Out of Memory Killer is Killing My Processes!
I have a small $5/mo Digital Ocean droplet (Use my promo code to get a $10 credit!) with 512MB of RAM running a number of small low volume services. I recently added a Syncthing relay and started logging to Papertrail. I would notice that the Syncthing relay would periodically get killed as the system was out of memory and Papertrail would send me some alerts around the out of memory killer running. Shocked that the poor system is out of memory, I dug deeper. I killed off some old Tahoe-LAFS docker containers I had running, after I gave up on using Tahoe-LAFS and kept looking for memory hogs. The culprit was much unexpected: systemd’s journalctl.
Finding the Memory Hog
Finding the hog was easy with
❯❯❯ ps aux --sort -rss | head -n5 USER PID %CPU %MEM VSZ RSS TTY STAT START TIME COMMAND root 5300 0.0 17.7 976640 89724 ? S 16:02 0:00 /usr/bin/journalctl -afb -p info -n1 -o cat SYSLOG_FACILITY=4 SYSLOG_FACILITY=10 65534 1017 4.3 7.0 39432 35736 ? Ssl 02:49 36:56 /usr/local/bin/strelaysrv root 200 0.0 6.7 1026188 34296 ? Ss 02:49 0:02 /usr/bin/syslog-ng -F root 311 0.0 4.0 439296 20240 ? Ssl 02:49 0:29 dockerd -H fd:// --ipv6 --storage-driver=overlay
Whaat? Why? I had a good guess as to which service was responsible for starting this
journalctl process, but
systemd makes it trivially to confirm by querying the status of the
❯❯❯ systemctl status 5300 ● sshguard.service - Block hacking attempts Loaded: loaded (/etc/systemd/system/sshguard.service; enabled; vendor preset: disabled) Active: active (running) since Thu 2016-10-20 16:02:11 UTC; 52min ago Main PID: 5292 (sshguard-journa) Tasks: 5 (limit: 4915) Memory: 27.8M CPU: 652ms CGroup: /system.slice/sshguard.service ├─5292 /bin/sh /usr/lib/systemd/scripts/sshguard-journalctl -b 120:/var/db/sshguard/blacklist.db SYSLOG_FACILITY=4 SYSLOG_FACILITY=10 ├─5300 /usr/bin/journalctl -afb -p info -n1 -o cat SYSLOG_FACILITY=4 SYSLOG_FACILITY=10 ├─5301 /usr/bin/sshguard -b 120:/var/db/sshguard/blacklist.db └─5303 /bin/sh /usr/libexec/sshg-fw Oct 20 16:02:12 void1 sshguard-journalctl: DROP all -- 184.108.40.206 0.0.0.0/0 Oct 20 16:02:12 void1 sshguard-journalctl: DROP all -- 220.127.116.11 0.0.0.0/0 Oct 20 16:02:12 void1 sshguard-journalctl: DROP all -- 18.104.22.168 0.0.0.0/0 Oct 20 16:02:12 void1 sshguard: blacklist: blocking 88 addresses Oct 20 16:02:12 void1 sshguard: Monitoring attacks from stdin Oct 20 16:10:41 void1 sshguard: 22.214.171.124: blocking for 240 secs (3 attacks in 477 secs, after 1 abuses over 477 secs) Oct 20 16:14:46 void1 sshguard: 126.96.36.199: unblocking after 245 secs Oct 20 16:25:58 void1 sshguard: 188.8.131.52: blocking for 480 secs (3 attacks in 459 secs, after 2 abuses over 1394 secs) Oct 20 16:34:25 void1 sshguard: 184.108.40.206: unblocking after 507 secs Oct 20 16:44:46 void1 sshguard: 220.127.116.11: blocking for 960 secs (3 attacks in 443 secs, after 3 abuses over 2522 secs)
(log not obfuscated to intentionally incriminate the guilty)
There you have it, the seemingly simple sshguard process. For those who don’t know, the
sshguard process watches log files for failed login attempts, and then temporarily bans offending IP addresses (using iptables firewall) that are attempting to brute force logins. I use it because it keeps my logs cleaner, slows down the bot nets running the scans and might even be slightly more secure assuming you have a bad passwords.
But, why and how is it using 17.7% (I’ve seen up to 25%) of my available memory? Nobody knows.
If we look at the arguments passed to the
journalctl process we can try to understand what
journalctl -afb -p info -n1 -o cat SYSLOG_FACILITY=4 SYSLOG_FACILITY=10
-a- show all fields.
-f- follow or stream the log data as it happens.
-b- display only logs from this boot.
-p info- filter for syslog messages of priority info and lower, effectively everything with an assigned priority and not priority debug.
-n1- upon beginning the follow mode, print at most 1 previous message.
-o cat- send the only log message text, no timestamps or extra metadata.
SYSLOG_FACILITY=4- select syslog facility auth.
SYSLOG_FACILITY=10- select syslog facility authpriv.
Random thoughts and comments:
-b- seems unnecessary as it’s only streaming log messages as it comes in, but doesn’t seem to hurt.
-n1- seems slightly ambiguous, is fetching one old message of significance? Is there a quirk here? Using
-n0would be more clear that it doesn’t matter.
-asounds suspicious, with
-o catdo other fields even make sense? Perhaps the cause of memory consumption?
Turns out, all of the initial thoughts and comments are of no real consequence. Deeper digging shows that
-p info is to blame. See the following test where I manually run the
❯❯❯ ps aux --sort -rss | grep journalctl PID %CPU %MEM VSZ RSS TTY STAT START TIME COMMAND 6639 0.4 23.7 947548 119908 pts/1 S+ 17:16 0:00 /usr/bin/journalctl -afb -p info -n1 -o cat SYSLOG_FACILITY=4 SYSLOG_FACILITY=10 6632 0.1 8.2 890204 41868 pts/4 S+ 17:16 0:00 /usr/bin/journalctl -afb -n1 -o cat SYSLOG_FACILITY=4 SYSLOG_FACILITY=10 6700 0.0 8.3 857436 42220 pts/4 S+ 17:21 0:00 /usr/bin/journalctl -f -n0 -o cat SYSLOG_FACILITY=4 SYSLOG_FACILITY=10
Wow, just dropping
-p info brings the rss memory size down from 120MB to 42MB or 23.7% -> 8.2% of total system RAM (512MB on this server). In theory, I’d think that
-p info would reduce memory consumption as it’d be dropping the debug priority system log messages. Seems to work quite a bit different.
Even 42MBs seems like excessive memory consumption for streaming log data, but this is already an order of magnitude improvement.
Stripping off the other
-a flags that I commented on before, makes no difference. It’s possible those flags are there for a reason, and I’m not aware of something yet, so the risk is greater then the reward with this set of primitive tests.
For those curious,
journalctl running on Arch Linux on a 512 MB DigitalOcean Droplet:
❯❯❯ journalctl --version systemd 231 +PAM -AUDIT -SELINUX -IMA -APPARMOR +SMACK -SYSVINIT +UTMP +LIBCRYPTSETUP +GCRYPT +GNUTLS +ACL +XZ +LZ4 +SECCOMP +BLKID +ELFUTILS +KMOD +IDN
Quick Attempt to Repeat
Home Workstation on Arch Linux
PID %CPU %MEM VSZ RSS TTY STAT START TIME COMMAND 27154 0.9 0.2 566856 43916 pts/9 S+ 10:31 0:00 journalctl -f -n0 -p info 27006 0.1 0.1 562440 17928 pts/7 S+ 10:31 0:00 journalctl -f -n0
Result: 44 MB -> 18 MB. Massive change, but not as much memory, perhaps it has to do with the log contents?
Ubuntu 16.04 512 MB Cloud Server
On another 512MB droplet running on Vultr running Ubuntu 16.04:
PID %CPU %MEM VSZ RSS TTY STAT START TIME COMMAND 5670 0.0 1.1 128756 5660 pts/3 S+ 17:36 0:00 journalctl -f -n0 -p info 5725 0.0 0.2 79604 1452 pts/6 S+ 17:36 0:00 journalctl -f -n0
Result: 6 MB -> 1 MB. Wow. This is awesome, and is mostly what I’d expect for memory usage, very reasonable.
For completeness, the version for this much desired result:
❯❯❯ journalctl --version systemd 229 +PAM +AUDIT +SELINUX +IMA +APPARMOR +SMACK +SYSVINIT +UTMP +LIBCRYPTSETUP +GCRYPT +GNUTLS +ACL +XZ -LZ4 +SECCOMP +BLKID +ELFUTILS +KMOD -IDN
The interim solution for
sshguard is to modify wrapper script to drop the priority filtering. This will get overwritten on the next update, but hopefully we can swim upstream and fix
journalctl so that it behaves more like the Ubuntu build.
To do that, update
/usr/lib/systemd/scripts/sshguard-journalctl to the following:
#!/bin/sh SSHGUARD_OPTS=$1 shift LANG=C /usr/bin/journalctl -f -n0 -o cat "$@" | /usr/bin/sshguard $SSHGUARD_OPTS
sudo systemctl restart sshguard
journalctl has a bug that is easily fixed to bring this back to reality so that it is not an unnecessary resource hog for just streaming log files.
With open source software, you can only blame yourself for not making something better.