Troubleshooting open_files_limit in MariaDB

It may happen in the MariaDB logs that you see failures to set open_files_limit:

160318 21:48:04 [Warning] option 'open_files_limit': unsigned value 18446744073709551615 adjusted to 4294967295
160318 21:48:04 [Warning] option 'open_files_limit': unsigned value 18446744073709551615 adjusted to 4294967295
160318 21:48:04 [Warning] Could not increase number of max_open_files to more than 1024 (request: 4907)

Meaning MariaDB was unable to raise the limit of maximum file descriptors at startup, with all the subsequent problems it can cause. Sometimes it is simply due to a bad setting in configuration files, such as:

open_files_limit=-1

How MariaDB processes option open_files_limit

When started, MariaDB follows an internal logics to set the limit of file descriptor to use at run-time:

  • It computes the minimum number of wanted_files, whichever is the biggest from:

    • fd needed by MariaDB and innodb (based on some heuristics)
    • 5 * max_connections as set in config file
  • It sets the new process limit (setrlimit) to whichever is the biggest:

    • wanted_files as computed above
    • or value of option open_files_limit (e.g. set in server.cnf)

Now, if the MariaDB configuration files contain a line like:

open_files_limit=-1

The signed value will be adjusted automatically by MariaDB to match the expected uint range:

160105  9:10:50 [Warning] option 'open_files_limit': unsigned value 18446744073709551615 adjusted to 4294967295
160105  9:10:50 [Warning] option 'open_files_limit': unsigned value 18446744073709551615 adjusted to 4294967295

The side effect is that setrlimit will now be called with 4294967295, which fails with EPERM1 even when run as root because the requested value which is above system limits. The per-process limit will thus stick to the default, which is usually 1024 fd. MariaDB will signal the failure by logging the value originally computed for wanted_files:

160105  9:10:50 [Warning] Could not increase number of max_open_files to more than 1024 (request: 9003)

Config file or command line

One noteworthy detail is that one can ask MariaDB to raise the file descriptors limit at the command line as well, with argument --open-files-limit=XXX. In fact, at MariaDB startup, mysqld_safe scans both configuration file and command line for option open_files_limit and if found, it will pass that value2 explicitly at command line when it spawns the mysqld server.

The mysqld server itself first parses options specified in the configuration files, and after that those coming from the command line. Given the way mysqld_safe parses option open_files_limit, you can see that the mysqld server will parse the option twice if it comes from the configuration file.

Concrete examples from the logs

Back to the original example from this article:

160318 21:48:04 [Warning] option 'open_files_limit': unsigned value 18446744073709551615 adjusted to 4294967295
160318 21:48:04 [Warning] option 'open_files_limit': unsigned value 18446744073709551615 adjusted to 4294967295
160318 21:48:04 [Warning] Could not increase number of max_open_files to more than 1024 (request: 4907)

You can extract from those logs that option open_files_limit was set to -1 somewhere in the config files, and that no command line option --open-files-limit was passed to mysqld_safe to override it. When parsing the options, mysqld logged a bound check warning for the value coming from the configuration file, and another one for the value forwarded by mysqld_safe via the command line. Corrected value was too high for setrlimit, which consequently failed.

Another pattern that can arise is when MariaDB is used with Galera replication. At startup, mysqld_safe needs to run mysqld once with special flags to recover the replication position of the galera node. It then start mysqld a second time with the proper replication start position. This has the effect of having twice as many warning messages in the logs.

160322 13:07:14 mysqld_safe Starting mysqld daemon with databases from /var/lib/mysql
160322 13:07:14 mysqld_safe WSREP: Running position recovery with --log_error='/var/lib/mysql/wsrep_recovery.uuL8VZ' --pid-file='/var/lib/mysql/db2-recover.pid'
160322 13:07:14 [Warning] option 'open_files_limit': unsigned value 18446744073709551615 adjusted to 4294967295
160322 13:07:14 [Warning] option 'open_files_limit': unsigned value 18446744073709551615 adjusted to 4294967295
160322 13:07:14 [Warning] Could not increase number of max_open_files to more than 1024 (request: 2859)
160322 13:07:16 mysqld_safe WSREP: Recovered position c87b7e3e-ec54-11e5-92b3-16a45d02f190:5
160322 13:07:16 [Warning] option 'open_files_limit': unsigned value 18446744073709551615 adjusted to 4294967295
160322 13:07:16 [Warning] option 'open_files_limit': unsigned value 18446744073709551615 adjusted to 4294967295
160322 13:07:16 [Note] WSREP: wsrep_start_position var submitted: 'c87b7e3e-ec54-11e5-92b3-16a45d02f190:5'
160322 13:07:16 [Warning] Could not increase number of max_open_files to more than 1024 (request: 2859)

If MariaDB/Galera is started with a valid --open-files-limit argument at the command line, you will only see one bound check warning in the logs per mysqld run:

160322 13:23:22 mysqld_safe Starting mysqld daemon with databases from /var/lib/mysql
160322 13:23:22 mysqld_safe WSREP: Running position recovery with --log_error='/var/lib/mysql/wsrep_recovery.WAKIoR' --pid-file='/var/lib/mysql/db2-recover.pid'
160322 13:23:22 [Warning] option 'open_files_limit': unsigned value 18446744073709551615 adjusted to 4294967295
160322 13:23:24 mysqld_safe WSREP: Recovered position c87b7e3e-ec54-11e5-92b3-16a45d02f190:5
160322 13:23:24 [Warning] option 'open_files_limit': unsigned value 18446744073709551615 adjusted to 4294967295

Checking whether open_files_limit setting is active

In order to change open_files_limit, you should start MariaDB as root and use option --user to let mysqld switch to the requested user after setting limits. If you don't see complaints in the logs, open_files_limit setting should be applied. Under Linux, a quick means of verifying that is to probe the running mysqld process:

# cat /proc/$(pidof /usr/libexec/mysqld)/limits | grep -e Limit -e 'open files'
Limit                     Soft Limit           Hard Limit           Units
Max open files            10245                10245                files

Likewise, the mysql client will return the limit that has been successfully set:

# mysql -e "SHOW VARIABLES LIKE 'open_files_limit';"
+------------------+-------+
| Variable_name    | Value |
+------------------+-------+
| open_files_limit | 10245 |
+------------------+-------+

Don't be surprised if you don't see the exact value you specified for open_files_limit. Remember that MariaDB will call setrlimit with the highest value between wanted_files and open_files_limit.

If Soft Limit or the mysql client reports something like 1024, that means mysqld did not raise the maximum file descriptor limit appropriately, and the logs should contain enough information to find out why.


  1. From setrlimit man: EPERM The caller tried to increase the hard RLIMIT_NOFILE limit above the maximum defined by /proc/sys/fs/nr_open (see proc(5)) 

  2. If set in configuration file and at the command line, the latter takes precedence over the former 

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