♥ Top 10 causes of performance issues in Java

Cause #1: The JVM spends more time performing garbage collection due to

  • improper Garbage Collection (GC) configuration. E.g. Young generation being too small.
  • Heap size is too small (use -Xmx). The application footprint is larger than the allocated heap size.
  • Wrong use of libraries. For example, XML based report generation using DOM parser as opposed to StAX for large reports generated concurrently by multiple users. 
  • Incorrectly creating and discarding objects without astutely reusing them with a flyweight design pattern or proper caching strategy.
  • Other OS activities like swap space or networking activity during GC can make GC pauses last longer. 
  • Any explicit System.gc( ) from your application or third party modules.

Run your JVM with GC options such as 
  • -verbose:gc (print the GC logs) 
  • -Xloggc: (comprehensive GC logging) 
  • -XX:+PrintGCDetails (for more detailed output) 
  • -XX:+PrintTenuringDistribution (tenuring thresholds)
to understand the GC patterns.

Cause #2: Bad use of application algorithms, strategies, and queries. For example
  • SQL queries with Cartesian joins.
  • SQL queries invoking materialized views
  • Regular expressions with back tracking algorithms.
  • Inefficient Java coding and algorithms in frequently executed methods leading to death by thousand cuts.
  • Excessive data caching or inappropriate cache refresh strategy.
  • Overuse of pessimistic locking as opposed to favoring optimistic locking.

Cause #3:  Memory leaks due to

  • Long living objects having reference to short living objects, causing the memory to slowly grow. For example, singleton classes referring to short lived objects. This prevents short-lived objects being garbage collected.
  • Improper use of thread-local variables. The thread-local variables will not be removed by the garbage collector as long as the thread itself is alive. So, when threads are pooled and kept alive forever, the object might never be removed by the garbage collector.
  • Using mutable static fields to hold data caches, and not explicitly clearing them. The mutable static fields and collections need to be explicitly cleared.
  • Objects with circular or bidirectional references.
  • JNI memory leaks.
Cause #4: Poor integration with external systems without proper design & testing.
  • Not properly deciding between synchronous vs asynchronous calls to internal and external systems. Long running tasks need to be performed asynchronously. 
  • Not properly setting service timeouts and retries or setting service time out values to be too high.
  • Not performing non happy path testing and not tuning external systems to perform efficiently.
  • Unnecessarily making too many network round trips.
Cause #5: Improper use of Java frameworks and libraries.
  • Using Hibernate without properly understanding lazy loading versus eager fetching and other tuning capabilities.
  • Not inspecting the SQLs internally generated by your ORM tools like Hibernate.
  • Using the deprecated libraries like Vector or Hashtable as opposed to the new concurrent libraries that allow concurrent reads.
  • Using blocking I/O where the the Java NIO (New I/O) with non blocking capability is favored. 
  • Database deadlocks due bad schema design or  application logic.
  • Spinning out your own in efficient libraries as opposed to favoring proven frameworks.

Cause #6: Multi-threading issues due to to deadlocks, thread starvation, and thread contention. 
  • Using coarse grained locks over fine grained locks. 
  • Not favoring concurrent utility classes like  ConcurrentHashMap, CopyOnWriteArrayList, etc. 
  • Not favoring lock free algorithms.

Cause #7: Not managing and recycling your non memory resources properly.
  • Not pooling your valuable non memory resources like sockets, connections, file handles, threads, etc. 
  • Not properly releasing your resources back to its pool after use can lead to resource leaks and performance issues. 
  • Use of too many threads leading to more CPU time being used for context switching. 
  • Hand rolling your own pooling without favoring proven libraries. 
  • Using a third-party library with resource leaks.
  • Load balancers leaking sockets.
Cause #8: Bad infrastructure designs and bugs.
  • Databases tables not properly partitioned. 
  • Not enough physical memory on the box.
  • Not enough hard disk space.
  • Bad network latency. 
  • Too many nodes on the server.
  • Load balancers  not working as intended and not performing outage testing.
  • Not tuning application servers properly.
  • Not performing proper capacity planning.
  • router, switch, and DNS server failures. 
Cause #9: Excessive logging and not using proper logging libraries with capabilities to control log levels like debug, info, warning, etc. System.out.println(….) are NOT ALLOWED. Favor asynchronous logging in mission critical and high volume applications like trading systems. 

Cause #10: Not conducting performance tests, not monitoring the systems, and lack of documentation and performance focus from the start of the project.
  • Not performing performance test plans with tools like JMeter with production like data prior to each deployment.
  • Not monitoring the systems for CPU usage, memory usage, thread usage, garbage collection patterns, I/O, etc on an on going basis. 
  • Not defining SLA’s (Service Level Agreements) from the start in the non-functional specification.
  • Not maintaining proper performance benchmarks to be compared against with the successive releases and performance tests.
  • Not looking for performance issues in peer code reviews or not having code reviews at all.
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Arulkumaran Kumaraswamipillai
Mechanical Engineering to Java freelancer since 2003. Published Java/JEE books via Amazon.com in 2005, and sold 35K+ copies. Books are outdated and replaced with this online Java training. join my LinkedIn group.
Arulkumaran Kumaraswamipillai

Mechanical Engineering to Java freelancer since 2003. Published Java/JEE books via Amazon.com in 2005, and sold 35K+ copies. Books are outdated and replaced with this online Java training. join my LinkedIn group.

Posted in FAQs Java Key Areas, Performance
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One comment on “♥ Top 10 causes of performance issues in Java
  1. Ramin says:

    Nice classification and explanation.

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