Profiling Command Line scripts

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As handy as the CLI tool is for profiling AJAX requests, its true purpose is something different: it's to allow us to profile our custom command-line scripts. Let's check out an example. I've already created a command line script that you can execute by calling:

php bin/console app:update-sighting-scores

What does it do? Let me show you! Each Bigfoot sighting on the site has, what we call, a "Bigfoot believability score". Right now, this shows zero for every sighting. That's because we use a highly-complex and proprietary algorithm to calculate this. It's such a heavy process that, instead of figuring it out on page-load, we store the current value in a column on each row of the table. To populate that column, we run this command once a day: it loops over all the sightings, calculates the newest "believability score" and saves it back to the database. Try it:

php bin/console app:update-sighting-scores

It takes a few seconds... and when we go back to the site and refresh... we find out that this Bigfoot sighting in kind of believable - a score of 5 out of 10.

The code for this lives at src/Command/UpdateSightingScoresCommand.php:

... lines 1 - 2
namespace App\Command;
use App\Repository\BigFootSightingRepository;
use Doctrine\ORM\EntityManagerInterface;
use Symfony\Component\Console\Command\Command;
use Symfony\Component\Console\Input\InputInterface;
use Symfony\Component\Console\Output\OutputInterface;
use Symfony\Component\Console\Style\SymfonyStyle;
class UpdateSightingScoresCommand extends Command
{
protected static $defaultName = 'app:update-sighting-scores';
private $bigFootSightingRepository;
private $entityManager;
public function __construct(BigFootSightingRepository $bigFootSightingRepository, EntityManagerInterface $entityManager)
{
$this->bigFootSightingRepository = $bigFootSightingRepository;
$this->entityManager = $entityManager;
parent::__construct();
}
protected function configure()
{
$this
->setDescription('Update the "score" for a sighting')
;
}
protected function execute(InputInterface $input, OutputInterface $output)
{
$io = new SymfonyStyle($input, $output);
$sightings = $this->bigFootSightingRepository->findAll();
$io->progressStart(count($sightings));
foreach ($sightings as $sighting) {
$io->progressAdvance();
$characterCount = 0;
foreach ($sighting->getComments() as $comment) {
$characterCount += strlen($comment->getContent());
}
$score = ceil(min($characterCount / 500, 10));
$sighting->setScore($score);
$this->entityManager->flush();
}
$io->progressFinish();
}
}

You might already see a problem. But if you don't... that's ok! Let's see what Blackfire thinks. This time, run that same command, but put blackfire run at the beginning:

blackfire run bin/console app:update-sighting-scores

Woh. It's a lot slower now: we're seeing evidence of how the PHP extension slows down the process... and wow... it's just getting slower, and slower. I'm going to use the magic of TV to speed things up.

Ok, let's look at that profile! http://bit.ly/sf-bf-console-original

Woh! Some computeChangeSet() function was called almost 500,000 times! Ah! That's taking up half of the exclusive time! Because this call is such a problem, Blackfire is hiding a lot of data, all of which is unimportant relative to what we are seeing.

That's cool because the result is a super simple call graph: here's our command... here's EntityManager::flush()... and then it goes into deep Doctrine stuff.

Let's check out the command and look for the EntityManager::flush() call:

... lines 1 - 11
class UpdateSightingScoresCommand extends Command
{
... lines 14 - 33
protected function execute(InputInterface $input, OutputInterface $output)
{
... lines 36 - 39
foreach ($sightings as $sighting) {
... lines 41 - 48
$this->entityManager->flush();
}
... line 51
}
}

Yep! I flush once each time at the end of the loop, which updates that database row. If you're familiar with Doctrine, you might know the problem: you don't need to call flush() inside the loop. Instead, move this after the loop:

... lines 1 - 11
class UpdateSightingScoresCommand extends Command
{
... lines 14 - 33
protected function execute(InputInterface $input, OutputInterface $output)
{
... lines 36 - 39
foreach ($sightings as $sighting) {
... lines 41 - 48
}
$this->entityManager->flush();
... line 51
}
}

With this change, Doctrine will try to perform all update queries at the same time... which even lets it try to optimize those queries if it can. But the big problem with our old code was something related to Doctrine's UnitOfWork::computeChangeSet(). Each time you call flush() in Doctrine, it looks at all the objects it has queried for - so all of the BigFootSighting objects - and checks every single one to see if any data has changed that needs to be sync'ed back to the database with an UPDATE query. Yep, with the old code, it was checking every property of every record for updated data on every loop. Hence...the 450,000 calls!

Let's profile again with the updated code.

blackfire run php bin/console app:update-sighting-scores

This time it's much faster - I don't even think we need to compare the profiles: 56 seconds down to 1. Open it up: http://bit.ly/sf-bf-console2.

Complexity, Speed & Reliability

Could we optimize this further? Maybe! But this performance enhancement already came at a cost: reduced reliability. I originally put the call to flush() inside the loop not because I didn't know better... but to make the command a little more resilient. If, for example, the command gets through half of the records and then has an error, with the new code, none of the scores will be saved.

It's beyond the scope of this tutorial, but I love to make my command-line scripts super forgiving. If this were a real app, I would probably save the datetime that I last calculated the score for each record and use that to query for only the rows that have not been updated in the last 24 hours. I would also move the flush() back into the loop:

$sightings = $this->bigFootSightingRepository
    ->findAllScoreNotUpdatedSince(new \DateTime('-1 month'));

foreach ($sightings as $sighting) {
    // ...

    $sighting->setScore($score);
    $sighting->setScoreLastUpdatedAt(new \DateTime());
    $this->entityManager->flush();
}

Thanks to those changes, if this command failed half-way through, the first half of the records would already be updated and we could run the command again to resume with the ones that are still not updated.

But wouldn't that make the command super-slow again? Yep! And with the help of Blackfire, you can test solutions that improve performance without making the command less reliable. For example, we could make the first query only return an array of integer ids. Then, inside the loop, use that id to query for the one object you need. That would mean we only have one BigFootSighting object in memory at a time instead of all of them:

$sightingIds = $this->bigFootSightingRepository
    ->findIdsScoreNotUpdatedSince(new \DateTime('-1 month'));

foreach ($sightingIds as $id) {
    $sighting = $this->bigFootSightingRepository->find($id);

    $sighting->setScore($score);
    $sighting->setScoreLastUpdatedAt(new \DateTime());
    $this->entityManager->flush();
}

You can go further by calling EntityManager::clear() after flush() to, sort of, "clear" Doctrine's memory of the BigFootSighting object you just finished... so that it doesn't check it for changes when we call flush() during the next time through the loop:

$sightingIds = $this->bigFootSightingRepository
    ->findIdsScoreNotUpdatedSince(new \DateTime('-1 month'));

foreach ($sightingIds as $id) {
    $sighting = $this->bigFootSightingRepository->find($id);

    $sighting->setScore($score);
    $sighting->setScoreLastUpdatedAt(new \DateTime());
    $this->entityManager->flush();
    $this->entityManager->clear($sighting);
}

The point is: like with everything, make your code do what it needs to... then use Blackfire to solve the real performance issues... if you have any.

Next, there's a giant screen in Blackfire that we haven't even looked at yet. What!? It's... the Timeline!

Leave a comment!

This tutorial can be used to learn how to profile any app - including Symfony 5.

What PHP libraries does this tutorial use?

// composer.json
{
    "require": {
        "php": "^7.1.3",
        "ext-ctype": "*",
        "ext-iconv": "*",
        "blackfire/php-sdk": "^1.20", // v1.20.0
        "sensio/framework-extra-bundle": "^5.4", // v5.5.1
        "symfony/console": "4.3.*", // v4.3.10
        "symfony/dotenv": "4.3.*", // v4.3.10
        "symfony/flex": "^1.3.1", // v1.6.0
        "symfony/form": "4.3.*", // v4.3.10
        "symfony/framework-bundle": "4.3.*", // v4.3.9
        "symfony/http-client": "4.3.*", // v4.3.10
        "symfony/orm-pack": "^1.0", // v1.0.7
        "symfony/security-bundle": "4.3.*", // v4.3.10
        "symfony/serializer-pack": "^1.0", // v1.0.2
        "symfony/twig-bundle": "4.3.*", // v4.3.10
        "symfony/validator": "4.3.*", // v4.3.10
        "symfony/webpack-encore-bundle": "^1.6", // v1.7.2
        "symfony/yaml": "4.3.*", // v4.3.10
        "twig/extensions": "^1.5" // v1.5.4
    },
    "require-dev": {
        "doctrine/doctrine-fixtures-bundle": "^3.2", // 3.2.2
        "fzaninotto/faker": "^1.8", // v1.8.0
        "symfony/debug-pack": "^1.0", // v1.0.7
        "symfony/maker-bundle": "^1.13", // v1.14.3
        "symfony/test-pack": "^1.0" // v1.0.6
    }
}