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Re: Can the response entity be transmitted before all the request entity has been read?

From: Alex Rousskov <rousskov@measurement-factory.com>
Date: Tue, 16 Mar 2004 09:42:19 -0700 (MST)
To: Jamie Lokier <jamie@shareable.org>
Cc: HTTP WG <ietf-http-wg@w3.org>
Message-ID: <Pine.BSF.4.58.0403160909260.72171@measurement-factory.com>

On Tue, 16 Mar 2004, Jamie Lokier wrote:

> Alex Rousskov wrote:
> > >      write "Status: 200\n\n";
> > >      write "Thank you for your submission.\n";
> > >
> > >      while ($x = read (...)) { store ($x) }
> > >
> > >      write "Great, all done.\n";
> >
> > While it is easy to imagine such an application, tasking a proxy
> > to "rewrite" or "fix" application logic to fit HTTP restrictions
> > seems like a bad idea. IMO, upon receiving "Status: 200\n\n" and
> > sending off response headers, your proxy should become a "tunnel"
> > and not try to second-guess the application intent.
> By the way, pure tunnelling leads to deadlock: the application can
> get stuck writing if the client isn't reading the response until it
> transmits all the request, and all the TCP windows fill up.

Yes, but that's client- or application-caused deadlock, not a
server-caused deadlock. I am arguing that a general-purpose server
cannot resolve such deadlocks using a simple tunnel interface.
Applications acting unusually should bare the responsibility of
avoiding deadlocks, not the server.

> I don't like that deadlock because it isn't necessary and it is
> practical to eliminate it in the server.  It's messier to eliminate
> it in the application, and anyway why do it once per application
> instead of once in the server?

I do not know of a way to resolve the said deadlock in the server, in
a general way that will not break some valid applications.

> To avoid deadlock, this is what I do: If writing would block, and
> there is data available to read, read it.  The buffer holds _read_
> data, and is therefore limited by the maximum permitted request
> entity size.  The maximum is asserted both for content-length and
> chunked requests.  The buffer is required *somewhere*, either in the
> server or in the application itself, or in backing storage for them,
> so there is no added resource consumption from this technique when
> it's implemented properly.

Sorry, I do not follow. You seem to be limiting request bodies to
maximum buffer size, which seems like a bad idea to me (but I am not

Here are the facts: An application does not read until it writes a lot
of data. An application wants to write more than your server can
buffer. Your server can either pass those writes through or block
them. If your server passes those writes through, then your server
cannot break the application (the application may still block due to
client behavior, but that is not your problem). If your server blocks
those writes, the application author will be after you with bug
reports and tomatoes ("It worked fine with Foo server!").

Of course, if you develop a specialized server for specialized set of
applications, it is totally up to you how to handle early writes.

> Note that the response doesn't get buffered infinitely.  Response
> generation is blocked while the request is being buffered up for
> whatever reason.

And if request body is larger than your server buffer? Temporary
buffering is like network delay, it cannot cause new deadlocks.
Buffering that depends on other buffer state may cause new deadlocks.

> It's not possible to omit the buffering *somewhere*: for clients which
> send a whole request before reading the response, the entire request
> has to be buffered or stored *somewhere*, either in the server or in
> the application, to resolve the deadlock.

For a baseline server algorithm, I would let broken clients and broken
applications to resolve their problems without server participation.
The server has to buffer request headers to set environmental
variables and such. After request headers are processed, the server
establishes a tunnel for the application to talk to the client and
just does chunk coding and/or connection termination management.

> > Imagine an application that writes more than you can buffer before
> > it reads anything.
> No.  The application can't do that: it will block when writing blocks.

With a simple tunneling server it will not block unless the client
does not read. Again, it becomes a client-application problem which is
what you want, as a server author, in a general case.

> The server's large buffer is the size of a maximum _request_ entity,
> and that storage is unavoidable one way or another.  Everything else
> is limited to an appropriate I/O block size.

I assume that request bodies should not be limited to your maximum
buffer size.

> The reason I asked all this is that if practically all real clients
> fail with it (I haven't reached the stage of testing yet), then the
> server may as well constrain the app, probably by complaining at it.

And then you will find a customer who deploys your server in a
controlled environment where clients and applications need an
HTTP-compliant tunnel and your server breaks it...

> I'd like to know whether it a common or rare client weakness, so
> whether I should consider using that technique or not.

I do not know because we have not tested clients yet. If you have
insufficient information, I would suggest to allow possibly compliant
behavior by default. You can always implement complex
optimizations/restrictions later.


Received on Tuesday, 16 March 2004 11:42:26 UTC

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