The Day "/proc" Died

rkeene profile image Roy Keene Originally published at rkeene.org ・4 min read


This morning I got an email from our group manager asking about a UNIX server out at one of the districts:

Date: Thu, 27 Jan 2011 14:14:49
From: "UNIX Manager"
Subject: Milky Way District UNIX Server

Someone take a look into whats going on with Milky Way District UNIX Server today.
The server is up but is acting really strange, I was not able to get a
response from ps or ptree commands.  Please note, there was not any server
consolidation work at this site last night.

A. Manager
Enterprise Unix & Storage Systems Manager
Spacely Sprockets, Inc.

So I logged in expecting a mundane failure:

workstation$ ssh milkyway1
milkyway1$ ps -eaf
     UID   PID  PPID   C    STIME TTY         TIME CMD
    root     0     0   0   Dec 08 ?           0:45 sched
    root     1     0   0   Dec 08 ?          72:15 /sbin/init
    root     2     0   0   Dec 08 ?           0:00 pageout
    root     3     0   0   Dec 08 ?        5514:24 fsflush
    root    59     1   0   Dec 08 ?           0:00 /lib/svc/method/iscsid
    root     7     1   0   Dec 08 ?           1:48 /lib/svc/bin/svc.startd
    root     9     1   0   Dec 08 ?           3:13 /lib/svc/bin/svc.configd
    root   149     1   0   Dec 08 ?           0:04 devfsadmd
  daemon   168     1   0   Dec 08 ?          73:17 /usr/lib/crypto/kcfd


So far, so good. It does indeed appear to be broken. It probably can't talk to its LDAP server or something silly. I check "nsswitch.conf" and the only thing configured for "ldap" is "sudoers" and "netgroup". Suspiciously normal.

workstation$ ssh milkyway1
milkyway1$ sudo -i
milkyway1# cd /proc
milkyway1# echo *
0 1 10045 10116 10162 10163 10169 10176 10240 10243 10244 10246 10263 10318 10386
10483 10489...
milkyway1# ls -ln


Hmm. Curiouser and curiouser. Why is my "ls" hanging ? What HAS science done ? Let's take a look at what the kernel thinks about what is going on with that process while it is "hung" (being able to attach a debugger to the running kernel is one of the MOST USEFUL things about Solaris. However it sometimes gets abused, which can be tragic.

workstation$ ssh milkyway1
milkyway1$ sudo -i
milkyway1# ls -ln /proc & echo $!
milkyway1# mdb -k
> 0t20023::pid2proc
> 302765d6078::walk thread
> 300e3d5e100::findstack -v
stack pointer for thread 300e3d5e100: 2a10d548d71
[ 000002a10d548d71 cv_wait+0x38() ]
  000002a10d548e21 pr_p_lock+0x80(0, 60032d48030, 60032d58600, 300b84af968, ff000000, 18f8218)
  000002a10d548ed1 prgetattr+0x2d4(30025ce8240, 2a10d549998, 149, ffffffffffffffef, 300bd1a8da8, 0)
  000002a10d548f91 fop_getattr+0x18(30025ce8240, 2a10d549998, 0, 3025fb17d00, 2a10d549ad8, 1362e00)
  000002a10d549041 cstat64_32+0x1c(30025ce8240, ffbffb20, 0, 3025fb17d00, 3fff, 3c00)
  000002a10d549221 cstatat64_32+0x5c(ffffffffffd19553, 26578, 1000, ffbffb20, 1000, 0)
  000002a10d5492e1 syscall_trap32+0xcc(26578, ffbffb20, ffffffffffffffff, 27f68, 6c, 1b)

Simple enough, it seems to be waiting for a conditional variable (cv_wait()) as part of a mutex lock after a 32-bit process has made a system call (syscall_trap32()) for stat() with the file whose name is stored at 0x26578.

This pointer will probably point to a string that is a filename under "/proc" since that's what I was running "ls" on after all. I'll have to switch to the context of that process to interpret that memory.

> 302765d6078 $p
debugger context set to proc 302765d6078
Segmentation Fault

Oh. Well, that wasn't nice. Let's try it another way...

milkyway1# mdb -p 20023 
mdb: failed to initialize /lib/libc_db.so.1: libthread_db call failed unexpectedly
mdb: warning: debugger will only be able to examine raw LWPs
Loading modules: [ ld.so.1 libc.so.1 libavl.so.1 ]
> 26578::print -i char*
0x26578 "/proc/26936"

So my "ls" is hanging because "stat()" is being called on "/proc/26936". What is running with the PID of 26936 ? Hmm... Well, we can't just run "ps" since that will "stat()" that file in "/proc" and hang. The modular debugger to the rescue, again:

milkyway1# echo '::ps -fz' | mdb -k | grep 26936
S    PID   PPID   PGID    SID  ZONE    UID      FLAGS             ADDR NAME
R  26936  26935  26935  26935     3   1000 0x4a014000 00000300b84af968 

So that process corresponds to a command with no name (what ?) run by the UID 1000 in the zone 3. Now we know the "who", what about the "what in the world is it doing?" ?

milkyway1# mdb -k
Loading modules: [ unix genunix specfs dtrace ufs sd mpt px md ldc ip hook neti sctp
arp usba fcp fctl emlxs qlc lofs zfs ssd random crypto fcip logindmux ptm nfs ipc ]
> 00000300b84af968::walk thread
> 3000f654d40::findstack -v
stack pointer for thread 3000f654d40: 2a109f38a61
[ 000002a109f38a61 cv_wait+0x38() ]
  000002a109f38b11 txg_wait_open+0x54(6003f983d20, 16533a, 0, 6003f983d64, 6003f983d66, 6003f983d18)
  000002a109f38bc1 zfs_putapage+0x1e0(6004d6fae40, 5b, 2a109f39570, 2a109f39568, 400, 10a6ac0)
  000002a109f38cb1 zfs_putpage+0x1b8(3002836dd40, b7c1a000, 0, 400, 30114c15318, 7000f9c9d80)
  000002a109f38d81 fop_putpage+0x1c(3002836dd40, 0, b7c1a000, 400, 30114c15318, 7b262c7c)
  000002a109f38e31 zfs_delmap+0x6c(3002836dd40, 0, 10a6800, 30114c15318, b7c1a000, b)
  000002a109f38ef1 zfs_shim_delmap+0x3c(3002836dd40, 30114c15318, 1, 1, f, b)
  000002a109f38fc1 fop_delmap+0x40(3002836dd40, 30114c15318, 1, f, b7c1a000, b)
  000002a109f39091 segvn_unmap+0x180(3017e8a0bd0, fffffffec0000000, b7c1a000, b7c1a000, f, 600439d6b78)
  000002a109f39181 as_unmap+0xe4(300ee744d20, 3017e8a0bd0, 300de51bd88, b7c1a000, 1, 1)
  000002a109f39231 munmap+0x78(1fff, b7c1a000, 10a6800, 300b84af968, 300b84af968, fffffffec0000000)
  000002a109f392e1 syscall_trap+0xac(fffffffec0000000, b7c1a000, 0, 8, 10012c4d0, 10012c460)

Hmm, well that process ALSO seems to be waiting on a conditional variable in a mutex lock as part of the ZFS kernel module. Maybe they're related ?

I look at the storage available to the zone with the ID of 3 (obtained via "zoneadm list -v") and noticed that the zpool that provides most of the storage to that zone (including it's "/") is 100% full.

I send out an email detailing my findings and someone logs into that zone and cleans a few files up and things magically start working again.


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Roy Keene


Full-stack engineer: From electrons to Electron


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As a rule of thumb, whenever I see that a server is acting strangely I just ‘df -h‘: I learned the hard way that a full filesystem can make unpredictable and mysterious things! 😣


Same. I don't know that much about Linux, but when something is acting up, the things I check are usually 1. Have I tried turning it off and on again? 2. Is there enough RAM? 3. Is there enough disk space? 4. Is there someone smarter than me who could fix this?


I agree with you, I just leave the option one as last resource because the smarter people could gain advantages from information lost in reboot, and I think that understand the origin of probles is more important that simply fix it :-)


If that looks ok, follow it up with df -i because you can have available space without having any blocks left. That caught me out a couple of times.


Other than randomly seeing if the disk is full like Franco Mentioned, as I've had that happen before, there is no way I would have been able to find the cause like this. It makes me glad there's always smarter developers than I.


I didn't know Solaris was still around. I just went through its Wikipedia page and it seems alive and kicking!