My team is running into difficulties when trying to take good heap dumps triggered by OutOfMemoryErrors. For specific reasons we are currently taking the dumps with jmap called from a bash script instead of using the HeapDumpOnOutOfMemoryError flag. We're using a 64-bit 1.6 JVM with a heap size around 3 GB. Our heap dumps fail 90% of the time (guesstimate).
Is there anything we can do to improve our odds of getting a clean heap dump we can use to troubleshoot memory problems? I have read that jmap had major issues in Java 1.4 but that those issues should be mostly addressed now.
we have a JSP that queries ManagementFactory.getThreadMXBean() and produces a report. May not be useful when the app has crashed, but if you poll every minute or so, you'll get an idea of what's happening.
What we wound up doing is writing a script to actively monitor the garbage collection logs. In our experience, back-to-back Full GC's almost always precede an OOM, so our script detects this event, gracefully removes the server from the load balancing pool, and forces the heap dump. This has greatly increased our effectiveness.
This is a fairly old question, but i will put answer with the hope that somebody may find this useful.
jmap has a -F option (force). This has proven to not work that well in the past for me. If you are to use the -F option, I would recommend that you also specify the java.io.tmp directory as a part of the jmap command. There was an issue with JVM version 1.6.22 where the jmap utility did not work properly because of a temp directory setting.
You can also try to take a core dump via gdb. Once you have the core, jmap can convert the core into a heap dump.