Performance for product developers (Matthew Wilkes)

What can product developers do to make their products faster to use and easier to cache.

Plone is currently pretty fast, especially for low edit sites. It runs fine on a 256Mb VM. Things that help us: Varnish, It’s easy to setup. Portal implementations are different because there are a lot of authenticated users there.

But that’s for integrators and users. What about product developers?

We’ve got a blind spot for performance and security. We don’t deliberately write ‘bad’ code. We do think about our data structures (some even overdo it).

A recap on tips from an earlier presentation Matthew gave:

  • The catalog is already really big. Don’t add things to the catalog if you can help it, this especially goes for indexes.
  • If you have to, please use an adapter based indexer not a raw FieldIndex.
  • Use Dexterity, not Archetypes if you build custom content types. You’ll be sorry in a couple of years otherwise.
  • Not sure about what structure to use for your data? Use OOBTree.
  • Avoid big objects churn by storing Lengths of things you need instead of iterating over all items just to find out how many items there are.
  • Find a balance between huge objects and annotation soup. Too many annotations are not good.
  • For loops inside for loops are a recipe for slow code.
  • Don’t forget sets and itertools. They are good.

Very few people use already available tools. For instance: a show of hands proved that cache:ruleset ZCML declaration are not used much. If you do use this, you can get an enormous performance boost. You can go from 79 milliseconds for a request without cache:ruleset to zero milliseconds with the ruleset. You can directly assign a ruleset to an interface. Integrators can help here by adding these rulesets to products you use.

Edge side includes (ESIs) are generally used to do package composition. But it’s easy to leak data so be careful. An ESI is a way to say you want to include a certain URL on a certain location. That way you can cache the rest of the page and include e.g. the user name dynamically. Again, make sure you don’t cache secret stuff for everyone. Don’t trust on ETags since they can be faked. You will have to have a custom VCL and code. ESIs can give your site a good boost, but it’s also hard work. It’s a lot easier if addons are written with ESI in mind. So plan your templates for ESIs:

  • Create many small templates that can be easily customised.
  • Split out user and role based stuff in separate templates.

Integrators should not need more than a couple of minutes to add ESI to your templates.

As said, it’s easy to make a mistake regarding testing. So you really need to test the caching. This goes for integrators, but also for product developers. Far too few people run automated tests on their caching. If you already have based tests, it is easy to do: create a new layer using a ZServer, start up Varnish and make some testbrowser calls.

We need helper classes and methods for writing cache tests and actual tests in popular packages. That way they can serve as an example.

The current rulesets are targeted at integrators. Product developers need a series of rules which we agree to use so configuration would be easier.

Want to help put this into practice? Mail to sales at

View the slides or watch the video.