Breaking Boundaries with FastCGI - Andrew Carter

Breaking Boundaries with FastCGI


This Talk

30% conceptual

30% warnings

30% plugging a personal project

8% looking to the future

4% poor maths and misleading benchmarks

Why Application Performance?

We might want to increase capacity

We might want to improve user experience

Performance requires efficiency

Minimise work performed to create a response

An Analogy

HTTP Pipeline - as a Restaurant

Client Customer
Server Restaurant
Request Order
Response Food
Application Chef
HTTP Daemon Waiter/Waitress

Restaurant PHP

Customer enters restaurant
Waitress takes order
Waitress creates chef and gives order
Chef makes food
Waitress gives food to customer
Waitress brutally murders chef

The Proposal?

Don't kill the chef

Make application handle multiple requests


What if our chef gets sick?

What if our application encounters an issue that prevents it from responding to requests?

Solution #1

Kill the chef...


Configure application to keep instances fresh

'N' requests or seconds before termination

Solution #2

Use a better chef

What makes a bad chef?

What new considerations are we introducing to our applications?

Memory Leaks

Who has programmed in a language where they had to manually manage memory?

Task:  Join two strings together

In C...

char * join_strings(const char * string1, const char * string2)
    char * new_string;

    new_string = malloc(strlen(string1) + strlen(string2) + 1);

    if (new_string == NULL) {
      return NULL;

    strcpy(new_string, string1);
    strcat(new_string, string2);

    return new_string;

char * str;

str = join_strings("Hello, ", name);

// do stuff with str


In PHP...

$str = 'Hello, ' . $name;

// do stuff with $str

// now what?

How do we keep our application memory clean in PHP?

function some_routine($name) {
    $str = 'Hello, ' . $name;

    // do stuff with $str

// no more $str

$str = 'Hello, ' . $name;

// do stuff with $str


Remove references to unrequired objects

What might hide references?

Doctrine ORM

$em = $this->getDoctrine()->getManager();
$repository = $em->getRepository('Bundle:Page');

$page = $repository->find($id);

$response = $this->render(
    ['page' => $page]


return $response;


$log = new Logger('app');

$handler = new ErrorLogHandler();
$fingersCrossedHandler = new FingersCrossedHandler($handler);


$logger->notice('It\'s me');
$logger->notice('I was wondering if...');

// $logger->alert('Something went wrong');



ERROR 2006: MySQL server has gone away

Can be hard to detect and manage whilst testing

Doctrine ORM (2.5)

$em = $this->getDoctrine()->getManager();

$connection = $em->getConnection();

if ($connection->ping() === false) {

$repository = $em->getRepository('Bundle:Page');

$page = $repository->find($id);

Error Handling

Distinguish between request errors and application errors

HTTP status codes become more important

4XX - Request Error

5XX - Application Error

Let the application die if recovery is not possible

Code Updates

Application no longer being re-read from disk between requests

Must reload worker threads to update our applications

Golden Rules

  1. Separate request and application scope

    • Services should be application scope

    • If you need the request stack you're doing it wrong

    • Do not use static or global variables

  2. Only use static methods when stateless

    (Or just don't use static methods)

Moving on...

CGI: Common Gateway Interface

CGI application must be executable by the web server

One instance of our application per request

HTTP request provided via environment variables

HTTP response written to standard output by application

Back in the day...

when I was 3

PHP was just a set of CGI binaries

We can still integrate PHP using CGI

We can also use native web server modules

We can also use PHP-FPM


PHP FastCGI Process manager


Like CGI... but faster

Making CGI Faster

Wrap our communication in a protocol

Implement this protocol over a socket connection

Keep our application alive between requests!


Keeps the PHP interpreter alive between requests using FastCGI

We are still killing our chef

Use FastCGI directly?

With a legacy application?

include 'lib/common.php';
include 'lib/database.php';

$escaped_url = mysql_real_escape_string($_SERVER['REQUEST_URI']);

$result = mysql_query(
    'SELECT html ' .
    'FROM pages ' .
    'WHERE url=\'' . $escaped_url . '\''

if (false === $result || !($page = mysql_fetch_assoc($result))) {
    header('HTTP/1.1 404 Not Found');
    $page = get_404_page();

echo $page['html'];

With Symfony?

use Symfony\Component\ClassLoader\ApcClassLoader;
use Symfony\Component\HttpFoundation\Request;

$loader = require_once __DIR__.'/../app/bootstrap.php.cache';

require_once __DIR__.'/../app/AppKernel.php';

$kernel = new AppKernel('prod', false);

$request = Request::createFromGlobals();
$response = $kernel->handle($request);
$kernel->terminate($request, $response);

The FastCGI protocol


Binary Protocol

                            pack() unpack()



A tool for creating command line FastCGI applications

use PHPFastCGI\FastCGIDaemon\ApplicationFactory;
use PHPFastCGI\FastCGIDaemon\Http\RequestInterface;
use Zend\Diactoros\Response\HtmlResponse;

$kernel = function (RequestInterface $request) {
    // $request->getServerRequest()         PSR-7 object
    // $request->getHttpFoundationRequest() HTTP foundation object

    return new HtmlResponse('

Hello, World!

'); }; $application = (new ApplicationFactory)->createApplication($kernel); $application->run();

php bin/fastcgi.php run
php bin/fastcgi.php run --port=5000
php bin/fastcgi.php run --port=5000 --host=localhost
php bin/fastcgi.php run [--request-limit=200]
php bin/fastcgi.php run [--memory-limit=50000000]
php bin/fastcgi.php run [--time-limit=3600]

upstream workers {
    server localhost:5000;
    server localhost:5001;
    server localhost:5002;
    server localhost:5003;

server {
    # ...

    location / {
        include         /etc/nginx/fastcgi_params;
        fastcgi_pass    workers;
        # ...

Speedfony Bundle

composer require "phpfastcgi/speedfony-bundle:^0.8"

// app/AppKernel.php

// ...

class AppKernel extends Kernel
  public function registerBundles()
    $bundles = array(
      // ...
      new PHPFastCGI\SpeedfonyBundle\PHPFastCGISpeedfonyBundle(),

    // ...

  // ...

php app/console speedfony:run --env=prod
php app/console speedfony:run --env=prod --port=5000
php app/console speedfony:run --env=prod --port=5000 --host=localhost
php app/console speedfony:run --env=prod [--request-limit=200]
php app/console speedfony:run --end=prod [--memory-limit=50000000]
php app/console speedfony:run --env=prod [--time-limit=3600]

How much faster is this?

Benchmarking Application

500 page Symfony application

Single route which selects a random page from database

Renders using Twig

Clears entity repository after each request

Benchmarking System

VMWare Fusion - 2GB RAM - 4 cores (Intel Core i7, 3.4 GHz)

Ubuntu 64-bit Server 15.04

PHP 5.6.4


'ab', 50000 requests, concurrency level of 20

Control Test

OPcache enabled


First Test

6 worker processes

FastCGI protocol implemented in PHP userland

Second Test

6 worker processes

FastCGI protocol implemented by PHP extension

The Results

Results graph


PHPFastCGI has limited use in production

No support yet for uploaded files

Do you need it?

Is your application fast enough already?

Why bother with the risk?

PHPFastCGI is a tool for high performance PHP applications


Well designed applications should not leak memory

Well designed applications should handle errors properly

PHPFastCGI is very easy to install

Thinking Forward

An Asynchronous Future

React PHP + Icicle

Applications run on an event loop

Controller actions return a response promise

To Conclude

Consider long running processes when developing components and services

FastCGI is designed to allow applications to stay alive between requests

PHP is not designed to allow applications to stay alive between requests

That is possibly why few make the effort to do this

Used carefully, this can break performance boundaries

Any questions?