As I posted before in ‘Mysterious problems with my VPS’, I recently got an increasingly unstable VPS system hosting a lot of my and my customers sites. After a lot of digging I initially presumed that Dovecot (the mail server) was responsible for the issues, as you can read in ‘Dovecot causing memory issues’.
Last week I did a lot of debugging on the Debian server to try and find out what was the issue. And initially it was Dovecots memory usage. After disabling this tool for a couple of days the server was still running fine. However the day after I posted the article on Dovecot the server crashed again. So I had to restart my investigation.
First off I had to had to get a better memory management tool, so I installed Htop on the server (apt-get htop). This shows the current memory usage of each running application. After installing this I enabled all services and applications again and started running stress tests. And though Dovecot was causing some peeks in memory usage it did not keep the high memory usage after the requests where done.
As it turns out for some reason Apache 2.2 was using a lot of memory during peak loads. But even more frustrating it didn’t seem to release any memory any more. Which was causing issues for services that only spawn when they are being accessed like Dovecot and Postfix, which explained why both of these services crashed when the server halted.
After tweaking the maximum amount of servers Apache is allowed to start and the maximum amount of client threads to handle the memory usage dropped dramatically. And I am very happy to report that the server has been running again for more then a week, without any glitches.
Still it doesn’t explain why all of this only happened after updating my server with the latest versions and patches. But I’m glad it’s solved for now.