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Help! Puppetd Is Eating My Server!

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This seems to be recurrent this last 3 or 4 days with a few #puppet, redmine or puppet-user requests, asking about why puppetd is consuming so much CPU and/or memory.

While I don’t have a definitive answer about why it could happen (hey all software components have bugs), I think it is important to at least know how to see what happens. I even include some common issues I myself have observed.

Know your puppetd

I mean, know what is puppetd doing. That’s easy, disable puppetd on the host where you have an issue, and try to run it manually in debug mode. I’m really astonished that almost nobody tries a debug run before complaining that something doesn’t work :–)

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% puppetd --disable
% puppetd --test --debug --trace
... full output on the console ...

At the same time, monitor the CPU usage and look at the debug entries when most of the CPU is consumed.

If nothing is printed at this same moment, and it still uses CPU, CTRL-C the process, maybe it will print a useful stack trace that will help you (or us) understand what happens.

With this you will certainly catch things you didn’t intend (see below computing checksums when it is not necessary).

Inspect your ruby interpreter

I already mentioned this tip in my puppetmaster memory leak post a month ago. You can’t imagine how much useful information you can get with this tool.

Install as explained in the original article the ruby file into ~/.gdb/ruby, copy the following into your ~/.gdbinit:

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define session-ruby
source ~/.gdb/ruby
end

Here I’m going to show how to do this with a puppetmasterd, but it is exactly the same thing with puppetd.

Basically, the idea is to attach gdb to the puppet process, halt it and look to the current stack trace:

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% ps auxgww | grep puppetdpuppet
   28602  2.0  8.9 275508 184492 pts/3   Sl+  Feb19  65:25 ruby /usr/bin/puppetmasterd --debug
% gdb /usr/bin/ruby
GNU gdb 6.8-debian
Copyright (C) 2008 Free Software Foundation, Inc....
(gdb) session-ruby
(gdb) attach 28602
Attaching to program: /usr/bin/ruby, process 28602...

Now our gdb is attached to our ruby interpreter.

Lets see where we stopped:

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(gdb) rb_backtrace
$3 = 34

Note: the output is displayed by default on the stdout/stderr of the attached process, so in our case my puppetmasterd. Going to the terminal where it runs (actually the screen):

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...
        from /usr/lib/ruby/1.8/webrick/server.rb:91:in `select'
        from /usr/lib/ruby/1.8/webrick/server.rb:91:in `start'
        from /usr/lib/ruby/1.8/webrick/server.rb:23:in `start'
        from /usr/lib/ruby/1.8/webrick/server.rb:82:in `start'
        from /usr/lib/ruby/1.8/puppet.rb:293:in `start'
        from /usr/lib/ruby/1.8/puppet.rb:144:in `newthread'
        from /usr/lib/ruby/1.8/puppet.rb:143:in `initialize'
        from /usr/lib/ruby/1.8/puppet.rb:143:in `new'
        from /usr/lib/ruby/1.8/puppet.rb:143:in `newthread'
        from /usr/lib/ruby/1.8/puppet.rb:291:in `start'
        from /usr/lib/ruby/1.8/puppet.rb:290:in `each'
        from /usr/lib/ruby/1.8/puppet.rb:290:in `start'
        from /usr/sbin/puppetmasterd:285

It works! It is now easy to see what puppetd is doing:

  1. introspect your running and eating puppetd
  2. stop it (issue CTRL-C in gdb)
  3. rb_backtrace, copy the backtrace in a file
  4. issue ‘continue’ in gdb to let the process run again
  5. go to 2. several times

Examining the stack traces should give you hints (or us) to what your puppetd is doing at this moment.

Possible causes of puppetd CPU consumption

A potential bug

You might have encountered a bug. Please report it in Puppet redmine, and enclose all the useful information you gathered by following the two points above.

A recursive file resource with checksum on

That’s the usual suspect, and one I encountered myself.

Let’s say you have something like this in your manifest:

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File { checksum => md5 }
...
file {  "/path/to/so/many/files":
    owner => myself, mode => 0644, recurse => true
}

What does that mean?

You’re telling puppet that every file resource should compute checksum, and you have a recursive file operation managing owner and mode. What puppetd will do is to traverse the whole ‘/path/to/so/many/files’ and happily manage them changing owner and mode when needed.

What you might have forgotten, is that you requested checksum to be MD5, so puppetd instead of only doing a bunch of stat(3) on your files will also compute MD5 sums of their content. If you have tons of files in this hierarchy this can take quite some time. Since checksums are cached, it can also take quite some memory.

How to solve this issue:

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File { checksum => md5 }
...
file {
  "/path/to/so/many/files":
      owner => myself, mode => 0644, recurse => true, checksum => undef
}

Sometimes, it isn’t possible to solve this issue, if your file {} resource is a retrieve file (ie there is a source parameter), because you need to have checksum to manage the files. In this case, just byte the bullet, change the checksum to mtime, limit recursion or wait for my fix of Puppet bug #1469.

Simply no reason

Actually it is in your interest that puppetd is taking 100% of CPU while applying the configuration the puppetmaster has given. That just means it’ll do its job faster than if it was consuming 10% of CPU :–)

I mean, puppetd has a fixed amount of things to perform, some are CPU bound, some are I/O bound (actually most are I/O bound), so it is perfectly normal that it takes wall clock time and consume resources to play your manifests.

What is not normal is consuming CPU or memory between configuration run. But you already know how to diagnose such issues if you read the start of this post :–)

Conclusion

Not all resource consumption are bad. We’re all dreaming of a faster puppetd.

And at this subject, I think it should be possible (provided ruby supports native thread (maybe a task for JRuby)) to apply the catalog in a multi-threaded way. I never really thought about this (I mean technically), but I don’t see why it couldn’t be possible. That would allow puppetd to do several I/O bound operations in parallel (like installing packages and managing files at the same time).

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