Click here to close now.


@CloudExpo Authors: Carmen Gonzalez, AppDynamics Blog, Liz McMillan, Teresa Schoch, Lori MacVittie

Related Topics: @BigDataExpo, Java IoT, Linux Containers, PHP, Agile Computing, @CloudExpo

@BigDataExpo: Article

How to Spruce Up Your Evolved PHP Application

Three performance improvement steps

Do you have a PHP application running and have to deal with inconveniences like lack of scalability, complexity of debugging, and low performance? That's bad enough! But trust me: you are not alone.

I've been developing Spelix, a system for cave management, for more than 20 years. It originated from a single user DOS application, and has now emerged into a web application with hundreds of users, used nationwide as the official cave directory in Austria.

Just as many software projects: Spelix evolved from MS DOS to PHP-powered Web 2.0 with increased demand for functionality and scalability

Recently I applied for a job at Compuware. For a presentation during my job interview I prepared a case study about how to monitor and improve performance of Spelix with dynaTrace, a tool in Compuware APM's suite. I found more hotspots than expected, and it was much easier than expected to resolve them. I also killed two birds with one stone: Spelix is really performing now and I've got a cool, new job.

Let me share with you my experiences in that process and the best practices I've applied to bring to its current stage.

The Challenge of Software Evolution
When we start to design a new application we have the chance to consider data volume, number of users, traffic, all of these thoughts that drive us in selecting the proper architecture. But not many of us are able to follow that procedure, because we have to deal with a grown application. A system has emerged from a tiny set of tools and scripts, more and more functionality has been added over the years. Optimization processes often concentrate on the PHP core app to create performing database access, processing and content rendering, but that's not enough. Unfortunately other tiers are not included in these processes. Too often on the client side, the brush-up ends after designing a new frontend, using existing JavaScript plugins, and not thinking about application performance. But a slow database or browser code can dramatically slow down your application, even with an optimized PHP core.

In Spelix I have identified six major scopes for performance optimization:

  1. Database
  2. Server Side Data Caching
  3. Client Side Data Caching
  4. Network Traffic
  5. Browser / CDN Cache
  6. Server Side Session Handling

To be more digestible, this blog is split into two. This post focuses on the first three performance improvement steps and the next one focuses on the last three.

Step #1: Optimize Database Access
In the early stages of an application, it may not be relevant how your database access is designed. As long as the amount of data is low, a poorly designed query or missing indexes may not really affect overall response times. Therefore, database performance is rarely a topic that comes up in many cases. Once it has become an issue, it may be rather complicated to be handled. It's important to place enough value in your database design right from the start. Here are some of my lessons learned and best practices:

Interaction of Views & Indexes
I don't want to get into too much detail about creating indexes as many other articles have covered this. But it's rather important to understand when an index is not used: be careful when using views in MySQL!

When should you use views? Views are perfect to create complex queries and store them for further use. Views are commonly used to prepare data for presentation, or even for data pre-selection based on user access rights.

When should you avoid views? While a WHERE clause on a simple view may cause an index to be used, this could fail in complex view, even though the WHERE clause is on the primary key for the primary table. Once your query gets too complex, MySQL creates a temporary table for the result of the view, and then applies the query on top of the view, without any indexes to be used. Be alert when your view contains commands like GROUP_BY, ORDER_BY, or UNION. So what? My key advice on this is: when you create a view, define possible WHERE clauses and check the execution plan in the database by using the EXPLAIN command. If your WHERE clause is on a column in a table marked as select type "primary", you are on the save side to use the view. If it's "derived" or "dependent subquery", your query might not use existing indexes. It could be better to execute the query code from the application. If you have executed the SQL statements directly from your business logic, create a data access layer that contains your query code. Consider executing multiple SQL statements and merge the data in your PHP code rather than using complex joins that may spoil your indexes.

Check and Eliminate Redundant Statements
Check if your SQL executions are really necessary! You might have executed your statement in an earlier stage, is there really a requirement to run it again? Would it make sense to keep the data in your current context instead of re-requesting it? The following screenshot shows the database statements executed by the PHP Application.

A very good metric is "Executions per calling Transaction" which makes it easy to highlight statements, which are called several times, maybe too often per transaction. If that number is greater than 1, you might want to dig deeper into your code and try to optimize that. In this example "select * from sys2" reads the settings for the current user, which is not going to change permanently. There is no requirement to run this query redundantly.

What to look for? Find your query invocations in your code and avoid repetitive executions.

Optimizations? Depending on the type of information, consider caching your data in your transaction, session storage or overall server side cache, as described in the next section.

Seeing the actual SQL Statements in the context of the request makes it easier to optimize executions of database queries.

For steps 2 and 3, and for further insight, click here for the full article.

More Stories By Harald Zeitlhofer

Harald Zeitlhofer has 15+ years of experience as an architect and developer of enterprise ERP solutions and web applications with a main focus on efficient and performant business processes, usability and application design. He has successfully connected main players in the B2B field by implementing and managing cross-party EDI strategies. In his current role as a Technology Strategist in Compuware's Centre of Excellence team he influences the Compuware APM product strategy by working closely with customers and driving their performance management and improvement at the front line. Follow him @HZeitlhofer

Comments (0)

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.

@CloudExpo Stories
Containers have changed the mind of IT in DevOps. They enable developers to work with dev, test, stage and production environments identically. Containers provide the right abstraction for microservices and many cloud platforms have integrated them into deployment pipelines. DevOps and Containers together help companies to achieve their business goals faster and more effectively.
The buzz continues for cloud, data analytics and the Internet of Things (IoT) and their collective impact across all industries. But a new conversation is emerging - how do companies use industry disruption and technology enablers to lead in markets undergoing change, uncertainty and ambiguity? Organizations of all sizes need to evolve and transform, often under massive pressure, as industry lines blur and merge and traditional business models are assaulted and turned upside down. In this new da...
WebRTC converts the entire network into a ubiquitous communications cloud thereby connecting anytime, anywhere through any point. In his session at WebRTC Summit,, Mark Castleman, EIR at Bell Labs and Head of Future X Labs, will discuss how the transformational nature of communications is achieved through the democratizing force of WebRTC. WebRTC is doing for voice what HTML did for web content.
Achim Weiss is Chief Executive Officer and co-founder of ProfitBricks. In 1995, he broke off his studies to co-found the web hosting company "Schlund+Partner." The company "Schlund+Partner" later became the 1&1 web hosting product line. From 1995 to 2008, he was the technical director for several important projects: the largest web hosting platform in the world, the second largest DSL platform, a video on-demand delivery network, the largest eMail backend in Europe, and a universal billing syste...
There are many considerations when moving applications from on-premise to cloud. It is critical to understand the benefits and also challenges of this migration. A successful migration will result in lower Total Cost of Ownership, yet offer the same or higher level of robustness. Migration to cloud shifts computing resources from your data center, which can yield significant advantages provided that the cloud vendor an offer enterprise-grade quality for your application.
The IoT is upon us, but today’s databases, built on 30-year-old math, require multiple platforms to create a single solution. Data demands of the IoT require Big Data systems that can handle ingest, transactions and analytics concurrently adapting to varied situations as they occur, with speed at scale. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Chad Jones, chief strategy officer at Deep Information Sciences, will look differently at IoT data so enterprises can fully leverage their IoT potential. He’ll sha...
Today air travel is a minefield of delays, hassles and customer disappointment. Airlines struggle to revitalize the experience. GE and M2Mi will demonstrate practical examples of how IoT solutions are helping airlines bring back personalization, reduce trip time and improve reliability. In their session at @ThingsExpo, Shyam Varan Nath, Principal Architect with GE, and Dr. Sarah Cooper, M2Mi's VP Business Development and Engineering, will explore the IoT cloud-based platform technologies driv...
In today's digital world, change is the one constant. Disruptive innovations like cloud, mobility, social media, and the Internet of Things have reshaped the market and set new standards in customer expectations. To remain competitive, businesses must tap the potential of emerging technologies and markets through the rapid release of new products and services. However, the rigid and siloed structures of traditional IT platforms and processes are slowing them down – resulting in lengthy delivery ...
The modern software development landscape consists of best practices and tools that allow teams to deliver software in a near-continuous manner. By adopting a culture of automation, measurement and sharing, the time to ship code has been greatly reduced, allowing for shorter release cycles and quicker feedback from customers and users. Still, with all of these tools and methods, how can teams stay on top of what is taking place across their infrastructure and codebase? Hopping between services a...
As a CIO, are your direct reports IT managers or are they IT leaders? The hard truth is that many IT managers have risen through the ranks based on their technical skills, not their leadership ability. Many are unable to effectively engage and inspire, creating forward momentum in the direction of desired change. Renowned for its approach to leadership and emphasis on their people, organizations increasingly look to our military for insight into these challenges.
DevOps and Continuous Delivery software provider XebiaLabs has announced it has been selected to join the Amazon Web Services (AWS) DevOps Competency partner program. The program is designed to highlight software vendors like XebiaLabs who have demonstrated technical expertise and proven customer success in DevOps and specialized solution areas like Continuous Delivery. DevOps Competency Partners provide solutions to, or have deep experience working with AWS users and other businesses to help t...
Nowadays, a large number of sensors and devices are connected to the network. Leading-edge IoT technologies integrate various types of sensor data to create a new value for several business decision scenarios. The transparent cloud is a model of a new IoT emergence service platform. Many service providers store and access various types of sensor data in order to create and find out new business values by integrating such data.
Overgrown applications have given way to modular applications, driven by the need to break larger problems into smaller problems. Similarly large monolithic development processes have been forced to be broken into smaller agile development cycles. Looking at trends in software development, microservices architectures meet the same demands. Additional benefits of microservices architectures are compartmentalization and a limited impact of service failure versus a complete software malfunction....
Containers are changing the security landscape for software development and deployment. As with any security solutions, security approaches that work for developers, operations personnel and security professionals is a requirement. In his session at @DevOpsSummit, Kevin Gilpin, CTO and Co-Founder of Conjur, will discuss various security considerations for container-based infrastructure and related DevOps workflows.
The cloud has reached mainstream IT. Those 18.7 million data centers out there (server closets to corporate data centers to colocation deployments) are moving to the cloud. In his session at 17th Cloud Expo, Achim Weiss, CEO & co-founder of ProfitBricks, will share how two companies – one in the U.S. and one in Germany – are achieving their goals with cloud infrastructure. More than a case study, he will share the details of how they prioritized their cloud computing infrastructure deployments ...
There are so many tools and techniques for data analytics that even for a data scientist the choices, possible systems, and even the types of data can be daunting. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Chris Harrold, Global CTO for Big Data Solutions for EMC Corporation, will show how to perform a simple, but meaningful analysis of social sentiment data using freely available tools that take only minutes to download and install. Participants will get the download information, scripts, and complete en...
The web app is agile. The REST API is agile. The testing and planning are agile. But alas, data infrastructures certainly are not. Once an application matures, changing the shape or indexing scheme of data often forces at best a top down planning exercise and at worst includes schema changes that force downtime. The time has come for a new approach that fundamentally advances the agility of distributed data infrastructures. Come learn about a new solution to the problems faced by software organ...
Between the compelling mockups and specs produced by analysts, and resulting applications built by developers, there exists a gulf where projects fail, costs spiral, and applications disappoint. Methodologies like Agile attempt to address this with intensified communication, with partial success but many limitations. In his session at DevOps Summit, Charles Kendrick, CTO and Chief Architect at Isomorphic Software, will present a revolutionary model enabled by new technologies. Learn how busine...
Interested in leveraging automation technologies and a cloud architecture to make developers more productive? Learn how PaaS can benefit your organization to help you streamline your application development, allow you to use existing infrastructure and improve operational efficiencies. Begin charting your path to PaaS with OpenShift Enterprise.
Internet of Things (IoT) will be a hybrid ecosystem of diverse devices and sensors collaborating with operational and enterprise systems to create the next big application. In their session at @ThingsExpo, Bramh Gupta, founder and CEO of, and Fred Yatzeck, principal architect leading product development at, discussed how choosing the right middleware and integration strategy from the get-go will enable IoT solution developers to adapt and grow with the industry, while at th...