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Ayende Rahien is working for Hibernating Rhinos LTD, a Israeli based company producing developer productivity tools for OLTP applications such as NHibernate Profiler (nhprof.com), Linq to SQL Profiler(l2sprof.com), Entity Framework Profiler (efprof.com) and more. Ayende is a DZone MVB and is not an employee of DZone and has posted 481 posts at DZone. You can read more from them at their website. View Full User Profile

Bug hunting in a massively multi threaded environment

02.19.2013
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We got a really nasty bug report from a user. Sometimes, out of the blue, RavenDB would throw an error:

System.InvalidOperationException: Collection was modified; enumeration operation may not execute.
   at System.Collections.Generic.List`1.Enumerator.MoveNextRare()
   at Raven.Json.Linq.RavenJArray.WriteTo(JsonWriter writer, JsonConverter[] converters) in c:\Builds\RavenDB-Stable\Raven.Abstractions\Json\Linq\RavenJArray.cs:line 174
   at Raven.Json.Linq.RavenJObject.WriteTo(JsonWriter writer, JsonConverter[] converters) in c:\Builds\RavenDB-Stable\Raven.Abstractions\Json\Linq\RavenJObject.cs:line 275
   at Raven.Json.Linq.RavenJObject.WriteTo(JsonWriter writer, JsonConverter[] converters) in c:\Builds\RavenDB-Stable\Raven.Abstractions\Json\Linq\RavenJObject.cs:line 275

Unfortunately, this error only happened once in a while, usually when the system was under load. But they weren’t able to provide a repro for that.

Luckily, they were able to tell us that they suspected that this is related to the replication support. I quickly setup a database with replication and wrote the following code to try to reproduce this:

using(var store = new DocumentStore
{
    Url = "http://localhost:8080",
    DefaultDatabase = "hello"
}.Initialize())
{
    using(var session = store.OpenSession())
    {
        session.Store(new ReadingList
        {
            UserId = "test/1",
            Id = "lists/1",
            Books = new List<ReadingList.ReadBook>()
        });
        session.SaveChanges();
    }
    Parallel.For(0, 100, i =>
    {
        while (true)
        {
            try
            {
                using (var session = store.OpenSession())
                {
                    session.Advanced.UseOptimisticConcurrency = true;
                    session.Load<ReadingList>("lists/1")
                            .Books.Add(new ReadingList.ReadBook
                            {
                                ReadAt = DateTime.Now,
                                Title = "test " + i
                            });
                    session.SaveChanges();
                }
                break;
            }
            catch (ConcurrencyException)
            {
                
            }
        }
    });
}

And that reproduced the bug! Hurrah! Done deal, we can move on, right?

Except that the bug was only there when we have massive amount of threads hitting the db at once, and trying to figure out what is actually going on there was next to impossible using standard debugging tools. Instead, I reached down to my tracing toolbelt and starting pulling stuff out. First, we identified that the problem occurred when iterating over RavenJArray, which is our own object, so we added the following:

        ConcurrentQueue<StackTrace>  addStackTraces = new ConcurrentQueue<StackTrace>();

        public void Add(RavenJToken token)
        {
            if (isSnapshot)
                throw new InvalidOperationException("Cannot modify a snapshot, this is probably a bug");

            addStackTraces.Enqueue(new StackTrace(true));

            Items.Add(token);
        }

And this one (where the exception is raised):

public override void WriteTo(JsonWriter writer, params JsonConverter[] converters)
{
    writer.WriteStartArray();

    if (Items != null)
    {
        try
        {
            foreach (var token in Items)
            {
                token.WriteTo(writer, converters);
            }
        }
        catch (InvalidOperationException e)
        {
            foreach (var stackTrace in addStackTraces)
            {
                Console.WriteLine(stackTrace);
            }
            throw;
        }
    }

    writer.WriteEndArray();
}

With the idea that we would actually be able to get what is going on there. By tracking down who added items to this particular instance, I hoped that I would be able to figure out why we have an instance that is shared among multiple threads.

When I had that, it was pretty easy to see that it was indeed the replication bundle that was causing the issue. The problem was that the replication bundle was modifying an inner array inside the document metadata. We protected the root properties of the metadata from concurrent modifications, and most of the time, it works just fine. But the problem was that now we had a bundle that was modifying a nested array, which wasn’t protected.

This is one of those bugs that are really hard to catch:

  • My understanding of the code said that this is not possible, since I believed that we protected the nested properties as well*.
  • This bug will only surface if and only if:
    • You have the replication bundle enabled.
    • You have a great deal of concurrent modifications (with optimistic concurrency enabled) to the same document.
    • You are unlucky.

I was grateful that the user figured out the replication connection, because I already sat on that bug previously, and there was no way I could figure out what is going on unless I had the trace to point me to where the actual problem was.


Published at DZone with permission of Ayende Rahien, author and DZone MVB. (source)

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