Slow SSH to new CentOS servers

Recently when installing new servers I ‘randomly’ had an issue where SSH connections would lag out for 20-30 seconds on login then function fine once authenticated.

I noticed this issue on CentOS 5/6 servers, however it probably applies to anything running glibc 2.10+.

Now while there are a few reasons SSH might be doing this (most of which can be seen using verbose flags), it wasn’t the usual suspects (GSSAPI etc).

The interesting part was, this wasn’t happening on all servers (they are standard config wise thanks to puppet).

It turns out the UseDNS setting was failing, very slowly. Now a simple way to quickly solve the issue is to set UseDNS no in your sshd_config file.

This might be acceptable, depending on how much you have access restricted however there is an alternative.

It turns out there was a change in glibc that can be seen on the changelog here.

Under some circumstances (especially when firewalls are involved) DNS resolution will fail and glibc should fallback, close the socket and start again. It would seem this takes rather a long while when trying to SSH!

Thankfully there is a (recently documented) option that you can add to your resolv.conf file single-request-reopen. This forces glibc to enter fallback mode straight away and kills the delay.

An example of the ‘patched’ /etc/resolv.conf file

# This file is managed via Puppet

# Servers

# Options
options single-request-reopen

Now you might want to dig into your network stack a little more and make sure you can handle IPv6/dual stack properly but for now, problem solved!