Tips and Tricks

Caching: Improving Your Application Performance

When visiting websites, one of the vital and most apparent factors that keep users on the website, or make them come back, is site speed. The quicker everything loads, the better. Website and application developers employ a variety of methods to shorten loading times, and one of the common methods is caching. Through caching, shared elements on a webpage are downloaded and stored “closer” to the user so it can easily be retrieved without repeatedly querying the web server.

In the case of applications, a similar process is done by in-memory data grids, where an application and its data are allowed to co-locate in the same memory space to reduce data movement over the network. IMDG is a data fabric that reduces the need for hard-disk-drive-based or solid-state-drive-based storage, resulting in optimal performance with high throughput and low latency.

As the need for efficient data management grows and expected turnaround times shrink to mere seconds, businesses must find ways to make data access and management quicker, easier, and cost-effective. Caching is one of the ways to achieve this; below are just a few ways it—and in-memory data grid (IMDG)—can help.

Say Goodbye To Network Congestion

The internet is a web of data that would take a human forever to manage manually. Massive amounts of data create heavy traffic, resulting in bandwidth issues caused by network congestion. By caching pages or page elements, there’s no need to worry about how fast data travels or if there are bottlenecks within the network. This frees up network resources and reduces load on the origin server so it can quickly serve other content that isn’t cached. Since most of the data is stored closer to the user, access to them is quick, and page loading issues are avoided even if there are problems with the network.

Applications benefit from caching by storing commonly used application data in the same memory space as the application itself. Caching is especially useful when users of an application share a lot of common data. The benefit is limited, otherwise, because stored application data isn’t helpful if users frequently retrieve data unique to the requests different users make.

Make Content Always Available

Whether you’re online or offline, you will always have access to cached data. This is useful for web or mobile applications that might benefit from storing information, such as historical data, user profiles, or an API response appropriate to its use case, for quick access. In-memory data lookup also helps when applications experience heavy usage spikes. Caching can be used in several use cases, including external web service calls, on-the-fly computation of previous payments, and non-critical dynamic data like viewer counts and number of followers.

Web applications and other online platforms can avoid frequent network interruptions and keep information available to users through caching. Creating dynamic web pages in the server allows you to serve them through an API together with the appropriate data. This will, in turn, provide your application a lightweight UI that and provide you the ability to create full web pages from the cache for a limited time.

From High-latency To High-Performance

The responsiveness of a website or application is dependent on the method of data access it employs. The relationship between the data source and the cashing system is vital because it determines speed and efficiency of the design. The key is ensuring that it takes less time to retrieve the resource from the cache than from the origin server.

Below are the common caching data access methods.

Read Through/Lazy Loading

This method loads data into the cache only when necessary, essentially making data access “on demand.”

Write Through

This method also upserts data in the cache while updating data in the database, with both operations occurring in a single transaction. This helps avoid the staleness of data encountered in the read through method.

Write Behind Caching

In this method, data is written directly to the caching system by the application itself. Data is then asynchronously synced to the underlying data source. The caching service needs to maintain a queue of “write” operations to sync them in order of insertion. This improves application performance since read and write operations both happen at the caching side, insulating the application from database failure.

Refresh Ahead Caching

This method ensures that data is refreshed before it expires. Refresh-ahead time is expressed as a percentage of the entry’s expiration time. At a set interval, the cache is refreshed right before the next possible cache access. Data is refreshed periodically and frequently to avoid staleness of data, which is useful when a large number of users use the same cache keys.

Caching can help you make your applications responsive, light, and efficient; however, there is no one-size-fits-all solution for every use case. Tailored solutions are the best way to go to ensure that the implementation of caching helps grow your business. Consider the business need and create caching policies accordingly to ensure long-term success and make the investment in time and effort worth it.