The "Out of mbuf clusters" problem

Phil Torre ptorre at
Fri Sep 3 01:37:21 UTC 2004

(These comments pertain to RTEMS-4.6.1 on MPC860 with an Ethernet driver
swiped from the one in eth_comm.)

We have a problem right now with an application which sends log data
to a client using the file send hook in the FTP server.  (The hook
function reads some raw data from flash memory, formats it into
human-readable text, and passes it back to ftpd, over and over again
until all of the flash data has been read out.)

With the default mbuf and mbuf cluster allocations, and the MPC860's
caches turned off, it looks like the receive daemon can grab all of
the available mbuf clusters before the network task has a chance to
process any of them, resulting in deadlock.

There are at least two ways out of this:  Turn the caches on so we run
fast enough to keep up with the received data, or increase the amount
of memory allocated to the mbuf cluster pool.  Either one works to
prevent the deadlock from occurring.

My problem is this:  In experimenting with a system in the deadlocked
state, it seems that running out of clusters is an unrecoverable
situation.  Even if I set always_keepalive so that the TCP connection
times out eventually, that causes the TCP connection to be dropped
but *doesn't deallocate the mbufs/clusters*.  Once it's locked up,
it's gonna stay that way until the system is rebooted.

Googling the freebsd mailing lists, I see people complaining about this
problem (which will kernel panic a freebsd box) from back in the 3.x
days.  The reply is usually "That's the system's way of telling you 
that you haven't tuned it properly.  Bad sysadmin!".  That may be
acceptable for a web server, but not for a mission critical embedded

As stated above, I can push the problem back at least two ways, but
I'd sure prefer to know that it will self-recover even in the worst
case.  Our networking code is up to date with what was in CVS as of
August 16th, so we should have the latest and greatest.  Can anyone
comment on fixes for this?  One obvious thing to try is hacking tcp_drop()
so that it frees all clusters associated with the stuck TCP connection.



Phil Torre                               phone: 425-820-6363 x234
Design Engineer                          email: ptorre at
Switching Systems Group                    fax: 425-820-7031
Zetron, Inc.                               web:

More information about the users mailing list