Did you know I am going to be at Velocity?

June 18, 2008

Well, neither did I until today. HA!

Velocity is a new O’Reilly conference dedicated to “Optimizing Web Performance and Scalability”.  It starts next Monday.  Yesterday I was contacted by Adam Jacobs of HJK Solutions about taking part in a panel discussion about what happens when success comes suddenly to a web site.  I think he thought I was in the bay area.  Little did he know I am in Alabama.  But, amazingly, I was able to work it all out so I can be there.  I wish I had known about this conference ahead of time.  It sounds really awesome.  Performance has always been something I focus on.  I hope to share some and learn at the same time.

So, if you are going to be there, come see our panel.

P.S. Thanks to John Allspaw of Flickr for recommending me to Adam.


MemProxy 0.1

June 11, 2008

MemProxy 0.1 is out!  It has taken me a while, but I have finally gotten around to releasing the code that I credited with saving us during a Yahoo! mention.  It is a caching proxy “server” that uses memcached for storing the cache.  I put server in quotes because it is really just a PHP script that handles the caching and talking to the application servers.  Apache and other HTTP servers already do a good job talking HTTP to a vast myriad of clients.  I did not see any reason to reinvent the wheel.  Here are some of the features that make it different from anything I could find:

  • Uses memcached for storage
  • Serves cache headers to clients based on TTL of cached data
  • Uses custom headers to assemble multiple pieces of cache into one object
  • Minimal dependencies.  Only PHP and pecl/memcached needed.
  • Small code base.  It is just two files, one when settings are cached.
  • Application agnostic.  If the backend is hosted on an HTTP server this can cache it.

Some other things it does that you might expect:

  • Handles HTTP 1.1 requests to the backend
  • Allows TTLs set by the standard Cache-Control header
  • Appears transparent to the client.
  • Sends proper HTTP error codes relating to proxies/gateways
  • Allows pages to be refreshed or removed from cache
  • Allows a page to be viewed from the application server without caching it
  • more….

You can find the code on Google Code.  The code (or something like it rather) has been in use at dealnews for well over a year.  But, this is a new code base.  It had to be refactored for public consumption.  So, there may be bugs.

in_array is quite slow

June 5, 2008

So, we had a cron job hanging for hours.  No idea why.  So, I started debugging.  It all came down to a call to in_array().  See, this job is importing data from a huge XML file into MySQL.  After it is done, we want to compare the data we just added/updated to the data in the table so we can deactivate any data we did not update.  We were using a mod_time field in mysql in the past.  But, that proved to be an issue when we wanted to start skipping rows from the XML that were present but unchanged.  Doing that saved a lot of MySQL writes and sped up the process.

So, anyhow, we have this huge array of ids accumulated during the import.  So, an in clause with 2 million parts would suck.  So, we suck back all the ids in the database that exist and stick that into an array.  We then compared the two arrays by looping one array and using in_array() to check if the value was in the second array.  Here is a pseudo example that shows the idea:

foreach($arr1 as $key=>$i){

if(in_array($i, $arr2)){



So, that was running for hours with about 400k items.  Our data did not contain the value as the key, but it could as the value was unique.  So, I added it.  So, now, the code looks like:

foreach($arr1 as $key=>$i){




Yeah, that runs in .8 seconds.  Much better.

So, why were we using in_array to start with if in_array is clearly not the right solution to this problem?  Well, it was basic code evolution.  Originally, these imports would be maybe 100 items.  But, things changed.

FWIW,  I tried array_diff() as well.  It took 25 seconds.  Way better than looping and calling in_array, but still not as quick as a simple isset check.  There was refactoring needed to put the values into the keys of the array.

UPDATE: I updated this post to properly reflect that there is nothing wrong with in_array, but simply that it was not the right solution to this problem.  I wrote this late and did not properly express this.  Thanks to all those people in the comments that helped explain this.

Thoughts on the 2008 MySQL Conference and Expo

May 7, 2008

Well, it has been almost a month.  I know I am late to the blogosphere on my thoughts.  Just been busy.

Again this year, the Phorum team was invited to be a part of the DotOrg Pavilion.  What is that?  Basically they just give expo floor space to open source projects.  It is cool.  We had a great location this year.  We were right next to the area where they served food and drinks during the breaks.  We had lots of traffic and met some of our power users.  IMVU.com is getting 1.5 million messages per month in their Phorum install.  They did have to customize it to fit into their sharding.  But, that is expected.  A guy (didn’t catch his name) from Innobase came by and told us that they just launced InnoDB support forums on their site using Phorum.  Cool.  So now MySQL and Innobase use Phorum.  I am humbled by the message that sends to me about Phorum.

Speaking of our booth, we were right next to the phpMyAdmin guys.  Wow, that product has come a long way.  I was checking out the visual database designer they have now.  It was neat.  I also met the Gentoo MySQL package maintainer.  He was in the phpMyAdmin booth.

I was interviewed by WebDevRadio as I already posted.  I was also asked to do a short Q&A with the Sun Headlines video team.  They used one part of my clip.  I won’t link to that.  No, if you find it good for you.  I need to be interviewed some more or something.  I did not look comfortable at all.

There were lots of companies with open in their name or slogan.  I guess this is expected pandering.

I attended part of the InnoDB talk given by Mark Callaghan of Google.  It appears that Google is serious about improving InnoDB on large machines.  That is, IMO, good news for anyone that likes InnoDB.  If I counted right, they had more than 5 people who at least part of their job is to improve InnoDB.

I gave my two talks.  The first had low attendance, but the feedback was nice.  It was just after the snack break in the expo hall and I was in the farthest room from the expo hall.  That is what I keep telling myself. =)  The second was better attended and the feedback seemed good there.  I was told by Maurice (Phorum Developer) that I talked too fast and at times sounded like Mr. Mackey from South Park by repeating the word bad a lot.  I will have to work on that in the future.  I want to do more speaking.

On the topic of my second talk, there seemed to be a lot of “This is how we scaled our site” talks.  I for one found them all interesting.  Everyone solves the problem differently.

Next year I am thinking about getting more specific with my talk submissions.  Some ideas include: PHP, MySQL and Large Data Sets, When is it ok to denormalize your data?, Using memcached (not so much about how it works), Index Creation (tools, tips, etc.).

In closing, I want to give a big thanks to Jay Pipes and Lenz Grimmer from MySQL.  Despite Jay’s luggage being lost he was still a big help with some registration issues among other things.  Both of them helped out the Phorum team a great deal this year.  Thanks guys.

Interview with WebDevRadio

May 3, 2008

While I was at the MySQL Conference, I sat down with Michael Kimsal of WebDevRadio and recapped the two talks that I gave at the conference.  I have uploaded the slides so you can follow along if you want.

One to a Cluster – The evolution of the dealnews.com architecture.

MySQL Tips and Tricks – Some simple tips and some of the more advanced SQL we use in Phorum.

Thanks Michael.  Any time you need a guest, just let me know.

MySQL Conference Swag

May 1, 2008

I was reading a post about The Swag Report and realized that I stayed so busy at the Phorum booth (and a little at the memcached booth) and preparing for my talks, I did not bother to go around and collect any swag from the conference.  So, if you are a vendor and want to mail me some swag that I missed, you can send it to: Brian Moon, 198 S. Hillcrest Rd., Odenville, AL  35120.  Of course, I expect nothing.  But, ya never know what product I might pimp because of a t-shirt. =)

2008 MySQL Conference, part 1

April 17, 2008

It is always surprising what I learn when I go to a conference these days. Years ago, I could go to any talk and just suck it all in. Now, it is the little nuggets. The topics as a whole do more to confirm what I have already developed while running the Phorum project and building the infastructure for dealnews.com. That confirmation is still nice. You know you are not the only one that thought a particular solution was a good idea.

One of the confirmations I have had is that the big sites like Flickr, Wikipedia, Facebook and others don’t use exotic setups when it comes to their hardware and OS. During a keynote panel, they all commented that they did not do any virtualization on their servers. Most did not use SANs. Some ran older MySQL versions but some were running quite recent versions. I have kept thinking that I did not have the desire to get to fancy with that stuff and clearly I am not the only one.

One of the little nuggets that will likely change my world is index_merge in MySQL. I feel silly as this has been around since 5.0.3 but I was not aware of it. Basically MySQL will now use more than one key to resolve a where clause and possibly an order by depending on the query. This could lead to me removing several keys from tables in both Phorum and at dealnews.

There were others, but I am tired and trying to get OpenID into the Phorum trunk right now so I will have to think of more later.