How a DNS problem can put your Mysql server down

Last week i was waked up from bed by the monitoring team from my company. There was a problem with my system, there was a DNS problem undergoing but as a side effect my app was down. Since it has a lot of traffic it had to be solved immediately.

I jumped to the computer and I quickly diagnosed the system. Everything was fine except the Mysql connection pool which was exhausted. The first thing that crossed my mind is that it was just a coincidence and I quickly ran show processlist to see a list of MySQL processes. The output was an infinite list of load balancer’s ip address having “login” text as status. In order to achieve high availability i am using Mysql by having a balanced ip address between two Mysql servers. The balancer runs a quick check every 5 seconds by connecting to Mysql and does a simple select on a table.

So for a particular reason the “load balancer” was not able to finish its login attempts and it was overloading my Mysql servers. While I was in the middle of the investigation the problem suddenly stopped. I was happy but somehow scared, i had no idea what the hell happened.

A quick search into Mysql documentation reveals that Mysql is doing a reverse DNS lookup which was the cause of my problems. Since the DNS server had a problem, the operation of reverse DNS was taking far more that 5 seconds to time out. This resulted in overloading the database servers. Check this explanation in the official documentation, How MySQL Uses DNS

After reading tha page I think that mysql needs this reverse DNS lookup only for its permission module and if you don’t use host names with the grant option then you are safe to disable this option. I quote here the parameter which does this:

–skip-name-resolve

Do not resolve host names when checking client connections. Use only IP numbers. If you use this option, all Host column values in the grant tables must be IP numbers or localhost. See Section 7.5.11, “How MySQL Uses DNS”.

I have been able to avoid this? Perhaps, but considering that I used MySQL in production for the first time, it is unlikely to think so.

Long live the reverse DNS, cheers!

Configure Apache and Tomcat severs together

The most common way to deploy your application in the production environment is to hide the Tomcat behind Apache. This has good and bad parts but it gives you a lot of flexibility and support from Apache. There are a couple of alternatives to put these two severs together:

Read more

Tomcat Clustering & Java Servlet Specification

After I read more about Tomcat Clustering I realized that the main purpose of Tomcat clustering is to offer fault tolerance, failover  and high availability support. I read a lot about load balancing but when it comes to Java Servlets I found out that the only choice you have in terms of balancing is to use sticky sessions. This is more a limitation that comes from Java Servlet Specification and not from Tomcat, but it make sense.

For an application to be “distributed” you have to mark  it as “distributable” by add the <distributable/> tag in web.xml.

<web-app>
<distributable />
</web-app>

There are multiple ways to balance the client request to your server pool but when it comes to Java Servlet Specification you have only one choice, as the specs say:

Within an application that is marked as distributable, all requests that are part of a session can only be handled on a single JVM at any one time.

You may have multiple JVMs, each handling requests from different clients concurrently for any given distributable web application

So, I guess you can kiss goodbye the round robin and all other load balancing options, but at least Tomcat will provide you  failover, scalability  and high availability.