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Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Very Common Coding Flaw

In a past life I worked as a Unix application developer in C and C++. Back in the days before there was a readily available library to do most things for you, I might add. More recently I have been working in corporate web environments tuning the performance of web applications and squashing bugs.

In this web world, I see the same coding error repeated over and over again all through complex systems. I've seen it cascade through four or more levels of servers and application layers – in the application code and in the web application server designs themselves. This common error is not setting a time-out for network communications. When an application is dependent on an other application (web app server, web service, database, etc.) the developer needs to take care to gracefully handle the situation when the back end service "locks up." I have seen such errors permeate through layers of hosting infrastructure and take down whole farms of servers with all resources tied up waiting on a service that accepts connections but never returns.

So for the love of all that is good, set a time-out value on all of your network communications. Your users and customers will be happier as a result.

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