Introducing delouse

Paul Tagliamonte

Paul Tagliamonte

At Zoo, most of our user-facing stack is written in Rust, where we’ve wholeheartedly adopted the tokio async ecosystem of libraries - a huge win in terms of library ecosystem and server performance. With that comes a bit of overhead, especially around the still nascent async Rust tooling and developer experience. We’ve found debugging async Rust services can be tricky, since a lot of the Rust ecosystem is split along the async/sync boundary, and loads of async specific tools are still experimental.

A few months ago, we fixed an issue with the Design API where we would notice an intermittent crash due to file descriptor exhaustion after enough load. On a hunch, I exported tokio task counts via our metrics stack using part of the unstable API surface, and determined there was an async task leak. Tasks would spawn, but never shut down on their own after the WebSocket closed because they collectively maintained ownership of enough objects to not drop their peer’s channel handles. This issue went unnoticed for months because async tasks (like many other green threads) are inexpensive in terms of CPU – they don’t wake up all that often and in our case, we didn't see excessive RAM usage due to implementation specifics of how we structured our handlers.

Where to go from there? That is a bit more complicated. As a first step, there’s tokio-console, which is great (full stop) and specifically also for seeing what is running and narrowing down where the problem may lie in your program –- this allowed us to figure out that this was due to code we had written (and not a third party library), but quickly hit a dead-end when trying to generate a stack trace for all the spawned tokio tasks.

Rust has robust internals for generating a stacktrace of all Rust system threads (or, even easier – use gdb to attach to the process, and run thread apply all bt to generate a stack trace for all the threads from outside the process) -- but this same level of support for tokio async tasks via gdb does not currently exist, and is incredibly tricky to add -- I don’t think it’s something we’ll see for a very long time due to the herculean effort it’d take to happen, nevermind the work to continually maintain it along with the tokio runtime. It’s almost easier to just start from scratch with the debugger – writing custom debugging infrastructure that is aware of the specifics of your runtime (like Go’s dlv) tends to be the path of least resistance for language developers.

In a stroke of luck while digging through the tokio docs, I found that someone had landed exactly what I was looking for very recently – the ability to generate a stack trace of tokio tasks, from inside the process.

Enter delouse – our internal framework that we use in conjunction with tokio-console to help with debugging services inside Zoo that we’ve open sourced this week. The tokio "taskdump" API surface is very fragile due to the incredibly cool party trick it’s able to pull off for us – unfortunately, that also means it may crash the process when an endpoint is called (which results in the stacktrace going to stderr and panic-ing the process). We generally only run delouse when specifically debugging one of our services (gated behind the crate feature "debug") and not by default, and I’d encourage you to do the same for now.

Enough talking -- let’s take it out for a spin!

use anyhow::Result;

async fn main() -> Result<()> {

    let handle = tokio::spawn(async move {
        loop {

Fairly straightforward so far -- we’ll spawn a task which will loop forever printing out "heartbeat" once a second, and wait on that task to finish – never exiting. We called delouse::init(), which starts up a dropshot server serving requests for localhost on port 7132 (not currently configurable, but will be eventually), which has a few endpoints for debugging a misbehaving process.

There are currently four HTTP endpoints -- an endpoint to pull information from our own ELF (more to come here once I have some time to pull more info from our own binary), an endpoint to crash the process and generate a coredump, an endpoint to request a Rust stacktrace, and finally an endpoint to request for a tokio stacktrace. Let’s try out the tokio stacktrace endpoint and take a look at our heartbeat task above.

$ curl http://localhost:7132/stacktrace/tokio | jq -r .stacktrace
Tokio Task ID 0:
╼ <hyper::server::shutdown::Graceful<I,S,F,E> as core::future::future::Future>::poll at /home/paultag/.cargo/registry/src/
    (omitted due to length)

Tokio Task ID 1:
╼ <dropshot::server::HttpServer<C> as core::future::future::Future>::poll at /home/paultag/.cargo/registry/src/
    (omitted due to length)

Tokio Task ID 2:
╼ heartbeat::main::{{closure}}::{{closure}} at /home/paultag/dev/kittycad/delouse/examples/
  └╼ <tokio::time::sleep::Sleep as core::future::future::Future>::poll at /home/paultag/.cargo/registry/src/
     └╼ tokio::time::sleep::Sleep::poll_elapsed at /home/paultag/.cargo/registry/src/

Tokio Task ID 3:
╼ <hyper::server::server::new_svc::NewSvcTask<I,N,S,E,W> as core::future::future::Future>::poll at /home/paultag/.cargo/registry/src/
    (omitted due to length)

Tokio Task ID 4:
╼ dropshot::server::http_request_handle::{{closure}}::{{closure}} at /home/paultag/.cargo/registry/src/
    (omitted due to length)

We can see that we’ve got 4 tasks running, including our heartbeat task running in Task 2. We can see it’s currently sleeping, and on what line it’s sleeping ( Running this against our Design API quickly narrowed the problem down to our WebRTC handlers reading from the same shared messaging channel -- allowing us to push a small fix to explicitly close the shared resource, which resulted in spinning down any tasks spawned from a closed WebSocket connection. Our metrics looked completely fixed the next day – and we’ve not seen any issues in the following weeks.

The delouse endpoints will gracefully degrade when system support is not possible or configured. For example, the tokio stacktrace support is only implemented upstream for Linux on aarch64, x86 and x86_64. In addition to OS support, the tokio stacktrace endpoint requires that the tokio_unstable and tokio_taskdump config options are set -- which means adding some flags to your project’s .cargo/config.toml -- the README has some examples. More than anything, though, the delouse hooks are designed to be helpful when you’re having a bad day, and fail in a way that still attempts to be as helpful as possible, but we’d love to find ways to make it even more helpful! Feel free to file issues, discuss possible features or send in fixes. We’re excited to help save everyone some debugging time and contribute back to the ecosystem that we've wholeheartedly adopted within Zoo!

If you’ve found this post interesting, you would fit right in at Zoo! Come join us, or build something great using any of the Zoo APIs – we’re building the future of hardware design by tackling the hardest infrastructure problems facing the industry today so hardware teams can focus on designing the next big thing – not fighting with their tools.