Saturday, August 10, 2013

Book review; Oracle SOA Suite 11g Performance Tuning Cookbook

When implementing Oracle SOA 11g, performance is an often encountered topic. I have been involved at several customers in performance taskforces and I've read several books and a lot of Oracle documentation related to the topic. As such I was very interested in the book; Oracle SOA Suite 11g Performance Tuning Cookbook ( I was curious as to whether this book would contribute much to the topic and if I would learn new and interesting things.

I can be a bit of a nit-picker at times. I personally have not written any books yet. For every chapter I've noted something positive and something which I probably would have done differently (or maybe when I know the reason why things are done a certain way I might agree on it). This is not meant as personal criticism to the writers as they clearly know what they are writing about.

Review per chapter

Chapter 1 Identifying problems
The first chapter is focused on how to identify problems. Problems can be high CPU usage (due to for example garbage collection) and for example slow database queries.

VisualVM was new to me and the analyses of stuck threads I might also use in the near future. JRockit Mission Control was already familiar ( but it will be useful for others.

Because the book is in cookbook format and every recipe stands more or less on it's own, there is some repetition in for example how to use jps and jstat. I would have combined the recipes. What I was missing a bit here is concrete examples. How does the output of commands look. Also 'the survivor spaces and Eden' are introduced shortly which is a major topic in Chapter 5. The discussion on how to find problems with datasources could have been moved to Chapter 7.

Chapter 2 Monitoring Oracle SOA Suite
This chapter describes how VMWare's VFabric Hyperic HQ can be used to monitor Weblogic instances. Hyperic has an open source version;

The choice for Hyperic is well supported by arguments and the description on how to get it installed and configured is thorough. It looks like an interesting tool and works by installing an agent on the system to monitor. I'm currently using Nagios ( to monitor environments on a per (web)service level. I would have to try out Hyperic in order to determine if it can do that as well.

Monitoring is focused on OS/Weblogic health and not specific Oracle SOA Suite. The dms servlet is also discussed, however shortly. I would have left this out of the chapter and focus on Hyperic. If discussed, I would have expanded it a little such as for example add how it can be purged (for example at the end of

Chapter 3 Performance testing
JMeter is used to do performance testing on webservices.

Interesting topics were mainly distributed tests and the part on testing Amazon cloud services. Both were new to me.

I'm used to using SOAP UI for webservice tests and HermesJMS for JMS tests. Both are not discussed. It's most likely a matter of taste. The choice for JMeter is not supported by arguments. I missed performance testing of JMS queues here.

Chapter 4 JVM Memory
This chapter describes how the JVM uses memory and how this can be monitored/tuned.

This chapter contains a lot of explanation on the memory settings. This is something which I found often lacking in other books. 'A good rule of thumb is to stick to powers of 2', which is a good tip. Also; 'Note that by default the flag JAVA_USE_64BIT is set to false in %WL_HOME%\common\bin\commEnv.cmd.' is something I'll check out. The picture on JVM memory was clarifying. The division in JVM settings for JRockit and Hotspot is also useful.

This chapter also contains parts on JRockit Mission Control and VisualVM. Although these are very useful, it could have been combined with the part in Chapter 1.

Chapter 5 JVM Garbage Collection Tuning
The different garbage collection strategies for JRockit and Hotspot are explained here and how they can be tuned.

Disabling the RMI garbage collector was something new to me. Also disabling explicit garbage collection will be interesting to try and see if it makes a difference. Although applications shouldn't be using the System.gc() command, there are always programmers who sneak such code in.

Little to remark here. I liked reading the chapter. There was a bit more focus on Hotspot then on JRockit.

Chapter 6 Platform Tuning
This chapter describes options for tuning the platform. It is difficult to find a common denominator or focus point for the topics discussed in this chapter. The title fits.

JTA max transactions, HTTP accept backlog,  Stuck Thread Time, HugePages are settings I'll try out tuning at customers. Reducing OS swappiness is interesting as I've found that swap file usage can reduce performance dramatically. Also I got reminded that the OS also requires specific settings. I'll check if my customers adhere to the Oracle suggested settings. Of course there are also the more often mentioned settings such as tuning EJB timeouts present in this book.

First the stack is explained, SOA Suite runs on application server, application server runs on JVM, JVM runs on OS, OS runs on hardware. Then the chapter does not follow a top-down or bottom-up approach describing tuning options (or I've missed this). Suggesting to upgrade the JVM and use for example Java 1.7 is dangerous as I'm not sure Oracle supports that in combination with Oracle SOA Suite 11g (see; Describing tuning options on OS level could have been expanded a bit. For example I'm curious as to specific tuning options for different Linux distributions.

Chapter 7 Data Sources and JMS
This chapter described tuning of JMS and datasources.

Good to know; the settings for datasource testing can reduce stale connection issues. Also when tuning XA datasources, the database has to be tuned for this also; distributed_lock_timeout. The part on JMS tuning was relatively new to me but I am certain to use the knowledge when the need arises. Also a lot on JDBC datasource tuning was already familiar to me but useful for others.

It would have helped if the error messages which can occur when certain settings are incorrectly/sub-optimally configured, would have been added. This might make finding the right recipe to use when a certain problem occurs easier.

Chapter 8 BPEL and BPMN Engine Tuning
This chapter describes tuning of the BPEL and BPMN engine.

Not much new here for me. The most important settings are covered in my opinion. The tuning of the Db settings is something I'll go check at customers as the SOAINFRA performance is often a bottleneck.

Purging is a hot topic and could have been more thoroughly explained. It would have been nice if the enhancements were also discussed but since it is relatively new, one can't blaim the writers for that. SOAINFRA tablespace defragmentation is not described (the rebuild index, shrink space, enable row movement kind of statements. for example There were no BPMN engine specific tuning suggestions.

Chapter 9 Mediator and BAM
This chapter describes tuning options for the Mediator and BAM.

BAM tuning is not described often. A lot of familiar settings for the Mediator (also from but useful for people who are new to it.

It is a relatively short chapter and could have been combined with Chapter 10.

Chapter 10 Rules and Human Workflow
Optimization options for business rules and human workflow are discussed here. I have little experience with the components.

Choosing the right client to access the workflow component is interesting. Also how the rule engine can be used efficiently is something I will take with me when the need arises to use the component.

Not much to remark here except the same as in Chapter 9.

Chapter 11 SOA Application Design
Application design has a great impact on performance. Several suggestions are given in this chapter which can help.

Although this chapter does not appear to have been the main focus of the book, it does touch several of the more important areas to look for performance improvements.

I could write an entire book on the topic if time would allow me. Also I have done several measures in order to check whether specific settings actually increase performance. See for example The training I've recently followed also gave several best practices on the topic; What I found lacking was programming practices. Which patterns to use and which to avoid and for example how to process large batches efficiently. I missed how to code processes with keeping transaction bounderies in mind (

Chapter 12 High Performance Configuration
This chapter gives suggestions for how a configuration can help increase performance. It is focused on OHS, JMS, Virtualization and hardware.

The parts on virtualization and hardware required I will use as arguments to talk to the people responsible for that part at my current customer that some improvements might be a good idea.

The JMS part could have been put in the JMS chapter. Clustering issues are barely touched such as local optimization settings and issues with the EIS adapters. I would have expected to find them in this chapter.


I liked this book. I have learned some new things I can use at customers. This book also does not repeat the manuals and other books much which also makes it interesting. It is the first book I have seen with focus completely on performance and tuning of Oracle SOA Suite 11g. Not only does the book contain the usual performance tips and several new ones but it also provides some suggestions for tuning in a virtualized environment (including a suggestion on how to measure cloud performance) and hardware.

I am no fan of the recipe format and would have grouped some things differently to describe a more bottom up or top down approach to tuning a SOA Suite installation. Especially JVM tuning gets a lot of attention. It is clear the authors know what they write about. Also the writing style makes this book an easy and enjoyable read. I did not get bored.

I missed a bit tuning of the OSB. Maybe some BPEL programming practices or patterns which help improving performance. What I also missed was tuning from a high level down to a single BPEL process; how to bridge the gap from JVM measures to BPEL process instances. There is not much focus on dehydration store maintenance which can also be an important factor in improving performance. Clustering issues are barely touched.

On the whole this was an interesting read with a lot of useful suggestions.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the review, I am glad you find the book interesting and useful. I agree it would have been good to cover OSB and some of the other topics in more detail, we were limited on page count by the publisher (production costs) for this version, but with 12c coming out we might get a chance to write an updated edition. If this was the case, we would probably look to drop some of the content on Mediator to cover more OSB.
    As you say, the recipe format can be quite hard to write for a complex subject (it was requested by the publisher) and there are many places where it would have been nice to be able to explore the links between components or systems more, but we could not find an easy way to weave it into the book.
    I think for my next book, perhaps a more prose style would work better, and I think I would like to write something about more generic performance tuning principals and processes, that can be applied more widely.