What is the solution?

1. Solving initialization-time OutOfMemoryError

When the OutOfMemoryError due to PermGen exhaustion is triggered during the application launch, the solution is simple. The application just needs more room to load all the classes to the PermGen area so we just need to increase its size. To do so, alter your application launch configuration and add (or increase if present) the -XX:MaxPermSize parameter similar to the following example:

java -XX:MaxPermSize=512m com.yourcompany.YourClass

The above configuration will tell the JVM that PermGen is allowed to grow up to 512MB before it can start complaining in the form of OutOfMemoryError.

2. Solving redeploy-time OutOfMemoryError

When the OutOfMemoryError occurs right after you redeploy the application, your application suffers from classloader leakage. In such a case, the easiest and most straightforward way to solve the problem is to grab a 14-day free trial of Plumbr, find the offending code and solve it in minutes.

For those who cannot use Plumbr or decide not to, alternatives are also available. For this, you should proceed with heap dump analysis – take the heap dump after a redeploy with a command similar to this one:

jmap -dump:format=b,file=dump.hprof <process-id>

Then open the dump with your favourite heap dump analyzer (Eclipse MAT is a good tool for that). In the analyzer, you can look for duplicate classes, especially those loading your application classes. From there, you need to progress to all classloaders to find the currently active classloader.

For the inactive classloaders, you need to determine the reference blocking them from being Garbage Collected via harvesting the shortest path to GC root from the inactive classloaders. Equipped with this information you will have found the root cause. In case the root cause was in a 3rd party library, you can proceed to Google/StackOverflow to see if this is a known issue to get a patch/workaround. If this was your own code, you need to get rid of the offending reference.

3. Solving run-time OutOfMemoryError

When the application runs out of PermGen memory during runtime, the Plumbr dynamic leak detection capability is the best way to find the source for the leakage. Grab the free 14-day trial and get rid of the issue.

An alternative way for those once again who cannot use Plumbr is also available. First step in such case is to check whether the GC is allowed to unload classes from PermGen. The standard JVM is rather conservative in this regard – classes are born to live forever. So once loaded, classes stay in memory even if no code is using them anymore. This can become a problem when the application creates lots of classes dynamically and the generated classes are not needed for longer periods. In such a case, allowing the JVM to unload class definitions can be helpful. This can be achieved by adding just one configuration parameter to your startup scripts:

-XX:+CMSClassUnloadingEnabled

By default this is set to false and so to enable this you need to explicitly set the following option in Java options. If you enable CMSClassUnloadingEnabled, GC will sweep PermGen too and remove classes which are no longer used. Keep in mind that this option will work only when UseConcMarkSweepGC is also enabled using the below option. So when running ParallelGC or, God forbid, Serial GC, make sure you have set your GC to CMS by specifying:

-XX:+UseConcMarkSweepGC

After making sure classes can be unloaded and the issue still persists, you should proceed with heap dump analysis – taking the heap dump with a command similar to following:

jmap -dump:file=dump.hprof,format=b <process-id>

Then opening the dump with your favorite heap dump analyzer (e.g. Eclipse MAT) and progressing to find the most expensive classloaders by the number of classes loaded. From such classloaders, you can proceed to extract the loaded classes and sort such classes by the instances to have the top list of suspects.

For each suspect, you then need to manually trace the root cause back to your application code that generates such classes.