Reducing MongoDB traffic by 78% with Redis

TL;DR: 31 lines of Rack middleware leverage Redis for highly-performant and flexible response caching. As Crashlytics has scaled, we've always been on the lookout for ways to drastically reduce the load on our systems. We recently brought production Redis servers online for some basic analytics tracking and we've been extremely pleased with their performance and stability. This weekend, it was time to give them something a bit more load-intensive to chew on.

The vast majority - roughly 90% - of inbound traffic to our servers is destined for the same place. Our client-side SDK, embedded in apps on hundreds of millions of devices worldwide, periodically loads configuration settings that power many of our advanced features. These settings vary by app and app version, but are otherwise identical across devices - a prime candidate for caching.

There are countless built-in and third-party techniques for Rails caching, but we sought something simple that could leverage the infrastructure we already had. Wouldn't it be great if we could specify a cache duration in any Rails action and it would "just work"?

[pyg language="ruby" style="monokai" linenos="inline" linenostart="1"] cache_response_for 10.minutes [/pyg]

Rack Middleware to the Rescue

One of the most powerful features of Rack-based Rails is middleware - functionality you can inject into the request processing logic to adjust how it is handled. This will let us check Redis for a cached response or fall-through to the standard Rails action.

[pyg language="ruby" style="monokai" linenos="inline" linenostart="1"] class RackRedisCache def initialize(rails) @rails = rails end

def call(env) cache_key = "rack::redis-cache::#{env['ORIGINAL_FULLPATH']}"

data = REDIS.hgetall(cache_key) if data['status'] && data['body'] "Completed #{data['status'].to_i} from Redis cache" [data['status'].to_i, JSON.parse(data['headers']), [data['body']]] else do |response| response_status, response_headers, response_body = *response response_cache_duration = response_headers.delete('Rack-Cache-Response-For').to_i

if response_cache_duration > 0 REDIS.hmset(cache_key, 'status', response_status, 'headers', response_headers.to_json, 'body', response_body.body )

REDIS.expire(cache_key, response_cache_duration) "Cached response to Redis for #{response_cache_duration} seconds." end end end end end [/pyg]

A response in Rails consists of 3 components - the HTTP status, HTTP headers, and of course, the response body. For clarity, we store these under separate keys within a Hash in Redis, JSON-encoding the headers to convert them into a string.

If the cache key is not present, the middleware falls-through to calling the action, and then checking an internal header value to determine whether the action desires its response be cached. The final critical line leverages Redis' key expiration functionality to ensure the cache is only valid for a given amount of time. It couldn't get much simpler.

Implementing our DSL

To tie it all together, the ApplicationController needs a simple implementation of cache_response_for that sets the header appropriately:

[pyg language="ruby" style="monokai" linenos="inline" linenostart="1"] def cache_response_for(duration) headers['Rack-Cache-Response-For'] = duration end [/pyg]

Boom. It was really that easy.


This implementation took us only about an hour to develop and deploy, and the effects were immediate. Only 4% of these requests now fall-through to Rails, CPU usage on our API servers has plummeted, and total queries to our MongoDB cluster are down 78%. An hour well-spent. Our Redis cluster also doesn't sweat its increased responsibility: its CPU usage is up just marginally!

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