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I just started to get a Nagios warning from our build server, stating that the number of processes has exceeded the limit. Looking at our Munin graphs, I can see that the number of processes has increased steadily from 280 in December to the current value of 430.

I'm wondering how I can go about identifying the causes of the increased number of processes, so that I can restart services or adjust their configuration as necessary.

Server details: CentOS 5.1, the main things running are our Hudson build server which runs under Tomcat, and an Apache httpd server which is mainly just a proxy for Hudson. I've tried restarting httpd and Tomcat, but the number of processes stayed the same. "top" says that only one of the processes is active; the rest are sleeping.

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up vote 4 down vote accepted

Try this out on a regular basis to see how process counts go up and down for a "certain" named process. It disregards PID and just looks at the end of the line beyond the cpu time.

ps -ef | perl -a -F'\d+:\d+:\d+ ' -n -e 'print @F[1]' -- | sort | uniq -c | sort -n

This works on a RHEL box. You might put it in cron after getting a baseline of what the starting process list looks like.

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Thanks, @fasteddie007 - this will become a valuable alias for me. It immediately identified a big stack of processes that an old installation of Zenoss had left running; killing those reduced my process count by two thirds. – gareth_bowles Jul 19 '10 at 19:55
glad to help out, Zenoss does like to start up a lot of things. It is a handy alias for machines with high numbers of processes. – fasteddie007 Jul 19 '10 at 20:49

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