FreeBSD NFS client goes into infinite retry loop

Steve Polyack korvus at
Fri Mar 19 13:23:55 UTC 2010

On 03/19/10 08:31, John Baldwin wrote:
> On Friday 19 March 2010 7:34:23 am Steve Polyack wrote:
>> Hi, we use a FreeBSD 8-STABLE (from shortly after release) system as an
>> NFS server to provide user home directories which get mounted across a
>> few machines (all 6.3-RELEASE).  For the past few weeks we have been
>> running into problems where one particular client will go into an
>> infinite loop where it is repeatedly trying to write data which causes
>> the NFS server to return "reply ok 40 write ERROR: Input/output error
>> PRE: POST:".  This retry loop can cause between 20mbps and 500mbps of
>> constant traffic on our network, depending on the size of the data
>> associated with the failed write.
>> We spent some time on the issue and determined that something on one of
>> the clients is deleting a file as it is being written to by another NFS
>> client.  We were able to enable the NFS lockmgr and use lockf(1) to fix
>> most of these conditions, and the frequency of this problem has dropped
>> from once a night to once a week.  However, it's still a problem and we
>> can't necessarily force all of our users to "play nice" and use lockf/flock.
>> Has anyone seen this before?  No errors are being logged on the NFS
>> server itself, but the "Server Ret-Failed" counter begins to increase
>> rapidly whenever a client gets stuck in this infinite retry loop:
>> Server Ret-Failed
>>           224768961
>> I have a feeling that using NFS in such a matter may simply be prone to
>> such problems, but what confuses me is why the NFS client system is
>> infinitely retrying the write operation and causing itself so much grief.
> Yes, your feeling is correct.  This sort of race is inherent to NFS if you do
> not use some sort of locking protocol to resolve the race.  The infinite
> retries sound like a client-side issue.  Have you been able to try a newer OS
> version on a client to see if it still causes the same behavior?
I can't try a newer FBSD version on the client where we are seeing the 
problems, but I can recreate the problem fairly easily.  Perhaps I'll 
try it with an 8.0 client.  If I remember correctly, one of the strange 
things is that it doesn't seem to hit "critical mass" until a few hours 
after the operation first fails.  I may be wrong, but I'll double check 
that when I check vs. 8.0-release.

I forgot to add this in the first post, but these are all TCP NFS v3 mounts.

Thanks for the response.

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