Monitoring Java garbage collection with jstat

Java memory management revolves around the garbage collector, which is the entity responsible for traversing the heap and freeing space that is being taken up by unreferenced objects. Garbage collection makes life easier for Java programmers, since it frees them from having to explicitly manage memory resources (this isn’t 100% true, but close enough). In the Java runtime environment, there are two types of collections that can occur. The first type of collection is referred to as minor collection. Minor collections are responsible for locating live objects in the young generation (eden), copying these objects to the inactive survivor space, and moving tenured objects from the active survivor space to the old (tenured) generation (this assumes that a generational collector is being used). The second form of collection is the major collection. This type of collection frees unreferenced objects in in the tenured generation, and optionally compacts the heap to reduce fragmentation.

When debugging performance problems, it is extremely useful to be able to monitor object allocations and frees in the new and old generations. The Java development kit comes with the jstat utility, which provides a ton of visibility into what the garbage collector is doing, as well as a slew of information on how each generation is being utilized. To use jstat to display garbage collection statistics for the new, old and permanent generations, jstat can be invoked with the “-gc” (print garbage collection heap statistics) option, the “-t” (print the total number of seconds the JVM has been up) option, the process id to retrieve statistics from, and an optional interval to control how often statistics are printed:

$ jstat -gc -t `pgrep java` 5000

Timestamp        S0C    S1C    S0U    S1U      EC       EU        OC         OU       PC     PU    YGC     YGCT    FGC    FGCT     GCT   
        98772.0 1600.0 1600.0  0.0   1599.8 13184.0   5561.6   245760.0   201671.9  16384.0 6443.0 166683 2402.690 32411  110.564 2513.255
        98777.0 1600.0 1600.0 1599.4  0.0   13184.0   9533.7   245760.0   156797.1  16384.0 6443.0 166690 2402.785 32414  110.573 2513.359
        98782.0 1600.0 1600.0 1599.7  0.0   13184.0  10328.6   245760.0   166402.2  16384.0 6443.0 166698 2402.889 32416  110.580 2513.469
        98787.0 1600.0 1600.0  0.0   1599.9 13184.0   2383.5   245760.0   195366.0  16384.0 6443.0 166707 2403.016 32416  110.580 2513.595


The output above contains the size of each survivor space (S0C && S1C), the utilization of each survivor space (S0U && S1U), the capacity of eden (EC), the utilization of eden (EU), the capacity of the old generation (OC), the utilization of the old generation (OU), the permanent generation capacity (PC), the permanent generation utilization (PU), the total number of young generation garbage collection events (YGC), the total amount of time spent collecting objects in the new generation (YGCT), the total number of old generation garbage collection events that have occurred (FGC), the total amount of time spent collecting objects in the old generation (FGCT), and the total time spent performing garbage collection.

If you prefer to view garbage collection events as percentages, you can use the “-gcutil” option:

$ jstat -gcutil -t -h5 `pgrep java` 5000

Timestamp         S0     S1     E      O      P     YGC     YGCT    FGC    FGCT     GCT   
        99814.1   0.00  99.99  18.08  63.77  39.32 168551 2427.512 32800  111.800 2539.313
        99819.1  99.96   0.00  66.29  78.18  39.32 168562 2427.649 32800  111.800 2539.449
        99824.1 100.00   0.00  94.40  62.46  39.32 168572 2427.795 32803  111.815 2539.610
        99829.2 100.00   0.00  60.25  65.08  39.32 168580 2427.888 32806  111.824 2539.713



The output above contains the utilization of each survivor space as a percentage of the total survivor space capacity (S0 && S1), the utilization of eden as a percentage of the total eden capacity (E), the utilization of the tenured generation as a percentage of the total tenured generation capacity (O), the utilization of the permanent generation as a percentage of the total permanent generation capacity (P), the total number of young generation garbage collection events (YGC), the total time spent collection objects in the young generation (YGCT), the total number of of old generation garbage collection events (FGC), the total amount of time spent collecting objects in the old generation (FGCT), and the total garbage collection time.

To get the time spent in garbage collection along with the reason the collection occurred, jstat can be run with the “-gccause” option:

$ jstat -gccause -t `pgrep java` 1000

Timestamp         S0     S1     E      O      P     YGC     YGCT    FGC    FGCT     GCT    LGCC                 GCC                 
       100157.3  99.96   0.00  66.27  63.82  39.32 169160 2435.394 32925  112.202 2547.595 CMS Initial Mark     No GC               
       100158.3   0.00  99.99  32.14  67.72  39.32 169163 2435.430 32925  112.202 2547.631 unknown GCCause      No GC               
       100159.3   0.00  99.97  50.22  65.10  39.32 169165 2435.454 32927  112.208 2547.662 CMS Initial Mark     No GC               
       100160.3  99.97   0.00   6.02  62.46  39.32 169168 2435.493 32928  112.211 2547.704 unknown GCCause      No GC               
       100161.3  99.97   0.00  32.14  62.46  39.32 169168 2435.493 32928  112.211 2547.704 unknown GCCause      No GC      



There are also options to print class loader activity and hotspot compiler statistics, and to break down utilization by generation (this is extremely useful when your trying to profile a specific memory pool). There are a number of incredibly useful opensource tools for visualizing garbage collection data, and I hope to talk about these in the near future.

6 thoughts on “Monitoring Java garbage collection with jstat”

  1. Matt – I think you have a great site out here. Keep up the good work.

    Another utility that I think worth mentioning is jconsole. JConsole allows you to visually see what jstat is giving you. I do a lot of work on the Oracle E-Business Suite and my utilities of choice for troubleshooting the application servers are jps, jstat and JConsole.

    Brian

  2. Yes jconsole is very powerful but it only can be used on version 1.5 & more ….
    But i don’t know if jstat is included in 1.4 version, i have to test!
    If you have some news or experience concerning the monitoring of GB answer me .
    Thanks !!!

  3. Thank you for nice explanation of jstat.

    Is there anyway to get the details of threads spawned by a java process ( like ‘top’ tool).

    e.g.: Tomcat starts many threads. So if I pass the tomcat’s (java) process id to a tool, I can get details like, how many threads it has created so far, etc.

    Thank you.

  4. In response to May’s question about monitoring threads on Solaris:
    (1) In “prstat” the last number of each column is the NLWP (number light weight processes aka threads) that are currently active.
    (2) “prstat -mLp ” will show the current threads for one process. The last column is the LWPID (light weight process ID)
    (3) LWPID’s increment by one, hence the highest LWPID indicates how many threads have been launched since process creation.
    (4) “ps -fLp ” gives similar info to #3
    (5) View system calls for one thread with “truss -f -p 10135/997” where 10135 is the PID & 997 is the LWPID

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