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About Ram Lakshmanan

Ram Lakshmanan
Ram Lakshmanan developed world's finest DevOps tools: GCeasy.io, fastThread.io, HeapHero.io. Every single day, millions & millions of people in North America—bank, travel, and commerce—use the applications that Ram Lakshmanan has architected. Ram is an acclaimed speaker in major conferences on scalability, availability, and performance topics. Recently, he has founded a startup, which specializes in troubleshooting performance problems.

7 JVM arguments of Highly Effective Applications

At the time (March 2020) of writing this article there are 600+ arguments that you can pass to JVM just around Garbage collection and memory. If you include other aspects, total JVM arguments count will easily cross 1000+. 😊. It’s way too many arguments for anyone to digest and comprehend. In this article, we are highlighting seven important JVM arguments that you may find it useful.

1. -Xmx and -XX:MaxMetaspaceSize

-Xmx is probably the most important JVM argument. -Xmx defines the maximum amount of heap size you are allocating to your application. (To learn about different memory regions in a JVM, you may watch this short video clip). You can define your application’s heap size like this:

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-Xmx2g

Heap size plays a critical role in determining your

a. Application performance

b. Bill, that you are going to get from your cloud provider (AWS, Azure,…)

This brings question, what is the right heap size for my application? Should I allocate a large heap size or small heap size for my application? Answer is: ‘It depends’. In this article, we have shared our thoughts whether you need to go with large or small heap size.

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You might also consider reading this article: advantages of setting -Xms and -Xmx to same value.

Metaspace is the region where JVM’s metadata definitions, such as class definitions, method definitions, will be stored.  By default, the amount of memory that can be used to store this metadata information is unlimited (i.e. limited by your container or machine’s RAM size). You need to use -XX:MaxMetaspaceSize argument to specify an upper limit on the amount of memory that can be used to store metadata information.

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-XX:MaxMetaspaceSize=256m

2. GC Algorithm

As on date (March 2020), there are 7 different GC algorithms in OpenJDK:

a. Serial GC

b. Parallel GC

c. Concurrent Mark & Sweep GC

d. G1 GC

e. Shenandoah GC

f. Z GC

g. Epsilon GC

If you don’t specify the GC algorithm explicitly, then JVM will choose the default algorithm. Until Java 8, Parallel GC is the default GC algorithm. Since Java 9, G1 GC is the default GC algorithm.

Selection of the GC algorithm plays a crucial role in determining the application’s performance. Based on our research, we are observing excellent performance results with Z GC algorithm. If you are running with JVM 11+, then you may consider using Z GC algorithm (i.e. -XX:+UseZGC). More details about Z GC algorithm can be found here.

Below table summarizes the JVM argument that you need to pass to activate each type of Garbage Collection algorithm.

GC AlgorithmJVM argument
Serial GC-XX:+UseSerialGC
Parallel GC-XX:+UseParallelGC
Concurrent Market & Sweep (CMS) GC-XX:+UseConcMarkSweepGC
G1 GC-XX:+UseG1GC
Shenandoah GC-XX:+UseShenandoahGC
Z GC-XX:+UseZGC
Epsilon GC-XX:+UseEpsilonGC

3. Enable GC Logging

Garbage Collection logs contain information about Garbage Collection events, memory reclaimed, pause time duration, … You can enable Garbage collection log by passing following JVM arguments:

From JDK 1 to JDK 8:

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-XX:+PrintGCDetails -XX:+PrintGCDateStamps -Xloggc:{file-path}

From JDK 9 and above:

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-Xlog:gc*:file={file-path}

Example:

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-XX:+PrintGCDetails -XX:+PrintGCDateStamps -Xloggc:/opt/workspace/myAppgc.log
 
-Xlog:gc*:file=/opt/workspace/myAppgc.log

Typically GC logs are used for tuning garbage collection performance. However, GC logs contain vital micro metrics. These metrics can be used for forecasting application’s availability and performance characteristics. In this article we would like to highlight one such micrometric: ‘GC Throughput‘ (to read more on other available micrometrics, you may refer to this article). GC Throughput is the amount of time your application spends in processing customer transactions vs the amount of time it spends in processing GC activities. Say if your application’s GC throughput is 98%, then it means application is spending 98% of its time in processing customer activity, and the remaining 2% is spent in GC activity.

Now let’s look at the heap usage graph of a healthy JVM:

Fig: Healthy JVM’s heap usage graph (generated by https://gceasy.io)

You can see a perfect saw-tooth pattern. You can notice that when Full GC (red triangle) runs, memory utilization drops all the way to bottom.

Now let’s look at the heap usage graph of a sick JVM:

Fig: Sick JVM’s heap usage graph (generated by https://gceasy.io)

You can notice towards the right end of the graph, even though GC repeatedly runs, memory utilization isn’t dropping. It’s a classic indication that the application is suffering from some sort of memory problem.

If you take a closer look at the graph, you will notice that repeated full GC’s started to happen right around 8 am. However, the application starts to get OutOfMemoryError only around 8:45 am. Till 8 am, the application’s GC throughput was about 99%. But right after 8 am, GC throughput started to drop down to 60%. Because when repeated GC runs, the application wouldn’t be processing any customer transactions and it will only be doing GC activity. As a proactive measure, if you notice GC throughput starts to drop, you can take out the JVM from the load balancer pool. So that unhealthy JVM will not process any new traffic. It will minimize the customer impact.

Fig: Repeated Full GC happens way before OutOfMemoryError

You can monitor GC related micrometrics in real time, using GCeasy REST API.

4. -XX:+HeapDumpOnOutOfMemoryError, -XX:HeapDumpPath

OutOfMemoryError is a serious problem that will affect your application’s availability/performance SLAs. To diagnose OutOfMemoryError or any memory-related problems, one would have to capture heap dump right at the moment or few moments before the application starts to experience OutOfMemoryError. As we don’t know when OutOfMemoryError will be thrown, it’s hard to capture heap dump manually at the right around the time when it’s thrown. However, capturing heap dumps can be automated by passing following JVM arguments:

 -XX:+HeapDumpOnOutOfMemoryError and -XX:HeapDumpPath={HEAP-DUMP-FILE-PATH}

In ‘-XX:HeapDumpPath’, you need to specify the file path where heap dump should be stored. When you pass these two JVM arguments, heap dumps will be automatically captured and written to a defined file path, when OutOfMemoryError is thrown. Example:

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-XX:+HeapDumpOnOutOfMemoryError -XX:HeapDumpPath=/crashes/my-heap-dump.hprof

Once heap dumps are captured, you can use tools like HeapHeroEclipseMAT to analyze heap dumps.

More details around the OutOfMemoryError JVM arguments can be found in this article.

5. -Xss

Each application will have tens, hundreds, thousands of threads. Each thread will have its own stack. In each thread’s stack following information are stored:

a. Methods/functions that are currently executed

b. Primitive datatypes

c. Variables

d. object pointers

e. return values.

Each one of them consumes memory. If their consumption goes beyond a certain limit, then StackOverflowError is thrown. More details about StackOverflowError & it’s solution can be found in this article. However, you can increase the thread’s stack size limit by passing -Xss argument. Example:

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-Xss256k

If you set this -Xss value to a huge number, then memory will be blocked and wasted. Say suppose you are assigning -Xss value to be 2mb whereas, it needs only 256kb, then you will end up wasting huge amount of memory, not just 1792kb (i.e. 2mb – 256kb). Do you wonder why?

Say your application has 500 threads, then with -Xss value to be 2mb, your threads will be consuming 1000mb of memory (i.e. 500 threads x 2mb/thread). On the other hand, if you have allocated -Xss only to be 256kb, then your threads will be consuming only 125mb of memory (i.e. 500 threads x 256kb/thread). You will save 875mb (i.e. 1000mb – 125mb) of memory per JVM. Yes, it will make such a huge difference.

Note: Threads are created outside heap (i.e. -Xmx), thus this 1000mb will be in addition to -Xmx value you have already assigned. To understand why threads are created outside heap, you can watch this short video clip.

Our recommendation is to start from a low value (say 256kb). Run thorough regression, performance, and AB testing with this setting. Only if you experience StackOverflowError then increase the value, otherwise consider sticking on to a low value. 

6. -Dsun.net.client.defaultConnectTimeout and -Dsun.net.client.defaultReadTimeout

Modern applications use numerous protocols (i.e. SOAP, REST, HTTP, HTTPS, JDBC, RMI…) to connect with remote applications. Sometimes remote applications might take a long time to respond. Sometimes it may not respond at all.

If you don’t have proper timeout settings, and if remote applications don’t respond fast enough, then your application threads/resources will get stuck. Remote applications unresponsiveness can affect your application’s availability. It can bring down your application to grinding halt. To safeguard your application’s high availability, appropriate timeout settings should be configured.

You can pass these two powerful timeout networking properties at the JVM level that can be globally applicable to all protocol handlers that uses java.net.URLConnection:

  1. sun.net.client.defaultConnectTimeout specifies the timeout (in milliseconds) to establish the connection to the host. For example, for HTTP connections, it is the timeout when establishing the connection to the HTTP server.
  2. sun.net.client.defaultReadTimeout specifies the timeout (in milliseconds) when reading from the input stream when a connection is established to a resource.

Example, if you would like to set these properties to 2 seconds:

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-Dsun.net.client.defaultConnectTimeout=2000
-Dsun.net.client.defaultReadTimeout=2000

Note, by default values for these 2 properties is -1, which means no timeout is set. More details on these properties can be found in this article.

7. -Duser.timeZone

Your application might have sensitive business requirements around time/date. For example, if you are building a trading application, you can’t take transaction before 9:30 am. To implement those time/date related business requirements, you might be using java.util.Date, java.util.Calendar objects. These objects, by default, picks up time zone information from the underlying operating system. This will become a problem; if your application is running in a distributed environment. Look at the below scenarios:

a. If your application is running across multiple data centers, say, San Francisco, Chicago, Singapore – then JVMs in each data center would end up having different time zone. Thus, JVMs in each data center would exhibit different behaviors. It would result in inconsistent results.

b. If you are deploying your application in a cloud environment, applications could be moved to different data centers without your knowledge. In that circumstance also, your application would end up producing different results.

c. Your own Operations team can also change the time zone without bringing to the development team’s knowledge. It would also skew the results.

To avoid these commotions, it’s highly recommended to set the time zone at the JVM using the -Duser.timezone system property. Example if you want to set EDT time zone for your application, you will do:

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-Duser.timezone=US/Eastern

Conclusion

In this article, we have attempted to summarize some of the important JVM arguments and their positive impacts. We hope you may find it helpful.

Published on Java Code Geeks with permission by Ram Lakshmanan, partner at our JCG program. See the original article here: 7 JVM arguments of Highly Effective Applications

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Hi…
I’m Elena gillbert.In this article, we have attempted to summarize some of the important JVM arguments and their positive impacts. We hope you may find it helpful.