Gracefully Shutdown Your Go App

bastianrob profile image Robin ・3 min read

Shutdown Horror Story

  • Imagine you have a backend service which process a queue of operations.
  • Around 20 message comes to this queue every second.
  • Each operation takes around 3 seconds to complete.
  • And have 20 parallel workers to process each message in the queue.

And then there is light

Or no light!

Your engineering team want to deploy a hotfix to a critical bug in the worker processing code and they need it now.
Otherwise, the data processed by currenly live worker might produce wrong result.

You begin to sweat, usually deployment starts at dawn when traffic is low / no traffic at all.
You haven't got time, resource, and possibly proficiency, to properly implements blue-green nor canary delpoyment.
The currently running instance, is all you have and it needs to be restarted, introducing downtime, and possibly corrupting/losing data that is being processed right now in the worker.

Your CD pipeline, Mr. Travis (or jenkins, actions, circle, whatever) starts his workflow.

  • He build the backend service for you, push it to your VM instance, and then, the time comes...
  • He sends SIGTERM signal to your backend service.
  • He waits, and waits for you backend service to stop whatever it is doing, so he can close shops.
  • But the signal never came...

Mr. Travis have to forcefully kill your backend service by sending SIGKILL signal so OS' terminator will hunt, and kill your service without dignity.

  • Your backend service died while still handling N amount of messages
  • Your engineering team must then do an autopsy to the killed service by examining log.
  • Hopeful that they can find whatever messagse haven't done processing, so they can re-queue them manually.

Gracefully Shutdown your Service

Welcome to the light, young padawan.
Here, you will learn how to gracefully execute order 66...

The Concept

So, when OS (unix system), process, or people wants to shut your application down, they can send various types of signal, which then can be interrupted by our app to prepare shutthing down process.

There are lots of signal types, but we'll only focus on 2 types of signal

  • SIGINT or Signal Interrupt. Typically sent when a user press CTRL+C to exit app
  • SIGTERM or Signal Terminate. Typically sent by an app to kill another app. Most likely from administrative tools.

Both signal can be used to politely ask app to terminate their process, cleaning up any hanging operations.
OS will wait for 30s for app to shutdown, otherwise, it will send SIGKILL. Which is another type of signal that can't be intercepted and will forcefully shutdown app.

Basic Implementation in Go

Using go channel we can make our program wait for a signal

wait := make(chan bool)
before := time.Now()
//this will be executed asynchronously
go func() {
    time.Sleep(3 * time.Second)
    wait <- false

fmt.Println("I am done")
fmt.Println(int(time.Since(before).Seconds()), "sec")
bastianrob$ go run main.go
I am done
3 sec

And then in go, we can listen to OS' signal by using

sig := make(chan os.Signal)
signal.Notify(sig, syscall.SIGINT, syscall.SIGTERM)

Notice that sig is a channel that waits from SIGINT and SIGTERM signal.
We'll use this to setup our teardown process

package gracefully

// Serve HTTP gracefuly
func Serve(listenAndServe func() error, teardown func(context.Context) error) error {
    term := make(chan os.Signal) // OS termination signal
    fail := make(chan error)     // Teardown failure signal

    go func() {
        signal.Notify(term, syscall.SIGINT, syscall.SIGTERM)
        <-term // waits for termination signal

        // context with 30s timeout
        ctx, cancel := context.WithTimeout(context.Background(), 30*time.Second)
        defer cancel()

        // all teardown process must complete within 30 seconds
        fail <- teardown(ctx)

    // listenAndServe blocks our code from exit, but will produce ErrServerClosed when stopped
    if err := listenAndServe(); err != nil && err != http.ErrServerClosed {
        return err

    // after server gracefully stopped, code proceeds here and waits for any error produced by teardown() process @ line 26
    return <-fail

And in the main.go:

func main() {
    server := &http.Server{
        Addr: ":8080",
        // Handler: your API handler

    if err := gracefully.Serve(server.ListenAndServe, func(ctx context.Context) error {
        if err := server.Shutdown(ctx); err != nil {
            return err

        // unplug from message broker
        // unplug from service mesh
        // remove temporary files
        // wait for all pending queue/topic processor to finish
        // etc, yada-yada

        return nil
    }); err != nil {
        log.Fatalln("ERR:", err)

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