Monday, March 23, 2009

Leaks are easy to find, but memory usage analysis is bit more difficult

Leaks again

Last time I talked about how easy it is to find memory leaks in Java using the dominator tree feature of the Eclipse Memory Analyzer.
If you haven't read this post, I recommend you to do so, because this post will assume that you know the meaning of the terms "retained size" and "dominator tree".

Why does this work so well? The reason is that memory leaks in Java are not really "classical" leaks in the strict sense. Let's check what Wikipedia says about memory leaks:
"many people refer to any unwanted increase in memory usage as a memory leak, even if this is not strictly accurate"


"Typically, a memory leak occurs because dynamically allocated memory has become unreachable."
The later cannot happen in languages such as Java that have built-in automatic garbage collection, also Ruby does not seem to be bug free in this area.

So because those leaks in Java are "only" unwanted (unbound) increase of memory usage, the typical reason for them is that people forget to remove an object out of some collection/array or a recursive data structure,such as a tree. This might sound stupid and you (and me) would of course never make such a simple mistake ;)

But look at the following example:

doSomething(thing); // does IO
catch (IOException e)
// should not happen

"thing" will not be removed if "doSomething" throws an IOException (or any other exception). OMG Joel Spolsky was right when he said:
"I consider exceptions to be no better than "goto's""

The correct way would be:
doSomething(thing); // does IO
catch (IOException e)
// should not happen
So I talked enough of leaks. I promise you if you regulary analyze heap dumps taken at the end of a performance test run, after while of fixing, you will not see a lot of leaks anymore If you still think that you need to know more a about leaks. I recommend you to check this excellent tutorial.
High memory usage

You might still see high memory usage, and your users might hate that as much as leaks, because performance degradation can be similiar.

OK, why is high memory more difficult to analyze?

You might use the dominator tree to find some big objects and you might also use it to figure out some cause of high memory usage. Because it's a tree it's easy to see where the memory is used:


You just have to look at the pathes down the tree to find out where the most memory is used/retained by single objects.

But in general the dominator tree view alone (without using some advanced functions, that I will skip for now) will not help you to find the reason why for example all those Strings are there:

Fortunately there is the "immediate dominators" query in the Eclipse Memory Analyzer that is based on the dominator tree that can help here and that also is the used internally by most of the advanced queries. The "immediate dominators" query is one of the key innovations in the the Eclipse Memory Analyzer. Even the commercial Yourkit profiler does not seem to have it yet, also they now also have a dominator tree functionality.

Immediate Dominators
So what is a "immediate dominator"? Let's have look at a simple example where the "business object" of class "Order" references a LinkedList of Strings:
If we look at String2 first we can find the LinkedList$Entry 2 is the "closest" object hat dominates it. If we could remove LinkedList$Entry 2, the Object String 2 would also be reclaimed by the garbage collector. We say "LinkedList$Entry 2" is the immediate dominator of "Object String 2". Note that there's always one
Let's have a look at the immediate dominators up to the Order object:
Note that LinkedList$Entry 1 is not an immediate dominator for LinkedList$Entry 2, because after removing it there would still be links from LinkedList$Entry 0 to LinkedList$Entry 2. We can do the same for the String 0 and String 1 and we will get the dominator tree:


No if we ask ourself the question "why are all those Strings still there", we see that if we filter all JDK classes out of the dominator tree it's easy:

The immediate dominators query in MAT basically lets you walk up the dominator tree and shows you the dominators aggregated by the class:


This is really a screenshot from an existing heap dump that I took some time ago from Eclipse. You can see for example the famous Dictionary of the spell checker plugin retaining 74393 Strings.
So now how can I find out where memory usage could be reduced?
With Strings it's pretty easy, you use the group_by_value in MAT. For the example above I applied it to the Strings dominated by ResolvedBinaryField in the first line:

Yes,there are really 6969 duplicates of "Ljava.lang.String;" retained only by instances of this class! Disclaimer: And no dear Netbeans "fanboys", Eclipse is not really worse than your beloved IDE in this area ;)
Strings are immutable and I wonder what would happen if people would really use more immutable data structures.

But not only Strings are interesting when you look at minimizing memory usage. Strings are just convenient because they are (usually) human readable. You can still often use Strings to find Objects which are equal but not identical, because if equal but not identical objects are created usually those objects also reference Strings that are equal but not identical.
The main question that you always have to ask yourself when trying to minimize memory usage is :

Do I need these equal but not identical objects?

In a single threaded environment the answer is usually that you don't those copies of objects.
In a highly concurrent environment, reducing the copies might introduce contention, because you have to share objects and you will need to check whether you already have this object. Strings again are relatively safe to optimize in this regard, because they are immutable, so no synchronization is needed to access them.

Having a query in MAT for the "algorithm" I described here for finding duplicated Strings, would be very helpful (there is a similiar but simpler "duplicated Strings" query already built in) .
I have done exactly that quite some time ago, but the query was not yet "production ready". There's some hope that it will appear in the standard MAT soon, stay tuned!

Monday, March 09, 2009

JavaFX's memory overhead, some (high) numbers

Lately I took a look at the TweetBox Twitter client which is build with JavaFX(© 2008-2009 Sun Microsystems). I thought it would be fun to check whether a Java based Twitter client would have less memory usage problems than those popular Adobe Air(© Adobe) based clients, such as Tweetdeck. If you search for memory leak in Twitter you will get a lot of references about Tweetdeck, which might only be caused by it's a popularity. Because JavaFX is JVM based it actually has an advantage in the area of memory usage analysis over Adobe Air.

TweetBox currently does not perform very well, but the author is working on improving it and I also tried to help him out a little bit.

When looking for memory usage using my favorite tool I was quite surprised to see the high overhead of variables in JavaFX.

Let's have a look at some numbers for the shallow size of variables (32 bit CPU):

Shallow Size

24 bytes (Yes, this is for one bit of information)
Integer: 24 bytes
Objects: 24 bytes
Floats: 24 bytes
Sequence: 32 bytes(never smaller than 48 bytes)

JavaFX objects seems to have a relatively large number of fields, so this overhead might be really become significant, also as always, it depends on your application. For comparsion a boolean in Java takes 1 byte and Objects have a general overhead of 8 bytes (SUN 32 bit JVM). [updated] Note that even a Boolean object in Java would in practice only require 4 Bytes for the Reference, because only 2 of them (for true and false) are needed.
An idea could be to have a native BitSet in JavaFX, which would only need one bit for each boolean value (plus a fixed overhead).

For details about the memory usage of Java objects check my post here.

But when looking at the retained size it even gets worse. Due to JavaFX's fancy binding mechanism those objects often reference other objects which causes the retained size to "explode".

Average "Retained size"

111 bytes

Integer: 53 bytes

Objects: 76 bytes

Floats: 53 bytes

Sequence: 84 bytes

111 bytes average (!) for a Boolean is absurdly high and I'm not sure yet whether that's because Tweetbox using it in the wrong way or because of a bug. It is caused by long chain's of com.sun.javafx.runtime.location.DynamicDependentLocation.
I have no clue what that is and even Google doesn't seem to know.

I hope JavaFX's memory usage will improve over time. Right know you have to be very careful to not run into memory usage problems.
Note that other dynamic languages on the Java stack also currently have a higher memory overhead than Java, because most of them can't directly map to the Java object model.

I assume that the footprint of JavaFX Mobile is similiar.
IMHO Googles decision to go for plain Java on it's Android platform was a smart decision

[update]: Michael Heinrichs just blogged about the difference between "def" and "var" in JavaFX Mobile.  It seems to me that "def" could help to optimize memory usage.