Java 8 running out of file handles on Linux

When I checked one of my websites this morning I discovered it had stopped responding. All it did was sit there then time out with a standard Tomcat error page. So I logged in to check the logs and found that tomcat was complaining about “Too many open files”. Now a few days earlier I had released a new version of the site which moved the serving of static content from Apache to Tomcat so that was my initial though of where the problem was.

This turns out to be true. Where I was reading a text file I was using the new Java 8 Files.line() method which returns a Stream consisting of each line in a file. Now this was nice as instead of writing a block of code to read a file into a string we could reduce it down to:

String page = Files.line( f.getPath() ).
    collect( Collectors.joining( "\n" ) ) );

The problem here is that although nice and concise, it never closes the file. So after a while the Operating System complains that too many files are open and tomcat grinds to a halt.

Now hidden away in the javadocs you’ll find tha Stream actually implements AutoClosable & the reason why is that you can close the stream once you have done with it. Now in 99% of all Streams you don’t need to do anything but if a Stream is operating against some external resource like a File then you are supposed to be closing the stream afterwards.

Now this is where I went wrong, and I suspect a lot of others would also fall foul of this as every example of using Java 8 streams do not show closing them – so who would know that they need to?

So, the correct way of reading a file using streams is this:

try( Stream lines = Files.line( path ) ) {
    // do something with the stream
}

For example, in my case it ended up looking something like this:

String page;
try( Stream lines = Files.line( f.getPath() ) ) {
    page = lines.collect( Collectors.joining( "\n" ) ) );
}

So the lesson here is make certain when using an external resource within a Stream then ensure you close it afterwards.

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