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SubjectResource starvation on a 2.2.19 web server

I'm not on the linux-kernel list; please specifically include me in
any reply. Thanks...

I'm seeing a problem with what appears to be running out of file (or
inode) handles on an apache web server. I've done everything I have
been able to find to fix this but have run out of things to try.
The summary below is as concise and complete as I can make it; if
additional information is needed I'll happily provide it. I've run
linux since 1.57, but I've never had to dig into tuning at this
level until now.

This is a 1GB dual PIII-650 box. I'm using the Mandrake 2.2.19-4.3
source tree, their latest, as a base for the kernel. The server is
running a couple of software raid partitions and a 26 GB EATA SCSI
partition. Most of the file systems are ext2, with a Reiser fs on
the SCSI partition.

Based on logged errors, some time ago I started increasing
/proc/sys/fs/{file,inode}-max to 98304 and 524300 respectively.
The large counts are pushed by rsync in syncing the large web tree
onto another box.

>From what I have found on the 'net on kernel tuning, I have made a
custom 2.2.19 kernel with the following changes in the include
files. I am not seeing logged errors on any sort of resource
starvation on this kernel; before upping the limits I was seeing
both system and apache errors about no sockets and file handles.

limits.h #define NR_OPEN 2048 (overridded by file-nr, I think)
limits.h #define OPEN_MAX 2048 (max open files per process)
posix_types.h: #define __FD_SETSIZE 2048
socket.h: #define SOMAXCONN 16384

The symptom is that after the box runs for a while, nslookup cannot
resolve a name; it complains that it cannot find the configured DNS
servers. If I USR1 warm start apache, nslookup immediately works
again. Some system resource is being freed up when apache is
restarted, but I've been unable to isolate what it is or fix it.

The two snapshots below are of /proc/sys/fs/* before and after an
apache warm start. There is some strange info in file-nr and
inode-nr. Per linux/Documentation/proc.txt, the middle number of
file-nr is "the number of used file handles", and the middle number
of inode-nr is "the number of free inodes".

After reset, the number of free inodes goes up. What seems very
strange is that the number of free files goes from 4 to 57034,
almost as if beyond a certain limit the file-nr counter starts
acting as an underflow counter (just my own observation).
Particularly inconsistent is that the number of allocated file
handles before warm start, 58783, is well below the permitted
maximum of 98304.

Has anyone seen anything like this to help me understand where to go
next? Thanks much in advance,

-- Michael

# before apache warm start
0 421083 45 0 0 0
0 0
58783 4 98304 <=== file-nr: note the middle number
524300 43622 <=== inode-nr: note the middle number
524300 43622 0 0 0 0 0

# after apache warm start
0 421625 45 0 0 0
0 0
58797 57034 98304 <=== was 4 before warm start
524300 99808 <=== was 43622 before warm start
524300 99808 0 0 0 0 0

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