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Ilia Alshanetsky's Blog: PHP's Output Buffering

Note: This article was originally published at PHPDeveloper on 9 December 2011.
PHPDeveloper

In a new post to his blog Ilia Alshanetsky takes a look at PHP's output buffering feature and some interesting things he found when testing some recent code (hint: it has to do with PHP's "interesting" management of the buffer).

While profiling our application I came across a a rather strange memory usage by the ob_start() function. We do use ob_start() quite a bit to defer output of data, which is a common thing in many applications. What was unusual is that 16 calls to ob_start() up chewing through almost 700kb of memory, given that the data being buffered rarely exceeds 1-2kb, this was quite unusual.

Through a bit more testing he found that, if a buffer provided for content isn't enough, PHP automatically bumps it up by 10kb each time - a waste of resources if you only need a small subset of that. He includes a small patch he made to the PHP core API that allows for defining a custom buffer size and, if it's not enough, bumps up the buffer size by 1kb instead of 10kb.