Using a Caching Layer & Proving its Worth

Video not working?

It looks like your browser may not support the H264 codec. If you're using Linux, try a different browser or try installing the gstreamer0.10-ffmpeg gstreamer0.10-plugins-good packages.

Thanks! This saves us from needing to use Flash or encode videos in multiple formats. And that let's us get back to making more videos :). But as always, please feel free to message us.

Whenever we make something more performant, we often also make our code more complex. So, was the property-caching trick we just used worth it? Maybe... but I'm going to revert it.

Remove the property caching logic and just return $this->calculateUserActivityText($user):

... lines 1 - 10
class AppExtension extends AbstractExtension
{
... lines 13 - 26
public function getUserActivityText(User $user): string
{
return $this->calculateUserActivityText($user);
}
... lines 31 - 49
}

And... we don't need the $userStatuses property anymore:

... lines 1 - 10
class AppExtension extends AbstractExtension
{
... lines 13 - 14
private $userStatuses = [];
... lines 16 - 55
}

We could stop here and say: this spot is not worth optimizing. Or, we can try a different solution - like using a real caching layer. After all, this label probably won't change very often... and it's probably not critical that the label changes at the exact moment a user adds enough comments to get to the next level. Caching could be an easy win.

Adding Caching

Back in AppExtension, autowire Symfony's cache object by adding an argument type-hinted with CacheInterface - the one from Symfony\Contracts\Cache. I'll press Alt+Enter and select "Initialize fields" to make PhpStorm create a new property with this name and set it in the constructor:

... lines 1 - 7
use Symfony\Contracts\Cache\CacheInterface;
... lines 9 - 12
class AppExtension extends AbstractExtension
{
... line 15
private $cache;
public function __construct(CommentHelper $commentHelper, CacheInterface $cache)
{
... line 20
$this->cache = $cache;
}
... lines 23 - 59
}

Down in the method, let's first create a cache key that's specific to each user. How about: $key = sprintf('user_activity_text_'.and then $user->getId():

... lines 1 - 12
class AppExtension extends AbstractExtension
{
... lines 15 - 30
public function getUserActivityText(User $user): string
{
$key = sprintf('user_activity_text_'.$user->getId());
... lines 34 - 39
}
... lines 41 - 59
}

Wow, I just realized that my sprintf here is totally pointless.

Then, return $this->cache->get() and pass this $key. If that item exists in the cache, it will return immediately:

... lines 1 - 12
class AppExtension extends AbstractExtension
{
... lines 15 - 30
public function getUserActivityText(User $user): string
{
$key = sprintf('user_activity_text_'.$user->getId());
return $this->cache->get($key, function(CacheItemInterface $item) use ($user) {
... lines 36 - 38
});
}
... lines 41 - 59
}

Otherwise, it will execute this callback function, pass us a CacheItemInterface object and our job will be to return the value that should be stored in cache.

Hmm... I need the $user object inside here. Add use then $user to bring it into scope. Then return $this->calculateUserActivityText($user):

... lines 1 - 12
class AppExtension extends AbstractExtension
{
... lines 15 - 30
public function getUserActivityText(User $user): string
{
$key = sprintf('user_activity_text_'.$user->getId());
return $this->cache->get($key, function(CacheItemInterface $item) use ($user) {
... lines 36 - 37
return $this->calculateUserActivityText($user);
});
}
... lines 41 - 59
}

I think it's probably safe to cache this value for one hour: that's long enough, but not so long that we need to worry about adding a system to manually invalidate the cache. Set the expiration with $item->expiresAfter(3600):

... lines 1 - 12
class AppExtension extends AbstractExtension
{
... lines 15 - 30
public function getUserActivityText(User $user): string
{
$key = sprintf('user_activity_text_'.$user->getId());
return $this->cache->get($key, function(CacheItemInterface $item) use ($user) {
$item->expiresAfter(3600);
return $this->calculateUserActivityText($user);
});
}
... lines 41 - 59
}

So... does this help? Of course it will! More importantly, because we decided we don't need to worry about adding more complexity to invalidate the cache, it's probably a big win! But let's find out for sure.

Move over and refresh. Boo - 500 error. We're in the prod environment... and I forgot to rebuild the cache:

php bin/console cache:clear

And:

php bin/console cache:warmup

Profiling with Cache

Refresh again. And... profile! I'll name this one: [Recording] Show page real cache. Open up the call graph: https://bit.ly/sf-bf-real-caching.

This time things look way better. But let's not trust it: go compare the original profile - before we even did property caching - to this new one: https://bit.ly/sf-bf-compare-real-cache.

Wow. The changes are significant... and there's basically no downside to the changes we made. Even our memory went down! You can also compare this to the property caching method: https://bit.ly/sf-bf-compare-prop-real-caching. Yea... it's way better

And really, this is no surprise: fully caching things will... of course be faster! The question is how much faster? And if adding caching means that you also need to add a cache invalidation system, is that performance boost worth it? Since we don't need to worry about invalidation in this case, it was totally worth it.

Next: let's find & solve a classic N+1 query problem. The final solution might not be what you traditionally expect.

Leave a comment!