Nearly every user of Adobe Experience Manager underestimates the AEM Link Checker. Most people think of the AEM Link Checker as that annoying feature that incorrectly strips links in AEM. But, it can do far more.
Not only will the AEM Link Checker remove links and incorrectly flag links as broken, but it can also bring an AEM instance to its knees.
This isn’t to say that the idea of having a tool to check links is a bad idea. A good crawler, like Screaming Frog, is a vital tool in every digital marketer’s toolbox, but why is it run on every request?
AEM Link Checker in the Wild
Recently, we had this happen with an AEM instance. The instance had externalized links in the navigation so that the navigation could be used on multiple sites. As additional pages were brought into AEM, the load the AEM Link Checker inflicted upon the instance increased geometrically. This eventually leads to severe performance problems.
Initially, we assumed that the increasing performance problems were due to an errant query or Java Filter. However, a particular heap dump told a very different story.
java.lang.Thread.State: RUNNABLE at java.util.AbstractCollection.containsAll(AbstractCollection.java:317) at java.util.AbstractSet.equals(AbstractSet.java:95) at com.day.cq.rewriter.linkchecker.LinkInfo.isSame(LinkInfo.java:228) at com.day.cq.rewriter.linkchecker.impl.LinkInfoStorageImpl.putLinkInfo(LinkInfoStorageImpl.java:375) at com.day.cq.rewriter.linkchecker.impl.LinkCheckerImpl.getLink(LinkCheckerImpl.java:275) at com.day.cq.rewriter.linkchecker.impl.LinkCheckerTransformer.startElement(LinkCheckerTransformer.java:289) at org.apache.cocoon.xml.sax.AbstractSAXPipe.startElement(AbstractSAXPipe.java:97) at com.day.cq.mcm.core.newsletter.NewsletterTransformerFactory$NewsletterTransformer.startElement(NewsletterTransformerFactory.java:132) at com.day.cq.rewriter.htmlparser.DocumentHandlerToSAXAdapter.onStartElement(DocumentHandlerToSAXAdapter.java:105) at com.day.cq.rewriter.htmlparser.HtmlParser.processTag(HtmlParser.java:640) at com.day.cq.rewriter.htmlparser.HtmlParser.update(HtmlParser.java:343) at com.day.cq.rewriter.htmlparser.HtmlParser.write(HtmlParser.java:196) at java.io.Writer.write(Writer.java:192) - locked <_0x00000006aab74560> (a com.day.cq.rewriter.htmlparser.HtmlParser) at java.io.PrintWriter.write(PrintWriter.java:456) - locked <_0x00000006aab74560> (a com.day.cq.rewriter.htmlparser.HtmlParser) at org.apache.sling.scripting.core.impl.helper.OnDemandWriter.write(OnDemandWriter.java:75) - locked <_0x00000006aab9c3c0> (a org.apache.sling.scripting.core.impl.helper.OnDemandWriter) at java.io.PrintWriter.write(PrintWriter.java:456) - locked <_0x00000006aab9c3c0> (a org.apache.sling.scripting.core.impl.helper.OnDemandWriter) at org.apache.sling.scripting.core.impl.helper.OnDemandWriter.write(OnDemandWriter.java:75) - locked <_0x00000006aab9c428> (a org.apache.sling.scripting.core.impl.helper.OnDemandWriter) at java.io.PrintWriter.write(PrintWriter.java:456) - locked <_0x00000006aab9c428> (a org.apache.sling.scripting.core.impl.helper.OnDemandWriter) at java.io.PrintWriter.write(PrintWriter.java:456) - locked <_0x00000006aab9c478> (a java.io.PrintWriter) at java.io.PrintWriter.write(PrintWriter.java:473) at org.apache.sling.scripting.sightly.apps.example
To confirm, I reviewed the logs and then grepped the error log to confirm what I was seeing:
grep -wc 'External links for host .* has reached the maximum number of' error.log
Shockingly, this returned over 1,300,000 instances of the log message over the last 24 hours. In order to determine what domains were causing the issues, I then ran another command to just find the unique messages:
grep 'External links for host .* has reached the maximum number of' error.log | sort --unique
From there, I ran the original grep command with specific domains to determine what domains were most responsible.
Saving AEM from the Link Checker
Ideally, the AEM Link Checker should not be enabled in production instances to ensure that it does not impact performance. If this is not an option due to the potential for other side effects, you can configure the “Link Check Override Patterns” in the “Day CQ Link Checker Service” as described in this Adobe HelpX Article.
For instance, to disable checking of the domain www.example.com, you could use a regular expression like:
After configuring the AEM Link Checker to ignore the indicated domains, the AEM instance immediately returned to a stable state.
Hopefully, you’ve already disabled the AEM Link Checker in your production instances. If not, I hope this article helps you identify when it causes performance problems and helps resolve the problem.