16.6.5 memcached FAQ

Questions

Questions and Answers

17.6.5.1: Can memcached be run on a Windows environment?

No. Currently memcached is available only on the Unix/Linux platform. There is an unofficial port available, see http://www.codeplex.com/memcachedproviders.

17.6.5.2: What is the maximum size of an object you can store in memcached? Is that configurable?

The default maximum object size is 1MB. In memcached 1.4.2 and later, you can change the maximum size of an object using the -I command line option.

For versions before this, to increase this size, you have to re-compile memcached. You can modify the value of the POWER_BLOCK within the slabs.c file within the source.

In memcached 1.4.2 and higher, you can configure the maximum supported object size by using the -I command-line option. For example, to increase the maximum object size to 5MB:

$ memcached -I 5m

If an object is larger than the maximum object size, you must manually split it. memcached is very simple: you give it a key and some data, it tries to cache it in RAM. If you try to store more than the default maximum size, the value is just truncated for speed reasons.

17.6.5.3: Is it true memcached will be much more effective with db-read-intensive applications than with db-write-intensive applications?

Yes. memcached plays no role in database writes, it is a method of caching data already read from the database in RAM.

17.6.5.4: Is there any overhead in not using persistent connections? If persistent is always recommended, what are the downsides (for example, locking up)?

If you don't use persistent connections when communicating with memcached, there will be a small increase in the latency of opening the connection each time. The effect is comparable to use nonpersistent connections with MySQL.

In general, the chance of locking or other issues with persistent connections is minimal, because there is very little locking within memcached. If there is a problem, eventually your request will time out and return no result, so your application will need to load from MySQL again.

17.6.5.5: How is an event such as a crash of one of the memcached servers handled by the memcached client?

There is no automatic handling of this. If your client fails to get a response from a server, code a fallback mechanism to load the data from the MySQL database.

The client APIs all provide the ability to add and remove memcached instances on the fly. If within your application you notice that memcached server is no longer responding, you can remove the server from the list of servers, and keys will automatically be redistributed to another memcached server in the list. If retaining the cache content on all your servers is important, make sure you use an API that supports a consistent hashing algorithm. For more information, see Section 16.6.2.4, “memcached Hashing/Distribution Types”.

17.6.5.6: What is a recommended hardware configuration for a memcached server?

memcached has a very low processing overhead. All that is required is spare physical RAM capacity. A memcached server does not require a dedicated machine. If you have web, application, or database servers that have spare RAM capacity, then use them with memcached.

To build and deploy a dedicated memcached server, use a relatively low-power CPU, lots of RAM, and one or more Gigabit Ethernet interfaces.

17.6.5.7: Is memcached more effective for video and audio as opposed to textual read/writes?

memcached works equally well for all kinds of data. To memcached, any value you store is just a stream of data. Remember, though, that the maximum size of an object you can store in memcached is 1MB, but can be configured to be larger by using the -I option in memcached 1.4.2 and later, or by modifying the source in versions before 1.4.2. If you plan on using memcached with audio and video content, you will probably want to increase the maximum object size. Also remember that memcached is a solution for caching information for reading. It shouldn't be used for writes, except when updating the information in the cache.

17.6.5.8: Can memcached work with ASPX?

There are ports and interfaces for many languages and environments. ASPX relies on an underlying language such as C# or VisualBasic, and if you are using ASP.NET then there is a C# memcached library. For more information, see https://sourceforge.net/projects/memcacheddotnet/.

17.6.5.9: How expensive is it to establish a memcache connection? Should those connections be pooled?

Opening the connection is relatively inexpensive, because there is no security, authentication or other handshake taking place before you can start sending requests and getting results. Most APIs support a persistent connection to a memcached instance to reduce the latency. Connection pooling would depend on the API you are using, but if you are communicating directly over TCP/IP, then connection pooling would provide some small performance benefit.

17.6.5.10: How is the data handled when the memcached server is down?

The behavior is entirely application dependent. Most applications fall back to loading the data from the database (just as if they were updating the memcached information). If you are using multiple memcached servers, you might also remove a downed server from the list to prevent it from affecting performance. Otherwise, the client will still attempt to communicate with the memcached server that corresponds to the key you are trying to load.

17.6.5.11: How are auto-increment columns in the MySQL database coordinated across multiple instances of memcached?

They aren't. There is no relationship between MySQL and memcached unless your application (or, if you are using the MySQL UDFs for memcached, your database definition) creates one.

If you are storing information based on an auto-increment key into multiple instances of memcached, the information is only stored on one of the memcached instances anyway. The client uses the key value to determine which memcached instance to store the information. It doesn't store the same information across all the instances, as that would be a waste of cache memory.

17.6.5.12: Is compression available?

Yes. Most of the client APIs support some sort of compression, and some even allow you to specify the threshold at which a value is deemed appropriate for compression during storage.

17.6.5.13: Can we implement different types of memcached as different nodes in the same server, so can there be deterministic and non-deterministic in the same server?

Yes. You can run multiple instances of memcached on a single server, and in your client configuration you choose the list of servers you want to use.

17.6.5.14: What are best practices for testing an implementation, to ensure that it improves performance, and to measure the impact of memcached configuration changes? And would you recommend keeping the configuration very simple to start?

The best way to test the performance is to start up a memcached instance. First, modify your application so that it stores the data just before the data is about to be used or displayed into memcached. Since the APIs handle the serialization of the data, it should just be a one-line modification to your code. Then, modify the start of the process that would normally load that information from MySQL with the code that requests the data from memcached. If the data cannot be loaded from memcached, default to the MySQL process.

All of the changes required will probably amount to just a few lines of code. To get the best benefit, make sure you cache entire objects (for example, all the components of a web page, blog post, discussion thread, and so on), rather than using memcached as a simple cache of individual rows of MySQL tables.

Keeping the configuration simple at the start, or even over the long term, is easy with memcached. Once you have the basic structure up and running, often the only ongoing change is to add more servers into the list of servers used by your applications. You don't need to manage the memcached servers, and there is no complex configuration; just add more servers to the list and let the client API and the memcached servers make the decisions.