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For documentation on the latest version, see the 4.4 Documentation.


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This page introduces transaction snapshots and call graphs, and describes how to use them.   

About Transaction Snapshots

AppDynamics monitors every invocation of a business transaction in the instrumented environment, and accordingly each invocation is reflected in the metrics for the business application. For certain business transaction invocations, AppDynamics retains a snapshot of the transaction. Transaction snapshots are retained and available in the Controller UI for transactions in these cases: 

  1. The user experience for the business transaction was determined to be slow or the transaction incurred an error. 
  2. The snapshot was collected as a result of periodic snapshot collection. 
  3. The transaction snapshot was collected during a diagnostic session. 

A transaction snapshot gives you a cross-tier view of the processing flow for that particular invocation of the transaction. The snapshot may contain a partial or complete call graph. The call graph reflects the code-level view of the transaction at each tier that participated in processing the business transaction.

Viewing Transactions on the Flow Map

You can access business transaction snapshots from several locations in the Controller UI. For example, you can click on Slow Response Times or Errors under Troubleshooting in the left navigation tree for a business application. Another way to access a snapshot is by transaction. From the business transaction page, double click a transaction and then click the Transaction Snapshots tab. 

From either location, when you double click on a business transaction snapshot, the snapshot viewer appears, as in this example:

As shown in the screenshot, the transaction flow map includes the following metrics:

CalloutMetric NameExplanation
1

Tier Response Time (ms)

Time spent processing at a particular tier for this business transaction.

2Percentage of Time Spent (%)

Percentage metric represents the fraction of time spent processing at a particular tier or in communication with other tiers/backends from the entire execution lifespan of a business transaction. This metric does not include the processing time of asynchronous activities, if any.  

3

Asynchronous Activity Processing Time (ms)

Processing time of all asynchronous activities at this tier. This metric does not contribute to the overall tier response time because the activity is asynchronous by nature. This metric is calculated by adding the execution times of all asynchronous activities at a tier and the time spent in communication between other tiers and backends as follows:

Asynchronous Activity Processing Time = Asynchronous-activity-1-processing-time + Asynchronous-activity-2-processing-time + so on.

4

Execution Time (ms)

Total time spent processing by the business transaction in all affected tiers and communication with other tiers and backends. This metric does not include processing time of the asynchronous activities.  However, in the case of Wait-for-Completion, the originating business transaction will take a longer time processing the request due to blocking and waiting for all the activities to complete before proceeding.

The formula for this metric is calculated by summing up the processing times of a Business Transaction at a particular Tier/communication between Tiers/Backends as follows:

Execution Time = Time-spent-processing-in-Tier-1 + Time-spent-processing-in-Tier-2 + Time-spent-communicating-with-Tier-2 + so on.

The Potential Issues panel gives you a summary of potential root causes for performance issues for the transaction in the form of slow method or SQL calls. Click an item in the Potential Issues list to go to the call in the call graph. 

Depending on the transaction, other metrics may appear as well. For example, when a tier makes an exit call that is received by the same tier, the time for the call is displayed. The metric value shows the the time spent in the call from the moment the call went out of the tier until it returned to the caller. These are identified by the "async" label. 

Note that the flow map view is one of several views of the business transaction in the snapshot viewer. Other views are the Waterfall View, which presents the call execution times as they occur during the end-to-end transaction time as a chart and the Troubleshoot view, which shows the various legs of the transaction in descending order of duration 

Call Drill Down

In the transaction flow map, certain tiers that participated in the transaction include a Drill Down link. This takes you into the details for the transaction on that tier, shown in the Call Drill Down window.

Call drill downs are not always available for all tiers in a distributed transaction. Here are the rules governing whether transaction snapshots are captured on a tier, which differ between originating and downstream tiers. An originating tier is the tier that contains the entry point to the transaction.

  • Any tier (originating, continuing and terminating tiers) takes a snapshot when it recognizes that it is experiencing slow, very slow, or stalled response times or has errors.
  • An originating tier takes a transaction snapshots:
    • When a diagnostic session is triggered by the originating tier. The agent starts diagnostic sessions when it detects a pattern of performance problems. In addition you can manually start a diagnostic session from the Business Transaction Dashboard. For details see Using Diagnostic Sessions.
    • When the agent identifies slow, very slow, or stalled response times, or errors on the originating tier. These snapshots may have partial call graph information, because they start at the time when the transaction slowed or experienced an error.
    • Based on the periodic collection schedule. By default the agent captures one snapshot every 10 minutes.
  • The downstream tier captures snapshots if the tier immediately upstream to it tells it to take a snapshot. An upstream tier might direct its downstream tier to take a snapshot under these circumstances:
    • The upstream tier is taking a snapshot for a diagnostic session.
    • The upstream tier is taking a snapshot based on the periodic collection schedule.

If none of these conditions exists, the downstream tier may not take a snapshot, which means that the drill down option will be absent for that tier in the snapshot.

In addition to the previously described rules, these limits apply to snapshots:  

  • Maximum of 20 originating (5 concurrent) snapshots per node per minute. "Originating snapshot" refers to snapshots taken at the transaction entry point.      

  • Maximum of 200 continuing (100 concurrent) snapshots per node per minute. "Continuing snapshots" are those taken on downstream tiers for the transaction.

For Java applications, you can increase the collection of full call graphs by enabling aggressive slow snapshot feature. This may be useful when troubleshooting a specific performance issue, for example. See Slow Snapshot Collection for more information.

Configure Snapshot Periodic Collection Frequency

By default, AppDynamics collects a snapshot every 10 minutes. You can modify this default in the Slow Transaction Thresholds configuration page. The value will apply to subsequently created business transactions, but if you check Apply to all Existing Business Transactions, all existing business transactions are affected by the change as well.

If you have a high load production environment, it is important that you do not use low values for snapshot collection, in other words, configure collection on a very frequent basis. When there are thousands or millions of requests per minute, collecting snapshots too frequently may result in many extra snapshots that are not highly useful. Either turn OFF the periodic snapshots and apply to all Business Transactions, or choose a very conservative (high) rate depending on the expected load. For example, if you have high load on the application, choose every 1000th executions or every 20 minutes, depending on the load pattern. See Overview of Transaction Snapshots.

In the left navigation pane click Configuration > Slow Transaction Thresholds.

Using the Transaction Snapshot List

You can view transaction snapshots generated in the UI time range from the Transaction Snapshots tab of the application, tier, node, or business transaction dashboards. From there you can:

  • Compare Snapshots shows the performance of calls in two snapshots as a side-by-side comparison. 
  • Identify the most expensive calls / SQL statements in a group of Snapshots shows the calls that take the most time across the snapshots you have selected. You can select up to 30 snapshots. 
  • Find snapshots using the filter options.

Normally transaction snapshots are purged after a configurable time, two weeks by default. To save a snapshot beyond the normal snapshot lifespan (for example, if you want to make sure a snapshot associated with a particular problem is retained for future analysis), you can archive the snapshot. To archive a snapshot, select it from the list and choose More Actions > Archive.

The file cabinet icon in the far right column indicates that the snapshot is an archive snapshot ().

To display only archived snapshots in the snapshot list, filter the snapshot list and check Return Only Archived Snapshots.

Transaction Snapshot Call Drill Downs

A call drill down contains details for that business transaction execution on a particular tier. It takes you to the code-level information for the transaction. To get call drill down information, click Drill Down in the transaction snapshot flow map snapshot list.

The contents of a transaction snapshot containing async segments look slightly different if you access the snapshot via the Business Transaction view or via the App/Tier/Server view. In the Business Transaction view, only the originating segments are shown initially, and then you can drill down to the async segments as desired. Because the App/Tier/Server view surfaces all the segments that are relative to that entity, all segments, originating or async, are listed initially.

The following lists the type of information captured in a transaction snapshot.

Summary

Problem summary, execution time, CPU, timestamps tier, node process ID, thread name, etc.

Call Graphs

Call graphs show the execution flow for the transaction on a given tier. For details, see Call Graphs.

Hot Spots

Hot spots sort calls by execution time with the most expensive calls in the snapshot at the top. To see the invocation trace of a single call in the lower panel, select the call in the upper panel and use the slider to filter which calls to display as hot spots. For example, the following setting filters out all calls faster than 30 ms from the hot spots list.

Using the force-hotspot-if-diag-session and hotspot-collect-cpu node properties you can respectively control whether or not hot spot snapshots are collected for manually started diagnostic sessions and whether CPU time or real time is collected within the hot spot snapshots.

Note that hot spots that appear in this pane of the snapshot viewer are distinct from a hot spot call graph. A hot spot call graph is a call graph in a snapshot collected in response to a performance issue that includes transaction segments generated before the point at which the transaction was recognized to be slow, very slow, or have another user experience issue. For more information, see Call Graphs.

SQL Calls

All SQL queries fired during a request. AppDynamics normalizes the queries and by default does not display raw/bind values. You can configure SQL capture settings to monitor raw SQL data in the queries. Individual calls taking less than 10 ms are not reported.

When returning data to a JDBC client, database management systems often return the results as a batched response. Each batch contains a subset of the total result set, with typically 10 records in each batch. The JDBC client retrieves a batch and iterates through the results. If the query is not satisfied, the JDBC client gets the next batch, and so on.

In the SQL query window, a number followed by an X in the Query column means that the query ran the number of times indicated within a batch. The value in the Count column indicates the number of times that the batch job executed.

HTTP Params

HTTP payloads contain basic data such as the URL and session ID, and additional data for Servlet entry points, Struts, JSF, Web Services, etc. You can use HTTP data collectors to specify which query parameter or cookie values should be captured in the transaction snapshot. To enable HTTP parameter collection, see Collecting Application Data.

Cookies

The snapshot can use cookie values to help identify the user who initiated the slow or error transaction. To enable cookie value collection, see Collecting Application Data.

User Data

In cases where an exit call is made just before a business transaction starts, exit call information can show up in this field, particularly if the transaction is marked as slow or having errors. Please note that sensitive information on the exit call may be shown in this situation.

Error Details

Exception stack traces and HTTP error codes.

Hardware/Mem

Graphs for hardware (CPU Memory, Disk IO, Network IO), Memory (Heap, Garbage Collection, Memory Pools), JMX, and more.