2.3 Web page caching
Despite being capable of dynamically generating content, the majority of pages that are served on Fake Web Retailer’s website don’t change much on a regular basis. Sure, some new items are added to the catalog, old items are removed, sometimes there are specials, and sometimes there are even “hot items” pages. But really, only a handful of account settings, past orders, shopping cart/checkout, and similar pages have content that needs to be generated on every page load.
By looking at their view numbers, Fake Web Retailer has determined that 95% of the web pages that they serve change at most once per day, and don’t actually require content to be dynamically generated. It’s our job to stop generating 95% of pages for every load. By reducing the amount of time we spend generating static content, we can reduce the number of servers necessary to handle the same load, and we can serve our site faster. (Research has shown that reducing the time users spend waiting for pages to load increases their desire to use a site and improves how they rate the site.)
All of the standard Python application frameworks offer the ability to add layers that can pre- or post-process requests as they’re handled. These layers are typically called middleware or plugins. Let’s create one of these layers that calls out to our Redis caching function. If a web request can’t be cached, we’ll generate the page and return the content. If a request can be cached, we’ll try to fetch and return the page from the cache; otherwise we’ll generate the page, cache the result in Redis for up to 5 minutes, and return the content. Our simple caching method can be seen in the next listing.
For that 95% of content that could be cached and is loaded often, this bit of code removes the need to dynamically generate viewed pages for 5 minutes. Depending on the complexity of content, this one change could reduce the latency for a data-heavy page from maybe 20–50ms, down to one round trip to Redis (under 1ms for a local connection, under 5ms for computers close to each other in the same data center). For pages that used to hit the database for data, this can further reduce page load time and database load.
Now that we’ve cut loading time for pages that don’t change often, can we keep using Redis to cut loading time for pages that do change often? Of course we can! Keep reading to find out how.