Welcome!

Microservices Expo Authors: Elizabeth White, Pat Romanski, Liz McMillan, Jason Bloomberg, Derek Weeks

Related Topics: IoT User Interface, Java IoT, Industrial IoT, Microservices Expo, Microsoft Cloud, @CloudExpo

IoT User Interface: Article

Diagnosing Stuck Transactions in Minutes

A Step-by-Step Guide

Does the following situation sound familiar? From one minute to the other, your production servers grind to a halt, terse emails are complemented by equally hectic phone calls, and the first order of business is to get back up and running. After the dust settles, you're usually left with a pile of log files and the assignment of figuring out what happened, why it happened, and what to do to keep it from happening again.

A common first step is trying to reproduce what has gone wrong. More often than not, this consumes a considerable amount of time that would be better spent on actually fixing the problem. In this first blog post of a series, I will present a Step-by-Step Guide to Diagnose Stuck Transactions within minutes and show how a modern APM Solution helps to pinpoint common production problems, without spending hours on reproducing it at first.

The Problem: Response Time Increases
One of our customers deployed a new version of their prime web application and, for the first couple of days, everything seemed fine. One evening, their operations team was alerted about significantly increasing response time, and upon further investigation they recognized that a Stuck Transaction was blocking their application. While restarting the server solved the problem from an operations perspective it is not a long term solution as currently processing transactions get canceled and users are thrown off the system.

Their APM solution automatically captures thread dumps in case of too long running or stuck transactions. These dumps assist developers with diagnosing the issue. Let's take this example and walk through one of the problems often seen in a production environment: Diagnosing Stuck Transactions and Identifying the Root Cause.

Step 1: Identify problematic JVM/CLR
To identify the correct thread dump to analyze, it's important to know which server was affected by the stuck transaction and at what time that happened.

The transaction flow indicates a problem on one of the application servers

When drilling to the actual transactions that flow through that application server and focusing on the timeframe just before the server got restarted, I noticed a timed-out PurePath that spent 100% in sync time. This means that all it did was wait for one or more monitors, which makes it a likely culprit for our stuck transaction.

The PurePath reveals the information about which Application Server (=Agent) was involved in that stuck transaction

Step 2: Identify blocked threads
Having identified the affected application server, we can browse the list of available thread dumps and open the corresponding one.

Thread dump overview on runnable, blocked, waiting and timed waiting threads

When looking at the thread dump, threads can be grouped by their state to get a quick overview on how many threads the application executed when the dump was performed and how many of them were actually blocked. In this case, we are looking at four threads as Figure 4 shows.

Out of the 600+ Threads in the application, 4 are blocked and subject for further investigation

Step 3: Identify root cause
Already the first one of these threads is the thread from our timed-out PurePath we looked at in Step 1 - identifiable by its ID. We also get the most important piece of information we need to identify the root cause: Which object is this thread waiting on, and who owns it?

We now know which method is blocking and that it is blocked because it waits for an object owned by another thread -> a potential deadlock?

Usually, the thread owning the object we are waiting for is highlighted in red. Given the number of threads in this dump, it's unlikely to spot it this way, but search for the ID of the owning thread giving us the following information:

The HistoryLayout thread owns a monitor object with two waiting threads, which causes the web request handler to block and run into a timeout for the end user - the deadlock is identified!

In this case, the method com.vaadin.ui.Table.unregisterPropertiesAndComponents is working on the same instance of ConfigurableReportsApplication that AbstractApplicationPortlet.handleRequest is waiting for. Having identified the thread, we have the full stack trace at hand in the lower pane, and can track down how this situation occurred.

Conclusion
Trying to reproduce such concurrency-related problems on a developer machine with typically requires a major effort. If your APM tool fully supports collaboration between teams, all analysis steps described above can be performed in your local environment, without direct access to production servers. Using an APM Solution like dynaTrace, it only took a couple of minutes to answer the crucial questions named above: we know exactly what happened and how it happened, and are thus also able to modify our application in a way to avoid this situation in the future.

More Stories By Wolfgang Gottesheim

Wolfgang Gottesheim has several years of experience as a software engineer and research assistant in the Java enterprise space. Currently he contributes to the strategic development of the dynaTrace enterprise solution as a Technology Strategy in the Compuware APM division’s Center of Excellence. He focuses on monitoring and optimizing applications in production.

Comments (0)

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.


@MicroservicesExpo Stories
SYS-CON Events announced today that Stratoscale, the software company developing the next generation data center operating system, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 18th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Stratoscale is revolutionizing the data center with a zero-to-cloud-in-minutes solution. With Stratoscale’s hardware-agnostic, Software Defined Data Center (SDDC) solution to store everything, run anything and scale everywhere...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Men & Mice, the leading global provider of DNS, DHCP and IP address management overlay solutions, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 18th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. The Men & Mice Suite overlay solution is already known for its powerful application in heterogeneous operating environments, enabling enterprises to scale without fuss. Building on a solid range of diverse platform support,...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Peak 10, Inc., a national IT infrastructure and cloud services provider, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 18th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Peak 10 provides reliable, tailored data center and network services, cloud and managed services. Its solutions are designed to scale and adapt to customers’ changing business needs, enabling them to lower costs, improve performance and focus inter...
You deployed your app with the Bluemix PaaS and it's gaining some serious traction, so it's time to make some tweaks. Did you design your application in a way that it can scale in the cloud? Were you even thinking about the cloud when you built the app? If not, chances are your app is going to break. Check out this webcast to learn various techniques for designing applications that will scale successfully in Bluemix, for the confidence you need to take your apps to the next level and beyond.
Digital means customer preferences and behavior are driving enterprise technology decisions to be sure, but let’s not forget our employees. After all, when we say customer, we mean customer writ large, including partners, supply chain participants, and yes, those salaried denizens whose daily labor forms the cornerstone of the enterprise. While your customers bask in the warm rays of your digital efforts, are your employees toiling away in the dark recesses of your enterprise, pecking data into...
Wow, if you ever wanted to learn about Rugged DevOps (some call it DevSecOps), sit down for a spell with Shannon Lietz, Ian Allison and Scott Kennedy from Intuit. We discussed a number of important topics including internal war games, culture hacking, gamification of Rugged DevOps and starting as a small team. There are 100 gold nuggets in this conversation for novices and experts alike.
SYS-CON Events announced today that DatacenterDynamics has been named “Media Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 18th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on June 7–9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. DatacenterDynamics is a brand of DCD Group, a global B2B media and publishing company that develops products to help senior professionals in the world's most ICT dependent organizations make risk-based infrastructure and capacity decisions.
With DevOps becoming more well-known and established practice in nearly every industry that delivers software, it is important to continually reassess its efficacy. This week’s top 10 includes a discussion on how the quick uptake of DevOps adoption in the enterprise has posed some serious challenges. Additionally, organizations who have taken the DevOps plunge must find ways to find, hire and keep their DevOps talent in order to keep the machine running smoothly.
Call it DevOps or not, if you are concerned about releasing more code faster and at a higher quality, the resulting software delivery chain and process will look and smell like DevOps. But for existing development teams, no matter what the velocity objective is, getting from here to there is not something that can be done without a plan. Moving your release cadence from months to weeks is not just about learning Agile practices and getting some automation tools. It involves people, tooling and ...
Between the mockups and specs produced by analysts, and resulting applications built by developers, there exists a gulf where projects fail, costs spiral, and applications disappoint. Methodologies like Agile attempt to address this with intensified communication, with partial success but many limitations. In his session at 18th Cloud Expo, Charles Kendrick, CTO & Chief Architect at Isomorphic Software, will present a revolutionary model enabled by new technologies. Learn how business and devel...
The notion of customer journeys, of course, are central to the digital marketer’s playbook. Clearly, enterprises should focus their digital efforts on such journeys, as they represent customer interactions over time. But making customer journeys the centerpiece of the enterprise architecture, however, leaves more questions than answers. The challenge arises when EAs consider the context of the customer journey in the overall architecture as well as the architectural elements that make up each...
Much of the discussion around cloud DevOps focuses on the speed with which companies need to get new code into production. This focus is important – because in an increasingly digital marketplace, new code enables new value propositions. New code is also often essential for maintaining competitive parity with market innovators. But new code doesn’t just have to deliver the functionality the business requires. It also has to behave well because the behavior of code in the cloud affects performan...
In 2006, Martin Fowler posted his now famous essay on Continuous Integration. Looking back, what seemed revolutionary, radical or just plain crazy is now common, pedestrian and "just what you do." I love it. Back then, building and releasing software was a real pain. Integration was something you did at the end, after code complete, and we didn't know how long it would take. Some people may recall how we, as an industry, spent a massive amount of time integrating code from one team with another...
As the software delivery industry continues to evolve and mature, the challenge of managing the growing list of the tools and processes becomes more daunting every day. Today, Application Lifecycle Management (ALM) platforms are proving most valuable by providing the governance, management and coordination for every stage of development, deployment and release. Recently, I spoke with Madison Moore at SD Times about the changing market and where ALM is headed.
If there is anything we have learned by now, is that every business paves their own unique path for releasing software- every pipeline, implementation and practices are a bit different, and DevOps comes in all shapes and sizes. Software delivery practices are often comprised of set of several complementing (or even competing) methodologies – such as leveraging Agile, DevOps and even a mix of ITIL, to create the combination that’s most suitable for your organization and that maximize your busines...
Struggling to keep up with increasing application demand? Learn how Platform as a Service (PaaS) can streamline application development processes and make resource management easy.
The goal of any tech business worth its salt is to provide the best product or service to its clients in the most efficient and cost-effective way possible. This is just as true in the development of software products as it is in other product design services. Microservices, an app architecture style that leans mostly on independent, self-contained programs, are quickly becoming the new norm, so to speak. With this change comes a declining reliance on older SOAs like COBRA, a push toward more s...
This is not a small hotel event. It is also not a big vendor party where politicians and entertainers are more important than real content. This is Cloud Expo, the world's longest-running conference and exhibition focused on Cloud Computing and all that it entails. If you want serious presentations and valuable insight about Cloud Computing for three straight days, then register now for Cloud Expo.
I had the opportunity to catch up with Chris Corriere - DevOps Engineer at AutoTrader - to talk about his experiences in the realm of Rugged DevOps. We discussed automation, culture and collaboration, and which thought leaders he is following. Chris Corriere: Hey, I'm Chris Corriere. I'm a DevOps Engineer AutoTrader. Derek Weeks: Today we're going to talk about Rugged DevOps. It's a subject that's gaining a lot of traction in the community but not a lot of people are really familiar with wh...
APIs have taken the world by storm in recent years. The use of APIs has gone beyond just traditional "software" companies, to companies and organizations across industries using APIs to share information and power their applications. For some organizations, APIs are the biggest revenue drivers. For example, Salesforce generates nearly 50% of annual revenue through APIs. In other cases, APIs can increase a business's footprint and initiate collaboration. Netflix, for example, reported over 5 bi...