Thursday 28 January 2010

Distributed caching with protobuf-net

No, this isn't my server farm.

I’ve been playing with distributed caches lately, and of course this is a really good use-case for something like protobuf-net – if there is anywhere you want to minimise your memory costs, network IO costs and CPU costs, it is your cache (it gets kinda busy).

As a pure example of “which system can I get installed and running the quickest”, I looked at memcached, using the windows service from here and the client. Not only were they a breeze to get working, but this setup seems pretty popular, and also covers memcached providers, which uses enyim under the hood.

Fortunately, the enyim client has an extension-point that allows you to nominate a serializer through your config file (actually it calls it a transcoder, but I’m not sure it fits the definition). This allows us to swap BinaryFormatter for protobuf-net, which (for suitable types) has huge savings – in my crude tests I was seeing only 20% of the original network traffic, and roughly 75% of the original CPU costs.

Enough bluster…

OK, so in r282 I’ve added just such a transcoder (I still don’t like the name…) – and the good thing it is so effortless to configure it:


<add address="" port="11211" />


<memcached transcoder="ProtoBuf.Caching.Enyim.NetTranscoder, protobuf-net.Extensions">
<add address="" port="11211" />

Wasn't that was painless? and some huge benefits (although obviously you’d want to run some integration/regression tests if applying this to an existing system). Oh, and of course you need to include protobuf-net and protobuf-net.Extensions.dll in your project, in addition to the enyim dll.

My only niggle is that because there is no way of knowing the type up-front, I had to include the outermost type information on the wire (hence the “Net” in the transcoder’s name, since it won’t be truly portable). I could get around this by having the caller indicate the type, but the enyim dll doesn’t play that game.

What next?

If you find it good/bad/pointless/buggy please let me know.

If you’ve got another cache that might benefit from some protobuf-net love, please let me know. Velocity, perhaps? Azure?