Generally speaking, there is no reason to adjust any Java Virtual Machine parameters when using the Couchbase Java Client. In fact, in general you should not start with specific tuning, but instead should use defaults from the application server first, then measure application metrics such as throughput and response time. Then, if there is a need to make an improvement, make adjustments and re-measure.
The recommendations here are based on the Oracle (formerly Sun) HotSpot Virtual Machine and derivations such as the Java Virtual Machine shipped with Mac OS X and the OpenJDK project. Other Java virtual machines likely behave similarly.
It should be noted that by default, garbage collection times may easily go over 1sec. This can lead to higher than expected response times or even timeouts, as the default timeout is 2.5 seconds. This is true with simple tests even on systems with lots of CPUs and a good amount of memory.
The reason for this is that for the most part, by default, the JVM is weighted toward throughput instead of latency. Of course, much of this can be controlled with GC tuning on the JVM. With the hotspot JVM, look to this whitepaper: http://www.oracle.com/technetwork/java/javase/memorymanagement-whitepaper-150215.pdf
In the referenced whitepaper, the Concurrent Mark Sweep collector is recommended if your applciation needs short pauses. It also recommends advising the JVM to try to shorten pause times. Given the Couchbase client's 2.5 second default timeout, with our basic testing we found the following to be useful:
The whitepaper refers to a couple of tools which may be useful in gathering information on JVM GC performance. For example, adding -XX:+PrintGCDetails and -XX:+PrintGCTimeStamps are a simple way to generate log messages which you may correlate to application behavior. The logs may show a full GC event taking, perhaps, several seconds during which no processing occurs and operations may timeout. Adjusting parameters related to how to perform a full GC, which collector to use, how long to pause the VM during GC and even adding incremental mode may help, depending on your application's workload. One other common tool for getting information is JConsole (http://docs.oracle.com/javase/6/docs/technotes/guides/management/jconsole.html). JConsole is more of an interactive tool, but it may help you identify changes you may want to make in the different memory spaces used by the JVM to further reduce the need to run a GC on the old generation.
There is a CPU time tradeoff when setting these tuning parameters. There are also other parameters which may provide additional help referenced in the whitepaper.
If you happen to be using JDK 7 update 4 or later, the G1 collector may be an even better option. Again, you should be guided by measuring performance from the application level.
Even with these, our testing showed some GCs near a half a second. While the Couchbase Client allows tuning of the timeout time to drop as low as you wish, we do not recommend dropping it much below one second unless you are planning to tune other parts of the system beyond the JVM.
For example, most people run applications on networks that do not offer any guarantee around response time. If the network is oversubscribed or minor blips occur on the network, there can be TCP retransmissions. While many TCP implementations may ignore it, RFC 2988 specifies rounding up to 1sec when calculating TCP retransmit timeouts.
Achieving either maximum throughput or minimum per-operation latency can be enhanced with JVM tuning, supported by overall system tuning at the extremes.