JVM Settings

Optimizing the JVM can be a key factor in getting the most from your Solr installation.

Configuring your JVM can be a complex topic and a full discussion is beyond the scope of this document. Luckily, most modern JVMs are quite good at making the best use of available resources with default settings. The following sections contain a few tips that may be helpful when the defaults are not optimal for your situation.

For more general information about improving Solr performance, see https://wiki.apache.org/solr/SolrPerformanceFactors.

Choosing Memory Heap Settings

The most important JVM configuration settings are those that determine the amount of memory it is allowed to allocate. There are two primary command-line options that set memory limits for the JVM. These are -Xms, which sets the initial size of the JVM’s memory heap, and -Xmx, which sets the maximum size to which the heap is allowed to grow.

If your Solr application requires more heap space than you specify with the -Xms option, the heap will grow automatically. It’s quite reasonable to not specify an initial size and let the heap grow as needed. The only downside is a somewhat slower startup time since the application will take longer to initialize. Setting the initial heap size higher than the default may avoid a series of heap expansions, which often results in objects being shuffled around within the heap, as the application spins up.

The maximum heap size, set with -Xmx, is more critical. If the memory heap grows to this size, object creation may begin to fail and throw OutOfMemoryException. Setting this limit too low can cause spurious errors in your application, but setting it too high can be detrimental as well.

It doesn’t always cause an error when the heap reaches the maximum size. Before an error is raised, the JVM will first try to reclaim any available space that already exists in the heap. Only if all garbage collection attempts fail will your application see an exception. As long as the maximum is big enough, your app will run without error, but it may run more slowly if forced garbage collection kicks in frequently.

The larger the heap the longer it takes to do garbage collection. This can mean minor, random pauses or, in extreme cases, "freeze the world" pauses of a minute or more. As a practical matter, this can become a serious problem for heap sizes that exceed about two gigabytes, even if far more physical memory is available. On robust hardware, you may get better results running multiple JVMs, rather than just one with a large memory heap. Some specialized JVM implementations may have customized garbage collection algorithms that do better with large heaps. Consult your JVM vendor’s documentation.

When setting the maximum heap size, be careful not to let the JVM consume all available physical memory. If the JVM process space grows too large, the operating system will start swapping it, which will severely impact performance. In addition, the operating system uses memory space not allocated to processes for file system cache and other purposes. This is especially important for I/O-intensive applications, like Lucene/Solr. The larger your indexes, the more you will benefit from filesystem caching by the OS. It may require some experimentation to determine the optimal tradeoff between heap space for the JVM and memory space for the OS to use.

On systems with many CPUs/cores, it can also be beneficial to tune the layout of the heap and/or the behavior of the garbage collector. Adjusting the relative sizes of the generational pools in the heap can affect how often GC sweeps occur and whether they run concurrently. Configuring the various settings of how the garbage collector should behave can greatly reduce the overall performance impact when it does run. There is a lot of good information on this topic available on Sun’s website. A good place to start is here: Oracle’s Java HotSpot Garbage Collection.

Use the Server HotSpot VM

If you are using Sun’s JVM, add the -server command-line option when you start Solr. This tells the JVM that it should optimize for a long running, server process. If the Java runtime on your system is a JRE, rather than a full JDK distribution (including javac and other development tools), then it is possible that it may not support the -server JVM option. Test this by running java -help and look for -server as an available option in the displayed usage message.

Checking JVM Settings

A great way to see what JVM settings your server is using, along with other useful information, is to use the admin RequestHandler, solr/admin/system. This request handler will display a wealth of server statistics and settings.

You can also use any of the tools that are compatible with the Java Management Extensions (JMX). See the section Using JMX with Solr for more information.

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