Debugging RabbitMQ frame_too_large Error

Tue 02 June 2015 by John Eckersberg Tags openstack fedora

An interesting bug came to my attention today, and upon digging into it, a very sane explanation emerged for what initially to me looked like a crazy scenario.

Here's the relevant server-side error from the attachment in the bug:

=INFO REPORT==== 15-May-2015::08:49:46 ===
accepting AMQP connection <0.783.0> ( ->

=INFO REPORT==== 15-May-2015::08:49:56 ===
accepting AMQP connection <0.839.0> ( ->

=ERROR REPORT==== 15-May-2015::08:50:01 ===
AMQP connection <0.783.0> (running), channel 19793 - error:
            "type 65, all octets = <<>>: {frame_too_large,1342177289,131064}",

=ERROR REPORT==== 15-May-2015::08:50:04 ===
closing AMQP connection <0.783.0> ( ->

The {frame_too_large,1342177289,131064} bit tells some details about the frame: the maximum negotiated frame size is 131064 bytes (default config value of frame_max) and the frame we received is 1342177289 bytes (1.25 GB). That seems insanely large on the surface.

Next, we see the channel logged is 19793. Channels are a means of multiplexing logically distinct sessions over a single socket. My gut reaction is that you'd probably have some small number of channels, and that 19173 is an atypically large value. Checking an existing RabbitMQ instance I have running in an undercloud seems to confirm:

[root@instack ~]# rabbitmqctl list_channels number | sort | uniq -c
     43 1
     15 2

So, 43 channels exist with channel number 1, and 15 channels exist with channel number 2. No channels with number 19173.

Finally, make note that the frame type is 65, we'll see that again shortly.

To better understand what is going on, I checked out the AMQP 0.9.1 specification. Here's what I've gathered after reading through the Technical Specifications starting on page 31.

When a client makes a new connection, the first thing it does is send a protocol header to the server. A protocol header looks like this:

|'A'|'M'|'Q'|'P'| 0 | 0 | 9 | 1 |
            8 octets

Broken down, the 8 bytes are the literal ASCII string "AMQP" (4 bytes), a null byte, the major version 0, the minor version 9, and the revision 1. As hex values, it looks like this:

| 0x41 | 0x4D | 0x51 | 0x50 | 0x00 | 0x00 | 0x09 | 0x01 |

After this, the connection passes AMQP frames back and forth. All frames have the following format:

0      1         3         7                   size+7     size+8
+------+---------+---------+   +-------------+   +-----------+
| type | channel |  size   |   |   payload   |   | frame-end |
+------+---------+---------+   +-------------+   +-----------+
 octet   short      long        'size' octets        octet

Furthermore, the specification defines that the only valid frame types are 1, 2, 3, or 4. So our frame type of 65 is invalid. However as a programmer, 65 is drilled into my head as the ASCII representation of capital 'A'.

By now, the pieces start falling into place, and the explanation emerges. This is the error produced if you have an existing, established AMQP connection, and the client for some reason decides to re-send the protocol header on the socket. Possible explanations might be:

  1. Bad error handling/reconnect code

  2. Connection pooling weirdness

  3. Race conditions with multiple threads sharing a connection

  4. Etc.

Anyway, look what happens when we map the protocol header overtop of the frame format. We end up with:

  • type = 0x41 (decimal 65), the 'A' in 'AMQP'

  • channel = 0x4D51 (decimal 19793), the 'MQ' in 'AMQP'

  • size = 0x50000009 (decimal 1342177289), the 'P' from 'AMQP' plus the version up to 9

Which matches exactly with the error produced by the server. So now I at least have an explanation for the error. Why exactly the client resends the protocol header is another story, hopefully you will eventually find the answer in the linked bugzilla bug.