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Bug#399776: apache2: Apache 2.2 spawns lots of processes and freeze the box

Package: apache2
Version: 2.2.3-3.1
Severity: critical
Justification: breaks the whole system

After a random time that goes from 5 minutes to days apache starts
forking a lot of processes, each using about 150m of VIRT and 20m
of RES memory. Most of the processes die and appear as <defunct> in
top or ps. After some tens of seconds the machine completely freeze
and should be rebooted. The console (the only time I was able to
have a look at it) has some kernel information about the oom-killer
killing apache2 but unfortunately this is happening to a remote
server and I don't have 24/24h access to it. Last time happened when
I was logged in and I was able to "killall apache2" and save the
box (this is how I understood what was happening.)

Right now I lowered the number of max clients from 150 to 25 but
this is not a definitive solution (for obvious reasons). If I can
do any test to provide better data just let me know.

-- System Information:
Debian Release: 4.0
  APT prefers testing
  APT policy: (600, 'testing'), (500, 'unstable'), (500, 'stable')
Architecture: amd64 (x86_64)
Shell:  /bin/sh linked to /bin/bash
Kernel: Linux 2.6.18-2-amd64
Locale: LANG=en_US.UTF-8, LC_CTYPE=en_US.UTF-8 (charmap=UTF-8)

Versions of packages apache2 depends on:
ii  apache2-mpm-prefork           2.2.3-3.1  Traditional model for Apache HTTPD

apache2 recommends no packages.

-- no debconf information

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