When your application is publishing or consuming services over RMI, the JVM periodically launches full GC to make sure that locally unused objects are also not taking up space on the other end. Bear in mind that even if you are not explicitly publishing anything over RMI in your code, third party libraries or utilities can still open RMI endpoints. One such common culprit is for example JMX, which, if attached to remotely, will use RMI underneath to publish the data.
The problem is exposed by seemingly unnecessary and periodic full GC pauses. When you check the old generation consumption, there is often no pressure to the memory as there is plenty of free space in the old generation, but full GC is triggered, stopping the application threads.
This behavior of removing remote references via System.gc() is triggered by the sun.rmi.transport.ObjectTable class requesting garbage collection to be run periodically as specified in the sun.misc.GC.requestLatency() method.
For many applications, this is not necessary or outright harmful. To disable such periodic GC runs, you can set up the following for your JVM startup scripts:
java -Dsun.rmi.dgc.server.gcInterval=9223372036854775807L -Dsun.rmi.dgc.client.gcInterval=9223372036854775807L com.yourcompany.YourApplication
This sets the period after which System.gc() is run to Long.MAX_VALUE; for all practical matters, this equals eternity.
An alternative solution for the problem would to disable explicit calls to System.gc() by specifying -XX:+DisableExplicitGC in the JVM startup parameters. We do not however recommend this solution as it can have other side effects.