Cheat Sheets

curl and HTTP 1.1 keepalive test traffic

Curl is really helpful for debugging when after recognizing a problem you need to decide wether it is a network issue, a DNS problem, an app server problem or an application performance problem.

To try to isolate the problem type you can run curl like this

 curl -w "$(date +%FT%T)    dns %{time_namelookup}    connect %{time_connect}   firstbyte %{time_starttransfer}   total %{time_total}   HTTP %{http_code}\n" -o /dev/null -s ""
which executed in a loop will give you a nice request trace like this:
2018-10-30T23:08:53    dns 0,012667    connect 0,112453   firstbyte 0,440164   total 0,440420   HTTP 200
2018-10-30T23:08:54    dns 0,060853    connect 0,161769   firstbyte 0,506141   total 0,506381   HTTP 200
2018-10-30T23:08:56    dns 0,028415    connect 0,128208   firstbyte 0,463084   total 0,463375   HTTP 200
2018-10-30T23:08:57    dns 0,012420    connect 0,113948   firstbyte 0,460305   total 0,460630   HTTP 200
2018-10-30T23:08:59    dns 0,028618    connect 0,128600   firstbyte 0,465260   total 0,465624   HTTP 200
Now the columns help you identifying problem classes with 'dns' being obvious, 'connect' (meaning time to connect) helping you identifying OS or network issues, while 'firstbyte' giving a hint on app server responsiveness and the difference of 'firstbyte' and 'total' usually indicates actual application response time.

But what about HTTP/1.1 and persistent connections. So your test client has to open 1 connection and send subsequent requests on this connection?

Even this is possible using the -K switch of curl which allows you to pass a file of URLs to fetch. Together with --keepalive curl will execute all URLs on the same server connection. Here is an example:
curl -sw "$(date +%FT%T)    dns %{time_namelookup}    connect %{time_connect}   firstbyte %{time_starttransfer}   total %{time_total}   HTTP %{http_code}\n" --keepalive -K <(printf 'url=""\n%.0s' {1..10000}) 2>/dev/null | grep dns
The curl command looks similar to before expect that you now do not need a loop, as we use three pieces of bash magic to create the loop. First we pass a sequence of numbers {1..10000} to printf, which is the number of requests we want to perform, but we choose a 'useless' pattern in printf "%.0s" so the number is not printed and the string stays static (just the URL we want). This way we get the URL printed 10000 times as input for curl. Using the bash construct "<()" we create an ad-hoc file handle which we pass to -K. Note how output redirection (-o) doesn't work when fetching multiple URLs with -K as curl want a separat output handle per URL which we cannot provide. We workaround this by filtering for our intended -w output with "|grep dns".

Running this get us
2018-10-30T23:28:19    dns 0,012510    connect 0,114990   firstbyte 0,465874   total 0,466031   HTTP 200
2018-10-30T23:28:19    dns 0,000087    connect 0,000093   firstbyte 0,195553   total 0,195697   HTTP 200
2018-10-30T23:28:19    dns 0,000065    connect 0,000069   firstbyte 0,104634   total 0,104775   HTTP 200
2018-10-30T23:28:19    dns 0,000101    connect 0,000105   firstbyte 0,103206   total 0,103354   HTTP 200
2018-10-30T23:28:19    dns 0,000068    connect 0,000073   firstbyte 0,103591   total 0,104184   HTTP 200
Note how only the first 'dns' and 'connect' time was in millisecond range, while all following 'dns' and 'connect' values are mere ┬Áseconds indicating a reused connection and no new DNS query.

Hope this helps! How do you guys do ad-hoc debugging of problems with persistent connection? Especially finding sporadic errors. Would be great if you could leave a comment with suggestions!

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