Sun Java System Application Server Enterprise Edition 8.2 Performance Tuning Guide

Tuning the Garbage Collector

Garbage collection (GC) reclaims the heap space previously allocated to objects no longer needed. The process of locating and removing the dead objects can stall any application and consume as much as 25 percent throughput.

Almost all Java Runtime Environments come with a generational object memory system and sophisticated GC algorithms. A generational memory system divides the heap into a few carefully sized partitions called generations. The efficiency of a generational memory system is based on the observation that most of the objects are short lived. As these objects accumulate, a low memory condition occurs forcing GC to take place.

The heap space is divided into the old and the new generation. The new generation includes the new object space (eden), and two survivor spaces. The JVM allocates new objects in the eden space, and moves longer lived objects from the new generation to the old generation.

The young generation uses a fast copying garbage collector which employs two semi-spaces (survivor spaces) in the eden, copying surviving objects from one survivor space to the second. Objects that survive multiple young space collections are tenured, meaning they are copied to the tenured generation. The tenured generation is larger and fills up less quickly. So, it is garbage collected less frequently; and each collection takes longer than a young space only collection. Collecting the tenured space is also referred to as doing a full generation collection.

The frequent young space collections are quick (a few milliseconds), while the full generation collection takes a longer (tens of milliseconds to a few seconds, depending upon the heap size).

Other GC algorithms, such as the Concurrent Mark Sweep (CMS) algorithm, are incremental. They divide the full GC into several incremental pieces. This provides a high probability of small pauses. This process comes with an overhead and is not required for enterprise web applications.

When the new generation fills up, it triggers a minor collection in which the surviving objects are moved to the old generation. When the old generation fills up, it triggers a major collection which involves the entire object heap.

Both HotSpot and Solaris JDK use thread local object allocation pools for lock-free, fast, and scalable object allocation. So, custom object pooling is not often required. Consider pooling only if object construction cost is high and significantly affects execution profiles.

Choosing the Garbage Collection Algorithm

Pauses during a full GC of more than four seconds can cause intermittent failures in persisting session data into HADB.

While GC is going on, the Application Server isn’t running. If the pause is long enough, the HADB times out the existing connections. Then, when the application server resumes its activities, the HADB generates errors when the application server attempts to use those connections to persist session data. It generates errors like, “Failed to store session data,” “Transaction Aborted,” or “Failed to connect to HADB server.”

To prevent that problem, use the CMS collector as the GC algorithm. This collector can cause a drop in throughput for heavily utilized systems, because it is running more or less constantly. But it prevents the long pauses that can occur when the garbage collector runs infrequently.

ProcedureTo use the CMS collector

  1. Make sure that the system is not using 100 percent of its CPU.

  2. Configure HADB timeouts, as described in the Administration Guide.

  3. Configure the CMS collector in the server instance.

    To do this, add the following JVM options:

    • -XX:+UseConcMarkSweepGC

    • -XX:SoftRefLRUPolicyMSPerMB=1

Additional Information

Use the jvmstat utility to monitor HotSpot garbage collection. (See Further Information

For detailed information on tuning the garbage collector, see Tuning Garbage Collection with the 5.0 Java Virtual Machine.