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Java Application Profiling Tips and Tricks

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This chapter shows how to use tools to identify Java performance issues and take corrective actions to resolve them. It looks at several of the more common types of performance issues the authors have observed through many years of working as Java performance engineers.
This chapter is from the book

This chapter is from the book

Chapter 5, "Java Application Profiling," presented the basic concepts of using a modern Java profiler such as the Oracle Solaris Studio Performance Analyzer and NetBeans Profiler. It did not, however, show any specific tips and tricks in using the tools to identify performance issues and approaches of how to resolve them. This is the purpose of this chapter. Its intention is to show how to use the tools to identify performance issues and take corrective actions to resolve them. This chapter looks at several of the more common types of performance issues the authors have observed through many years of working as Java performance engineers.

Performance Opportunities

Most Java performance opportunities fall into one or more of the following categories:

  • Using a more efficient algorithm. The largest gains in the performance of an application come from the use of a more efficient algorithm. The use of a more efficient algorithm allows an application to execute with fewer CPU instructions, also known as a shorter path length. An application that executes with a shorter path length generally executes faster. Many different changes can lead to a shorter path length. At the highest level of the application, using a different data structure or modifying its implementation can lead to a shorter path length. Many applications that suffer application performance issues often use inappropriate data structures. There is no substitute for choosing the proper data structure and algorithm. As profiles are analyzed, take notice of the data structures and the algorithms used. Optimal performance can be realized when the best data structures and algorithms are utilized.
  • Reduce lock contention. Contending for access to a shared resource inhibits an application's capability to scale to a large number of software threads and across a large number of CPUs. Changes to an application that allow for less frequent lock contention and less duration of locking allow an application to scale better.
  • Generate more efficient code for a given algorithm. Clocks per CPU instruction, usually referred to as CPI, for an application is a ratio of the number of CPU clock ticks used per CPU instruction. CPI is a measure of the efficiency of generated code that is produced by a compiler. A change in the application, JVM, or operating system that reduces the CPI for an application will realize an improvement in its performance since it takes advantage of better and more optimized generated code.

There is a subtle difference between path length, which is closely tied to the algorithm choice, and cycles per instruction, CPI, which is the notion of generating more efficient code. In the former, the objective is to produce the shortest sequence of CPU instructions based on the algorithm choice. The latter's objective is to reduce the number of CPU clocks consumed per CPU instruction, that is, produce the most efficient code from a compiler. To illustrate with an example, suppose a CPU instruction results in a CPU cache miss, such as a load instruction. It may take several hundred CPU clock cycles for that load instruction to complete as a result of the CPU cache miss having to fetch data from memory rather than finding it in a CPU cache. However, if a prefetch instruction was inserted upstream in the sequence of instructions generated by a compiler to prefetch from memory the data being loaded by the load instruction, it is likely the number of clock cycles required to load the data will be less with the additional prefetch instruction since the prefetch can be done in parallel with other CPU instructions ahead of the load instruction. When the load instruction occurs, it can then find the data to be loaded in a CPU cache. However, the path length, the number of CPU instructions executed is longer as a result of the additional prefetch instruction. Therefore, it is possible to increase path length, yet make better use of available CPU cycles.

The following sections present several strategies to consider when analyzing a profile and looking for optimization opportunities. Generally, optimization opportunities for most applications fall into one of the general categories just described.

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