Now that Geowebcache is integrated with Geoserver and WMS (among other OGC service types), map tile-caching is supposed to be really simple. I found this not to be the case. Among other challenges, document is lacking or blatantly wrong. Here are a couple key concepts that I learned the hard way:
Use the demo from the Geowebcache section (http://localhost:8080/geoserver/gwc/demo) NOT the regular OL “Layer Preview” which does not use the correct gridset parameters (nice demo, eh?)
Issues I was having with labeling and tiles are mostly solved by creating a database view from the centroids of polygons to be labeled and label these instead, and include in a layer group.
Don’t use the “Recycle Tiles” option … especially if you don’t have native JAI. This causes a memory leak and subsequently causes the server to crawl/crash after X requests. Also you probably shouldn’t tweak max render time/memory unless you have to (despite documentation saying that this helps performance … would this be helpful at another time? I don’t know).
Despite documentation saying to use the wms endpoint and that no special endpoint is needed … a special endpoint is needed … it’s of this format http://host:8080/geoserver/gwc/service/wms
The gridset scheme is static and opaque, unless a custom config file is created. The documentation gives the impression that the integration of WMS/GWC creates arbitrary gridsets given wms grid request characteristics. One could could create their own geowebcache.xml (saved to GEOSERVER/webapps/WEB-INF/geowebcache.xml … though there is some confusion about that). See more about geowebcache, the gridset schema, and geowebcache.xml here
Don’t pass anything on the wms request that you don’t have to! Forums and documentation say that you need to pass things like tilesOrigin, which will cause the request to fail most of the time.
GWC saves tiles to your data directory under the gwc folder. You should check here to make sure tiling is working.