prblems rebuilding conversations db

ellie timoney ellie at
Mon Jan 21 17:16:04 EST 2019

Hi Michael,

On Tue, Jan 22, 2019, at 12:32 AM, Michael Menge wrote:
> Hi Ellie
> Quoting ellie timoney <ellie at>:
> > Hi Michael,
> >
> > On Wed, Jan 16, 2019, at 10:12 PM, Michael Menge wrote:
> >> Hi,
> >>
> >> because conversations db seems to be required for search indexes, I
> >> enabled this option
> >> on our production servers today and tried to rebuild the conversations
> >> db for all users with
> >>
> >> ctl_conversationsdb -v -b UID
> >>
> >> For most users this did take less than a second. But for some users
> >> this process would
> >> not finish. I did kill one process after about 30 Minutes (most others
> >> after 3 Minutes).
> >> The UserID.conversations has grown over 2 GB (the mailbox itself has
> >> only ~700 MB of mails,
> >> and the conversations files from finnished rebuilds are less then 20 MB)
> >
> > So, a 2GB-and-growing conversations db for a 700MB mailbox is a  
> > ratio of ~3:1, which seems obscene...
> >
> thanks for confirming that this is not expected.
> > For comparison, the Conversations.append_reply_200 cassandane test  
> > (two messages with 100 replies each) produces an 87Kb conversations  
> > db for a 1016Kb mailbox (ratio ~1:12, n.b inverted!), which makes  
> > your ~3:1 and growing ratio seem even more obscene...
> >
> > Obviously you can't share the bad conversations db because  
> > conversations db's are full of personally-identifying information.   
> > But I wonder if looking through it with `cyr_dbtool ... show` turns  
> > up any unusual patterns, especially in comparison to one of the good  
> > users?  I wonder if it's somehow repeating itself?
> I was unable to run "cyr_dbtool ... show" or "ctl_conversationsdb -d"
> while ctl_conversationsdb -v -b was still running
> (waiting for a lock on conversations db file)
> After aborting "ctl_conversationsdb -b" "cyr_dbtool show" didn't show any
> duplicates. But the string command showed more occurrences than cyr_dbtool
> did (i used an hash value (d8087b76083ec5e7) I found in the output of  
> cyr_dbtool
> # cyr_dbtool /path-to/userid.conversations skiplist show | grep  
> d8087b76083ec5e7 | wc -l
> 3
> # cyr_dbtool /path-to/userid.conversations skiplist show | grep  
> Bd8087b76083ec5e7 | wc -l
> 1
> # strings /path-to/userid.conversations | grep d8087b76083ec5e7 | wc -l
> 183
> # strings /path-to/userid.conversations | grep Bd8087b76083ec5e7 | wc -l
> 91
> ctl_conversationsdb -d  did a cleanup because I did abort the  
> "ctl_conversationsdb -b" process
> skiplist recovery /path-to/userid.conversations: found partial txn,  
> not replaying
> skiplist: recovered /path-to/userid.conversations (0 records, 144  
> bytes) in 0 seconds
> skiplist: checkpointed /path-to/userid.conversations (0 records, 144  
> bytes) in 0.010 sec
> I did run ctl_conversationsd -b with strace and discovered that the inbox
> (cyrus.index O_RDWR, cyrus.header O_RDONLY, cache  cyrus.O_RDWR ) of that user
> was opened over and over again, no other folder for that user was accessed.
> For other users the inbox was only opened once and then the other  
> folders followed.
> So not stopping "ctl_conversationsd -b", it would have run till my  
> filesystem was
> full.

I guess something about that inbox is confusing it, and making it redo it over and over?  Very curious

> > Bron, does this sound like anything you've seen before, that maybe  
> > got fixed on master but not backported to 3.0?
> >
> >> Cyrus Logs show many "ctl_conversationsdb[933]: mailbox: longlock
> >> user.UserID for 1.5 seconds"
> >> every few seconds.
> >
> > This message is logged when the lock is released, if that lock had  
> > been held for >1s.  It's reporting that it held the lock for longer  
> > than it would like to have, but at least you know the lock has been  
> > released.  I think this is telling you that user-visible performance  
> > on the mailbox would have been impacted while this was occurring  
> > (because imapd/lmtpd wouldn't be able to access their mailbox while  
> > ctl_conversationsdb was holding those locks), but also tells you  
> > that ctl_conversationsdb was doing the right thing, and not just  
> > holding a single lock for the entire job.
> >
> I am not sure if any other processes had a chance to acquire a lock.

If they'd tried, they would have succeeded (by blocking until the lock was theirs, during the gaps where ctl_conversationsdb dropped and reacquired the lock), but maybe nothing else wanted it.

> > Though, that raises the question: was the user accessing the mailbox  
> > while the rebuild was in progress?  I wonder if their client is  
> > doing something funny and tripping things up?
> We did this while the server was accessible (didn't want to have
> several hour downtime for ~44000 users)

Fair enough!

> But as I did my recent testing on a test-server without user access,
> only ctl_conversationsdb and cyr_dbtool did accessed the mailbox during
> the conversation rebuild mentioned in this mail. So I don't think that
> user access is part of the problem.

Thanks for testing that, good to rule it out as a culprit

> So for me it looks like we have two problems:
> 1. multiple entries for the same key in skiplist db files.
>     As skiplist is a Key/Value store this should not be possible
>     to have duplicate keys?

I don't know the internals of our database formats well, but I _think_ maybe it writes new key/value pairs by appending to the end of the database, and then updating the skiplist structure to point to the newer version instead of the older version.  If this is correct, then if it's rewriting the keys over and over for some reason, I would expect the raw file to contain a lot of old, unlinked records for the same key, but which aren't visible over the API.  I believe there's a process that runs occasionally that rewrites these databases with only the "live" keys and gets back the wasted space?

>     Is twoskip a better alternative?

This is before my time, but twoskip was written to solve problems FastMail experienced with using skiplist with conversations ("post-crash recovery was too slow").  So if there's a pathological case in the more recent conversations code that trips a bug in skiplist, we probably wouldn't see it.  So, I'd recommend using twoskip for conversationsdb just based on that :)

> 2. Why didn't ctl_conversationsdb continue to process
>     the next mailbox but re-did the INBOX / the last mailbox

It kinda sounds to me like it considered the operation to be unsuccessful, and tried again?  Not sure what would cause this.  Is there anything interesting in syslog?

> I will try to run a debugger on ctl_conversationsdb and
> will test with twoskip as conversations db format

Thanks, it'd be very interesting to see if this issue reproduces with the twoskip format!

> I did notice one other problem, recreating the conversations db
> on the replica confused the sync protocol as the rebuild did increase
> the modseq.

Do you mean to say that this user's conversations db could be rebuilt successfully on the replica?  Or was this with one of the "good" users?

> Many logs like  "record mismatch with replica: %s more recent on  
> replica" on the sync client
> and "higher modseq on replica" on the sync server
> is this intended?

If a conversation needs to be split into multiple smaller conversations (conversations_max_thread setting), then modseqs also need to be bumped, so this is not entirely unexpected



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