The real meaning of the ActiveTime PMI statistic in WebSphere

For thread pools, WebSphere has a PMI statistic called ActiveTime. According to the documentation it is defined as the average time in milliseconds the threads are in active state. There is also a statistic called ActiveCount that measures the number of concurrently active threads. E.g. on the WebContainer thread pool this statistic enables one to determine the number of servlet requests being processed simultaneously at a given point in time.

One would expect that correspondingly, ActiveTime measures the average time it takes to execute a task on the thread pool and that on the WebContainer thread pool this would be the average time to process a servlet request. However, this is not the case at all. Although the documentation of the two metrics both refer to “active threads”, they measure two completely different things. In fact, ActiveTime measures the average time that threads declared hanging1 have been active. Obviously this definition renders the ActiveTime statistic pretty much useless in most cases.

  1. For the readers not familiar with how WebSphere thread pools work, a thread is flagged as hanging after it has been active for longer than a configurable amount of time (10 minutes by default).