Solving the mystery of high memory usage

Sometimes, my work is easy, the problem could be resolved with one look (when I’m lucky enough to look at where it needs to be looked, just like this one Varchar can be harmful to your performance – Quan Mai’s blog ( ). Sometimes, it is hard. Can’t count number of times that I stared blankly at the screen, and decided I’d better take a nap, roast a batch of coffee, or take a walk (that is lying, however, I don’t walk), because I’m out of idea and this is going nowhere. The life of a software diagnostic engineer is like that, sometimes you are solving the mystery of “what do I need to solve this mystery”. There are usually more dots scattered around in all places, your job is to figure out which dots make senses, which dots do not, and how to connect those that are relevant to solve the problem, and to tell a story.

The story today is about a customer complaining about their scheduled instance on DXP keeps having high memory after running Find indexing job. They have a custom job that was built to optimize performance for their language settings, but the idea is the same – load content, serialize it and send it to the server endpoint for indexing. It is, indeed a memory heavy job, especially when you have a lot of content that needs to be indexed (basically, number of content x number of languages x the complexity of the content). It is normal to have an increase in memory usage during such job – the application (or rather, the runtime, depending on which way you look at it) is doing it job – content needs to be loaded in memory, and if there is available memory it will be a huge waste if it is not used for something useful. And the application will not immediately release that memory, as the content is cached. The memory will only be reclaimed only if the cache expired, or the application has memory pressure (i.e. it asks the operating system for more memory and the OS refuses “there is nothing left”). Even if the cache is expired, the application will not always compact and release the memory back to the OS (LOH etc.)

Now what is problematic is that the customer application retains 25GB of memory for indefinitely. They waited for 24h but the memory usage is still high. The application appears to be fine, it does not crash because of memory issues (like Out of Memory), but it causes confusion s and worries to our customer. Game’s on.

One thing that does not make senses in this case is that even thought they have a custom index job, it is still a scheduled job. And for scheduled jobs, the contents are supposed to have a very short sliding expiration time (default to 1 minute). However, the cache entries in the memory dumps tell a different story. A majority of the cache entries have 12h sliding expiration time. Which does explain – in part at least – why the memory remains high. When you have a longer sliding time, chance is higher that the cache is hit at least once before it expires, which reset the expiration. If you have sufficient hit, the cache will effectively remain in memory forever, until you actively evict it (by editing the content for example)

0000753878028910                        0.77kb          0                           12:00:00                    2/16/2024 5:58:43 AM +00:00    EPPageData:601596:en__CatalogContent
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00007538787AEA98                        0.39kb          0                           00:00:00                    2/16/2024 2:17:38 PM +00:00    EPiAnc:ContentAssetAware1343745__CatalogContent
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00007538787B2E68                        0.77kb          0                           12:00:00                    2/16/2024 2:17:07 PM +00:00    EPPageData:1329808:da__CatalogContent
00007538787B31E8                        0.77kb          0                           12:00:00                    2/16/2024 2:17:07 PM +00:00    EPPageData:1329810:da__CatalogContent

It is not what it should be, however, as the default value for sliding expiration timeout of a content loaded by a scheduled job is 1 minute – i.e. it is considered to be load once and be done item. Was it set to 12h by mistake. Nope

Timeout is set to 600.000.000 ticks which is 60 second, which is the default value.

I have been pulling my hairs over this for quite a while. What if the cache entries were not added by the scheduled job, but by some other way not affected by the limitation of scheduled job? In short, we were deceived by customer’s statement regarding Find indexing job. It was merely a victim of same issue. It was resetting the last access to the cache entry but that’s about it.

Time to dig a bit more. While Windbg is extremely powerful, it does not let you know where is the code that load a specific content into cache (not unless you catch it red handed). So the only way to know is to look around and check if there are any suspicious call the IContentLoader.GetItems or IContentLoader.GetChildren . A colleague of mine worked with the customer to obtain their source code, and another deep dive.

Fortunately for us, the customer has a custom built Find indexer we helped to built in a previous problem, and that was shown in the search for GetItems. It struck me that it could be the culprit. The job itself is … fine, however it was given wrong data so it keeps loading content to index.

If my hypothesis is correct, then these things must be true:

  • The app’s memory usage will raise to 25GB regardless of the indexing job running or not. And it remains there without much fluctuation
  • There are a lot of row in tblFindIndexQueue

It turned out both of those were correct: there were more than 4 millions of rows in tblFindIndexQueue, and this is the memory consumption of the app over 24 hours

One we figured out the source of content loading, the fix was pretty straightforward. One thing we could do from our side is to shorten caching time of content loaded by the event-driven indexer. You should upgrade to Find 16.2.0 which contains the fix for FIND-12436 which is a nice improvement for memory usage.

Moral of story:

  • I’m a workaholic. I definitely should not work on weekends, but sometimes I need to because that’s when my mind is clearest
  • Keep looking. But as always, know when to give up and admit defeat
  • Take breaks. Long, shorts. Refresh your mind and look at different angles.
  • The sliding cache expiration time can be quite unexpected. if a content is already in cache with long sliding expiration, then a cache hit (via ISynchronizedObjectInstanceCache.ReadThrough to get that content with short sliding expiration will not change that value, only refresh the last access time, and vice versa)

Fix your Search & Navigation (Find) indexing job, please

Once upon a time, a colleague asked me to look into a customer database with weird spikes in database log usage. (You might start to wonder why I am always the one who looks into weird things, is there a pattern here)

Upon reviewing the query store, I noticed a very high logical reads related to tblScheduledItem. From past experience, it was likely because of fragmentation of indexes in this table (which has only one clustered). I did a quick look at the table, and confirmed the index indeed has high fragmentation. I suggested to do a rebuild of that index and see what happen. Well, it could have been one of the daily simple quick questions, and I almost forgot about it.

A few days passed, the colleague pinged me again. Apparently they rebuilt it but it does not really help. That raised my eye brows a little bit, so I dug deeper.

To my surprised, the problem was not really fragmentation (it definitely contributed). The problem is that the column has a column of type nvarchar(max) , and it’s for recording the last text from the Execute method of the scheduled job. It was meant for something short like “The job failed successfully”, or “Deleted 12345 versions from 1337 contents”. But because it’s nvarchar(max) it could be very, very long. You can, in theory, store the entire book content of a a few very big libraries in there.

Of course because of you can, does not mean you should. When your column is long, each read from the table will be a burden to SQL Server. And the offending job was nothing less than our S&N indexing job.

In theory, any job could have caused this issue, however it’s much more likely happen with S&N indexing job for a reason – it keeps track of every exception thrown during indexing process, and because it indexes each and every content of your website (except the ones you specifically, explicitly tell it not too), the chance of its running into a recurring issue that affects multiple (reads, a lot) of content is much higher than any built-in job.

I asked, this time, to trim the column, and most importantly, fix any exceptions that might be thrown during the index. I was on my day off when my colleague noticed me that the job is running for 10h without errors, as they fixed it. Curious, so I did check some statistic. Well, let those screenshots speak for themselves:

The query itself went from 16,000ms to a mere 2.27ms. Even better, each call to get the list of scheduled job before results in 3.5GB logical reads. Now? 100KB. A lot of resource saved!

So, make sure your job is not throwing a lot of errors. And fix your S&N indexing job.

P/S: I do think S&N indexing job should have simpler return result. Maybe “Indexed 100.000 content with 1234 errors”, and the exceptions could have been logged. But that’s debatable. For now, you can do your parts!

Varchar can be harmful to your performance

As string is the most common data type in an application, nvarchar and its variant varchar are probably the most common column types in your database. (We almost always use nvarchar because nchar is meant for fixed length columns which we don’t have). The difference is that nvarchar has encoding of UTF-16/USC-2 while varchar has UTF-8

Starting with SQL Server 2012 (11.x), when a Supplementary Character (SC) enabled collation is used, these data types store the full range of Unicode character data and use the UTF-16 character encoding. If a non-SC collation is specified, then these data types store only the subset of character data supported by the UCS-2 character encoding.

But varchar can be harmful in a way that you don’t expect it to. Let’s assume we have this simple table with two columns (forgive naming, I can’t come up with better names)

CREATE TABLE [dbo].[Demo](
	[varcharColumn] [varchar](50) NULL,
	[nvarcharColumn] [nvarchar](50) NULL

Each will be inserted with same random values, almost unique. We will add a non clustered index on each of these columns, and as we know, the index should be very efficient on querying based on those values.

Let’s try with out varchar column first. It should work pretty well right. Nope!

  FROM dbo.[Demo]
  where varcharColumn = N'0002T9'

Instead of a highly efficient Index seek, it does an Index scan on the entire table. This is of course not what you want to.

But, why? Good question. You might have noticed that I used N’0002T9′ which is a nvarchar type – which is what .NET would pass to your query if your parameter is of type string. If you look closer to the execution plan, you’ll see that SQL Server has to do a CONVERT_IMPLICIT on each row of this column, effectively invalidates the index.

If we pass ‘0002T9’ without the notion though, it works as it should, this can cause the confusion as it works during development, but once deployed it is much slower

To see the difference we can run the queries side by side. Note that this is for a very simple table with 130k rows. If you have a few millions or more rows, the difference will be even bigger.

(1 row affected)
Table 'Demo'. Scan count 1, logical reads 4, physical reads 0, page server reads 0, read-ahead reads 0, page server read-ahead reads 0, lob logical reads 0, lob physical reads 0, lob page server reads 0, lob read-ahead reads 0, lob page server read-ahead reads 0.

(1 row affected)
Table 'Demo'. Scan count 1, logical reads 422, physical reads 0, page server reads 0, read-ahead reads 14, page server read-ahead reads 0, lob logical reads 0, lob physical reads 0, lob page server reads 0, lob read-ahead reads 0, lob page server read-ahead reads 0.

What’s about the vice versa? If we have data as nvarchar(100) but the parameter is passed as varchar ? SQL Server can handle it with ease. It simply converts the parameters to nvarchar and does an index seek, as it should

So moral of the story? Unless you have strong reasons to use varchar (or char ), stick with nvarchar (or nchar ) to avoid complications with data type conversion which can, and will hurt your database performance.

Performance optimization – the hardcore series – part 4

Let’s take a break from the memory allocation, and do some optimization on another aspect, yet as important (if not even more important) – database.

We all know that database queries play an essential part in any serious app. It’s almost a given that if you want your app to perform well, your database queries must also perform well. And for them to perform well, you need things like proper design (normalization, references etc.), properly written queries, and proper indexes. In this post, we will explore how an index can improve query performance, and how can we do it better.

Let’s start with a fairly simple table design

CREATE TABLE [dbo].[UniqueCoupon](
	[Id] [int] identity primary key clustered, 
	[PromotionId] [int] NOT NULL,
	[Code] [nvarchar](10) NOT NULL,
	[ExpiredOn] [datetime] NULL,
	[Redeemed] [bit] NULL

Nothing extraordinary here, pretty common if you ask me. Now for testing purpose, let’s insert 1.000.000 rows into it

INSERT INTO  dbo.[UniqueCoupon] (PromotionId, Code)

SUBSTRING(CONVERT(varchar(255), NEWID()), 0, 7)

GO 1000000

We need to query data by the code, so let’s create an user defined type

    Code NVARCHAR(10));

Time to run some query against data, let’s go with this

SELECT Id, PromotionId, Code, ExpiredOn, Redeemed FROM dbo.UniqueCoupons
                                                                    WHERE PromotionId = @PromotionId AND Code in (SELECT Code FROM @Data)

This is the complete query as we need some data

	declare @data CouponTable
	insert into @data 
	select top 10 code from dbo.UniqueCoupon 
	where promotionid = 36

	SELECT Id, PromotionId, Code, ExpiredOn, Redeemed FROM dbo.UniqueCoupon
                                                                    WHERE PromotionId = 36 AND Code in (SELECT Code FROM @Data)

As we learned that execution plan is not a good way to compare performance, let’s use the statistics, our trusted friends

																	set statistics io on
																	set statistics time on

And this is how it takes with our default setting (i.e. no index)

(10 rows affected)
Table '#AEDEED61'. Scan count 1, logical reads 1, physical reads 0, page server reads 0, read-ahead reads 0, page server read-ahead reads 0, lob logical reads 0, lob physical reads 0, lob page server reads 0, lob read-ahead reads 0, lob page server read-ahead reads 0.
Table 'Workfile'. Scan count 0, logical reads 0, physical reads 0, page server reads 0, read-ahead reads 0, page server read-ahead reads 0, lob logical reads 0, lob physical reads 0, lob page server reads 0, lob read-ahead reads 0, lob page server read-ahead reads 0.
Table 'Worktable'. Scan count 0, logical reads 0, physical reads 0, page server reads 0, read-ahead reads 0, page server read-ahead reads 0, lob logical reads 0, lob physical reads 0, lob page server reads 0, lob read-ahead reads 0, lob page server read-ahead reads 0.
Table 'UniqueCoupon'. Scan count 9, logical reads 7070, physical reads 0, page server reads 0, read-ahead reads 0, page server read-ahead reads 0, lob logical reads 0, lob physical reads 0, lob page server reads 0, lob read-ahead reads 0, lob page server read-ahead reads 0.

If you are somewhat experienced with SQL Server, you might guess it would not be exactly happy because of, obviously an index is needed. As we query on PromotionId, it does makes sense to add an index for it, SQL Server does give you that

If we just blindly add the index suggested by SQL Server

(10 rows affected)
Table 'Workfile'. Scan count 0, logical reads 0, physical reads 0, page server reads 0, read-ahead reads 0, page server read-ahead reads 0, lob logical reads 0, lob physical reads 0, lob page server reads 0, lob read-ahead reads 0, lob page server read-ahead reads 0.
Table 'Worktable'. Scan count 0, logical reads 0, physical reads 0, page server reads 0, read-ahead reads 0, page server read-ahead reads 0, lob logical reads 0, lob physical reads 0, lob page server reads 0, lob read-ahead reads 0, lob page server read-ahead reads 0.
Table 'UniqueCoupon'. Scan count 1, logical reads 53, physical reads 0, page server reads 0, read-ahead reads 5, page server read-ahead reads 0, lob logical reads 0, lob physical reads 0, lob page server reads 0, lob read-ahead reads 0, lob page server read-ahead reads 0.
Table '#A7AA9B2B'. Scan count 1, logical reads 1, physical reads 0, page server reads 0, read-ahead reads 0, page server read-ahead reads 0, lob logical reads 0, lob physical reads 0, lob page server reads 0, lob read-ahead reads 0, lob page server read-ahead reads 0.

But can we do better?

If we look at the index, there’s something not very optimized about it – we are query by both PromotionId and Code, so not really makes senses to have Code as included. How’s about we have the index on both PromotionId and Code?

(10 rows affected)
Table 'UniqueCoupon'. Scan count 10, logical reads 30, physical reads 0, page server reads 0, read-ahead reads 0, page server read-ahead reads 0, lob logical reads 0, lob physical reads 0, lob page server reads 0, lob read-ahead reads 0, lob page server read-ahead reads 0.
Table 'Worktable'. Scan count 0, logical reads 0, physical reads 0, page server reads 0, read-ahead reads 0, page server read-ahead reads 0, lob logical reads 0, lob physical reads 0, lob page server reads 0, lob read-ahead reads 0, lob page server read-ahead reads 0.
Table '#A1F9F38F'. Scan count 1, logical reads 1, physical reads 0, page server reads 0, read-ahead reads 0, page server read-ahead reads 0, lob logical reads 0, lob physical reads 0, lob page server reads 0, lob read-ahead reads 0, lob page server read-ahead reads 0.

Yet we can make it better! From 53 to 30 logical reads might not sound a lot, but if you have thousands of queries every hour, it will be fairly significant.

Prepare yourself for some pleasant surprises – when we eventually applied the change on an actual database, the change was staggering, much more than what we hoped for. The query that were run for 24h in total, every day, now takes less than 10 minutes (yes you read it right, 10 minutes).

At this point you can certainly be happy and move on. But can we do better? For the sake of curiosity ? Yes we do.

SQL Server is rather smart that it knows we are getting the other columns as well, so those will be included in the index, to avoid a key lookup. Let’s see if we can remove that and see how it performs

(10 rows affected)
Table 'UniqueCoupon'. Scan count 10, logical reads 60, physical reads 0, page server reads 0, read-ahead reads 0, page server read-ahead reads 0, lob logical reads 0, lob physical reads 0, lob page server reads 0, lob read-ahead reads 0, lob page server read-ahead reads 0.
Table 'Worktable'. Scan count 0, logical reads 0, physical reads 0, page server reads 0, read-ahead reads 0, page server read-ahead reads 0, lob logical reads 0, lob physical reads 0, lob page server reads 0, lob read-ahead reads 0, lob page server read-ahead reads 0.
Table '#B1996E94'. Scan count 1, logical reads 1, physical reads 0, page server reads 0, read-ahead reads 0, page server read-ahead reads 0, lob logical reads 0, lob physical reads 0, lob page server reads 0, lob read-ahead reads 0, lob page server read-ahead reads 0.

So it was indeed worse, a key lookup is performed for every row (SQL Server uses the index to track down the rows and read the other columns from there)

There are two way to get rid of those key lookup – includes the columns in the index itself, or, more dramatic, make the index the clustered. As we can see the data should be accessed by PromotionId and Code, it makes perfect senses.

It is a commonly belief that Identity column should be clustered index – it is unique, it is not null. However, it only makes senses if it is the most heavily accessed column. In this case, Id only serves as an Identity column, it does not need to be the clustered index (although being an unique means it will has a non clustered index for it)

ALTER TABLE [dbo].[UniqueCoupon] DROP CONSTRAINT [PK__UniqueCo__3214EC0744C2FF38] WITH ( ONLINE = OFF )

	[Id] ASC

Does this bring dramatically performance change? Unlikely. My test show no improvement in statistic. However, there is one critical impact here: we significantly reduced the size of indexes in the table. (data incoming)

Moral of the story

  • Indexes are crucial.
  • You can almost always do better than the auto suggested indexes.
  • Real test is the only true validation.

Performance optimization – the hardcore series – part 3

“In 99% of the cases, premature optimization is the root of all devil”

This quote is usually said to be from Donald Knuth, usually regarded as “father of the analysis of algorithms”. His actual quote is a bit difference

We should forget about small efficiencies, say about 97% of the time: premature optimization is the root of all evil.

Yet we should not pass up our opportunities in that critical 3%.

If you have read my posts, you know that I always ask for measuring your application before diving in optimization. But that’s not all of the story. Without profiling, your optimization effort might be futile. But there are things you can “optimize” right away without any profiling – because – they are easy to do, they make your code simpler, easier to follow, and you can be certain they are faster.

Let’s see if you can spot the potential problematic piece of code from this snippet

public Something GetData()
var market = list.FirstOrDefault(x => x.MarketId == GetCurrentMarket().MarketId)
//do some stuffs


If you are writing similar code, don’t be discouraged. It’s easy to overlook the problem – when you call FirstOrDefault, you actually iterate over the list until you find the first matching element. And for each and every of that, GetCurrentMarket() will be called.

Because we can’t be sure when we will find the matching element, it might be the first element, or the last, or it does not exist, or anywhere in between. The median is that GetCurrentMarket will be half called half the size of list

We don’t know if GetCurrentMarket is a very lightweight implementation, or list is a very small set, but we know that if this is in one very hot path, the cost can be (very) significant. These are the allocations made by said GetCurrentMarket

This is a custom implementation of IMarketService – the default implementation is much more lightweight and should not be of concern. Of course, fewer calls are always better – no matter how quick something is.

In this specific example, a simple call to get the current market and store it in a local variable to be used in the scope of the entire method should be enough. You don’t need profiling to make such “optimization” (and as we proved, profiling only confirm our suspect )

Moral of the story

  • For optimization, less is almost always, more
  • You definitely should profile before spending any considerable amount optimizing your code. But there are things that can be optimized automatically. Make them your habit.

Performance optimization – the hardcore series – part 2

Earlier we started a new series about performance optimization, here Performance optimization – the hardcore series – part 1 – Quan Mai’s blog ( . There are ton of places where things can go wrong. A seasoned developer can, from experience, avoid some obvious performance errors. But as we will soon learn, a small thing can make a huge impact if it is called repeatedly, and a big thing might be OK to use as long as it is called once.

Let’s take this example – how would you think about this snippet – CategoryIds is a list of string converted from ContentReference

            if (CategoryIds.Any(x => new ContentReference(x).ToReferenceWithoutVersion() == contentLink))
                //do stuff

If this is in any “cool” path that run a few hundred times a day, you will be fine. It’s not “elegant”, but it works, and maybe you can get away with it. However, if it is in a hot path that is executed every time a visitor visits a product page in your website, it can create a huge problem.

And can you guess what it is?

new ContentReference(string) is fairly lightweight, but if it is called a lot, this is what happen. This is allocations from the constructor alone, and only within 220 seconds of the trace

A lot of allocations which should have been avoided if CategoryIds was just an IEnumerable<ContentReference> instead of IEnumerable<string>

For comparison, this is how 10.000 and 1000.000 new ContentReference would allocate

Thing is similar if you use .ToReferenceWithoutVersion() to compare to another ContentReference (although to a lesser extend as ToReferenceWithoutVersion would return the same ContentReference if the WorkId is 0, and it use cloning instead of new). The correct way to compare two instances of ContentReference without caring about versions, is to use .Compare with ContentReferenceComparer.IgnoreVersion

Moral of the story

  • It is not only what you do, but also how you do it
  • Small things can make big impacts, don’t guess, measure!

Performance optimization – the hardcore series – part 1

Hi again every body. New day – new thing to write about. today we will talk about memory allocation, and effect it has on your website performance. With .NET, memory allocations are usually overlooked because CLR handles that for you. Except in rare cases that you need to handle unmanaged resources, that you have to be conscious about releasing that said resources yourself, it’s usually fire and forget approach.

Truth is, it is more complicated than that. The more objects you created, the more memory you need, and the more time CLR needs to clean it up after you. When you might have written code that is executed blazing fast in your benchmarks, in reality, your website might still struggle to perform well in long run – and that’s because of Garbage collection. Occasional GC is not of a concern – because it’s nature of .NET CLR, but frequent GC, especially Gen 2 GC, is definitely something you should look into and should fix, because it natively affects your website performance.

The follow up question – how do you fix that.

Of course, the first step is always measuring the memory allocations of your app. Locally you can use something like Jetbrains dotMemory to profile your website, but that has a big caveat – you can’t really mimic the actual traffic to your website. Sure, it is very helpful to profile something like a scheduled job, but it is less than optimal to see how your website performs in reality. To do that, we need another tool, and I’ve found nothing better than Application Insights Profiler trace on Azure. It will sample your website periodically, taking ETL ( event trace log) files in 220 seconds (Note, depends on your .NET version, you might download a .diagsession or a file from Application Insights, but they are essentially the same inside (zipped .ETL)). Those files are extremely informative, they contains whole load of information which might be overwhelming if you’re new, but take small steps, you’ll be there.

To open a ETL file, common tool is Perfview (microsoft/perfview: PerfView is a CPU and memory performance-analysis tool ( Yes it has certain 2000 look like other analysis tool (remember Windbg), but it is fast, efficient, and gets the job done

Note that once extracted ETL can be very big – in 1GB or more range often. Perfview has to go through all that event log so it’s extremely memory hungry as well, especially if you open multiple ETL files at once. My perfview kept crashing when I had a 16GB RAM machine (I had several Visual Studio instances open), and that was solved when I switched to 32GB RAM

The first step is to confirm the allocation problems with GCStats (this is one of the extreme ones, but it does happen)

Two main things to look into – Total Allocs, i.e. the total size of objects allocated, and then the time spent in Garbage collection. They are naturally closely related, but not always. Total allocation might not be high but time for GC might be – in case of large objects allocation (we will talk about it in a later post). Then for the purpose of memory allocation analysis, this is where you should look at

What you find in there, might surprise you. And that’s the purpose of this series, point out possible unexpected allocations that are easy – or fairly easy – to fix.

In this first post, we will talk about a somewhat popular feature – Injected<T>.

We all know that in Optimizely Content/Commerce, the preferred way of dependency injection is constructor injection. I.e. if your class has a dependency on a certain type, that dependency should be declared as a parameter of the constructor. That’s nice and all, but not always possible. For example you might have a static class (used for extension methods) so no constructor is available. Or in some rare cases, that you can’t added a new parameter to the constructor because it is a breaking change.

Adding Injected<T> as a hidden dependency in your class is at least working, so can you forget about it?

Not quite!

This is how the uses of Injected<T> result in allocation of Structuremap objects – yes every time you call Injected<T>.Service the whole dependency tree must be built again.

And that’s not everything, during that process, other objects need to be created as well. You can right click on a path and select “Include item”. The allocations below are for anything that were created by `module episerver.framework episerver.framework!EPiServer.ServiceLocation.Injected1[System.__Canon].get_Service() i.e. all object allocations, related to Injected<T>

You can expand further to see what Injected<T>(s) have the most allocations, and therefore, are the ones should be fixed.

How can one fix a Injected<T> then? The best fix is to make it constructor dependency, but that might not always be possible. Alternative fix is to use ServiceLocator.GetInstance, but to make that variable static if possible. That way you won’t have to call Injected<T>.Service every time you need the instance.

There are cases that you indeed need a new instance every time, then the fix might be more complicated, and you might want to check if you need the whole dependency tree, or just a data object.

Moral of the story

  • Performance can’t be guessed, it must be measured
  • Injected<T> is not your good friend. You can use it if you have no other choice, but definitely avoid it in hot paths.

A curious case of cookie threading issue – part 2

A while back, I wrote this post A curious case of cookie threading issue – Quan Mai’s blog ( as an example of how to use WinDbg to diagnose a race condition (with results in an infinite loop). Naturally that issue needs to be fixed. A starting point to fix a race condition is to put locks whenever you change the data. But it’s not that simple. Too much locking would definitely hurt your application performance, and increase the chance of you running into another nasty problem (namely, deadlock). So the art of locking is “lagom” – Swedish word for “just right”, not too much, not too little.

ReaderWriteLockSlim comes to rescue. You only need to lock when writing, not locking. So this for reading

                return httpRequest.Cookies[CookieKey];

And this for writing


Would be enough, right?

No. The issue runs deeper than that.

If we go back to the stacktrace of the issue

0:039> !clrstack
OS Thread Id: 0x1e34 (39)
        Child SP               IP Call Site
000000740273cff0 00007ff9297d9f59 System.Collections.Generic.HashSet`1[[System.__Canon, mscorlib]].Remove(System.__Canon)
000000740273d080 00007ff92a8eb4e3 System.Web.HttpCookieCollection.Get(System.String)
000000740273d0c0 00007ff9314de98d 

and look closer. Something is not right. If you do not spot the issue – it’s fine, I missed it too. The problem is that we have a HashSet.Remove inside a HttpCookieCollection.Get. Uh oh.

If we look at source code of HttpCookieCollection, inside Get, it calls to EnsureKeyValidated

if (cookie != null) {
                EnsureKeyValidated(name, cookie.Value);

referencesource/HttpCookieCollection.cs at master · microsoft/referencesource · GitHub

which itself calls to


referencesource/HttpCookieCollection.cs at master · microsoft/referencesource · GitHub

_keysAwaitingValidation is a HashSet<string> . That explains the Remove we saw. And that explains why ReaderWriterLockSlim is not enough – changes are made within the supposedly read only action as well.

The only valid solution here is to lock both read and write actions on HttpCookieCollection. However, as HttpCookieCollection is per request, so our lock object should only be per request as well (we certainly do not want every thread to be locked when we get cookie on a request).

Moral of the story:

  • Look closer. There might always be something underneath. Close to the truth is still not the truth.
  • Never assume that a Get method is thread-safe. The implementation can do plenty of unexpected things under the hood.
  • You might ask why this happen, as HttpCookieCollection is per request. Turned out that there is a code that use ThreadPool.QueueUserWorkItem to queue tasks which share the same HttpContext object. As we learned, that’s the recipe for disaster. Think twice (or thrice) before sharing an object that is not thread-safe between threads.

Where to store big collection data

No, I do not mean that big, big data (in size of terabytes or more). It’s big collection, like when you have a List<string> and it has more than a few hundreds of items. Where to store it?

Naturally, you would want to store that data as a property of a content. it’s convenient and it just works, so you definitely can. But the actual question is: should you?

It’s as simple as this

public virtual IList<String> MyBigProperty {get;set;}

But under the hood, it’s more than just … that. Let’s ignore UI for a moment (rendering such long list is a bad UX no matters how you look at it, but you can simply ignore rendering that property by appropriate attributes), and focus on the backend aspects of it.

List<T> properties are serialized as a long strings, and save at once to database. If you have a big property in your content, this will happen every time you load your content:

  • The data must be read from database, then transferred through the network
  • The data must be parsed to create an array (the underlying data structure of List<T>. The original string is tossed away.
  • Now you have a big array that you might not use every time. it’s just there taking your previous LOH (as with the original string)

Same thing happens when you actually save that property

  • The data must be serialized as string, the List<T> is now tossed away
  • The data then must be transferred through the network
  • The data then saved to database. Even though it is a very long string and you changed, maybe 10 characters, it’s completely rewritten. Due to its size, there might be multiple page writes needed.

As you can see, it can create a lot of waste, especially if you rarely use that property. To make the matter worse, due to the size of the property, it means they are taking up space in LOH (large objects heap).

And imagine if you have such properties in each and every of your content. The waste is multiplied, and your site is now at risk of some frequent Gen 2 Garbage collection. Nobody likes visiting a website that freezes (if not crashes) once every 30 minutes.

Then when to store such big collection data?

The obvious answer is … somewhere else. Without other inputs, it’s hard to give you some concrete suggestions, but how’s about a normalized custom table? You have the key as the content reference, and the other column is each value of the list. Just an idea. Then you only load the data when you absolutely need it. More work, yes, but it’s the better way to do it.

Just a reminder that whatever you do, just stay away from DDS – Dynamic Data Store. It’s the worst option of all. Just, don’t 🙂

Don’t let order search kill your site

Episerver Commerce order search is a powerful feature. My colleague Shannon Gray wrote about is long ago , and I myself as well

But because of its power and flexibility, it can be complicated to get right. People usually stop at making the query works. Performance is usually an after thought, as it is only visible on production environment when there are enough requests to bring your database to its knees.

Let me be very clear about it: during my years helping customers with performance issues (and you can guess, that is a lot of customers), order search is one of the most, if not the most common cause of database spikes.

Trust me, you never want to your database looks like this

As your commerce database is brought to its knees, your entire website performance suffers. Your response time suffers. Your visitors are unhappy and that makes your business suffer.

But what is so bad about order search?

Order search allows you to find orders by almost any criteria. And to do that, you often join with different tables in the database. Search for orders with specific line items? Join with LineItem table on a match of CatalogEntryId column. Search for orders with a specific shipping method? Join with Shipment table on a match of ShippingMethodId etc. etc. SqlWhereClause and SqlMetaWhereClause of OrderSearchParameters are extremely flexible, and that is both a cure, and a curse.

Let’s examine the first example in closer details. The query is easy to write. But don’t you know that there is no index on the CatalogEntryId column? That means every request to search order, end up in a full table scan of LineItem.

There are two bad news into that: your LineItem table usually have many rows already, which makes that scan slow, and resource intensive. And as it’s an ever growing table, the situation only gets worse over time.

That is only a start, and a simple one, because that can be resolved by adding an index on CatalogEntryId , but there are more complicated cases when adding an index simply can’t solve the problem – because there is no good one. For example if you search for orders with custom fields, but only of type bit . Bit is essentially the worst type when it comes to index-ability, so your indexes will be much less effective than you want it to be. A full table scan will likely be used.

In short:

Order search is flexible, and powerful. But, “With great power come great responsibility”. Think about what you join on your SqlWhereClause and SqlMetaWhereClause statements, and if your query is covered by an index, or if adding an index will make senses in this case (I have a few guidelines here for a good index Or if you can limit the number of the orders you search for.

Your database will thank you, later.