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Keepalive User Guide for gRPC Core (and dependents)

The keepalive ping is a way to check if a channel is currently working by sending HTTP2 pings over the transport. It is sent periodically, and if the ping is not acknowledged by the peer within a certain timeout period, the transport is disconnected.

This guide documents the knobs within gRPC core to control the current behavior of the keepalive ping.

The keepalive ping is controlled by two important channel arguments -

    • This channel argument controls the period (in milliseconds) after which a keepalive ping is sent on the transport.
    • This channel argument controls the amount of time (in milliseconds) the sender of the keepalive ping waits for an acknowledgement. If it does not receive an acknowledgment within this time, it will close the connection.

The above two channel arguments should be sufficient for most users, but the following arguments can also be useful in certain use cases.

    • This channel argument if set to 1 (0 : false; 1 : true), allows keepalive pings to be sent even if there are no calls in flight.
    • This channel argument controls the maximum number of pings that can be sent when there is no data/header frame to be sent. GRPC Core will not continue sending pings if we run over the limit. Setting it to 0 allows sending pings without such a restriction.
    • If there are no data/header frames being sent on the transport, this channel argument on the server side controls the minimum time (in milliseconds) that gRPC Core would expect between receiving successive pings. If the time between successive pings is less that than this time, then the ping will be considered a bad ping from the peer. Such a ping counts as a ‘ping strike’. On the client side, this does not have any effect.
    • This arg controls the maximum number of bad pings that the server will tolerate before sending an HTTP2 GOAWAY frame and closing the transport. Setting it to 0 allows the server to accept any number of bad pings.

Defaults Values

Channel Argument Client Server
GRPC_ARG_KEEPALIVE_TIME_MS INT_MAX (disabled) 7200000 (2 hours)
GRPC_ARG_KEEPALIVE_TIMEOUT_MS 20000 (20 seconds) 20000 (20 seconds)


  • When is the keepalive timer started?
    • The keepalive timer is started when a transport is done connecting (after handshake).
  • What happens when the keepalive timer fires?
    • When the keepalive timer fires, gRPC Core will try to send a keepalive ping on the transport. This ping can be blocked if -
      • there is no active call on that transport and GRPC_ARG_KEEPALIVE_PERMIT_WITHOUT_CALLS is false.
      • the number of pings already sent on the transport without any data has already exceeded GRPC_ARG_HTTP2_MAX_PINGS_WITHOUT_DATA.
    • If a keepalive ping is not blocked and is sent on the transport, then the keepalive watchdog timer is started which will close the transport if the ping is not acknowledged before it fires.
  • Why am I receiving a GOAWAY with error code ENHANCE_YOUR_CALM?
    • A server sends a GOAWAY with ENHANCE_YOUR_CALM if the client sends too many misbehaving pings as described in Some scenarios where this can happen are -
      • if a server has GRPC_ARG_KEEPALIVE_PERMIT_WITHOUT_CALLS set to false while the client has set this to true resulting in keepalive pings being sent even when there is no call in flight.
      • if the client's GRPC_ARG_KEEPALIVE_TIME_MS setting is lower than the server's GRPC_ARG_HTTP2_MIN_RECV_PING_INTERVAL_WITHOUT_DATA_MS.
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