Server Fault is a question and answer site for system and network administrators. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

Alrighty, I'm at a complete loss here. I've had this Ubuntu server running for about three years now. In the last couple months it started behaving oddly and it's only getting worse. It's a pretty busy server running around 15 websites and a number of other tools on it. It's typical 15min load avg is .3. However, its' been spiking to around 90 about every 12 hours or so.

I'm certain that is has something to do with mysql and the server somehow getting locked and apache just pilling up waiting for things to open. Here is a top when things are going crazy.

Tasks: 143 total,  20 running, 123 sleeping,   0 stopped,   0 zombie
Cpu(s): 34.3%us, 62.9%sy,  0.0%ni,  0.0%id,  0.0%wa,  0.2%hi,  2.6%si,  0.0%st
Mem:   2061444k total,   911460k used,  1149984k free,    11156k buffers
Swap:  1421712k total,        0k used,  1421712k free,   126728k cached

 1080 mysql     20   0  397m  59m 5892 S   18  3.0   0:37.37 mysqld
 1602 www-data  20   0  198m  26m 4948 R    7  1.3   0:08.17 apache2
 1725 www-data  20   0  189m  24m  11m R    7  1.2   0:04.33 apache2
 1719 www-data  20   0  189m  25m  12m R    7  1.2   0:03.88 apache2
 1802 www-data  20   0  192m  20m 4808 S    7  1.0   0:03.15 apache2
 1521 www-data  20   0  199m  28m 6912 R    6  1.4   0:10.15 apache2
 1530 www-data  20   0  193m  22m 5104 S    5  1.1   0:06.53 apache2
 1536 www-data  20   0  196m  25m 4936 R    5  1.2   0:07.93 apache2
 1583 www-data  20   0  186m  21m  11m R    5  1.0   0:03.46 apache2
 1722 www-data  20   0  193m  21m 4956 R    5  1.1   0:04.91 apache2
 1906 www-data  20   0  182m  12m 6724 S    5  0.6   0:00.61 apache2
 1439 root      20   0 92040 3672 2280 S    5  0.2   0:08.04 ezproxy
 1539 www-data  20   0  194m  27m 9548 R    4  1.3   0:08.08 apache2
 1716 www-data  20   0  187m  22m  11m R    4  1.1   0:03.36 apache2
 1891 www-data  20   0  183m  18m  11m S    4  0.9   0:00.61 apache2
 1498 www-data  20   0  194m  23m 6264 S    4  1.2   0:11.47 apache2
 1517 www-data  20   0  193m  22m 5212 R    4  1.1   0:06.56 apache2
 1523 www-data  20   0  190m  26m  12m S    3  1.3   0:07.61 apache2
 1761 www-data  20   0  186m  20m  10m R    2  1.0   0:02.66 apache2
 1779 www-data  20   0  184m  19m  10m R    2  0.9   0:02.69 apache2
 1711 www-data  20   0  185m  20m  11m R    2  1.0   0:03.32 apache2
 1728 www-data  20   0  182m  11m 5028 R    2  0.6   0:01.14 apache2
 1819 www-data  20   0  181m 8120 3332 S    2  0.4   0:00.49 apache2
 1886 www-data  20   0  182m  11m 6364 S    2  0.6   0:01.18 apache2
 1899 www-data  20   0  184m  18m  10m S    2  0.9   0:01.38 apache2
 1497 www-data  20   0  191m  27m  12m S    1  1.4   0:07.84 apache2
 1766 www-data  20   0  181m  10m 5016 R    1  0.5   0:01.39 apache2
 1871 www-data  20   0  184m  19m  11m R    1  1.0   0:00.98 apache2
 1563 www-data  20   0  186m  23m  13m S    1  1.2   0:07.37 apache2
 1865 www-data  20   0  184m  18m  10m S    1  0.9   0:01.56 apache2
 1494 www-data  20   0  193m  25m 8352 S    1  1.3   0:12.07 apache2
 1512 www-data  20   0  186m  23m  13m R    1  1.1   0:06.10 apache2
 1526 www-data  20   0  186m  24m  13m R    1  1.2   0:06.30 apache2
 1816 www-data  20   0  184m  18m  10m S    1  0.9   0:01.60 apache2
 1516 www-data  20   0  184m  19m  11m S    1  1.0   0:04.12 apache2

Right now, things are running calmly,

Uptime: 241264  Threads: 1  Questions: 1870412  Slow queries: 1354  Opens: 13818  Flush tables: 1  Open tables: 256  Queries per second avg: 7.752

Here is all of my db sizes in MB

name1   14.78335094
name2   11.08541870
name3   31.01449203
name4   6.24377346
name5   0.36655807
name6   10.95312500
information_schema  0.00781250
mysql   0.60296535
name7   2.19595051
name8   1.82343006
name9   20.51372623
name0   59.42693043

I checked the slow query log but when the lockup happens every query is dumped into the slow query log. I haven't been in the server when it happens to run a proccesslist. Is there anything else I can do besides that?

Update: Here is the output from the script:

Update: Here is an IOStat during a freakout:

Device:            tps   Blk_read/s   Blk_wrtn/s   Blk_read   Blk_wrtn
sda               5.25         6.05       106.35    3090763   54314928

And a vmstat 3:

Now with more SAR!

Thanks for the help.

share|improve this question
check the kernel logs for spurious disk failures. – Javier Apr 8 '11 at 13:52
up vote 5 down vote accepted

Try installing sar and running it in the background. You may have a disk load which is spiking. sar will let you see what resources have the heaviest loads when thing go wrong like this.

You high sys load may indicate that you have a lot of I/O happening. This may be a result of natural growth of the database. Do you have an archiving process in place, to remove old data from the databases? If not you will reach a point where data required for table scans no longer fits in memory. When this happens performance will tank suddenly and significantly. The slow queries log may include some queries which can be improved by the addition of an index.

If you have another system that can you run munin on, you may want to install munin-node on the server. This will give you graphical output of some of the data available from sar. Check on the graphs every so often to see if things are changing.

EDIT: It looks like you may have a memory leak in some code running under apache. Try setting MaxRequestsPerChild to around 100 and restarting apache. If that fixes your problem, try to find your memory leak.

share|improve this answer
I will check out the SAR command. Thanks for the tip. I used monit on this server for a long time. I turned it off because whenever it would run it basically lock the NIC for the time it was sending it's data. Also, I update the post with the DB sizes. They're pretty small and all drupal and wordpress blogs. I'm not aware of any archiving you can do for those DBs. – mattmcmanus Apr 8 '11 at 14:55
I don't know Drupal, but Wordpress keeps prior versions of posts. It may be possible to reduce the number of edits kept in the database over time. This should be discussed with the client. Rebuilding the tables may free up space in the files. It may be time to add memory to the system as memory available for buffers is low for this kind of load. – BillThor Apr 8 '11 at 15:04
What leads you to believe it's a memory leak? – mattmcmanus Apr 11 '11 at 16:47
The size of the apache2 process vary by several megabytes. This may be due to loading a large amount of data to server a page, but often indicates a memory leak. Process size tend to increase corresponding to CPU time, which leans towards a memory leak. – BillThor Apr 11 '11 at 17:58

Your database size is in MB, right? This is fairly small and should nearly stick completely to the configured amount of memory, so i don't think that mysql is the problem here. Could you please post the output of MySQL Tuning Primer anyway? In addition you should definitely something like munin/cacti/.. to graph and collect data about your system. What kind of software is runninng your machines? php stuff? Are you already using a opcode cache like APC?

share|improve this answer
Thanks for the help shakalandy. Here is the output of the primer script: I am using APC for all high use php stuff. – mattmcmanus Apr 11 '11 at 14:05
ok, some problems here: InnoDB buffer pool free = 0 % => increase innodb_buffer_pool_size, try using 32M oder 64M (your database are fairly small, but the buffer currently is even smaller) 88% of your key buffer is not used, free some space here: set key_buffer_size to 64M Current table_cache hit rate is 0%, vou have 960 tables, set table_cache=1024 or so, number should be higher than your total number tables Increase tmp_table_size in order to reduce the number of tables created on disk Keep an eye on your max_connection (you already used 93% of max) Try to increase query_cache use munin – shakalandy Apr 11 '11 at 14:32
Thanks for the tips. That script was really helpful. Just as a point of reference, here are my mysql settings: – mattmcmanus Apr 11 '11 at 16:50

Is it possible that the data has grown in size to the point that a periodic MySQL query has started returning/processing so many results that MySQL is running out of physical memory and having to utilize massive amounts of virtual memory?

share|improve this answer

Opens: 13818 Open tables: 256

... every table is open from disk, but 256 of them. Disk are slow and blockers.

You may try to increase the table_cache value of mysql at /etc/mysql/my.cnf

Also run:

mysqlcheck --auto-repair --check --optimize --all-databases

To recover something of the original performance.

Anyways 2G of ram, for 26m httpd processes, give you space for no more than +/- 80 httpd processes... say that many webs have between 50 and 100 "files" (js, css, imgs, etc) to server to each request... so swapping and blocking is easy with a few visits.

share|improve this answer
My table_open_cache is set to 256. What do you think would be an appropriate value for that? Also, I run the mysql check command weekly. Should I run it more? Finally, I'm not sure I understand what you're trying to say in the last paragraph. – mattmcmanus Apr 8 '11 at 14:50
I use to increase values little by little, and then check with mysqltuner about cache hits after some usage. The optimize command does not hurt to run daily, and my last paragraph is: 1) try the 15 websites on or with firebug; 2) count the number of "files" per page; 3) do maths 1 httpd = 26M in your top, 1 file = 1 httpd process with mpm prefork. 100 files * 26m = 2600m; maybe 50 files the home of a site? 2 requests = 2 * 50 * 26m; 10 requests... – poisonbit Apr 8 '11 at 15:22

Beside the tool sar you can use the tools vmstat and iostat as well. iostat will help you if the problem is IO related. Maybe we can help you better if you give us the output of e.g. vmstat 3. (This will print out the vmstat output every 3 seconds. You can stop the tool after a minute or two.)

share|improve this answer
I updated the post with Iostat and vmstat output while the server was making a mess of things. I don't really understand much of what is says though. – mattmcmanus Apr 11 '11 at 16:39
@mattmcmanus: In the vmstat output you can see that the memory values are not changing that much. You still have free memory. The CPU is mostly in system time (sy) but also in user time (us). We need now more information from iostat. Can you give the output of "iostat -x" and what we need is the lines "avg-cpu". – Raffael Luthiger Apr 11 '11 at 16:52
@raffael-luthiger I just updated the gist I posted with a couple hours worth of SAR output – mattmcmanus Apr 12 '11 at 13:23

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.