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I'm having the same problem on Red Hat Enterprise Linux v5.5 with jdk-18.104.22.168.x86_64 and am also interested in the answer.
Are you running visualvm as the same user that's running tomcat?
I tried running visualvm as the root user, but tomcat is being run by daemon and I got the same error you did.
Running visualvm as the daemon user allowed for profiling to work correctly.
Yes, I run VisualVM and Tomcat as the same user. That was the solution using jdk6 update22 but after upgrading to jdk6 24 it does not solve the problem.
jvisualvm (on unix/linux) uses a local file to establish communication to the process. i think the attach api tries to generate a file in the current dir of the process or the temp directory. i've had connection problems when the permissions on the these directories were problematic. i can't necessarily say what is "required" because it was kind of trial and error, but (assuming you are running both processes as the same user) i'd check out the filesystems next for permission problems.