The takeaway from this article is that, if you run Jira Server, there is a config tweak you really ought to make, to allow the use of GCViewer to debug any future garbage collection problems:

For Jira, edit /opt/atlassian/jira/bin/ and add make this change:

diff --git a/bin/ b/bin/
--- a/bin/
+++ b/bin/
@@ -6,7 +6,7 @@
     # In Java 9, GC logging has been re-implemented using the Unified GC logging framework.
     # See or
-    GC_JVM_PARAMETERS="-Xlog:gc*:file=$LOGBASEABS/logs/atlassian-jira-gc-%t.log:time,uptime:filecount=5,filesize=20M ${GC_JVM_PARAMETERS}"
+    GC_JVM_PARAMETERS="-Xlog:gc*:file=$LOGBASEABS/logs/atlassian-jira-gc-%t.log:time,uptime,tags,level:filecount=5,filesize=20M ${GC_JVM_PARAMETERS}"
     # Set the JVM arguments used to start Jira. For a description of the options, see

What's this all about?

Jira is written in Java, which is a "garbage-collected" language. This means that Java programmers don't need to worry about de-allocating memory; the Java virtual machine (JVM) periodically "garbage collects" any memory that is unused.

Garbage collection (GC) happens all the time in a running JVM, and typically takes only milliseconds. However if your JVM is under memory pressure, a full GC can't actually free up that much memory, and soon after another GC is needed, and another.. and you get a situation where the JVM is spending more time GC'ing than doing anything useful. This is called GC thrashing.

If you're lucky you'll see an OutOfMemoryError in your /opt/atlassian/jira/logs/catalina.out  log file, making the diagnosis easy. But sometimes Jira will just be really slow, high CPU usage, and thread dumps showing a variety of threads doing normal CPU-bound things. but not quite enough to trigger an OutOfMemoryError) on garbage collector threads trying to clear up memory.

The best way to diagnose GC thrashing, or any "what the hell is Jira so busy with?" situation, is to use top  (or htop  or atop ) with threads enabled, so you can see which Java thread(s) are the CPU consumers. I like atop for its ability to rewind and view past states. Here is atop  after pressing 'y' to enable threads:

See in the CPU column: Jira is consuming all CPU (1092%), and specifically the only threads active (79% each) are ParGC Thread threads.

GC logs

Out the box, Jira (8.7.1+) is configured with these GC configuration parameters:

# in bin/
# in bin/
GC_JVM_PARAMETERS="-Xlog:gc*:file=$LOGBASEABS/logs/atlassian-jira-gc-%t.log:time,uptime:filecount=5,filesize=20M $  {GC_JVM_PARAMETERS}"

If you are using Java 9 or above, this means the G1GC algorithm is in use (see Disruptive Changes to GC Logging in Java 9). Earlier versions of Jira used the older Parallel GC (see JRASERVER-64331 - Getting issue details... STATUS ), and look like this:

    GC_JVM_PARAMETERS="-Xlog:gc*:file=$LOGBASEABS/logs/atlassian-jira-gc-%t.log:time,uptime:filecount=5,filesize=20M ${GC_JVM_PARAMETERS}"

Either way, you should have a log file, /opt/atlassian/jira/logs/atlassian-jira-log-gc-*.log. GC logs looking something like this:

[2020-09-22T03:34:05.289-0700][2465737.513s] GC(355175) Pause Full (Ergonomics) 5020M->4521M(5587M) 3608.541ms
[2020-09-22T03:34:05.289-0700][2465737.513s] GC(355175) User=41.39s Sys=0.00s Real=3.60s
[2020-09-22T03:34:05.524-0700][2465737.748s] GC(355176) Pause Full (Ergonomics)
[2020-09-22T03:34:05.524-0700][2465737.748s] GC(355176) Marking Phase
[2020-09-22T03:34:06.432-0700][2465738.656s] GC(355176) Marking Phase 908.653ms
[2020-09-22T03:34:06.432-0700][2465738.656s] GC(355176) Summary Phase
[2020-09-22T03:34:06.432-0700][2465738.657s] GC(355176) Summary Phase 0.074ms
[2020-09-22T03:34:06.432-0700][2465738.657s] GC(355176) Adjust Roots
[2020-09-22T03:34:06.592-0700][2465738.816s] GC(355176) Adjust Roots 159.736ms
[2020-09-22T03:34:06.592-0700][2465738.816s] GC(355176) Compaction Phase
[2020-09-22T03:34:09.213-0700][2465741.437s] GC(355176) Compaction Phase 2620.355ms
[2020-09-22T03:34:09.213-0700][2465741.437s] GC(355176) Post Compact
[2020-09-22T03:34:09.238-0700][2465741.462s] GC(355176) Post Compact 25.488ms
[2020-09-22T03:34:09.238-0700][2465741.462s] GC(355176) PSYoungGen: 957440K->451409K(1527296K)
[2020-09-22T03:34:09.238-0700][2465741.462s] GC(355176) ParOldGen: 4194303K->4194162K(4194304K)
[2020-09-22T03:34:09.238-0700][2465741.462s] GC(355176) Metaspace: 759906K->759906K(1824768K)
[2020-09-22T03:34:09.238-0700][2465741.462s] GC(355176) Pause Full (Ergonomics) 5030M->4536M(5587M) 3714.746ms
[2020-09-22T03:34:09.238-0700][2465741.462s] GC(355176) User=42.65s Sys=0.10s Real=3.71s
[2020-09-22T03:34:09.387-0700][2465741.611s] GC(355177) Pause Full (Ergonomics)
[2020-09-22T03:34:09.387-0700][2465741.611s] GC(355177) Marking Phase
[2020-09-22T03:34:10.306-0700][2465742.531s] GC(355177) Marking Phase 919.544ms
[2020-09-22T03:34:10.306-0700][2465742.531s] GC(355177) Summary Phase
[2020-09-22T03:34:10.307-0700][2465742.531s] GC(355177) Summary Phase 0.078ms
[2020-09-22T03:34:10.307-0700][2465742.531s] GC(355177) Adjust Roots
[2020-09-22T03:34:10.470-0700][2465742.694s] GC(355177) Adjust Roots 163.227ms
[2020-09-22T03:34:10.470-0700][2465742.694s] GC(355177) Compaction Phase
[2020-09-22T03:34:13.473-0700][2465745.698s] GC(355177) Compaction Phase 3003.617ms
[2020-09-22T03:34:13.474-0700][2465745.698s] GC(355177) Post Compact
[2020-09-22T03:34:13.499-0700][2465745.723s] GC(355177) Post Compact 25.643ms
[2020-09-22T03:34:13.499-0700][2465745.723s] GC(355177) PSYoungGen: 957440K->512920K(1527296K)
[2020-09-22T03:34:13.499-0700][2465745.723s] GC(355177) ParOldGen: 4194162K->4194126K(4194304K)
[2020-09-22T03:34:13.499-0700][2465745.723s] GC(355177) Metaspace: 759906K->759906K(1824768K)
[2020-09-22T03:34:13.499-0700][2465745.724s] GC(355177) Pause Full (Ergonomics) 5030M->4596M(5587M) 4112.550ms
[2020-09-22T03:34:13.499-0700][2465745.724s] GC(355177) User=47.24s Sys=0.00s Real=4.11s
[2020-09-22T03:34:13.503-0700][2465745.727s] GC(355178) Pause Full (Ergonomics)
[2020-09-22T03:34:13.503-0700][2465745.727s] GC(355178) Marking Phase
[2020-09-22T03:34:14.417-0700][2465746.641s] GC(355178) Marking Phase 914.147ms
[2020-09-22T03:34:14.417-0700][2465746.641s] GC(355178) Summary Phase
[2020-09-22T03:34:14.417-0700][2465746.641s] GC(355178) Summary Phase 0.066ms
[2020-09-22T03:34:14.417-0700][2465746.641s] GC(355178) Adjust Roots
[2020-09-22T03:34:14.555-0700][2465746.779s] GC(355178) Adjust Roots 138.314ms
[2020-09-22T03:34:14.555-0700][2465746.779s] GC(355178) Compaction Phase
[2020-09-22T03:34:17.136-0700][2465749.361s] GC(355178) Compaction Phase 2581.276ms
[2020-09-22T03:34:17.137-0700][2465749.361s] GC(355178) Post Compact
[2020-09-22T03:34:17.161-0700][2465749.385s] GC(355178) Post Compact 24.319ms
[2020-09-22T03:34:17.161-0700][2465749.385s] GC(355178) PSYoungGen: 513664K->513419K(1527296K)
[2020-09-22T03:34:17.161-0700][2465749.385s] GC(355178) ParOldGen: 4194126K->4194120K(4194304K)
[2020-09-22T03:34:17.161-0700][2465749.385s] GC(355178) Metaspace: 759906K->759906K(1824768K)
[2020-09-22T03:34:17.161-0700][2465749.385s] GC(355178) Pause Full (Ergonomics) 4597M->4597M(5587M) 3658.596ms
[2020-09-22T03:34:17.161-0700][2465749.385s] GC(355178) User=42.50s Sys=0.01s Real=3.66s
[2020-09-22T03:34:17.318-0700][2465749.542s] GC(355179) Pause Full (Ergonomics)
[2020-09-22T03:34:17.318-0700][2465749.542s] GC(355179) Marking Phase
[2020-09-22T03:34:18.222-0700][2465750.446s] GC(355179) Marking Phase 903.470ms
[2020-09-22T03:34:18.222-0700][2465750.446s] GC(355179) Summary Phase
[2020-09-22T03:34:18.222-0700][2465750.446s] GC(355179) Summary Phase 0.074ms
[2020-09-22T03:34:18.222-0700][2465750.446s] GC(355179) Adjust Roots

The sample log above is from a thrashing server using the older ParallelGC algorithm. The lines to note are marked Pause Full. e.g.:

[2020-09-22T03:34:09.238-0700][2465741.462s] GC(355176) Pause Full (Ergonomics) 5030M->4536M(5587M) 3714.746ms
[2020-09-22T03:34:13.499-0700][2465745.724s] GC(355177) Pause Full (Ergonomics) 5030M->4596M(5587M) 4112.550ms
[2020-09-22T03:34:13.499-0700][2465745.724s] GC(355177) User=47.24s Sys=0.00s Real=4.11s

By subtracting the timestamps we see a 4.26s interval between full GCs (2465745.724 - 2465741.462), of which the GC occcupied 4.11s. This is what thrashing looks like.

Interpreting GC log files is exceptionally tedious - finding relevant lines, doing timestamp math, etc. If you did want to further analyze this GC log file, what tools could you use?


My tool of choice is GCViewer, because it has been around forever and does the job.

The problem alluded to in the introduction is that GCViewer cannot read the default format of GC logs generated by Jira and Confluence, when using Java 9+. You'll just get an error for each line parsed:

WARNING [DataReaderSun1_6_0]: com.tagtraum.perf.gcviewer.imp.ParseException: com.tagtraum.perf.gcviewer.imp.UnknownGcTypeException: Unknown gc type: '-' Line 1: [2020-09-19T22:16:23.955-0700][2273876.179s] GC(326262) ParOldGen: 2230694K->2232246K(2380800K)

After making the -Xlog:gc  tweak suggested in the intro, and restarting Jira, GCViewer should be able to load the /opt/atlassian/jira/logs/atlassian-jira-gc-*.log  files:

(example from a perfectly healthy server, sorry)

Discovered after reading these GC tuning tips; is likely worth the $10/mo. Unlike GCViewer, no -Xlog:gc  tweaks are needed. The free tier is enough to give a general idea of GC activity:

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