The only entry in the Oracle documentation is found in the Oracle Application Server Performance Guide 10g Release 3 (10.1.3.1.0), Chapter 3 - Top Performance Areas where we say that:
"With the Sun 5.0 JVM, under some circumstances under heavy load, synchronization in an application can result in thread starvation. This may cause some requests for an application to appear hung or to timeout after a long time.
In 10g Release 3 (10.1.3.1.0) the parameter: -XX:AppendRatio=3 is specified by default for managed OC4J. For standalone OC4J, if you believe your installation has this problem, we recommend setting the JDK parameter: -XX:AppendRatio=3 to avoid this problem."
There is also a reference to the Sun JVM Bug Database entry 4985566 that describes the details of the problem.
However, there is a better description of the problem and the purpose in the Sun JVM Bug Database entry 6383015.
Here the purpose of the parameter is described as: "The VM option -XX:AppendRatio=N can be used to control how often an append is done rather than an append. If set to 0 then every enqueue will be an append and the observed behaviour will be 'fair' if desiring FIFO like ordering."
It then continues a bit down with: "In 1.5.0 the monitor queuing policy is 'mostly prepend', which is essentially LIFO except that every N queue additions are done as an append rather than a prepend. Prepending yields better throughput/performance by trying to allow the most recently blocked thread to run next in the expectation that it will still have a warm cache etc."
So, with this is mind we can go to the following conclusions:
- If the XX:AppendRatio parameter is unset in JDK 1.5 then the monitor queuing policy will be LIFO. This might cause some threads to be treated unfair, and lead to starvation.
- If the XX:AppendRatio parameter is set to 0 then the monitor queuing policy will be almost like FIFO, however 100% FIFO is not guaranteed as described in bug 4985566 above.
- If the XX:AppendRatio parameter is set to 3 then each 3:rd queue addition is done as an append rather than a prepend. This will take some advantage of the performance benefits using LIFO, but it will better ensure fairness trying to prevent thread starvation.
So, I hope this have given you a better understanding of what the XX:AppendRatio JVM Parameter does and why it is set by default when installing the Oracle Application Server 10.1.3.1+.