'category'
  8.     -> AND wp_term_taxonomy.term_id IN(11,15,17)))
  9.     -> AND post_status = 'publish'
  10.     -> AND LENGTH(post_title)>=5
  11.     -> ORDER BY LENGTH(post_title) ASC
  12.     -> LIMIT 500;
  13. +—-+————-+———————–+——–+——————+———+———+———————————————+——+———————————————-+
  14. | id | select_type | table                 | type   | possible_keys    | key     | key_len | ref                                         | rows | Extra                                        |
  15. +—-+————-+———————–+——–+——————+———+———+———————————————+——+———————————————-+
  16. |  1 | SIMPLE      | wposts                | ALL    | type_status_date | NULL    | NULL    | NULL                                        | 1715 | Using where; Using temporary; Using filesort |
  17. |  1 | SIMPLE      | wpostmeta             | ref    | post_id          | post_id | 8       | blog.wposts.ID                              |   11 | Using index; Distinct                        |
  18. |  1 | SIMPLE      | wp_term_relationships | ref    | PRIMARY          | PRIMARY | 8       | blog.wposts.ID                              |   19 | Using index; Distinct                        |
  19. |  1 | SIMPLE      | wp_term_taxonomy      | eq_ref | PRIMARY          | PRIMARY | 8       | blog.wp_term_relationships.term_taxonomy_id |    1 | Using where; Distinct                        |
  20. +—-+————-+———————–+——–+——————+———+———+———————————————+——+———————————————-+
  21. 4 rows in set (0.02 sec)
  23. mysql>



  1. mysql> show create table wp_posts;
  2. +———-+————————–+
  3. | Table    | Create Table                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 |
  4. +———-+————————–+
  5. | wp_posts | CREATE TABLE `wp_posts` (
  6.   `ID` bigint(20) unsigned NOT NULL AUTO_INCREMENT,
  7.   `post_author` bigint(20) unsigned NOT NULL DEFAULT '0',
  8.   `post_date` datetime NOT NULL DEFAULT '0000-00-00 00:00:00',
  9.   `post_date_gmt` datetime NOT NULL DEFAULT '0000-00-00 00:00:00',
  10.   `post_content` longtext NOT NULL,
  11.   `post_title` text NOT NULL,
  12.   `post_excerpt` text NOT NULL,
  13.   `post_status` varchar(20) NOT NULL DEFAULT 'publish',
  14.   `comment_status` varchar(20) NOT NULL DEFAULT 'open',
  15.   `ping_status` varchar(20) NOT NULL DEFAULT 'open',
  16.   `post_password` varchar(20) NOT NULL DEFAULT '',
  17.   `post_name` varchar(200) NOT NULL DEFAULT '',
  18.   `to_ping` text NOT NULL,
  19.   `pinged` text NOT NULL,
  20.   `post_modified` datetime NOT NULL DEFAULT '0000-00-00 00:00:00',
  21.   `post_modified_gmt` datetime NOT NULL DEFAULT '0000-00-00 00:00:00',
  22.   `post_content_filtered` longtext NOT NULL,
  23.   `post_parent` bigint(20) unsigned NOT NULL DEFAULT '0',
  24.   `guid` varchar(255) NOT NULL DEFAULT '',
  25.   `menu_order` int(11) NOT NULL DEFAULT '0',
  26.   `post_type` varchar(20) NOT NULL DEFAULT 'post',
  27.   `post_mime_type` varchar(100) NOT NULL DEFAULT '',
  28.   `comment_count` bigint(20) NOT NULL DEFAULT '0',
  29.   PRIMARY KEY (`ID`),
  30.   KEY `post_name` (`post_name`),
  31.   KEY `type_status_date` (`post_type`,`post_status`,`post_date`,`ID`),
  32.   KEY `post_parent` (`post_parent`),
  33.   KEY `post_author` (`post_author`),
  34.   FULLTEXT KEY `post_related` (`post_title`,`post_content`)
  36. +———-+———————-+
  37. 1 row in set (0.00 sec)
  39. mysql>

By the way above output is a paste from the the new PasteBin Open Source (Stikked powered) service I started on – ( 🙂

Before I took final decision to disable slow WP plugins, I've experimented a bit trying to add INDEX to Table Column (wposts) in hope that this would speed up SQL queries with:




But this didn't improve query speed even on the contrary it make execution time worse.

3. Tracking WordPress Plugin PHP Code Execution time and Plugins causing Slow SQL Queries (MySQL bottleneck) issues through WP itself

Well fine, I'm running my own hosted Blog and WordPress sites, but for people who have wordpress sites on shared hosting, there is usually no SSH (Terminal) Access to server, those people will be happy to hear there are 2 Free easy installable WordPress plugins which can be used to Debug Slow WordPress Plugins SQL Queries as well as plugin to Track which plugin takes most time to execute, this are:


a) P3 Plugin Performance Profiler  

runs a scan over your site to determine what resources your plugins are using, and when, during a standard page request. P3 PPP Can even create reports in a beatiful Excel like Pie chart sheet.


Another useful thing to see with P3 PPP is Detailed Timeline it shows when the plugins are being loaded during new page request so you can see if there is a certain sequence in time when a plugin slows down the website.


The pictures says it all as P3 PPP is Godaddy's work, congrats to GoDaddy, they've done great job.


b) WordPress memory Viewer WP plugins

Is useful to check how much memory each of WordPress plugin is taking on user (visitor) request.
Memory Viewer is allows you to view WordPress’ memory utilization at several hooks during WordPress’ execution. It also shows a summary of MySQL Queries that have ran as well as CPU time.
To use it download it to plugins/ folder as usual enable it from:

Installed Plugins -> (Inactive) -> Memory Viewer (Enable)

To see statistics from Memory Viewer open any post from your blog website and scroll down to the bottom you will notice the statistics, showing up there, like on below screenshot.


Though WP Memory Viewer is said to work only up to WP version 3.2.1, I've tested it and it works fine on my latest stable WordPress 4.1 based blog.

c) WordPress Query Monitor


Query Monitor is a debugging plugin for anyone developing with WordPress but also very helpful for anyone who want to track issues with plugins who use the database unefficient.
It has some advanced features not available in other debugging plugins, including automatic AJAX debugging and the ability to narrow down things by plugin or theme.
You can view plenty of precious statistics on how enabled plugins query the database server, here is a short overview on its Database Queries capabilities:

  • Shows all database queries performed on the current page
  • Shows affected rows and time for all queries
  • Show notifications for slow queries and queries with errors
  • Filter queries by query type (SELECT, UPDATE, DELETE, etc)
  • Filter queries by component (WordPress core, Plugin X, Plugin Y, theme)
  • Filter queries by calling function
  • View aggregate query information grouped by component, calling function, and type
  • Super advanced: Supports multiple instances of wpdb on one page
  • Once enabled from Plugins you will see it appear as a new menu on bottom Admin raw.

An important note to make here is latest Query Monitor extension fails when loaded on current latest Wordpress 4.1, to use it you will have to download and useolder Query Monitor plugin version 2.6.8 you can download it from here

d) Debug Bar

If you want you want a Memory Viewer like plugin for more complex used components memory debugging, reporting if (WP_DEBUG is set in wp-config.php) also check out Debug Bar .
For me Debug Bar was very useful because it show me depreciated functions some plugins used, so I substituted the obsoleted function with new one.



4. Server Hardware hungry (slow) WordPress plugins that you better not use

While spending time to Google for some fixes to WP slow query plugins – I've stumbled upon this post giving a good list with WordPress Plugins better off not to use because they will slow down your site
This is a publicly well known list of WP plugins every WordPress based site adminstrator should avoid, but until today I didn't know so my assumption is you don't know either ..

Below plugins are extremely database intensive mentioned in article that we should better (in all cases!) avoid:

  • Dynamic Related Posts
  • SEO Auto Links & Related Posts
  • Yet Another Related Posts Plugin
  • Similar Posts
  • Contextual Related Posts
  • Broken Link Checker — Overwhelms even our robust caching layer with an inordinate amount of HTTP requests.
  • MyReviewPlugin — Slams the database with a fairly significant amount of writes.
  • LinkMan — Much like the MyReviewPlugin above, LinkMan utilizes an unscalable amount of database writes.
  • Fuzzy SEO Booster — Causes MySQL issues as a site becomes more popular.
  • WP PostViews — Inefficiently writes to the database on every page load. To track traffic in a more scalable manner, both the stats module in Automattic’s Jetpack plugin and Google Analytics work wonderfully.
  • Tweet Blender — Does not play nicely with our caching layer and can cause increased server load.

A good Complete list of known WordPress slow plugins that will hammer down your wordpress performance is here

There are few alternatives to this plugins and when I have some free time I will download and test their alternatives but for now I plan the plugins to stay disabled.

For the absolute WP Performance Optimization Freaks, its good to check out the native way to Debug a wordpress installation through using few embedded


define('WP_DEBUG', true);
define('WP_DEBUG', false);
define('WP_DEBUG_LOG', true);
define('WP_DEBUG_DISPLAY', false);
define('SAVEQUERIES', true);


An article describing how you can use native WP debug variables is here

Happy Optimizing  ! 🙂

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Mysql: How to disable single database without dropping or renaming it

Wednesday, January 22nd, 2014

mysql rename forbid disable database howto logo, how to disable single database without dropping it
A colleague of mine working on MySQL database asked me How it is possible to disable a MySQL database. He is in situation where the client has 2 databases and application and is not sure which of the two databases the application uses. Therefore the client asked one of the database is disabled and wait for few hours and see if something will break / stop working and in that way determine which of the two database is used by application.

My first guess was to backup both databases and drop one of them, then if it is the wrong one to restore from the SQL dump backup, however this wasn't acceptable solution. So second I though of RENAME of database to another one and then reverting the name, however as it is written in MySQL documentation RENAME database function was removed from MySQL (found to be dangerous) since version 5.1.23 onwards. Anyhow there is a quick hack to rename mysql database using a for loop shell script one below:

mysql -e "CREATE DATABASE \`new_database\`;"
for table in `mysql -B -N -e "SHOW TABLES;" old_database`
  mysql -e "RENAME TABLE \`old_database\`.\`$table\` to \`new_database\`.\`$table\`"
  mysql -e "DROP DATABASE \`old_database\`;"

Other possible solution was to change permissions of Application used username, however this was also complicated from mysql cli, hence I thought of installing and using PHPMyAdmin to make modify of db user permissions easier but on this server there wasn't Apache installed and MySQL is behind a firewall and only accessible via java tomcat host.

Finally after some pondering what can be done I came with solution to request to disable mysql database using chmod in /var/lib/mysql/data/, i.e.:

sql-server:~# chmod 0 /var/lib/mysql/databasename

Where databasename is the same as the database is named listable via mysql cli.

After doing it that way with no need to restart MySQL server database stopped to appear in show databases; and client confirmed that disabled database is no longer needed so we proceeded dropping it.

Hope this little article will help someone out there. Cheers :

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Enabling talkd (Console Chat) between logged in users on FreeBSD and other BSDs

Sunday, June 10th, 2012

Talk between two useres on  FreeBSD 7.2 screenshot, console peer to peer interactive talk program UNIX, Linux, BSD

Those who are in familiar with older UNIXes, UNIX BSD derivatives and GNU Linux should certainly remember the times, when we hackers used to talk to each other using talk service.

Those who don't know what talk command is it is a simple console / ssh utility to talk to another logged in users.

Talk is very similar to write and mesg one liner messasing utilities available for *nixes, the difference is it is intendted to provide interactive chat between the two logged in users. People who came to know UNIX or free software in older times most likely don't know talk, however I still remember how precious this tool was for communication back in the day.

I believe still it can be useful so I dediced to install ot on one FreeBSD host.

In order to have the talk service running on BSD it is necessery to have /usr/libexec/ntalkd installed on the system this however is installed by default with standard BSD OS installs, so no need for any external ports install to run it.

talk doesn't have it's own init script to start is not written to run as it own service but in order to run it is is necessery to enable it via inetd

Enabling it is done by;;;

1 — Editting /etc/inetd.conf

Inside the conf the line::

#ntalk dgram udp wait tty:tty /usr/libexec/ntalkd ntalkd

should be uncommented e.g, become ;;;

ntalk dgram udp wait tty:tty /usr/libexec/ntalkd ntalkd

2 — Restart inetd

freebsd# /etc/rc.d/inetd restart
Stopping inetd.
Starting inetd.

talk is planned to be used for peer to peer conversations over SSH so in a way it is the GRANDFATHER 🙂 of IRC, ICQ and Skype;;;

Here is an example on how talk is used ,, Let's say there are three logged in users

pcfreak# w
12:39PM up 3 days, 16:25, 3 users, load averages: 1.12, 0.91, 0.71
testuser p0 10:50AM - bash
hipo p3 12:23PM - w
root p4 :ttyp2:S.0 12:24PM - vim /usr/local/www/dat

I'm logged in with my username hipo and I would like to talk to testuser ;;;;

pcfreak% tty

You see I'm logged in on /dev/ttyp3 (this is the specific naming on BSDs) on Linux equivalent is /dev/tty3So to talk the other user testuser;;;;;-

$ talk testuser ttyp0
[No connection yet]
[Waiting for your party to respond]

The testuser logged in via SSH will then get a message ||;

Message from Talk_Daemon@pcfreak at 12:44 on 2012/06/10 ...
talk: connection requested by hipo@localhost
talk: respond with: talk hipo@localhost

To enter a talk session then the logged in testuser has to type:

$ talk hipo@localhost


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Don’t revoke GoDaddy SSL certificate. (Expired) Revoked SSL is impossible to revert

Thursday, April 12th, 2012

One of our company SSL (https) Certificates recently expired so I needed to renew the SSL certificate.

I was in a hurry doing plenty of other stuffs so it seemed logical for me to Revoke the Certificate. I thought revoking the certificate will simply cancel it and afterwards, in Godaddy's SSL (Manager Certificates) interface the Revoked – Cancelled certificate will re-appear in the menu, ready to be generated in the same way as earlier I initially generated the Godaddy's bought SSL certificate

Hence I proceeded and used Revoke button:

Godaddy SSL certificate manager browser certificate Screenshot

Well guess what my calculations, were wrong.
 Revoking, just cancel it. The  revoked domain SSL certificate did not show up again in Godaddy's Cert Manager and I have no way from their interface to revert the changes.

To deal with the situation, I contacted Godaddy Support immediately with the following inquiry:

Other : Revoked SSL Certificate
Issue :
Hello we have revoked the SSL certificate for our domain
 Can we revert back the certificate as it was.
If not how to generate a new key for our domain
Thanks in Advance.
Kindest Regards

"My-Company-name" Tech Support

In 5 hours time I received the following tech support answer:

Dear Tech Support,

Thank you for contacting Online Support. It is not possible to reinstate a canceled certificate. You will need to purchase a new certificate. I have requested that a refund be applied to your account. Once the credit appears in your account, please allow 5-7 business days to see the funds applied to the associated payment method. Thank you for your patience and understanding in this matter.

Please let us know if we can help you in any other way.


Christian P.
Online Support Team
Customer Inquiry
Name : Cadia Tech Support
Domain Name :
ShopperID : xxxxxxxxx
Phone : xxxxxxxx
Shopper Validated : Yes
Browser : Mozilla/5.0 (Windows; U; Windows NT 6.1; en-US; rv: Gecko/20100401 Firefox/3.6.3

Apparently Godaddy, can work out a bit on their tech support answering time 5 hours for a simple reply is quite long.

Now taking in consideration, above reply from Godady, my only options are to either wait for 5 to 7 (business days) or buy a new credit for SSL certificate.

Buying a new credit will probably not happen as our company is experiencing some financial troubles because of the crisis. So I guess we will have to wait for this 7 days at worst. So again if you wonder to REVOKE or not an SSL certificate. Think again …

Just a small note to make here, that Godaddy has a very straight forward way to just renew an expered certificate, which I succesfully later have done for 4 domains. Well, if only I knew earlier what REVOKE SSL cert really does I wouldn't have ended in this mess …

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Resolving “nf_conntrack: table full, dropping packet.” flood message in dmesg Linux kernel log

Wednesday, March 28th, 2012

On many busy servers, you might encounter in /var/log/syslog or dmesg kernel log messages like

nf_conntrack: table full, dropping packet

to appear repeatingly:

[1737157.057528] nf_conntrack: table full, dropping packet.
[1737157.160357] nf_conntrack: table full, dropping packet.
[1737157.260534] nf_conntrack: table full, dropping packet.
[1737157.361837] nf_conntrack: table full, dropping packet.
[1737157.462305] nf_conntrack: table full, dropping packet.
[1737157.564270] nf_conntrack: table full, dropping packet.
[1737157.666836] nf_conntrack: table full, dropping packet.
[1737157.767348] nf_conntrack: table full, dropping packet.
[1737157.868338] nf_conntrack: table full, dropping packet.
[1737157.969828] nf_conntrack: table full, dropping packet.
[1737157.969928] nf_conntrack: table full, dropping packet
[1737157.989828] nf_conntrack: table full, dropping packet
[1737162.214084] __ratelimit: 83 callbacks suppressed

There are two type of servers, I've encountered this message on:

1. Xen OpenVZ / VPS (Virtual Private Servers)
2. ISPs – Internet Providers with heavy traffic NAT network routers

I. What is the meaning of nf_conntrack: table full dropping packet error message

In short, this message is received because the nf_conntrack kernel maximum number assigned value gets reached.
The common reason for that is a heavy traffic passing by the server or very often a DoS or DDoS (Distributed Denial of Service) attack. Sometimes encountering the err is a result of a bad server planning (incorrect data about expected traffic load by a company/companeis) or simply a sys admin error…

– Checking the current maximum nf_conntrack value assigned on host:

linux:~# cat /proc/sys/net/ipv4/netfilter/ip_conntrack_max

– Alternative way to check the current kernel values for nf_conntrack is through:

linux:~# /sbin/sysctl -a|grep -i nf_conntrack_max
error: permission denied on key 'net.ipv4.route.flush'
net.netfilter.nf_conntrack_max = 65536
error: permission denied on key 'net.ipv6.route.flush'
net.nf_conntrack_max = 65536

– Check the current sysctl nf_conntrack active connections

To check present connection tracking opened on a system:


linux:~# /sbin/sysctl net.netfilter.nf_conntrack_count
net.netfilter.nf_conntrack_count = 12742

The shown connections are assigned dynamicly on each new succesful TCP / IP NAT-ted connection. Btw, on a systems that work normally without the dmesg log being flooded with the message, the output of lsmod is:

linux:~# /sbin/lsmod | egrep 'ip_tables|conntrack'
ip_tables 9899 1 iptable_filter
x_tables 14175 1 ip_tables

On servers which are encountering nf_conntrack: table full, dropping packet error, you can see, when issuing lsmod, extra modules related to nf_conntrack are shown as loaded:

linux:~# /sbin/lsmod | egrep 'ip_tables|conntrack'
nf_conntrack_ipv4 10346 3 iptable_nat,nf_nat
nf_conntrack 60975 4 ipt_MASQUERADE,iptable_nat,nf_nat,nf_conntrack_ipv4
nf_defrag_ipv4 1073 1 nf_conntrack_ipv4
ip_tables 9899 2 iptable_nat,iptable_filter
x_tables 14175 3 ipt_MASQUERADE,iptable_nat,ip_tables


II. Remove completely nf_conntrack support if it is not really necessery

It is a good practice to limit or try to omit completely use of any iptables NAT rules to prevent yourself from ending with flooding your kernel log with the messages and respectively stop your system from dropping connections.

Another option is to completely remove any modules related to nf_conntrack, iptables_nat and nf_nat.
To remove nf_conntrack support from the Linux kernel, if for instance the system is not used for Network Address Translation use:

/sbin/rmmod iptable_nat
/sbin/rmmod ipt_MASQUERADE
/sbin/rmmod rmmod nf_nat
/sbin/rmmod rmmod nf_conntrack_ipv4
/sbin/rmmod nf_conntrack
/sbin/rmmod nf_defrag_ipv4

Once the modules are removed, be sure to not use iptables -t nat .. rules. Even attempt to list, if there are any NAT related rules with iptables -t nat -L -n will force the kernel to load the nf_conntrack modules again.

Btw nf_conntrack: table full, dropping packet. message is observable across all GNU / Linux distributions, so this is not some kind of local distribution bug or Linux kernel (distro) customization.

III. Fixing the nf_conntrack … dropping packets error

– One temporary, fix if you need to keep your iptables NAT rules is:

linux:~# sysctl -w net.netfilter.nf_conntrack_max=131072

I say temporary, because raising the nf_conntrack_max doesn't guarantee, things will get smoothly from now on.
However on many not so heavily traffic loaded servers just raising the net.netfilter.nf_conntrack_max=131072 to a high enough value will be enough to resolve the hassle.

– Increasing the size of nf_conntrack hash-table

The Hash table hashsize value, which stores lists of conntrack-entries should be increased propertionally, whenever net.netfilter.nf_conntrack_max is raised.

linux:~# echo 32768 > /sys/module/nf_conntrack/parameters/hashsize
The rule to calculate the right value to set is:
hashsize = nf_conntrack_max / 4

– To permanently store the made changes ;a) put into /etc/sysctl.conf:

linux:~# echo 'net.netfilter.nf_conntrack_count = 131072' >> /etc/sysctl.conf
linux:~# /sbin/sysct -p

b) put in /etc/rc.local (before the exit 0 line):

echo 32768 > /sys/module/nf_conntrack/parameters/hashsize

Note: Be careful with this variable, according to my experience raising it to too high value (especially on XEN patched kernels) could freeze the system.
Also raising the value to a too high number can freeze a regular Linux server running on old hardware.

– For the diagnosis of nf_conntrack stuff there is ;

/proc/sys/net/netfilter kernel memory stored directory. There you can find some values dynamically stored which gives info concerning nf_conntrack operations in "real time":

linux:~# cd /proc/sys/net/netfilter
linux:/proc/sys/net/netfilter# ls -al nf_log/

total 0
dr-xr-xr-x 0 root root 0 Mar 23 23:02 ./
dr-xr-xr-x 0 root root 0 Mar 23 23:02 ../
-rw-r--r-- 1 root root 0 Mar 23 23:02 0
-rw-r--r-- 1 root root 0 Mar 23 23:02 1
-rw-r--r-- 1 root root 0 Mar 23 23:02 10
-rw-r--r-- 1 root root 0 Mar 23 23:02 11
-rw-r--r-- 1 root root 0 Mar 23 23:02 12
-rw-r--r-- 1 root root 0 Mar 23 23:02 2
-rw-r--r-- 1 root root 0 Mar 23 23:02 3
-rw-r--r-- 1 root root 0 Mar 23 23:02 4
-rw-r--r-- 1 root root 0 Mar 23 23:02 5
-rw-r--r-- 1 root root 0 Mar 23 23:02 6
-rw-r--r-- 1 root root 0 Mar 23 23:02 7
-rw-r--r-- 1 root root 0 Mar 23 23:02 8
-rw-r--r-- 1 root root 0 Mar 23 23:02 9


IV. Decreasing other nf_conntrack NAT time-out values to prevent server against DoS attacks

Generally, the default value for nf_conntrack_* time-outs are (unnecessery) large.
Therefore, for large flows of traffic even if you increase nf_conntrack_max, still shorty you can get a nf_conntrack overflow table resulting in dropping server connections. To make this not happen, check and decrease the other nf_conntrack timeout connection tracking values:

linux:~# sysctl -a | grep conntrack | grep timeout
net.netfilter.nf_conntrack_generic_timeout = 600
net.netfilter.nf_conntrack_tcp_timeout_syn_sent = 120
net.netfilter.nf_conntrack_tcp_timeout_syn_recv = 60
net.netfilter.nf_conntrack_tcp_timeout_established = 432000
net.netfilter.nf_conntrack_tcp_timeout_fin_wait = 120
net.netfilter.nf_conntrack_tcp_timeout_close_wait = 60
net.netfilter.nf_conntrack_tcp_timeout_last_ack = 30
net.netfilter.nf_conntrack_tcp_timeout_time_wait = 120
net.netfilter.nf_conntrack_tcp_timeout_close = 10
net.netfilter.nf_conntrack_tcp_timeout_max_retrans = 300
net.netfilter.nf_conntrack_tcp_timeout_unacknowledged = 300
net.netfilter.nf_conntrack_udp_timeout = 30
net.netfilter.nf_conntrack_udp_timeout_stream = 180
net.netfilter.nf_conntrack_icmp_timeout = 30
net.netfilter.nf_conntrack_events_retry_timeout = 15
net.ipv4.netfilter.ip_conntrack_generic_timeout = 600
net.ipv4.netfilter.ip_conntrack_tcp_timeout_syn_sent = 120
net.ipv4.netfilter.ip_conntrack_tcp_timeout_syn_sent2 = 120
net.ipv4.netfilter.ip_conntrack_tcp_timeout_syn_recv = 60
net.ipv4.netfilter.ip_conntrack_tcp_timeout_established = 432000
net.ipv4.netfilter.ip_conntrack_tcp_timeout_fin_wait = 120
net.ipv4.netfilter.ip_conntrack_tcp_timeout_close_wait = 60
net.ipv4.netfilter.ip_conntrack_tcp_timeout_last_ack = 30
net.ipv4.netfilter.ip_conntrack_tcp_timeout_time_wait = 120
net.ipv4.netfilter.ip_conntrack_tcp_timeout_close = 10
net.ipv4.netfilter.ip_conntrack_tcp_timeout_max_retrans = 300
net.ipv4.netfilter.ip_conntrack_udp_timeout = 30
net.ipv4.netfilter.ip_conntrack_udp_timeout_stream = 180
net.ipv4.netfilter.ip_conntrack_icmp_timeout = 30

All the timeouts are in seconds. net.netfilter.nf_conntrack_generic_timeout as you see is quite high – 600 secs = (10 minutes).
This kind of value means any NAT-ted connection not responding can stay hanging for 10 minutes!

The value net.netfilter.nf_conntrack_tcp_timeout_established = 432000 is quite high too (5 days!)
If this values, are not lowered the server will be an easy target for anyone who would like to flood it with excessive connections, once this happens the server will quick reach even the raised up value for net.nf_conntrack_max and the initial connection dropping will re-occur again …

With all said, to prevent the server from malicious users, situated behind the NAT plaguing you with Denial of Service attacks:

Lower net.ipv4.netfilter.ip_conntrack_generic_timeout to 60 – 120 seconds and net.ipv4.netfilter.ip_conntrack_tcp_timeout_established to stmh. like 54000

linux:~# sysctl -w net.ipv4.netfilter.ip_conntrack_generic_timeout = 120
linux:~# sysctl -w net.ipv4.netfilter.ip_conntrack_tcp_timeout_established = 54000

This timeout should work fine on the router without creating interruptions for regular NAT users. After changing the values and monitoring for at least few days make the changes permanent by adding them to /etc/sysctl.conf

linux:~# echo 'net.ipv4.netfilter.ip_conntrack_generic_timeout = 120' >> /etc/sysctl.conf
linux:~# echo 'net.ipv4.netfilter.ip_conntrack_tcp_timeout_established = 54000' >> /etc/sysctl.conf

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Tracking I/O hard disk server bottlenecks with iostat on GNU / Linux and FreeBSD

Tuesday, March 27th, 2012

Hard disk overhead tracking on Linux and FreeBSD with iostat

I've earlier wrote an article How to find which processes are causing hard disk i/o overhead on Linux there I explained very rawly few tools which can be used to benchmark hard disk read / write operations. My prior article accent was on iotop and dstat and it just mentioned of iostat. Therefore I've wrote this short article in attempt to explain a bit more thoroughfully on how iostat can be used to track problems with excessive server I/O read/writes.

Here is the command man page description;
iostatReport Central Processing Unit (CPU) statistics and input/output statistics for devices, partitions and network filesystems

I will further proceed with few words on how iostat can be installed on various Linux distros, then point at few most common scenarious of use and a short explanation on the meaning of each of the command outputs.

1. Installing iostat on Linux

iostat is a swiss army knife of finding a server hard disk bottlenecks. Though it is a must have tool in the admin outfut, most of Linux distributions will not have iostat installed by default.
To have it on your server, you will need to install sysstat package:

a) On Debian / Ubuntu and other Debian GNU / Linux derivatives to install sysstat:

debian:~# apt-get --yes install sysstat

b) On Fedora, CentOS, RHEL etc. install is with yum:

[root@centos ~]# yum -y install sysstat

c) On Slackware Linux sysstat package which contains iostat is installed by default. 

d) In FreeBSD, there is no need for installation of any external package as iostat is part of the BSD world (bundle commands).
I should mention bsd iostat and Linux's iostat commands are not the same and hence there use to track down hard disk bottlenecks differs a bit, however the general logic of use is very similar as with most tools in BSD and Linux.

2. Checking a server hard disk for i/o disk bottlenecks on G* / Linux

Once having the sysstat installed on G* / Linux systems, the iostat command will be added in /usr/bin/iostat
a) To check what is the hard disk read writes per second (in megabytes) use:

debian:~# /usr/bin/iostat -m
Linux 2.6.32-5-amd64 (debian) 03/27/2012 _x86_64_ (8 CPU)
avg-cpu: %user %nice %system %iowait %steal %idle
15.34 0.36 2.76 2.66 0.00 78.88
Device: tps MB_read/s MB_wrtn/s MB_read MB_wrtn
sda 63.89 0.48 8.20 6730223 115541235
sdb 64.12 0.44 8.23 6244683 116039483
md0 2118.70 0.22 8.19 3041643 115528074

In the above output the server, where I issue the command is using sda and sdb configured in software RAID 1 array visible in the output as (md0)

The output of iostat should already be easily to read, for anyone who didn't used the tool here is a few lines explanation of the columns:

The %user 15.34 meaning is that 15.34 out of 100% possible i/o load is generad by system level read/write operations.
%nice – >Show the percentage of CPU utilization that occurred while executing at the user level with nice priority.
%iowait – just like the top command idle it shows the idle time when the system didn't have an outstanding disk I/O requests.
%steal – show percentage in time spent in time wait of CPU or virtual CPUs to service another virtual processor (high numbers of disk is sure sign for i/o problem).
%idle – almost the same as meaning to %iowait
tps – HDD transactions per second
MB_read/s (column) – shows the actual Disk reads in Mbytes at the time of issuing iostat
MB_wrtn/s – displays the writes p/s at the time of iostat invocation
MB_read – shows the hard disk read operations in megabytes, since the server boot 'till moment of invocation of iostat
MB_wrtn – gives the number of Megabytes written on HDD since the last server boot filesystem mount

The reason why the Read / Write values for sda and sdb are similar in this example output is because my disks are configured in software RAID1 (mirror)

The above iostat output reveals in my specific case the server is experiencing mostly Disk writes (observable in the high MB_wrtn/s 8.19 md0 in the above sample output).

It also reveals, the I/O reads experienced on that server hard disk are mostly generated as a system (user level load) – see (%user 15.34 and md0 2118.70).

For all those not familiar with system also called user / level load, this is all kind of load which is generated by running programs on the server – (any kind of load not generated by the Linux kernel or loaded kernel modules).

b) To periodically keep an eye on HDD i/o operations with iostat, there are two ways:

– Use watch in conjunction with iostat;

[root@centos ~]# watch "/usr/bin/iostat -m"
Every 2.0s: iostat -m Tue Mar 27 11:00:30 2012
Linux 2.6.32-5-amd64 (centos) 03/27/2012 _x86_64_ (8 CPU)
avg-cpu: %user %nice %system %iowait %steal %idle
15.34 0.36 2.76 2.66 0.00 78.88
Device: tps MB_read/s MB_wrtn/s MB_read MB_wrtn
sda 63.89 0.48 8.20 6730255 115574152
sdb 64.12 0.44 8.23 6244718 116072400
md0 2118.94 0.22 8.20 3041710 115560990
Device: tps MB_read/s MB_wrtn/s MB_read MB_wrtn
sda 55.00 0.01 25.75 0 51
sdb 52.50 0.00 24.75 0 49
md0 34661.00 0.01 135.38 0 270

Even though watch use and -d might appear like identical, they're not watch does refresh the screen, executing instruction similar to the clear command which clears screen on every 2 seconds, so the output looks like the top command refresh, while passing the -d 2 will output the iostat command output on every 2 secs in a row so all the data is visualized on the screen. Hence -d 2 in cases, where more thorough debug is necessery is better. However for a quick routine view watch + iostat is great too.

c) Outputting extra information for HDD input/output operations;

root@debian:~# iostat -x
Linux 2.6.32-5-amd64 (debian) 03/27/2012 _x86_64_ (8 CPU)
avg-cpu: %user %nice %system %iowait %steal %idle
15.34 0.36 2.76 2.66 0.00 78.88
Device: rrqm/s wrqm/s r/s w/s rsec/s wsec/s avgrq-sz avgqu-sz await svctm %util
sda 4.22 2047.33 12.01 51.88 977.44 16785.96 278.03 0.28 4.35 3.87 24.72
sdb 3.80 2047.61 11.97 52.15 906.93 16858.32 277.05 0.03 5.25 3.87 24.84
md0 0.00 0.00 20.72 2098.28 441.75 16784.05 8.13 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00

This command will output extended useful Hard Disk info like;
r/s – number of read requests issued per second
w/s – number of write requests issued per second
rsec/s – numbers of sector reads per second
b>wsec/s – number of sectors wrote per second
etc. etc.

Most of ppl will never need to use this, but it is good to know it exists.

3. Tracking read / write (i/o) hard disk bottlenecks on FreeBSD

BSD's iostat is a bit different in terms of output and arguments.

a) Here is most basic use:

freebsd# /usr/sbin/iostat
tty ad0 cpu
tin tout KB/t tps MB/s us ni sy in id
1 561 45.18 44 1.95 14 0 5 0 82

b) Periodic watch of hdd i/o operations;

freebsd# iostat -c 10
tty ad0 cpu
tin tout KB/t tps MB/s us ni sy in id
1 562 45.19 44 1.95 14 0 5 0 82
0 307 51.96 113 5.73 44 0 24 0 32
0 234 58.12 98 5.56 16 0 7 0 77
0 43 0.00 0 0.00 1 0 0 0 99
0 485 0.00 0 0.00 2 0 0 0 98
0 43 0.00 0 0.00 0 0 1 0 99
0 43 0.00 0 0.00 0 0 0 0 100

As you see in the output, there is information like in the columns tty, tin, tout which is a bit hard to comprehend.
Thanksfully the tool has an option to print out only more essential i/o information:

freebsd# iostat -d -c 10
KB/t tps MB/s
45.19 44 1.95
58.12 97 5.52
54.81 108 5.78
0.00 0 0.00
0.00 0 0.00
0.00 0 0.00
20.48 25 0.50

The output info is quite self-explanatory.

Displaying a number of iostat values for hard disk reads can be also achieved by omitting -c option with:

freebsd# iostat -d 1 10

Tracking a specific hard disk partiotion with iostat is done with:

freebsd# iostat -n /dev/ad0s1a
tty cpu
tin tout us ni sy in id
1 577 14 0 5 0 81
c) Getting Hard disk read/write information with gstat

gstat is a FreeBSD tool to print statistics for GEOM disks. Its default behaviour is to refresh the screen in a similar fashion like top command, so its great for people who would like to periodically check all attached system hard disk and storage devices:

freebsd# gstat
dT: 1.002s w: 1.000s
L(q) ops/s r/s kBps ms/r w/s kBps ms/w %busy Name
0 10 0 0 0.0 10 260 2.6 15.6| ad0
0 10 0 0 0.0 10 260 2.6 11.4| ad0s1
0 10 0 0 0.0 10 260 2.8 12.5| ad0s1a
0 0 0 0 0.0 0 0 0.0 20.0| ad0s1b
0 0 0 0 0.0 0 0 0.0 0.0| ad0s1c
0 0 0 0 0.0 0 0 0.0 0.0| ad0s1d
0 0 0 0 0.0 0 0 0.0 0.0| ad0s1e
0 0 0 0 0.0 0 0 0.0 0.0| acd0

It even has colors if your tty supports colors 🙂

Another useful tool in debugging the culprit of excessive hdd I/O operations is procstat command:

Here is a sample procstat run to track (httpd) one of my processes imposing i/o hdd load:

freebsd# procstat -f 50404
50404 httpd cwd v d -------- - - - /
50404 httpd root v d -------- - - - /
50404 httpd 0 v c r------- 56 0 - -
50404 httpd 1 v c -w------ 56 0 - -
50404 httpd 2 v r -wa----- 56 75581 - /var/log/httpd-error.log
50404 httpd 3 s - rw------ 105 0 TCP ::.80 ::.0
50404 httpd 4 p - rw---n-- 56 0 - -
50404 httpd 5 p - rw------ 56 0 - -
50404 httpd 6 v r -wa----- 56 25161132 - /var/log/httpd-access.log
50404 httpd 7 v r rw------ 56 0 - /tmp/apr8QUOUW
50404 httpd 8 v r -w------ 56 0 - /var/run/accept.lock.49588
50404 httpd 9 v r -w------ 1 0 - /var/run/accept.lock.49588
50404 httpd 10 v r -w------ 1 0 - /tmp/apr8QUOUW
50404 httpd 11 ? - -------- 2 0 - -

Btw fstat is sometimes helpful in identifying the number of open files and trying to estimate which ones are putting the hdd load.
Hope this info helps someone. If you know better ways to track hdd excessive loads on Linux / BSD pls share 'em pls.

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