Magento for Big Kids: Use a Consistent Cache Key Prefix
This is the first in what I hope to be a multi-part series on using Magento. AI've been working with it since June to run one of our core sites at Half Off Depot.
During these six months, we have:
- Built an incredible team
- Had our application servers swap to disk and otherwise go belly up, on numerous occasions
- Moved from FastCGI back to mod_php
- Tuned Apache a bit to squeeze more out of our application servers
- Moved from a single front end webserver to multiple
- Introduced MySQL master-slave replication, when the slave actually in use - it's not just a hot backup
- Crafted a respectable Magento application deployment process using Capistrano
- Cranked out some basic Magento extensions
- Run countless sales, built mobile apps, launched new web applications and a private API
I don't claim to be a Magento expert after only six months (far from it), but I / we have learned a lot during this time.
In this first post, I'm going to unveil a handy tip:
Always use a consistent Magento cache key prefix.
This can be done in your app/etc/local.xml file like so:... foo_ ...
Magento performs poorly out of the box. AThe crux of this is that its database is based on an Entity-Attribute-Value (EAV) data model. AUsing APC is basically a requirement if you do any reasonable amount of traffic, too. ABig red flags, right? Anywaysa
It also uses an aggressive caching model for things like:
- Front end layout
- Blocks of html used to render pages
- Magento configuration data (because many core application config options are stored in the database)
- Translation data
- Full page cache
- EAV types and attributes
Because we run on multiple front end web servers, we have to have a centralized cache. AWe use Memcached for this. For example, if someone alters a product in our admin tool, which purges the cache item, the refreshed cache item needs to be available to all front end web servers at the same time. An inconsistency between our front end servers is not acceptable. Hence, the centralized cache.
When using Memcached, Magento uses Zend_Cache_Backend_TwoLevels under the hood because it has to maintain a mapping of cache type to the cache keys that make up the data for that type of cache. For example, you should be able to purge the layout or block cache without purging the entire set of cached data. AThere's no sort of partial cache purge out of the box possible with Memcached. AYou either mark all items invalidated, or delete what you want to, one key at a time. In our case, the mapping of cache type to its keys is stored in our MySQL database. That's not ideal, butait is what it is for now.
But, here's the catch: Magento / Zend_Cache prefixes all cache keys. AIf you don't define a cache key, Magento uses one that is formed with:
- Absolute path to your app/etc/ directory
- MD5 of this path string
- First three characters of the MD5 hash value
This makes all the sense in the world, right? AMaybe it does for some, but it doesn't for us. AWe run one web site driven by this single Magento instance.
But, we also have a deployment process centered around Capistrano. AWhat does this boil down to?
- Code releases are kept at /foo/bar/site/releases/[YYYYMMDDHHIISS] of when the code was deployed
- /foo/bar/site/current is a symlink to /foo/bar/site/releases/[YYYYMMDDHHIISS] of the most recent release
So, as we deploy code, the absolute path to the app/etc/ directory on disk changes!
Thus, when we deploy a new release, we get extremely high cache churn - the absolute path to the app/etc/ directory has changed because we move that current symlink! AWe basically were rewriting all of our cache with every release, clobbering our Memcached instances and database.
We had to take the site down for a minute or two and refresh the cache in a controlled environment without many concurrent requests taking place. Once the cache had been warmed by a single user, all worked well once again.