Build Monitor with Raspberry Pi and Touch Screen

Information is a great tool in software development and it’s useful to have easy access to it. The more obvious you make your problems, the harder you make them to ignore. The more attention they get, the quicker they get solved. One thing developers like to monitor in software development is continuous integration status and metrics from running services. And what better way to achieve visibility and visualize to those metrics than building an information radiator.

I didn’t want to invent the wheel again so I got Raspberry Pi 3 Model B with accessories and 7″ touch screen to base my project. Using a Raspberry Pi as an information radiator isn’t a new idea and the Internet is full of examples of different adaptations with screens, lights, bells and whistles. For the start we just visualized our Jenkins builds and Grafana dashboard but later on we will propably do a custom dashboard.

Setting up the base

The information radiator is easy to get running as you only need a computer which preferably runs Linux. You can use an old laptop and attach it to external screen or if you’re like me and want to tinker you can get e.g. Raspberry Pi 3 and couple it with small external screen for portability. Nice and low cost solution which gets you some hacker value. I got the Rpi from our local hardware store and unfortunately the Model B+ was just released on the same day. The extra 15% power, 5 GHz Wifi and less heat and throttling would’ve been nice.

Raspberry Pi 3 Model B and accessories

I got the Raspberry Pi starting package with the official case, power supply, HDMI cable and a MicroSD card with preloaded NOOBS. So I just needed to connect the cables, put SD Card in and click to install Raspbian. Other interesting operating systems would’ve been Fedberry which is Fedora ‘Minimal, XFCE and LXQt’ Remixes.

For the screen I used 7″ IPS 5 point touch screen for Raspberry Pi with 1024×600 resolution and HDMI from joy-it codename RB-LCD-7-2. Initially I thought I could install the whole system with this display but as it turned out Rpi doesn’t understand it out of the box. It just showed some white noise and interference . Luckily some one had already solved this and I got the right config after I had installed Raspbian with real monitor.

Joy-it touch screen with default settings

Edit your /boot/config.txt:

# uncomment to force a specific HDMI mode (this will force VGA)
hdmi_group=2
hdmi_mode=87
 
# Add line:
hdmi_cvt=1024 600 60 3 0 0 0

And reboot your Raspberry Pi after those changes.

You should also run $ sudo raspi-config to setup for example WiFi country to allow channels 12 and 13 and your current Timezone.

I also updated Raspbian which bumps it to rpi-4.14.y linux tree:

$ sudo apt-get update
$ sudo apt-get upgrade
$ sudo apt-get dist-upgrade
$ sudo rpi-update

To connect to Rpi with SSH enable it with raspi-config > Interfacing Options or just:

$ sudo systemctl enable ssh
$ sudo systemctl start ssh

For the note, by default the user pi has password raspberry. You should change it but if you want to remove the nagging of default password do the following:

$ sudo apt-get -y purge pprompt
$ sudo rm /etc/profile.d/sshpwd.sh
$ sudo rm /etc/xdg/lxsession/LXDE-pi/sshpwd.sh

Problems with WiFi connection

I set up the Raspberry Pi at our local office and at home and there were no problems with WiFi connection. But when I brought it to customer premises the WiFi connection was weak and practically couldn’t move a bit. My MacBook worked fine but it was connected to 5 GHz network which isn’t an option with my Rpi 3 Model B. The WiFi on Rpi 3 was using channel 11 on 802.11i with WPA2 as shown with iwlist wlan0 scan.

There is a thread on Raspberry Pi forum about Very poor wifi performance which suggest to set up WiFi internalisation correctly to allow channels 12 and 13. At one point the issue was that only channels 1-11 are available on the Rpi 3 but checking out the ‘next’ branch of firmware/kernel (sudo BRANCH=next rpi-update) apparently fixed channels 12/13. I was on kernel 4.9.80 so it wasn’t a problem for me. The other suggested problem is with Atheros chipset based router which doesn’t like Broadcom WiFi on Rpi 3.

For some disabling power management solves the connection issues. For RPi built-in Broadcom (Cypress) WiFi there’s no control for power management and it’s disabled by the kernel. In iw / iwlist / iwconfig you see bug with “Power Management:on”.

But nevertheless testing switching it off made my WiFi connection better but it’s strength didn’t of course change.

$ sudo iwconfig wlan0 power off

To make it permanent you can add something like this in your interfaces file:

$ sudo touch /etc/network/if-up.d/wlan0
$ sudo chmod +x /etc/network/if-up.d/wlan0
$ sudo echo -e '#!/bin/bash\niwconfig wlan0 power off' > /etc/network/if-up.d/wlan0

Accessing Raspberry Pi remotely

The information radiator is usually connected to a TV with no keyboard or mouse attached so accessing it remotely is useful. You can use x11vnc which allows you to VNC into a headless Pi with a VNC client like Apple Remote Desktop, RealVNC’s vncviewer or homebrew’s tiger-vnc.

$ sudo apt-get install ttf-mscorefonts-installer
$ sudo apt-get install x11vnc

To start x11vnc automatically create new or edit existing ~/.xsessionrc file:

$ cat ~/.xsessionrc
/usr/bin/x11vnc -noxrecord -noxdamage -forever -bg -rfbport 5900

Getting interesting things on the screen

To test our setup and quickly show some data I just added a Build Monitor view in Jenkins and other view with Dashboard view. I also configured the Rpi to automatically start Chromium browser in kiosk mode after reboots and directed it to Jenkins website so there would be no need for interactions to get things on the screen. To show several sources of data and get things running quickly without customized information radiator we used Revolver – Tabs Chromium extension to rotate between multiple browser tabs: one showed Jenkins Build Monitor other Grafana Dashboard and third Twitter feed.

To automatically start the chromium-browser after Raspbian desktop starts, edit the following lxsession file:

$ cp /etc/xdg/lxsession/LXDE-pi/autostart /home/pi/.config/lxsession/LXDE-pi/autostart
$ vim /home/pi/.config/lxsession/LXDE-pi/autostart
 
#@xscreensaver -no-splash  # comment this line out to disable screensaver
# Disable Xsession from blanking
@xset s off
@xset -dpms
@xset s noblank
 
@sh ./autostart.sh
# load chromium after boot and point to the localhost webserver in full screen mode
@chromium-browser --kiosk --no-default-browser-check --no-first-run --disable-infobars "http://localhost/"

Chromium has a feature to show “Restore pages” nagging popup when not grafefully shutdown and you can try the following Stack Overflow suggestion. What was also suggested was doing “chmod 001 ~/.config/chromium/Default/Preferences” but it results to another nagging window.

$ cat ./autostart.sh
#!/bin/sh
sed -i 's/"exited_cleanly":false/"exited_cleanly":true/' ~/.config/chromium/'Local State'
sed -i 's/"exited_cleanly":false/"exited_cleanly":true/; s/"exit_type":"[^"]\+"/"exit_type":"Normal"/' ~/.config/chromium/Default/Preferences

You could use “–restore-last-session” or “–incognito” parameter which also works but it has several disadvantages, such as disabling the cache and login information. Or maybe I should just use Firefox.

Raspberry Pi and Jenkins Build Monitor

It might be also useful to set Chromium to restart every night. When running Chromium for longer periods it may fill Rpi’s memory with garbage and after it must be hard rebooted.

Turning the monitor on and off automatically

When running Rpi as a wall monitor it’s useful to save energy and extend the life of your monitor by turning the monitor on/off on a daily schedule. You can do this by running a cron script. Get this script and put it in /home/pi/rpi-hdmi.sh and make it executable: chmod +x /home/pi/rpi-hdmi.sh. Call the script at the desired time with cron entry:

$ crontab -e
 
# Turn HDMI Off (22:00)
0 17 * * * /home/pi/rpi-hdmi.sh off
 
# Turn HDMI On (7:00)
30 7 * * * /home/pi/rpi-hdmi.sh on

If you’ve problems with the above script try this which is the original but change “curr_vt=`fgconsole`” to be “curr_vt=`sudo fgconsole`” as fgconsole needs sudo privileges and otherwise you get an error “Couldn’t get a file descriptor referring to the console”.

From simple dashboard to real information Radiator

Showing just Jenkins Build Monitor or Grafana dashboards is simple but to get more information of things running you could show things like the success rate of the builds, build health, latest open pull request and project Twitter Messages. One nice example of information radiator is Panic’s Status board.

There are different ways to create customizable dashboard and one way is to use Dashing which is a dashboard framework and to get headstart you can see Project Dashboard https://github.com/martin-naumann/project-cockpit is which shows “build health” for the latest build, the latest open pull request in Github, the success rate of your builds, some free-form text and your project’s or company’s logo. It uses the Jenkins API to get the ration of successful / non-successful builds as well as the latest build state. It also calls the Github API to get the latest pull request to display the name and picture of the author and the title of the pull request on the dashboard.

For more leisure use you can set up the Raspberry Pi as a wall display to show information like calendar, weather, photos and RSS feeds. One option is to use Dakboard which is a web interface used to display information and is quite configurable with different services. At first Dakboard seems nice but is quite limited on what data it can show and some useful features are premium. Another open source option is MagicMirror² which seems to be more modular and extensible (as you can create your own modules) but needs more tinkering.

Monitor and profile application with Java Mission Control

Monitoring Java applications is can be done with different tools and with JDK you get one good tool for it: Java Mission Control. Java Mission Control and Java Flight Recorder together create a complete tool chain to continuously collect low level and detailed runtime information enabling after-the-fact incident analysis. Starting with Oracle JDK 7 Update 40 (7u40) Java Mission Control (JMC) bundled with the HotSpot JVM. Let’s take a short look what those tools are.

“Java Flight Recorder is a profiling and event collection framework built into the Oracle JDK. It allows Java administrators and developers to gather detailed low level information about how the Java Virtual Machine (JVM) and the Java application are behaving. Java Mission Control is an advanced set of tools that enables efficient and detailed analysis of the extensive of data collected by Java Flight Recorder. The tool chain enables developers and administrators to collect and analyze data from Java applications running locally or deployed in production environments.”Oracle Java Mission Control.

Java Mission Control and Java Flight Recorder are commercial features, which are available as part of the Oracle Java SE Advanced product. They are freely available for download for development and evaluation purposes, as per the terms in the Oracle Binary Code License Agreement, but require an Oracle Java SE Advanced license for production use.

Using Java Mission Control

Oracle Java Mission Control is a tool suite for managing, monitoring, profiling, and troubleshooting your Java applications and it consists of the JMX Console and the Java Flight Recorder. To get a good overview how you can use Java Mission Control check Java Mission Control demo video. The JMC Client is built to run on Eclipse and it’s based on the features of the old JRockit Mission Control.

The JMX Console enables you to monitor and manage your Java application and the JVM at runtime but the main and most important feature is the Flight Recorder. Java Flight Recorder (JFR) records the behavior of the JVM at runtime and you can analyze the recording offline using the Java Flight Recorder tool. They say that the overall profiling overhead for your applications stays at less than 2%, usually much less.

Starting with Oracle JDK 7 Update 40 (7u40) it’s bundled with the HotSpot JVM and although you can connect it to older JDK’s like application running on JDK 6 the newer ones show more information and have more features. So no real fun with legacy applications. The Flight Recorder needs at least JDK 7 Update 40.

Start JMC from the Windows command prompt:
"c:\Program Files\Java\jdk1.8.0_20\bin\jmc.exe"

Java Mission Control can be connected to local or remote Java Application. Start your application with following Virtual Machine flags which enables the JMX remote without authentication and Mission Control:

-Dcom.sun.management.jmxremote 
-Dcom.sun.management.jmxremote.port=8999 
-Dcom.sun.management.jmxremote.ssl=false
-Dcom.sun.management.jmxremote.authenticate=false 
-XX:+UnlockCommercialFeatures 
-XX:+FlightRecorder

If you’re using WebLogic then the JMX Remote settings are following:

-Djavax.management.builder.initial=weblogic.management.jmx.mbeanserver.WLSMBeanServerBuilder
-Dcom.sun.management.jmxremote.port=8999 -Dcom.sun.management.jmxremote.ssl=false
-Dcom.sun.management.jmxremote.authenticate=false 
-XX:+UnlockCommercialFeatures 
-XX:+FlightRecorder

JMC does not include or run with a security manager, so a user must ensure to run the JMC client in a secure environment.

After connecting JMC with your Java application it opens a familiar Eclipse based user interface. JMX Console has couple of tabs on the bottom which shows overview, MBeans, Memory and Thread information.

JMC: JMX Console Overview

JMC: JMX Console MBeans
JMC: JMX Console Memory

JMC: JMX Console Threads

The more useful tool is the Java Flight Recorder (JFR) for profiling your application. In Java Mission Control JVM Browser right click on the Java Virtual Machine you wish to start a Flight Recording.

Leave all the default settings and select the “Profiling – on server” template for your Event Settings. Just hit finish at this point. You can also click Next to go to the higher level event settings which are groupings of named settings in the template. You can select how often you want JFR to sample methods by changing the Method Sampling setting.

The recording will be downloaded automatically and displayed in Mission Control. Click the tab group for Code to start visualizing your Method Profiling Sample events. Switch to the method profiling tab to find a top list of the hottest methods in your application.

Too bad I don’t have nice recording to show but here’s couple of screenshots. Better overview of how to use Flight Recording can be seen from the Java Mission Control demo video.

JMC: Flight Recording

JMC: Flight Recording

Monitoring Java EE application with JavaMelody

Software development is much more than just coding application by requirements and deploying it to production as the real work really starts after it has been shipped: maintenance, improvements and problem solving. And for that it’s good to have some data. It’s said “if you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it” and in ideal situations you plan for measuring your app but often you have to do it in production to detect and diagnose performance problems. There are different ways to measure a Java EE application and one good tool to achieve performance and monitoring statistics is Javamelody which has low overhead, is non-intrusive, informative and simple to setup but still very capable.

“If you can not measure it, you can not improve it.” – Lord Kelvin

Application performance can be measured by two main methods: computational resources used by the application and the performance as seen by a user of the application. By measuring these quantities we get an empirical performance baseline of the application which then can used to detect changes in performance. By using performance monitoring, which is an act of non-intrusively collect or observe performance data from running application, we get measurements to identify or isolate potential issues from real operation of an application without having a severe impact on runtime responsiveness or throughput.

There are different ways to achieve performance and monitoring statistics and it’s useful to plan for measuring application’s performance while still in development as later on you surely want to know how it is performing. You can do it by leveraging different JMX-based tools like Metrics and Servo but if you didn’t really plan for it you still have choices. You can use tools like standard JDK tools (jconsole, jstat, jmap, jstack, hprof) for low level JVM monitoring or some monitoring application like Javamelody. And as time is always scarce in development it’s useful to deploy a tool like JavaMelody which provide quick and easy access to performance monitoring. But if you are interested of some narrow focus measurement you’re better of with some custom tool.

Monitoring with JavaMelody

JavaMelody is an open source (LGPL) application to monitor Java or Java EE application servers in QA and production environments. It is a tool to measure and calculate statistics on real operation of an application depending on the usage of the application by users and is mainly based on statistics of requests and on evolution charts which can be viewed on the current day, week, month, year or custom period. The statistics can be viewed on a HTML page and sent as PDF reports by email.

JavaMelody lists the following use cases:

  • It allows to improve applications in QA and production
  • Give facts about the average response times and number of executions
  • Make decisions when trends are bad, before problems become too serious
  • Optimize based on the more limiting response times
  • Find the root causes of response times
  • Verify the real improvement after optimization

Setting up

Setting up JavaMelody is quite easy and the needed steps are covered in User guide. Integrating JavaMelody to your application can be done in less than 10 minutes, by automatic discovery of environment: it only requires to copy 2 jar files and to add 10 lines in a xml file. But for more detailed and wider measurements you need couple more lines to xml files and here are the changes I made for our Wicket, Spring, JPA, Hibernate -Java EE project.

JavaMelody and dependencies

Getting JavaMelody and it’s dependencies is easy with Maven2 and you just need to add javamelody-core and if you want to have PDF reports also iText in your pom.xml:

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<!-- javamelody-core -->
<dependency>
	<groupId>net.bull.javamelody</groupId>
	<artifactId>javamelody-core</artifactId>
	<version>1.45.0</version>
</dependency>
<!-- itext, option to add PDF export -->
<dependency>
	<groupId>com.lowagie</groupId>
	<artifactId>itext</artifactId>
	<version>2.1.7</version>
	<exclusions>
		<exclusion>
			<artifactId>bcmail-jdk14</artifactId>
			<groupId>bouncycastle</groupId>
		</exclusion>
		<exclusion>
			<artifactId>bcprov-jdk14</artifactId>
			<groupId>bouncycastle</groupId>
		</exclusion>
		<exclusion>
			<artifactId>bctsp-jdk14</artifactId>
			<groupId>bouncycastle</groupId>
		</exclusion>
	</exclusions>
</dependency>

Monitoring application

JavaMelody needs just a monitoring filter before the description of webapp’s servlet in WEB-INF/web.xml or not even that as described in the User guide. But usually you want a little bit more than the minimum 10 additional lines in web.xml.

By adding the customResourceFilter you get customized look & feel, you can exclude some urls from statistics with url-exclude-pattern regular expression pattern, eamil-parameters are for weekly reports and by including monitoring-spring.xml you can monitor DataSource with a Spring post-processor and objects initialized with Spring.

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...
<context-param>
	<param-name>contextConfigLocation</param-name>
	<param-value>
		classpath:net/bull/javamelody/monitoring-spring.xml
		classpath:applicationContext-service.xml
		classpath:applicationContext-persist.xml
		classpath:applicationContext-web.xml
		classpath:applicationContext-security.xml
    </param-value>
</context-param>
 
<!-- Must be defined before javamelody filters -->
<filter>
	<filter-name>springSecurityFilterChain</filter-name>
	<filter-class>org.springframework.web.filter.DelegatingFilterProxy</filter-class>
</filter>
<filter-mapping>
	<filter-name>springSecurityFilterChain</filter-name>
	<url-pattern>/*</url-pattern>
</filter-mapping>
 
<!--====================== Monitoring ===================================-->
<!-- Custom CSS -->
<filter>
	<filter-name>customResourceFilter</filter-name>
	<filter-class>net.bull.javamelody.CustomResourceFilter</filter-class>
	<init-param>
		<param-name>monitoring.css</param-name>
		<param-value>/styles/monitoring.css</param-value>
	</init-param>
</filter>
<filter-mapping>
	<filter-name>customResourceFilter</filter-name>
	<url-pattern>/monitoring</url-pattern>
</filter-mapping>
<!-- Monitor filter -->
<filter>
	<filter-name>monitoring</filter-name>
	<filter-class>net.bull.javamelody.MonitoringFilter</filter-class>
	<init-param>
		<param-name>storage-directory</param-name>
		<param-value>logs/monitoring</param-value>
	</init-param>
	<init-param>
		<param-name>url-exclude-pattern</param-name>
		<param-value>(/images/.*|/js/.*|/styles/.*)</param-value>
	</init-param>
	<init-param>
		<param-name>admin-emails</param-name>
		<param-value>first.last@example.com</param-value>
	</init-param>
	<init-param>
		<param-name>mail-session</param-name>
		<param-value>MailSession</param-value>
	</init-param>
	<init-param>
		<param-name>mail-periods</param-name>
		<param-value>week,month</param-value>
	</init-param>
</filter>
<filter-mapping>
	<filter-name>monitoring</filter-name>
	<url-pattern>/*</url-pattern>
</filter-mapping>
<listener>
	<listener-class>net.bull.javamelody.SessionListener</listener-class>
</listener>
...

Spring Security config

For restricting the access to monitoring statistics I added the following to the Spring Security’s applicationContext-security.xml. There are also other options for security. The key point here is to make sure, that the monitoring-filter in web.xml (above) is defined after the Spring Security filter chain.

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<http auto-config="true" use-expressions="true">
    ...
    <intercept-url pattern="/monitoring/**" access="hasRole('ROLE_ADMIN')" />
	<intercept-url pattern="/**"
			access="hasAnyRole('ROLE_ADMIN, 'ROLE_USER'')" />
</http>

Monitoring SQL and datasources

For monitoring datasources and SQL I just added jndi-lookup to applicationContext-persist.xml. Other options to enable JDBC monitoring are described in the User guide.

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...
<jee:jndi-lookup id="dataSource" jndi-name="jdbc/myAppDS"/>
 
<bean id="entityManagerFactory"
	class="org.springframework.orm.jpa.LocalContainerEntityManagerFactoryBean">
	<property name="dataSource" ref="dataSource" />
...

Business facades (Spring)

If the application to monitor contains some objects initialized by Spring, EJB or Guice their methods execution can also be added to statistics. As described in the User guide for monitoring Spring Business facades there are couple of options and for example with JdkRegexpMethodPointcut in applicationContext-web.xml you can catch objects with regular expression like “all that have Service in their names”.

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...
<bean id="facadeMonitoringAdvisor" class="net.bull.javamelody.MonitoringSpringAdvisor">
	<property name="pointcut">
		<bean class="org.springframework.aop.support.JdkRegexpMethodPointcut">
			<property name="pattern" value=".*Service.*" />
		</bean>
	</property>
</bean>
...

EHCache statistics

If you want to see also EHCache statistics add statistics=”true” to ehcache.xml config file.

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<ehcache xmlns:xsi="http://www.w3.org/2001/XMLSchema-instance" xsi:noNamespaceSchemaLocation="http://ehcache.org/ehcache.xsd">
    <defaultCache eternal="true" maxElementsInMemory="100" overflowToDisk="false" statistics="true" />
    <cache name="fooCache" maxElementsInMemory="1000" eternal="false" overflowToDisk="false" />
    <cache name="barCache" maxElementsInMemory="1000" eternal="false" overflowToDisk="false" />
</ehcache>

Database information and statistics

JavaMelody already shows datasource and SQL information but it’s also possible to display information and statistics on the database like the longest requests in cumulative time with display of the cpu time and of the elementary cost. For showing that information the user in the database used by the monitored application must have the necessary rights to read those information and statistics.

In Oracle database the request practically means select * from v$session and you can grant access as ‘system’ user with GRANT SELECT any dictionary TO myapplicationuser. Strangely granting just the select for v$session (GRANT SELECT ON sys.v_$session TO myapplicationuser;) wasn’t enough.

Reports

There is also a possibility to get weekly, daily or monthly report in pdf format sent by email to one or several people. It needs iText library for webapp and Java’s JavaMail and Activation libraries in your server for the mail session.

With WebLogic you add some email parameters in webapp’s web.xml (above) and configure a Mail Session in WebLogic AdminServer: Services > Mail Sessions with JNDI Name and JavaMail properties. The report provides the same information you can find in monitoring web page with high and detailed level information.

Statistics’ storage

Javamelody data is stored in files on disk and there are 2 types of files: *.rrd files for values in graphics in RRD format (using jrobin library) and *.ser.gz for values in statistics.

The performance statistics are stored to temp/javamelody directory by default which means /tmp/javamelody in Linux and in Windows when running webapp in Eclipse something like Users/developer/AppData/Local/Temp/javamelody. If you want to reset the counters just delete all the files. The location can be changed with storage-directory parameter and if the name of the directory starts with ‘/’, it is considered as an absolute path, otherwise it is considered as relative to the temporary directory.

There is also option to use centralized collect server to store statistics and for monitoring of several applications.

Viewing performance monitoring

After you have set up your webapp to have the monitoring you can see statistics at URL like http:////monitoring depending your configuration.

Some example JavaMelody statistics from development:

Overhead

Monitoring and filtering doesn’t come without costs and there has been discussions on JavaMelody wiki about the overhead the monitoring does. It is said that the overhead is so low that it can be enabled continuously in Quality Assuarance environment and if no problem arises in QA, also continuously in production environment. And with little overhead you will be able to know what needs optimizing in the QA or production servers so that the overhead of JavaMelody will practically be negative.

The discussion contained some notes:

  • Architecture of JavaMelody is lightweight so it has a lower overhead as compared it to other available solutions
  • It is only statistics and not events so the overhead of memory is quite minimal.
  • It does monitoring not profiling: there is no instrumentation of classes and instead “interceptors” for http, jdbc, spring or ejb3.
  • No database and no recording of each events even in a file or over the wire: only statistics of requests are kept. The overhead of cpu is minimal with no I/O on the wire and minimal I/O on disk (just to take a backup of statistics at a regular interval). The overhead of some other good monitoring solutions is in the recording of each event in a database or in a master server.
  • You have the choice to use centralized collect server which unloads the memory, the backup storage and the generation of reports to another server while adding I/O on the wire for sending deltas of the statistics.

Summary

“If you can not measure it, you can not improve it.” It doesn’t matter how you do it but if you want to use real user data and environment just do it non-intrusively with performance monitoring tools like Javamelody.