Reporting bugs

Varnish can be a tricky beast to debug, having potentially thousands of threads crowding into a few data structures makes for interesting core dumps.

Actually, let me rephrase that without irony: You tire of the “no, not thread 438 either, lets look at 439 then…” routine really fast.

So if you run into a bug, it is important that you spend a little bit of time collecting the right information, to help us fix the bug.

The most valuable information you can give us, is always how to trigger and reproduce the problem. If you can tell us that, we rarely need anything else to solve it.The caveat being, that we do not have a way to simulate high levels of real-life web-traffic, so telling us to “have 10.000 clients hit at once” does not really allow us to reproduce.

To report a bug please follow the suggested procedure described in the “Trouble Tickets” section of the documentation (above).

Roughly we categorize bugs in to three kinds of bugs (described below) with Varnish. The information we need to debug them depends on what kind of bug we are facing.

Varnish crashes

Plain and simple: boom

Varnish is split over two processes, the manager and the child. The child does all the work, and the manager hangs around to resurrect it if it crashes.

Therefore, the first thing to do if you see a Varnish crash, is to examine your syslogs to see if it has happened before. (One site is rumoured to have had Varnish restarting every 10 minutes and still provide better service than their CMS system.)

When it crashes, which is highly unlikely to begin with, Varnish will spew out a crash dump that looks something like:

Child (32619) died signal=6 (core dumped)
Child (32619) Panic message: Assert error in ccf_panic(), cache_cli.c line 153:
  Condition(!strcmp("", "You asked for it")) not true.
errno = 9 (Bad file descriptor)
thread = (cache-main)
ident = FreeBSD,9.0-CURRENT,amd64,-sfile,-hcritbit,kqueue
  0x42bce1: pan_ic+171
  0x4196af: ccf_panic+4f
  0x8006b3ef2: _end+80013339a
  0x8006b4307: _end+8001337af
  0x8006b8b76: _end+80013801e
  0x8006b8d84: _end+80013822c
  0x8006b51c1: _end+800134669
  0x4193f6: CLI_Run+86
  0x429f8b: child_main+14b
  0x43ef68: start_child+3f8

If you can get that information to us, we are usually able to see exactly where things went haywire, and that speeds up bugfixing a lot.

There will be a lot more information in the crash dump besides this, and before sending it all to us, you should obscure any sensitive/secret data/cookies/passwords/ip# etc. Please make sure to keep context when you do so, ie: do not change all the IP# to “X.X.X.X”, but change each IP# to something unique, otherwise we are likely to be more confused than informed.

The most important line is the “Panic Message”, which comes in two general forms:

“Missing errorhandling code in …”

This is a situation where we can conceive Varnish ending up, which we have not (yet) written the padded-box error handling code for.

The most likely cause here, is that you need a larger workspace for HTTP headers and Cookies.

Please try that before reporting a bug.

“Assert error in …”

This is something bad that should never happen, and a bug report is almost certainly in order. As always, if in doubt ask us on IRC before opening the ticket.

In your syslog it may all be joined into one single line, but if you can reproduce the crash, do so while running varnishd manually:

varnishd -d <your other arguments> |& tee /tmp/_catch_bug

That will get you the entire panic message into a file.

(Remember to type start to launch the worker process, that is not automatic when -d is used.)

Varnish goes on vacation

This kind of bug is nasty to debug, because usually people tend to kill the process and send us an email saying “Varnish hung, I restarted it” which gives us only about 1.01 bit of usable debug information to work with.

What we need here is all the information you can squeeze out of your operating system before you kill the Varnish process.

One of the most valuable bits of information, is if all Varnish’ threads are waiting for something or if one of them is spinning furiously on some futile condition.

Commands like top -H or ps -Haxlw or ps -efH should be able to figure that out.

If one or more threads are spinning, use strace or ktrace or truss (or whatever else your OS provides) to get a trace of which system calls the Varnish process issues. Be aware that this may generate a lot of very repetitive data, usually one second worth of data is more than enough.

Also, run varnishlog for a second, and collect the output for us, and if varnishstat shows any activity, capture that also.

When you have done this, kill the Varnish child process, and let the master process restart it. Remember to tell us if that does or does not work. If it does not, kill all Varnish processes, and start from scratch. If that does not work either, tell us, that means that we have wedged your kernel.

Varnish does something wrong

These are the easy bugs: usually all we need from you is the relevant transactions recorded with varnishlog and your explanation of what is wrong about what Varnish does.

Be aware, that often Varnish does exactly what you asked it to, rather than what you intended it to do. If it sounds like a bug that would have tripped up everybody else, take a moment to read through your VCL and see if it really does what you think it does.

You can also try setting the vcl_trace parameter, that will generate log records with like and character number for each statement executed in your VCL program.