What does " Broken pipe" error really mean?


I am pretty sure you must have encountered this " Broken pipe" error quite a few times in your application and wondered what is this error about and from where it is coming up? How to solve this error encountered? In a complex ecosystem, many times this error does not give any clue about the root cause of the problem which often cause confusion between multiple teams troubleshooting the error. This could result in unnecessary wastage of time during some critical issues. So it is important to understand this error and take appropriate action immediately to get rid of this problem. You can check more about on oracle official documentation.


What is Pipe in " Broken pipe" 

Before we go in depth about " Broken pipe" error, let's first understand what is pipe here which is showing as broken in given error. Well, in computer networking architecture, one endpoint communicates back and forth with another endpoint through a communication channel or medium, that channel is known to be pipe in inter-process communication. Whenever there is a disruption in channel due to some reason then it will show broken pipe error.


What does " Broken pipe" error really mean? 2

What does " Broken pipe" error really mean?

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In today's environment where applications are mostly based on REST API architecture, this error seems to be quite commonly observed in the application logs. Sometimes when the number of " Broken pipe" error are significantly less over a time period then application does not show any error or it does not get impacted but if you observed quite a higher number of " Broken pipe" error in a short span of time then there is definitely some problem and hence your application either does not work or latency would be so high that it barely work.

So now the important question is what you should do if the number of " Broken pipe" error are less and what should be done to fix this problem if the number of " Broken pipe" error are quite high in your logs. Well, for smaller number of " Broken pipe" error, it can be categorized as transient error which means due to some network issue this error came for sometime and then disappeared as soon as network issue got resolved. These networking issue could be anything such as temporary disconnection between two connected endpoints, slow API response etc.

But if you see a high number of " Broken pipe" error in a short duration and keeps on continuing then it means there is some ongoing networking issue between two connecting endpoints due to which GET or POST call is failing and hence the endpoint might show status as down with 500 Internal Server error.

Now this networking issue could happen due to many reasons such as slow response from API because of some infra issue as explained earlier or due to degradation in connection between two endpoints causing drop in API calls. This can only be confirmed by checking the time endpoint is taking to respond or in other words latency. If this response time is consistently higher then there is definitely some problem either in connecting medium or route or to the destination infra.

At this moment, you would be needing the help of your networking team to scan the problem at the network level. This issue is so difficult to detect that sometimes even networking team does not find any clue but if checked properly then it can be definitely be solved by replacing or repairing the connecting medium, using alternative or backup route, replacing node or infra at the destination depending on problem you are facing at that moment.

To illustrate, let's take an example where if a client endpoint making a GET or POST call to some server endpoint say and if the server closes the connection while client is still requesting or submitting the data then you will see " Broken pipe" error on the output. Now this termination of connection can happen due to various networking or infra issues as explained earlier. This can be further checked by your networking team to understand the exact root cause of the problem.

Other possible cause of " Broken pipe" error could be that the remote endpoint might have crashed. This will prevent the connection between endpoints to be closed properly and hence requestor endpoint would still be performing GET or POST operation, as a result causing this Broken pipe error. In this case, application team might have to investigate the cause of crashing of remote endpoint.

Hope this article made some sense about " Broken pipe" error and now you have all the information required to troubleshoot this problem. Please do let me know your thoughts about this in comment box. Good Luck with your troubleshooting !!

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