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netstat -o includes some timer information in the output but I haven't found an explanation of the output in the Timer column anywhere.
Can anybody explain this or point to an explanation?

This ist what the ouptput of netstat -o looks like (on Ubuntu 8.04).

Active Internet connections (w/o servers)
Proto Recv-Q Send-Q Local Address           Foreign Address         State       Timer
tcp        0      0 192.168.22.1:443        111.111.11.210:5804     ESTABLISHEDkeepalive (6176.47/0/0)
tcp        0      0 192.168.22.1:443        192.168.22.253:48379    TIME_WAIT  timewait (36.57/0/0)
tcp        0    924 192.168.22.1:47763      10.9.169.60:443         ESTABLISHEDon (0.34/0/0)
tcp        0      0 192.168.22.1:443        192.168.111.99:4059     ESTABLISHEDkeepalive (6963.60/0/0)
tcp        0      0 192.168.22.1:443        192.168.111.74:1729     ESTABLISHEDkeepalive (1393.60/0/0)
tcp        0      0 192.168.56.1:42204      10.9.169.60:443         ESTABLISHEDoff (0.00/0/0)
tcp        0      0 192.168.56.1:42207      10.9.169.60:443         ESTABLISHEDoff (0.00/0/0)
tcp        0    940 192.168.22.1:42186      10.9.169.60:443         ESTABLISHEDon (0.28/0/0)
tcp        0      0 192.168.22.1:443        192.168.22.253:48367    TIME_WAIT  timewait (31.57/0/0)
tcp        0      0 192.168.22.1:42234      10.9.169.60:443         ESTABLISHEDoff (0.00/0/0)
tcp        0      0 192.168.22.1:42209      10.9.169.60:443         ESTABLISHEDoff (0.00/0/0)
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3 Answers 3

up vote 3 down vote accepted

The first number is clearly the countdown timer. Depending on status type, once the timer times out, it will retry and send out another FIN or whatever needed packet to try again. So the second number keeps track of the number of retries. Notice that the timer increases because TCP has backoff timers in case there is a traffic condition. The backoff timer avoids excessively frequent retries. Each failure results in a larger and larger backoff. The backoff could be exponential growth or linear, depending on TCP stack. I have not figured out what the 3 figure is for. Always zero in my displays.

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The timer column has two fields (from your o/p above):

keepalive (6176.47/0/0)  
<1st field> <2nd field>

The 1st field can have values:
keepalive - when the keepalive timer is ON for the socket
on - when the retranmission timer is ON for the socket
off - none of the above is ON

The 2nd field has THREE subfields:

(6176.47/0/0) -> (a/b/c)

a=timer value (a=keepalive timer, when 1st field ="keepalive", a=retransmission timer, when 1st field="on")
b=no of retransmissions that have occurred
c=no of keepalive probes that have been sent

For eg, I had two sockets opened between a client & a server (not loopback). The keepalive setting are:

CIPC_KEEPALIVE_IDLETIME   30
CIPC_KEEPALIVE_NUMPROBES   4
CIPC_KEEPALIVE_INTVL      10

And I did a shutdown of the client machine, so at the server side I ran a netstat & the output was:

Port1:

netstat -c --timer | grep "192.0.0.1:43245             192.0.68.1:49742"

tcp        0      0 192.0.0.1:43245             192.0.68.1:49742            ESTABLISHED keepalive (1.92/0/0)
tcp        0      0 192.0.0.1:43245             192.0.68.1:49742            ESTABLISHED keepalive (0.71/0/0)
tcp        0      0 192.0.0.1:43245             192.0.68.1:49742            ESTABLISHED keepalive (9.46/0/1)
tcp        0      0 192.0.0.1:43245             192.0.68.1:49742            ESTABLISHED keepalive (8.30/0/1)
tcp        0      0 192.0.0.1:43245             192.0.68.1:49742            ESTABLISHED keepalive (7.14/0/1)
tcp        0      0 192.0.0.1:43245             192.0.68.1:49742            ESTABLISHED keepalive (5.98/0/1)
tcp        0      0 192.0.0.1:43245             192.0.68.1:49742            ESTABLISHED keepalive (4.82/0/1)
tcp        0      0 192.0.0.1:43245             192.0.68.1:49742            ESTABLISHED keepalive (3.66/0/1)
tcp        0      0 192.0.0.1:43245             192.0.68.1:49742            ESTABLISHED keepalive (2.50/0/1)
tcp        0      0 192.0.0.1:43245             192.0.68.1:49742            ESTABLISHED keepalive (1.33/0/1)
tcp        0      0 192.0.0.1:43245             192.0.68.1:49742            ESTABLISHED keepalive (0.17/0/1)
tcp        0      0 192.0.0.1:43245             192.0.68.1:49742            ESTABLISHED keepalive (9.01/0/2)
tcp        0      0 192.0.0.1:43245             192.0.68.1:49742            ESTABLISHED keepalive (7.75/0/2)
tcp        0      0 192.0.0.1:43245             192.0.68.1:49742            ESTABLISHED keepalive (6.47/0/2)
tcp        0      0 192.0.0.1:43245             192.0.68.1:49742            ESTABLISHED keepalive (5.29/0/2)
tcp        0      0 192.0.0.1:43245             192.0.68.1:49742            ESTABLISHED keepalive (4.08/0/2)
tcp        0      0 192.0.0.1:43245             192.0.68.1:49742            ESTABLISHED keepalive (2.89/0/2)
tcp        0      0 192.0.0.1:43245             192.0.68.1:49742            ESTABLISHED keepalive (1.73/0/2)
tcp        0      0 192.0.0.1:43245             192.0.68.1:49742            ESTABLISHED keepalive (0.54/0/2)
tcp        0      0 192.0.0.1:43245             192.0.68.1:49742            ESTABLISHED keepalive (9.38/0/3)
tcp        0      0 192.0.0.1:43245             192.0.68.1:49742            ESTABLISHED keepalive (8.23/0/3)
tcp        0      0 192.0.0.1:43245             192.0.68.1:49742            ESTABLISHED keepalive (7.08/0/3)
tcp        0      0 192.0.0.1:43245             192.0.68.1:49742            ESTABLISHED keepalive (5.93/0/3)                                                                                                                               
tcp        0      0 192.0.0.1:43245             192.0.68.1:49742            ESTABLISHED keepalive (4.76/0/3)
tcp        0      0 192.0.0.1:43245             192.0.68.1:49742            ESTABLISHED keepalive (3.62/0/3)
tcp        0      0 192.0.0.1:43245             192.0.68.1:49742            ESTABLISHED keepalive (2.48/0/3)
tcp        0      0 192.0.0.1:43245             192.0.68.1:49742            ESTABLISHED keepalive (1.32/0/3)
tcp        0      0 192.0.0.1:43245             192.0.68.1:49742            ESTABLISHED keepalive (0.13/0/3)
tcp        0      0 192.0.0.1:43245             192.0.68.1:49742            ESTABLISHED keepalive (8.98/0/4)
tcp        0      0 192.0.0.1:43245             192.0.68.1:49742            ESTABLISHED keepalive (7.78/0/4)
tcp        0      0 192.0.0.1:43245             192.0.68.1:49742            ESTABLISHED keepalive (6.62/0/4)
tcp        0      0 192.0.0.1:43245             192.0.68.1:49742            ESTABLISHED keepalive (5.45/0/4)
tcp        0      0 192.0.0.1:43245             192.0.68.1:49742            ESTABLISHED keepalive (4.29/0/4)
tcp        0      0 192.0.0.1:43245             192.0.68.1:49742            ESTABLISHED keepalive (3.14/0/4)
tcp        0      0 192.0.0.1:43245             192.0.68.1:49742            ESTABLISHED keepalive (1.99/0/4)
tcp        0      0 192.0.0.1:43245             192.0.68.1:49742            ESTABLISHED keepalive (0.85/0/4)

You can see above that the server sent FOUR keepalive probes, each after 10 sec and since it is not getting any respose, the no-of-probes-sent count increases, and after 4, it disconnects from the client.

Port 2:

For the 2nd connection, the socket was identical, except for, my application at server side was trying to send some msg after the client went down & before the keepalive expired:

 netstat -c --timer | grep "192.0.0.1:36483             192.0.68.1:43881"

tcp        0      0 192.0.0.1:36483             192.0.68.1:43881            ESTABLISHED keepalive (8.18/0/1)
tcp        0      0 192.0.0.1:36483             192.0.68.1:43881            ESTABLISHED keepalive (7.00/0/1)
tcp        0      0 192.0.0.1:36483             192.0.68.1:43881            ESTABLISHED keepalive (5.86/0/1)
tcp        0      0 192.0.0.1:36483             192.0.68.1:43881            ESTABLISHED keepalive (4.71/0/1)
tcp        0      0 192.0.0.1:36483             192.0.68.1:43881            ESTABLISHED keepalive (3.55/0/1)
tcp        0      0 192.0.0.1:36483             192.0.68.1:43881            ESTABLISHED keepalive (2.40/0/1)                                                                                                                               
tcp        0      0 192.0.0.1:36483             192.0.68.1:43881            ESTABLISHED keepalive (1.21/0/1)
tcp        0      0 192.0.0.1:36483             192.0.68.1:43881            ESTABLISHED keepalive (0.05/0/1)
tcp        0      0 192.0.0.1:36483             192.0.68.1:43881            ESTABLISHED keepalive (8.91/0/2)
tcp        0      0 192.0.0.1:36483             192.0.68.1:43881            ESTABLISHED keepalive (7.75/0/2)
tcp        0      0 192.0.0.1:36483             192.0.68.1:43881            ESTABLISHED keepalive (6.56/0/2)
tcp        0      0 192.0.0.1:36483             192.0.68.1:43881            ESTABLISHED keepalive (5.39/0/2)
tcp        0      0 192.0.0.1:36483             192.0.68.1:43881            ESTABLISHED keepalive (4.14/0/2)
tcp        0    210 192.0.0.1:36483             192.0.68.1:43881            ESTABLISHED on (0.21/2/2)  // <---- retransmission timer kicks in
tcp        0    210 192.0.0.1:36483             192.0.68.1:43881            ESTABLISHED on (0.68/3/2)
tcp        0    210 192.0.0.1:36483             192.0.68.1:43881            ESTABLISHED on (2.74/4/2)
tcp        0    210 192.0.0.1:36483             192.0.68.1:43881            ESTABLISHED on (1.59/4/2)
tcp        0    210 192.0.0.1:36483             192.0.68.1:43881            ESTABLISHED on (0.43/4/2)
tcp        0    210 192.0.0.1:36483             192.0.68.1:43881            ESTABLISHED on (2.28/5/2)
tcp        0    210 192.0.0.1:36483             192.0.68.1:43881            ESTABLISHED on (1.11/5/2)
tcp        0    210 192.0.0.1:36483             192.0.68.1:43881            ESTABLISHED on (2.95/6/2)

. . . . . 

tcp        0    210 192.0.0.1:36483             192.0.68.1:43881            ESTABLISHED on (0.65/249/2)
tcp        0    210 192.0.0.1:36483             192.0.68.1:43881            ESTABLISHED on (2.58/250/2)
tcp        0    210 192.0.0.1:36483             192.0.68.1:43881            ESTABLISHED on (1.48/250/2)
tcp        0    210 192.0.0.1:36483             192.0.68.1:43881            ESTABLISHED on (0.36/250/2)
tcp        0    210 192.0.0.1:36483             192.0.68.1:43881            ESTABLISHED on (2.26/251/2)
tcp        0    210 192.0.0.1:36483             192.0.68.1:43881            ESTABLISHED on (1.15/251/2)
tcp        0    210 192.0.0.1:36483             192.0.68.1:43881            ESTABLISHED on (3.01/252/2)
tcp        0    210 192.0.0.1:36483             192.0.68.1:43881            ESTABLISHED on (1.92/252/2)
tcp        0    210 192.0.0.1:36483             192.0.68.1:43881            ESTABLISHED on (0.84/252/2)
tcp        0    210 192.0.0.1:36483             192.0.68.1:43881            ESTABLISHED on (2.72/253/2)
tcp        0    210 192.0.0.1:36483             192.0.68.1:43881            ESTABLISHED on (1.64/253/2)
tcp        0    210 192.0.0.1:36483             192.0.68.1:43881            ESTABLISHED on (0.55/253/2)
tcp        0    210 192.0.0.1:36483             192.0.68.1:43881            ESTABLISHED on (2.47/254/2)
tcp        0    210 192.0.0.1:36483             192.0.68.1:43881            ESTABLISHED on (1.39/254/2)                                                                                                                                    
tcp        0    210 192.0.0.1:36483             192.0.68.1:43881            ESTABLISHED on (0.31/254/2)
tcp        0    210 192.0.0.1:36483             192.0.68.1:43881            ESTABLISHED on (2.19/255/2)
tcp        0    210 192.0.0.1:36483             192.0.68.1:43881            ESTABLISHED on (1.12/255/2)

As you can see, in this case things are a little different. When the client went down, my server started sending keepalive msgs, but while it was still sending those keepalives, my server tried to send a msg to the client. Since the client had gone down, the server couldn't get any ACK from the client, so the TCP retranmission started and the server tried to send the data again, each time incrementing the retransmit count (2nd field) when the retranmission timer (1st field) expired.

Hope this explains the netstat --timer option well.

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First field: timewait/keepalive

Time in seconds from when the last data was transferred until when the next TCP keepalive probe will be sent.

By default this starts at 7200s, and resets again every time more data is sent. If the value is low , for eg. 4000 seconds , it means some of the keep alive connections are hanging or doing nothing for a long period.

Connections to internal proxy or other internal processes might hang longer but this should not happen to web based connection.

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