Faster and More Scalable than Memcache/Redis: Tiered Storage with LCache

David Strauss

Scalable caching in Drupal is broken. Once cache access saturates a network link, the main options are Memcache sharding (which has broken coherency during and after network splits) and Redis clustering (immature in multi-master and as complex as MySQL replication in master/replica modes).

We can do better. We can have better performance, scale, and operational simplicity. We just need to take a lesson from multicore processor architectures and their use of L1/L2 caches. Drupal doesn't even need full-scale coherency management; it just needs the cache writes on an earlier request to be guaranteed readable on a later request.

Inspired by how processors handle core-local caches and the design of Pantheon's Valhalla file system, I've written a library and module called LCache with the following properties:

  • Uses the database for canonical cache storage and coherency management. This is the L2.
  • Opportunistically uses APCu (which is local to each PHP-FPM pool and absent for CLI) as an L1.
  • Before Drupal bootstraps, it freshens APCu (if present) using L2's causality and sequencing information.
  • Falls back to just using the database cache if APCu isn't present or functional.
  • There is nothing extra to deploy or configure, just enabling the APCu extension for PHP.
  • Support for tag-based invalidation.

Initial results show 20% less page-generation time than with datacenter-local (but not host-local) Redis access. This is primarily because there's only one round-trip to the cache for each request, and that request only returns data for cache updates.

In this presentation, I will cover:

  • The coherency protocol, including some discussion of vector clocks
  • Benchmarks
  • The unit testing model for the cache coherency implementation
  • How fallback to pure database caching works
  • Why core should adopt this as the default cache implementation in, say, Drupal 8.3 or 8.4.

Session Track

Performance and Scaling

Experience Level


Drupal Version

When & Where

Tuesday, 27 September, 2016 - 14:15 to 15:15
Wicklow Meeting 1 | Lingotek