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Herman verschooten

These things I recently learned, that may be useful to myself and others in the future.

Node troubles

As most of my readers know I tend to use clustering quite often in my setups.
I run a hotspot business called GratWiFi where the backend exists of several Elixir applications.
Up until a few weeks ago these were 3 Phoenix apps that talk to each other over Phoenix.PubSub using libcluster to easily interconnect.
Round about the time I upgraded these apps to the latest versions of OTP/Elixir I added a 4th app called wg_man.
This new app manages VPN connections for my hotspots using WireGuard, replacing OpenVPN, it allows setting up the tunnels and managing the IP addresses on both ends.
No trouble there, everything working as it should.

Until some time later I did a deploy of my API server, the dashboards for our customers and partners were no longer updating!
Why? What is happening? I ssh-ed into the API server, used the app remote script, only to notice that Node.list() returned an empty list.
Checking on the other servers, they had the other apps except that api in theirs, huh?
I restarted the API server, checked the Node.list(), yes we are back, or not... a couple of seconds later, no more connections.
I restarted again, yes, yes, yes, the nodes stay up.

Time to check the logs, my logs in production are JSON structured. This is the log for when it happened again after deploying the dashboard app yesterday.

Oct  1 10:20:06 api gratwifi[246545]: {"message":"'global' at node :\"gratwifi@api.xxx\" disconnected node :\"dashboard@dashboard.xxx\" in order to prevent overlapping partitions","time":"2023-10-01T10:20:06.101Z","severity":"WARNING"}
Oct  1 10:20:06 api gratwifi[246545]: {"message":"'global' at node :\"gratwifi@api.xxx\" disconnected node :\"pashboard@partner.xxx\" in order to prevent overlapping partitions","time":"2023-10-01T10:20:06.101Z","severity":"WARNING"}
Oct  1 10:20:13 api gratwifi[246545]: {"message":"'global' at :\"gratwifi@api.xxx\" failed to connect to :\"wg_man@xxx\"\n","time":"2023-10-01T10:20:13.090Z","severity":"WARNING"}

What the? overlapping partitions? What is going on? Google to the rescue, a Stack overlow article explains a lot, but not what is happening and why.
At first I thought it might be happening because of the way I start my apps, I first run migrations then start the app for real. Could it be that the cluster was starting during the migration and immediately stopping again, causing the up/down messages to overlap and cause this?
Ok, remove the ExecStartPre from my systemd unit and add {Task, &migrate/0} to the list of children in Application.start/2 and run the migrations.

defp migrate do
  if Application.get_env(:api, :run_migrations, false) do

This combined with setting the flag to true in config/runtime.exs allows me to run my migrations just in production.

I deployed, restarted and yes all nodes were available. Solved!

That was until yesterday when I deployed the dashboard and it happened again. - Please insert appropriate swear words -

Can I avoid this partitioning thing? Google, ladidadida, yes, you can, add a line to the systemd unit

Environment=ELIXIR_ERL_OPTIONS='-kernel prevent_overlapping_partitions false'

To be sure, I asked on the Elixir General Slack, if this is a good idea. One of the seemingly always present Elixir masters (@di4na) immediately responded.

@di4na: yes but beware this can leave your cluster in unstable states where the data reported is not true

So maybe not such a good idea, we talked back and forth, got a lot of suggestions, and I tried to forcefully stop the node's connections on shutdown by adding to application.ex:

defmodule Api.Application do

  def stop(_state) do

According to the Erlang documentation, this disconnects this node from all others. At first I used Node.disconnect/1, but the docs state that to the other nodes it appears as if this node had crashed.

Deploy, test, hmm still happening. Even stranger, starting and stopping different apps yields different results, until I noticed that I could reproduce this issue with 1 app! the wg_man app I added last.
Going into the remote console of this app I tried to manually connect to the API server, false. This is strange, can I resolve the name from the command line, yes, no probs, I can ping the host.
Hmm, and some more hmm, and a lot of time later, I found the reason why.

Oh my God, how stupid can I be?

Somewhere last year, I got a number of error messages from EPMD on the API server, someone was trying to access it from the outside.
So I added some firewall rules to my ProxMox instance to restrict access only to the subnet in which my servers reside.
These rules are not visible within the instance, that's why even though I had checked with iptables I did not remember.

So what was happening? wg_man restarts and tries to connect to it's list of partners, but it can connect to both dashboard servers, but not to the API server.
The API server and the dashboard server can connect to each other, that's why it sometimes seemed to work. Now I still don't know what triggers the partition checking mechanism in OTP25+, but after adding the wg_man server to the rules the problem has gone.

Protecting other servers

Yesterday afternoon, after I had finally found the problem, I was reminded by @cdegroot on Slack, that you should always protect EPMD.

@cdegroot: I'm not sure what you're trying to do but you really should run all clustered nodes in a single security/networking domain.

The fact that both dashboards could talk to wg_man was because they had no firewall rules in place, this I resolved this morning.

And it made me think of other apps I have running in production, all of which are setup as I explained in one of my previous posts.
Checking I see that EPMD binds to all addresses on the host, both IPv4 and IPv6 on port 4369.
The Erlang documentation has an environment variable to specify on which addresses EPMD should bind.


After systemctl daemon-reload and restarting the app, netstat -anp | grep 4369 shows me that it only binds to, success.
But now my script no longer works, it can no longer connect to the running application.
After some trial and error, I needed to make these changes.


And change the script to:

#!/usr/bin/env sh
export APP=$(basename $0)
export RELEASE_COOKIE=$(grep -oe "RELEASE_COOKIE=.*" /lib/systemd/system/$APP.service | cut -d'=' -f2)
/opt/$APP/bin/$APP $@

Be sure to use the IP, I first tried with localhost but that's rejected because it is not a FQDN.

⚠ Only bind to the local machine if you are not running a cluster on multiple machines.

A Sunday well spent! And thanks @linus to prompt me to write this.