Tuesday, April 4, 2017

ASP.Net IIS AppPool Recycling is a hack

From the beginning it was known to me that the IIS AppPool recycling is a hack. If a technology is matured enough to handle web traffic, it doesn't need periodic recycling of processes. To me there is no difference between support teams asking to restart machines to solve issues and app pool recycling. In both these cases, the memory is cleaned up.

Whenever I was involved in IIS applications, I instructed the teams to disable app pool recycling from the development time itself. But it never happened. According to most of developers and their managers that is a feature from IIS and why should they change defaults and bring unnecessary issues. Whenever I had direct delivery responsibility, I ensured that the app pool recycling is not enabled. There was mistake from my side as well that I never invested time to find out a valid Microsoft link which says do not recycle app pool process. But yesterday the time arrived. There was a client question on why the app pool recycling is disabled on some applications where majority has recycling. Those were framework level applications and in my direct control during development. 
If you have a problematic application and you cannot easily correct the code that causes the problems, you can limit the extent of these problems by periodically recycling the worker process that services the application. Microsoft
Finally got the link where MSFT says about app pool recycle. But the scenario again complicated for us. 3-4 web apps only disabled the app pool recycling and the other 50+ web apps not. Were those created with no quality and difficult to fix?

Stateful v/s Stateless IIS web apps

Here comes 2 different types of web apps. Some apps will be just to receive request and send response back. If we recycle these stateless apps, there is no harm to the behavior of the system as every request and its response pair is independent of other request-response pairs. So it is 'ok' to recycle. In case there are something going wrong with memory and unnoticed during dev and QA, it won't cause trouble in production as well. Since extensive memory, load, long running testing are not needed, we can develop in low cost.

Other type of apps will be maintaining some sort of state in the memory and state might be evolving over time. Also their behavior will be controlled by the current state. If we recycle the process, the state will be lost and their behavior will be wrong after recycling. Yes there is the answer.
It is 'ok' to recycle the stateless web apps but never recycle the stateful apps.
When it is said 'ok' means, there are no ways to fix in production. Other scenario is when there was no chance to properly test for long hours and LOH fragmentation during development. Again it is not recommended to keep a big state in memory which may cause scaling issues.

Better write programs properly and avoid app pool recycling.

LOH and recycling

Without mentioning Large Object Heap, any article about .Net memory management is incomplete. As all knows LOH was never getting compacted in earlier .Net versions. That causes large objects to be fragmented and finally lead to OutOfMemoryException. In those days, it was not a choice to enable AppPool recycling but we have to. I agree that there are programmatic mechanisms to avoid LOH fragmentation. But those are all costly during development and testing. Also requires high skills.




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