Recently I've seen several people ask what the cost of enabling JMX monitoring on an application is. If I run with-Dcom.sun.management.jmxremote and connect jconsole, how much will that affect the performance of my app? Here are the results of some highly unscientific experiments.

Here's the quick answer for people who look at the answers in the back of the book. Running with-Dcom.sun.management.jmxremote has no appreciable impact. Connecting jconsole has an impact of 3--4%.

The answer to this question is likely to depend very much on the nature of the app and what else is going on in the machine where it is running. My measurements here are on a toy application which computes digits of the mathematical constant eusing BigInteger arithmetic. This isn't intended to be an illustration of appropriate mathematical techniques. It's just a simple way to create an app that does a lot of computation and a lot of allocation of large short-lived objects. So my measurements here are likely to be interesting for apps like that, and probably not wildly irrelevant for other sorts of apps.

Here for reference is the method that the app spends most of its time in:

    private static void computeE(int digits) {
        BigInteger one = BigInteger.TEN.pow(digits);
        BigInteger e = BigInteger.ZERO;
        BigInteger invfact = one;
        BigInteger n = BigInteger.ONE;
        while (invfact.compareTo(BigInteger.ZERO) > 0) {
            e = e.add(invfact);
            invfact = invfact.divide(n);
            n = n.add(BigInteger.ONE);
        }
        System.out.println(e);
    }

Note by the way that the last few digits computed by this method are inaccurate due to truncation of the division results.

I ran this method with the digits parameter equal to 30000 on an elderly SPARC machine. I was logged in to the machine in an X Windows session too, so there was some background activity. I ran each measurement two or three times for each configuration and took the smallest time. (I did say this was unscientific. What are these repeatable test conditionsand standard deviations of which you speak?)

I created one thread per CPU to make sure that the machine was CPU-bound. Otherwise we might see zero overhead for enabling monitoring because it might be using an otherwise-idle CPU.

Startup time is slightly greater when you enable monitoring because it needs to do some extra work such as creating an RMI connector. I assumed that the figure of interest, though, is the cost while the app is running. So I measured the time between the creation of the computeE threads and their completion.

I used two Java platforms for the measurements: Sun's JDK 1.5.0_07 and a Mustang snapshot (1.6.0-rc-b92). The time for the computation was 37% better on Mustang, presumably because of improvements to the JIT compiler and/or heap management. Also the time is better still if you run with-server. But what we're interested is the relative difference between monitoring and not monitoring.

The first measurement was of the application running without any special command-line parameters. So monitoring was not enabled. This is the baseline for the other measurements.

         
TigerMustang
28.318.0

Then I ran the application with-Dcom.sun.management.jmxremote, which has two effects:

  • It creates the Platform MBean Server and populates it with the standard set of MBeans containing the JVM's instrumentation.
  • It creates and starts an RMI Connector Server and puts its address where jconsole can find it.

So with this option we could connect jconsole from the local machine. But I didn't connect jconsole for this measurement. The effect on performance was less than 1% in this case, and in fact any observed difference was less than the margin of error. So there was no significant difference in the time to do the computation. In other words, so long as you don't connect jconsole, enabling monitoring should have no effect on your app's performance.

I got the same result when I ran with
-Dcom.sun.management.jmxremote.port=9999 -Dcom.sun.management.jmxremote.authenticate=false -Dcom.sun.management.remote.ssl=false
so allowing jconsole to connect remotely but without security also has no effect on performance. Note that we strongly discourage running apps this way in production environments.

Running with
-Dcom.sun.management.jmxremote.port=9999 -Dcom.sun.management.jmxremote.password.file=jmxremote.password
  (meaning there is security including the creation of an SSL socket) also has an impact of less than 1%.

Then I ran the insecure options again but this time connected Tiger's jconsole from another machine. Here are the figures I got:

         
TigerMustang
29.85 (+5.5%)19.1 (+6.1%)

So here there's a fairly big impact. Some of this is due to jconsole polling the various JVM MBeans so it can graph the changes in various values like heap size and number of threads over time. There is no way to stop jconsole from doing that, even if you're not interested in that information, but what you can do is change the polling interval. If you change the interval from the default 4 seconds to 1000 seconds, say, then you won't see much impact from polling. (The interval also applies to the graphing of your own attributes, though, so if you want that then you'll have to pay for the JVM polling.)

Running Tiger's jconsole with -interval=1000changes the figures to this:

         
TigerMustang
29.28 (+3.5%)18.7 (+3.9%)

Jconsole isn't polling, but there's still some overhead, presumably due to background activity from RMI and/or to increased memory usage because of the open connection.

Mustang's jconsole, besides being generally nicer, has an optimization that means it obtains the various JVM attributes much more efficiently, so the polling impact is less. Even if you can't migrate your apps to Mustang right now, you might want to download the Mustang JDK just so you can run its jconsole!

Here are the figures running the app with the insecure options and connecting with Mustang's jconsole from another machine:

         
TigerMustang
29.6 (+4.5%)18.8 (+4.4%)

So you get better behaviour from jconsole by default here. And of course you can still use the -interval=1000 trick, to get this:

         
TigerMustang
29.2 (+3.2%)18.7 (+3.9%)

Finally, I tried a few configurations with security enabled (-Dcom.sun.management.jmxremote.ssl=true -Dcom.sun.management.jmxremote.authenticate=true, which are the default settings) and did not see any signficant difference. Even with jconsole polling every four seconds, there was no observable extra overhead due to SSL.

Reminder

These results are not conclusive! They're merely indicative of one set of measurements on one type of app. The impact could be much greater if the addition of the JMX connection pushed the app into a different mode of operation. For example, the additional memory usage could be enough to change the behaviour of the garbage collector significantly and probably negatively. But you would have to be operating fairly close to the edge of such a possible change for that to happen, meaning it could happen even without the JMX connection if for example the app needed to handle a few more objects.