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'HTTP Session Replication Failure' Issues

Moving away from the primary thought

Sometimes, HTTP session states are not replicated from the primary server to the secondary server.

Symptoms

  1. The application using HTTP session does not function as designed and you see a loss of session data.
  2. You might be asked to re-log into the application even when the session has still not timed out.
  3. You see errors and warnings related to HTTP session failures in the server's log file.
  4. The request is not failed over to another server properly.

There are several reasons as to why session replication fails. We will look at ways to diagnose the issue, possible reasons for it, and the ways to address them.

Types of HTTP Session Replication
There are five different implementations of session persistence:

  • Memory (single-server, non-replicated): When you use memory-based storage, all session information is stored in memory and is lost when you stop and restart WebLogic Server.
  • File system persistence: Session information is stored in a file under the PersistentStoreDir specified.
  • JDBC persistence: Session information is stored in a database table.
  • Cookie-based session persistence: Session information is stored in a cookie.
  • In-memory replication (across a cluster): Session data is copied from one server instance to another into memory.

Diagnosing the Issue
Consider a scenario with two servers (MyServer-1, MyServer-2) in a cluster. When you enable the debug flags (see the "Enable the Debug Flags to Track Session Replication Failures"section), you will see the messages below when a request from a client is sent the very first time.

On MyServer-1:

<Oct 9, 2003 12:38:21 PM PDT> <Debug> <Cluster> <000000>
<Creating primary 5165892837402719733>
<Oct 9, 2003 12:38:21 PM PDT> <Debug> <Cluster> <000000>
<Created secondary for 5165892837402719733 on -7957889153726652135S:
192.168.11.112: [9001,9001, -1, -1,9001, -1, -1]: mydomain: MyServer-2>

This logging message means that the primary server is MyServer-1 and a secondary has been created on MyServer-2. A message like the one shown below will be logged on MyServer-2 to confirm that.

ExecuteThread: '1' for queue: 'Replication'> <kernel identity> <>
<000000> <Creating secondary 5165892837402719733>
####<Oct 9, 2003 12:38:21 PM PDT> <Debug> <Cluster>
<rvimala-c840> <MyServer-2> <ExecuteThread:
'1' for queue: 'Replication'>
<kernel identity> <> <000000>
<Updated local secondary of 5165892837402719733>

If you check the JSESSIONID it looks like:

JSESSIONID=1E9Xwn7nLYfOsc1obgRZIwW5s72an7HPPvSD7iaWHMXzpHga5cQj
!-1587343083!-1587348922

JSESSIONID is the default name of the cookie, which could be changed to anything in weblogic.xml. The format of JSESSIONID is

SessionId!PrimaryServer JVM Hash!SecondaryServer JVMHash

Every time data is changed (either set/get or removed) in the session you'll see the logging message.

On MyServer-1:

<Oct 9, 2003 12:38:21 PM PDT> <Debug> <Cluster> <000000>
<Updated remote secondary for 5165892837402719733>

On MyServer-2:

####<Oct 9, 2003 12:38:21 PM PDT> <Debug> <Cluster>
<rvimala-c840> <MyServer-2> <ExecuteThread:
'1' for queue: 'Replication'> <kernel identity> <> <000000>
<Updated local secondary of 5165892837402719733>

If for any reason session replication fails, you will see the message below in the MyServer-1 log:

<Nov 6, 2003 12:59:12 PM EST> <Debug> <Cluster> <000000>
<Unable to create secondary for -5165892837402719733>
<Nov 6, 2003 12:59:12 PM EST> <Debug> <Cluster> <000000>
<Error creating secondary 5165892837402719733 on -7957889153726652135S:
192.168.11.112:[9001,9001,-1,-1,9001,-1,-1]:mydomain:MyServer-2>

And, the JSESSIONID would appear as

JSESSIONID=1E9Xwn7nLYfOsc1obgRZIwW5s72an7HPPvSD7iaWHMXzpHga5cQj!-1587343083!NONE

The secondary server hash would become NONE

Enable the Debug Flags to Track Session Replication Failures
You can enable the flags DebugCluster, DebugClusterAnnouncements, DebugFailOver, DebugReplication, and DebugReplicationDetails.

To Enable
Use the weblogic.Admin command-line utility to dynamically turn the debug options on and off. For example, to turn on DebugCluster on all administration instances of ServerDebug MBean (i.e., Admin Server or al Managed Server):

java weblogic.Admin -url t3://localhost:7001 -username system -password weblogic
SET -type ServerDebug -property DebugCluster true

Or, edit the config.xml and the MBean element in the <ServerDebug/> stanza for each server that you want to debug and set it to a value of "true" to enable or "false" to disable. Then you must restart the Admin Server. Managed Servers will reconnect to the Admin Server and the debug flags will then dynamically take effect. For example:

<ServerDebug DebugCluster="true" Name="myserver"/>

At the end, with all the flags set, in your config.xml the ServerDebug tag would look like:

<ServerDebug ClassFinder="true" DebugCluster="true"
DebugClusterAnnouncements="true" DebugFailOver="true"
DebugReplication="true" DebugReplicationDetails="true" Name="MyServer1"/>

Make sure the stdOutSeverity level of the server is INFO and StdoutDebugEnabled is set to "true". The debug information will be logged into the server log as well as to the standard out.

Checklist for Each Session Persistence Type
Memory (Single Server, Nonreplicated)

  1. When you use memory-based storage, all session information is stored in memory and is lost when you stop and restart BEA WebLogic Server.
  2. Make sure you have allocated sufficient heap size when running WebLogic Server; otherwise, your server may run out of memory under heavy load.
  3. Not a recommended type for Cluster configuration (because the data is kept in heap and is not available to any other server).

File System Persistence

  1. Verify that the directory where BEA WebLogic Server stores the sessions is correctly specified in weblogic.xml. You must also create this directory yourself and make sure appropriate access privileges have been assigned to the directory.
  2. Make sure you have enough disk space.

JDBC Persistence
Make sure the connection pool that connects to the database has read/write access for the database table used.

Cookie-Based Persistence

  1. Make sure you have not stored anything other than java.lang.String in the HTTP session.
  2. Do not flush the HTTP response object in your application code.
  3. Make sure that the content length of the response exceeds the buffer size set (default is 8192 bytes).
  4. Make sure that cookies are enabled in the browser.
  5. Make sure that you do not use commas (,) in a string when using cookie-based session persistence.

In-Memory Replication

  1. Make sure that the BEA WebLogic Server is accessed only via a proxy server or a hardware load balancer
  2. The hardware load balancer should support a compatible passive or active cookie persistence mechanism, and SSL persistence.
  3. Recommended type in a cluster.

Validate the weblogic.xml Entries
Make sure weblogic.xml has all the parameters that need to be set for each Session Replication type. For example, when using in-memory replication the sample weblogic.xml would look like:

<session-descriptor> <session-param> <param-name> PersistentStoreType </param-name> <param-value> replicated </param-value> </session-param> </session-descriptor>

Note: The debug files are subjected to change with each version of BEA WebLogic Server.

Session Data Must Be Serializable
To support in-memory replication of HTTP session states, all servlet and JSP session data must be serializable or else session replication would fail.

When debugging is enabled, BEA WebLogic Server would output the warning messages below by indicating that the session is not replicated. After this, session replication would stop.

Debug Message:

<Oct 8, 2003 2:10:45 PM PDT> <Error> <Cluster> <000126>
<All session objects should be serializable to replicate.
Please check the objects in your session.
Failed to replicate non-serializable object>

On the subsequent request the JSESSIONID will be missing the secondary server and will be marked NONE, e.g.:

JSESSIONID=1E9Xwn7nLYfOsc1obgRZIwW5s72an7HPPvSD7iaWHMXzpHga5cQj!-1587343083!NONE

Solution: Find out the page the error is thrown from and make sure that all the data put into the session is serializable.

Check for Network/Multicast Issues
Make sure that the network is fine and there are no multicast issues. Do the multicast test to make sure that the multicast IP is working fine.

Syntax

java utils.MulticastTest -n name -a address [-p portnumber] [-t timeout] [-s send]

(http://edocs.bea.com/wls/docs81/adminref/utils.html#1199798)

Validate Cluster Configuration
The primary and secondary servers are selected from the cluster list. In a cluster of two servers, if the cluster doesn't have all the servers, then a secondary might not be chosen, resulting in the session data not being replicated.

To verify, execute the following commands:

  1. Make sure weblogic.jar is in the classpath.
  2. To get all the servers in a cluster:

java weblogic.Admin -username weblogic -password weblogic -url
http://oneofthemanagedserverurlinthecluster:7001/ GET -type ClusterRuntime -pretty

This will list all the servers in a cluster. The URL could be changed to every server in the cluster to make sure they all have the same entries.

Application Code Diagnostics
Make sure you use only setAttribute/removeAttribute methods of the HTTP session in your application code to update the HTTP session. If you use other set methods to change objects within a session, BEA WebLogic Server does not replicate those changes.

Please do not use the methods putValue and removeValue of the HTTP session as they are deprecated and there could be issues with session data replication when using such methods in your application. Instead, use only the setAttribute/removeAttribute methods of the Http session.

Cookies vs URL Rewriting
In some situations, a browser or wireless device may not accept cookies, which makes session tracking with cookies impossible. URL rewriting is a solution to this situation that can be substituted automatically when WebLogic Server detects that the browser does not accept cookies. Enable URL rewriting in BEA WebLogic Server by setting the URLRewritingEnabled attribute in the WebLogic-specific deployment descriptor, weblogic.xml, under the <session-param> element. The default value for this attribute is true.

Performance Issues

  • Consider serialization overhead: Serializing session data introduces some overhead for replicating the session state. The overhead increases as the size of the serialized objects grows. If you plan to create very large objects in the session, test the performance of your servlet to ensure that performance is acceptable.
  • Control frame access to session data: If you are designing a Web application that utilizes multiple frames, keep in mind that there is no synchronization of requests made by frames in a given frameset. For example, it is possible for multiple frames in a frameset to create multiple sessions on behalf of the client application, even though the client should logically create only a single session.

    To avoid unexpected application behavior, carefully plan how you access session data with frames. You can apply one of the following general rules to avoid common problems:
    - In a given frameset, ensure that only one frame creates and modifies session data.
    - Always create the session in a frame of the first frameset your application uses (for example, create the session in the first HTML page that is visited). After the session has been created, access the session data only in framesets other than the first frameset.

  • Storing larger amounts of data in the session: JDBC persistence and File persistence won't be faster as the session data has to be stored and retrieved from an external resource. There is also a performance overhead because of JDBC access for each session update. If you want to store large objects in the session, then JDBC or File persistence should be considered.
  • Storing small amount of data in the session: Cookie-based session persistence is most useful when you do not need to store large amounts of data in the session. Cookie-based session persistence can make managing your BEA WebLogic Server installation easier because clustering failover logic is not required.

    Further Information
    For additional information go to http://support.bea.com for some published solutions on session replication failures. You can also query ASK BEA at http://websupport.beasys.com/index.jsp.

    If none of these help you towards a solution or an identifier in your application, then contact BEA Customer Support for further diagnosis. You can open a case with a valid support contract by logging in at http://support.bea.com/login.jsp

  • More Stories By Vimala Ranganthan

    Vimala Ranganathan is a backline developer relations engineer with BEA Systems. She specializes in troubleshooting and solving complex customer issues with their mission-critical applications on BEA products. Vimala holds a bachelor's degree in computer science.

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