The hidden gotcha with IObjectInstanceCache

It’s not a secret that cache is one of the most, if not the most, important factors to their website performance. Yes cache is great, and if you are using Optimizely Content/Commerce Cloud, you should be using ISynchronizedObjectInstanceCache to cache your objects whenever possible.

But caching is not easy. Or rather, the cache invalidation is not easy.

To ensure that you have effective caching strategy, it’s important that you have cache dependencies, i.e. In principles, there are two types of dependencies:

  • Master keys. This is to control a entire cache “segment”. For example, you could have one master key for the prices. If you needs to invalidate the entire price cache, just remove the master key and you’re done.
  • Dependency keys. This is to tell cache system that your cache item depends on this or that object. If this or that object is invalidated, your cache item will be invalidated automatically. This is particularly useful if you do not control this or that object.

ISynchronizedObjectInstanceCache allows you to control the cache dependencies by CacheEvictionPolicy . There are a few ways to construct an instance of CacheEvictionPolicy, from if the cache expiration will be absolute (i.e. it will be invalidated after a fixed amount of time), or sliding (i.e. if it is accessed, its expiration will be renewed), to if your cache will be dependent on one or more master keys, and/or one or more dependency keys, like this

        /// <summary>
        /// Initializes a new instance of the <see cref="CacheEvictionPolicy"/> class.
        /// </summary>
        /// <param name="cacheKeys">The dependencies to other cached items, idetified by their keys.</param>
        public CacheEvictionPolicy(IEnumerable<string> cacheKeys)

        /// <summary>
        /// Initializes a new instance of the <see cref="CacheEvictionPolicy"/> class.
        /// </summary>
        /// <param name="cacheKeys">The dependencies to other cached items, idetified by their keys.</param>
        /// <param name="masterKeys">The master keys that we depend upon.</param>
        public CacheEvictionPolicy(IEnumerable<string> cacheKeys, IEnumerable<string> masterKeys)

The constructors that takes master keys and dependency keys look pretty the same, but there is an important difference/caveat here: if there is no dependency key already existing in cache, the cache item you are inserting will be invalidated (i.e. removed from cache) immediately. (For master keys, the framework will automatically add an empty object (if none existed) for you.)

That will be some unpleasant surprise – everything seems to be working fine, no error whatsoever. But, if you look closely, your code seems to be hitting database more than it should. But other than that, your website performance is silently suffering (sometimes, not “silently”)

This is an easy mistake to make – I did once myself (albeit long ago) in an important catalog content cache path. And I saw some very experienced developers made the same mistake as well (At this point you might wonder if the API itself is to blame)

Take away:

  • Make sure you are using the right constructor when you construct an instance of CacheEvictionPolicy . Are you sure that the cache keys you are going to depend on, actually exist?

In newer version of CMS, there would be a warning in log if the cache is invalidated immediately, however, it could be missed, unless you are actively looking for it.

Note that this behavior is the same with ISynchronizedObjectInstanceCache as it extends IObjectInstanceCache.

Don’t insert an IEnumerable to cache

You have been told, cache is great. If used correctly, it can greatly improve your website performance, sometimes, it can even make the difference between life and death.

While that’s true, cache can be tricky to get right. The #1 issue with cache is cache invalidation, which we will get into detail in another blog post. The topic of today is a hidden, easy to make mistake, but can wreck havok in production.

Can you spot the problem in this snippet?

var someData = GetDataFromDatabase();                
var dataToCache = someData.Concat(someOtherData);
InsertToCache(cacheKey, dataToCache);

If you can’t, don’t worry – it is more common than you’d imagine. It’s easy to think that you are inserting your data correctly to cache.

Except you are not.

dataToCache is actually just an enumerator. It’s not until you get your data back and actually access the elements, the enumerator is actually called to fetch the data. If GetDataFromDatabase does not return a List<T>, but a lazy loading collection, that is when unpredictable things happen.

Who like to have unpredictability on a production website?

A simple, but effective advice is to always make sure you have the actual data in the object you are inserting to cache. Calling either .ToList() or ToArray() before inserting the data to cache would solve the problem nicely.

And that’s applied to any other lazy loading type of data as well.

Episerver Commerce performance optimization – part 2

Or lock or no lock – that’s the question.

This is the second part of the series on how can you improve the performance of Episerver Commerce site – or more precisely, to avoid the deadlocks and 100% CPU usage. This is not Commerce specific actually, and you can apply the knowledge and techniques here for a normal CMS site as well.

It’s a common and well-known best practice to store the slow-to-retrieve data in cache. These days memory is cheap – not free – but cheap. Yet it is still much faster than the fastest PCIe SSD in the market (if your site is running on traditional HDD, it’s not even close). And having objects in cache means you won’t have to open the connection to SQL Server, wait for it to read the data and send back to you – which all cost time. And if the object you need is a complex one, for example a Catalog content, you will also save the time needed to construct the object. Even if it’s fast, it is still not instantaneous, and it will cost you both memory and CPU cycles. All in all – caching is the right way to go. But how to get it¬†right?

One common mistake for to have no lock when you load the data for the first time and insert it into cache.

Continue reading “Episerver Commerce performance optimization – part 2”

Episerver Commerce performance optimization – part 1

This is a first part of a long series (which have no planned number of parts) as the lessons I learned during trouble shouting customers’ performance problems. I’m quite of addicted to the support cases reported by customers, especially the ones with performance problems. Every time I jump into such support case, I’ll be with less hairs, but I also learn some new things: ¬†Implementations are different from cases to cases, but there are some common mistakes which will hurt your website performance. This series will try to point out those mistakes so you get your performance gain, for (almost) free:

Mistake 1: Loading to much content

It’s easy to load contents, especially with the new content APIs. Given an universal ContentReference, you can load a content with a simple line of code. By default, the loaded content is cached, so you might think it’s cheap, or even free to load a content. Think again.

Continue reading “Episerver Commerce performance optimization – part 1”