Sep 16 2011

Serious Memory Leak 64 Bit Windows 2008 Server R2 SP1

Posted by Mike Brunt at 5:33 AM Web Servers | .NET | DataBase | Languages | Performance | Caching | ColdFusion | JRun-J2EE


There is a fairly serious memory leak which certainly affects Windows 2008 Server R2 SP1 64-bit on VM Ware ESX 4.1 and ColdFusion 9.01 and which may to be an overall issue with Windows 2008 Server R2 SP1.  It is important to give you the full details as it can be hard to identify and may lead to decisions that it is ColdFusion or the JVM which has the issue and it is decidely not the case; here are the details...

I was on-site at a client and we were load-testing a new infrastructure before going live.  By the way and I realize this is my ongoing mantra, please load test thoroughly before ever moving to new hardware or even more succinctly, before ever putting new code into production.  It is no exaggeration to say that it could save tens of thousands of dollars in lost time and wrong decisions.  So back to my client and I have to give them a shout out, they have a first class team and we were able to work, in harmony, with both the development and infrastructure team to hunt down this issue. That is another key issue and here I am addressing all you VP's and CTO's, it is imperative to ensure all divisions under your watch work cohesively and with understanding of the overall needs of the enterprise; all ego's should be left at the door; this is also critical.  Apologies for the deviation from details here but all of this is truly critical to have any chances of success.

We were load testing fairly stridently and noticed that all VM Ware instances, 64-bit with 8GB RAM (3GB allocated to the JVM Heap, each with two horizontally clustered ColdFusion instances) were almost "maxed-out" on system memory.  We then did what seemed logical and added another 4GB of system RAM to each VM Ware server.  After a restart we noted that once again we were running out of system RAM and looking in Windows Task Manager, it appeared that ColdFusion was taking up 4.5GB of resource when the JVM Heap, was currently set to 3GB maximum, that in my experience had never happened.  So one of the team had the good idea to set down one of the ColdFusion installs to 700MB and once again reboot the VM Ware server, once again and now with 12GB of overall system RAM, memory utilization was climbing and once again ColdFusion appeared to be taking 4.5GB of system RAM, even though it was now set to 700MB maximum.  Another member of the team had been coding away during this time and rolled out some CF Code which was designed to give good details on multiple instance, clustered installs of CF, including heap memory allocated and sure enough, ColdFusion only had just under 700MB allocated.  We then realized we had an overall system problems and sure enough found many articles on the issue.  

This issue was/is not just cosmetic, it impacts performance very markedly so I wanted to get this blog post out there quickly.



Roland Collins

Roland Collins wrote on 09/16/11 9:44 AM

Mike, we run a very similar setup, except on Hyper-V. Server 2008 R2 64bit, SP1, with CF 9.01 64bit Enterprise, and we haven't ever seen an issue like this. We routinely run load tests, and these servers have a very high server load. Our JVM settings are pretty standard, with just a couple of memory tweaks:

-server -XX:PermSize=256m -XX:MaxPermSize=512m -XX:+UseParallelGC -Xbatch -Dcoldfusion.rootDir={application.home}/../ -Dcoldfusion.libPath={application.home}/../lib

Minimum heap is set to 1024MB and Maximum is set to 3072.

Just wanted to throw that out there in case it gives you any other information to look at.
Sami Hoda

Sami Hoda wrote on 09/16/11 10:45 AM

We have a similar infrastructure on Hyper-V for internal development and haven't noticed anything like this. Would love to hear more details.
Mike Brunt

Mike Brunt wrote on 09/17/11 3:55 AM

Roland and Sami, thank you for posting your set-up and experiences here. In VMWare ESX there is a capability relating to memory allocation and use called "balooning". As best I could tell, before moving on to present at NCDevcon, these VM's were first created with a memory allocation of 4GB and cloned at that point. This was later increased to 8GB and then 12GB. What we believe is at the time of cloning (at 4GB) some "switch" was set in the ESX server at that level which caused issues and balooning when the memory allocation was increased. However, there are Windows 2008 R2 issues relating to "pre-fetching" of memory in some cases.
pat branley

pat branley wrote on 10/07/11 6:40 PM

Hi Mike

The question is, if we see this kind of leak. how to we fix / prevent it ?

Dawesi wrote on 11/06/11 1:29 PM

Saw a simliar thing on CF8 64 Bit on R2 on an 8Gb Ram instance of VMware....

Same code and setup saw no such issue on Win7 dev

Dawesi wrote on 11/06/11 1:31 PM

might like to add that this was multi-server and two separate instances (not clustered)...
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Kishore Karavadi wrote on 12/23/11 8:18 AM

Hi Mike, I am also facing the same issue. Do you have any solution for the same?


gt98us wrote on 12/30/11 10:19 AM

Mike, we too are having issues with 2008 R2 and RAM allocation. First I am a system admin and not a developer. This first peaked it's head with a cloned VM Guest on Esx 3.5 with 8 GB's of RAM. After 22 hours of running all 8 GB of RAM was allocated and the system performance was seriously degraded. Now I am looking at physical servers as well and I am seeing a trend on 2008 64bit and 2008 R2 servers and how they allocate RAM with servers that have large amounts of RAM.

I believe it's tied to the pagefile and physical RAM. I ended up removing the pagefile altogether from the VM guest and the system is performing very well. I would suggest using MS tool "rammap" and it will show you how the RAM is being utilized. Then it starts the debate on whether we need a pagefile at all. MS Kb's mention you technically don't even need one with a 64 bit server that has a large amount of RAM as long as you don't need a memory dump.
hope this helps, I am still researching myself.
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Chad wrote on 04/27/12 9:20 AM

Any idea if this issue was fixed with VMWare 5?

Mike wrote on 05/23/12 8:40 PM

Experiencing the exact same problem and running VMWare 5.0.0. Any updates?
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Claes wrote on 09/13/12 6:08 AM

Hi guys.
Discussing the mem leakage,, i can link one fix that is "trial" from Microsoft

Should close the mem leak
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Ivo wrote on 11/13/12 2:15 AM

Like Mike Brunt said this is probably related to VMware ballooning.
Edit your VM and check under the resources tab and make sure the checkbox unlimited is checked.
Otherwise your VM will probably be limited to the amount of memory you´ve originally assigned during creation.

The limit can be on the VM or in the resource pool but most of the time it´s a VM limit

Ivo wrote on 11/13/12 2:16 AM

oh, forgot to mention.
To activate the new unlimited setting you have to reboot the VM or vMotion it

Cliff wrote on 11/21/12 9:03 AM

I've been having problems with windows 2008 R2 + CF 9 - sites hanging due to CF heap. I found the solution here:
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