Last Monday, our Solaris server that contains all image thumbnails developed problems. It ran out of memory, became too slow and eventually even started to crash. (For the technically inclined: we think the kernel is leaking some file system structure in kernel memory.) This caused missing thumbnails across Wikimedia projects.

We addressed these problems in the following ways:

  • We decreased the load on this server by adapting the Squid configuration, so it would have to handle fewer requests.
  • We ordered more memory, in order to double the total physical memory in the relevant systems.
  • We set up two new Linux servers that will eventually replace the Solaris server.

At first, the addition of these Linux servers in a partially caching setup seemed enough to fix the immediate problem, while gradually copying all thumbnail files, allowing us to replace the Solaris server completely.

However, on Saturday night the Solaris server started crashing repeatedly, making it necessary to engage the image scalers to regenerate a large part of the missing thumbnails. This is causing some slowness of loading and generating new (uncached) thumbnails.

Fortunately, most users have not experienced serious problems while using the site, since most thumbnails are cached by our HTTP caching layer. It is impossible to determine exactly how long it will take to recover completely from the slower service, but we expect that this will take no more than a few days.

Over the past months we have been developing a new and more scalable architecture for media storage, which will solve these problems once and for all. We hope to deploy this new architecture within a few months, also utilizing the new data center. Please watch the Tech Blog for updates on this project.