How to fix the “too many open files” error

Introduction

Sometimes our clients will get a “too many open files” error on busy servers. This error occurs when a large number of files, databases or web service connections are open – this usually occurs because connections are not closed promptly.

The maximum number of files you can open for a Windows Iguana Server is 512 and 1024 on Linux or Mac – if you attempt to exceed these numbers you will this error.

Note: This page is about the mindset of limiting the number of connections that you use – rather than specific techniques. The specific techniques may vary depending on what you need to do in each case – but the principle of keeping connections to a minimum remains the same.

Issue [top]

Too many file, database or web service connections are open at one time.

Solution [top]

  1. Inspect the code to ensure that it closes connections immediately it has finished using them.
  2. Check that the code opens the minimum number of connections required:
    1. If you are processing a large number of files you can open one or a group of several at a time rather than all of them. Then you can close the first group before processing the next group.
    2. You might set an upper limit on connections and not open more when the limit is reached. Then when the number of connections drops you can open more.
  3. In particular you need to ensure that persistent connections are kept to a minimum:

    Persistent connections (particularly to databases) can be very efficient – and it is possible reduce the number of connections by using a small number of persistent connections. The key thing with persistent connections is to ensure that the number cannot keep increasing.

    1. Persistent connections to resources that you are re-using all the time make good sense – they are particularly useful for databases
    2. This page explains about persistent database connections: https://help.interfaceware.com/v6/database-connection
    3. Make sure that you are not continuing to open extra or duplicate persistent connections unintentionally (i.e., logic error that opens multiple database connections).
  4. Check that the code does not allow the number of connections to continually increase:

    This is basically checking for “connection leaks” in the the same way as you would check code for memory or other resource leaks – this is particularly important for long running programs as any “leak” will eventually reach the system limit.

    1. Make sure connections are closed as soon as possible.
    2. Set limits on the maximum number of connections.
  5. In the unlikely situation where you actually need more files open than the limits allow you can split the processing between several Iguana servers.

Note: It may be possible to increase the number of file handles per server on Windows, please contact us at support@interfaceware.com to discuss this.

Warning: Experienced Linux admins will know that it is possible to change the number of files (sockets) available for a process. Do not increase this number above 1024 as this will cause problems for Iguana.

Iguana uses the select library on Linux and Mac – select has a maximum of 1024 files (sockets).

Prevention [top]

There are various ways to prevent this issue:

  1. Open the minimum number of connections.
  2. Close connections immediately when you are finished using them.
  3. Set limits on the maximum number of connections that you allow.
  4. Ensure that your code does not allow a continually increasing number of connections.
  5. If you need to open an extremely large number of files you can split the processing across multiple Iguana instances.

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