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Unreliable "pg_ctl -w start" again

From: "MauMau" <maumau307(at)gmail(dot)com>
To: <pgsql-hackers(at)postgresql(dot)org>
Subject: Unreliable "pg_ctl -w start" again
Date: 2012-01-27 15:45:19
Message-ID: 996B1BE9112D45A48F5497E68D90BFFE@maumau (view raw, whole thread or download thread mbox)
Lists: pgsql-hackers

Last year, I asked for your opinions about how to fix the bug of unreliable 
"pg_ctl -w start", as in the thread:

The phenomenon was that "pg_ctl -w start" did not return for 60 seconds when 
postgresql.conf contained a wrong parameter specification.

Recently, I've encountered another problem of "pg_ctl -w start", which I 
cannot reliably avoid. I found the cause in pg_ctl.c. I'm willing to create 
a patch, but I'm concerned about the correctness of the fix. I desire this 
bug will be eliminated as soon as possible. I'd like to ask your opinions.

I use PostgreSQL 8.3.12 embedded in a packaged application. The problem 
occurred on RHEL5 when the operating system was starting up. The packaged 
application is started from /etc/init.d/myapp. That application internally 
executes "pg_ctl -w start" and checks its return value. The application does 
not start unless the return value is 0.

The problematic phenomenon is that "pg_ctl -w start" fails with return value 
1 in only two seconds without waiting until 60 seconds pass. That is, -w did 
not work. However, the database server started successfully.

The timeline was as follows:

18:09:45 the application executed "pg_ctl -w start"
18:09:47 "pg_ctl -w start" returned with 1

<PostgreSQL's server log (dates are intentionally eliminated)>
18:10:01 JST 22995  LOG:  database system was interrupted;last known up at 
2012-01-21 02:24:59 JST
18:10:32 JST 22995  LOG:  database system was not properly shut down; 
automatic recovery in progress
18:10:34 JST 22995  LOG:  record with zero length at 0/23E35D4
18:10:34 JST 22995  LOG:  redo is not required
18:11:38 JST 22893  LOG:  database system is ready to accept connections
18:11:38 JST 23478  LOG:  autovacuum launcher started

PostgreSQL took a long time to start. This is probably because the system 
load was high with many processes booting up concurrently during OS boot.

The following part in do_start() of pg_ctl.c contains a bug:

 if (old_pid != 0)
  pid = get_pgpid();
  if (pid == old_pid)
   write_stderr(_("%s: could not start server\n"
         "Examine the log output.\n"),

This part assumes that postmaster will overwrite within a 
second. This assumption is not correct under heavy load like OS startup.

In PostgreSQL 9.1, the wait processing is largely modified. However, the 
same assumption seems to still remain, though the duration is 5 seconds. 5 
seconds of wait is probably insufficient for my case. I think no fixed 
duration is appropriate.

So, what is the reliable solution? The pipe-based one, which I proposed in 
the past thread, would be reliable. However, that is not simple enough to 
back-port to 8.3.

How about inserting postmaster_is_alive() as below? I know this is not 
perfect, but this will work in most cases. I need some solution that 
pratically helps.

 if (old_pid != 0)
  pid = get_pgpid();
  if (pid == old_pid && postmaster_is_alive(pid))
   write_stderr(_("%s: could not start server\n"
         "Examine the log output.\n"),



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