Having a reverse-proxy web cache as one of the major infrastructure elements brings many benefits for large web applications: it reduces your application servers load, reduces average response times on your site, etc. But there is one problem every developer experiences when works with such a cache – cached content invalidation.
It is a complex problem that usually consists of two smaller ones: individual cache elements invalidation (you need to keep an eye on your data changes and invalidate cached pages when related data changes) and full cache purges (sometimes your site layout or page templates change and you need to purge all the cached pages to make sure users will get new visual elements of layout changes). In this post I’d like to look at a few techniques we use at Scribd to solve cache invalidation problems.
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Back in November 2009 I was working on a project to port Scribd.com code base to Rails 2.2 and noticed that some old plugins we were using in 2.1 were abandoned by their authors. Some of them were just removed from the code base, but one needed a replacement – that was an old plugin called acts_as_readonlyable that helped us to distribute our queries among a cluster of MySQL slaves. There were some alternatives but we didn’t like them for one or another reasons so we’ve decided to go with creating our own ActiveRecord plugin, that would help us scale our databases out. That’s the story behind the first release of DbCharmer.
Today, six months after the first release of the gem and we’ve moved it to gemcutter (which is now the official gems hosting) and we’re already at version 1.6.11. The gem was downloaded more than 2000 times. There are (at least) 10+ large users that rely on this gem to scale their products out. And (this is the most exciting) we’ve added tons of new features to the product.
Here are the main features added since the first release:
- Much better multi-database migrations support including default migrations connection changing.
- We’ve added ActiveRecord associations preload support that makes it possible to move eager loading queries to the same connection where your finder queries go to.
- We’ve improved ActiveRecord’s query logging feature and now you can see what connections your queries executed on (and yes, all those improvements are colorized :-)).
- We’ve added an ability to temporary remap any ActiveRecord connections to any other connections for a block of code (really useful when you need to make sure all your queries would go to some non-default slave and you do not want to mess with all your models).
- The most interesting change: we’ve implemented some basic sharding functionality in ActiveRecord which currently is being used in production in our application.
As you can see now DbCharmer helps you to do three major scalability tasks in your Rails projects:
- Master-Slave clusters to scale out your Rails models reads.
- Vertical sharding by moving some of your models to a separate (maybe even dedicated) servers and still keep using AR associations
- Horizontal sharding by slicing your models data to pieces and placing those pieces into different databases and/or servers.
So, If you didn’t check DbCharmer out yet and you’re working on some large rails project that is (or going to be) facing scalability problems, go read the docs, download/install the gem and prove them that Rails CAN scale!
Today I’m proud to announce the first public release of our ActiveRecord database connection magic plugin: DbCharmer.
DB Charmer – ActiveRecord Connection Magic Plugin
DbCharmer is a simple yet powerful plugin for ActiveRecord that does a few things:
- Allows you to easily manage AR models’ connections (
- Allows you to switch AR models’ default connections to a separate servers/databases
- Allows you to easily choose where your query should go (
on_* methods family)
- Allows you to automatically send read queries to your slaves while masters would handle all the updates.
- Adds multiple databases migrations to ActiveRecord
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It’s been a while since I’ve posted my first post about the way we do document pages caching in Scribd and this approach has definitely proven to be really effective since then. In the second post of this series I’d like to explain how we handle our complex document URLs and logged in users in the caching architecture.
First of all, let’s take a look at a typical Scribd’s document URL: http://www.scribd.com/doc/1/Improved-Statistical-Test.
As we can see, it consists of a document-specific part (/doc/1) and a non-unique human-readable slug part (/Improved-Statistical-Test). When a user comes to the site with a wrong slug in the document URL, we need to make sure we send the user to the correct URL with a permanent HTTP 301 redirect. So, obviously we can’t simply send our requests to the squid because it’d cause few problems:
- When we change document’s title, we’d create a new cached item and would not be able to redirect users from the old URL to the new one
- When we change a title, we’d pollute cache with additional document page copies.
One more problem that makes the situation even worse – we have 3 different kinds of users on the site:
- Logged in users – active web site users that are logged in and should see their name at the top of the page, should see all kinds of customized parts of the page, etc (especially when a page is their own document).
- Anonymous users – all users that are not logged in and visit the site with a flash-enabled browser
- Bots – all kinds of crawlers that can’t read flash content and need to see a plain text document version
All three kinds of users should see their own document page versions whether the page is cached or not.
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Long time ago, in 2002 I decided to create my own point of presence in the Internet. Back then I’ve got pretty nice domain (scoundrel.kremenchug.net), hacked up a few pages on php, added a guestbook and that was it. Many years it was almost static and I did a few updates on my resume page few times a year. Later I’ve switched the site to wordpress to make it easier to manage my resume and stuff…
And 3 years ago in March 2006 I’ve decided to start my own blog. I took a standard template and started the blog on a separate domain while the domain was on its own domain name… This spring my wife made me a great birthday present – she’s created me a custom blog design that has all the stuff I wanted from my own web site for a long time. My friend Dima Shteflyuk has helped me with creating a wordpress template from Tanya’s mockups and here we are – now I’ve decided to merge my blog and my web site into a single web entity called http://kovyrin.net/. Welcome to my new blog/site/whatever!