Asyncronous Shard Queries in PHP using mysqlnd enabling the feed load 10 times faster.

A few years ago I wrote about Asynchronous Shard Queries verses Synchronous Shard Queries, and in this post I talked about having to write a server to handle this for me in Java. Now I do it in PHP and got great results that are posted below.

Building the Feed was taking 100ms up to 40 seconds on the initial load, if the feed is out of cache. This is not acceptable for me as an engineer or the users I serve. Although the 40 seconds was rare it still is wrong.

The problem is as I added more shards to handle our data growth, the feed got proportionally slower. To build the feed for large users I would have to hit each server or at the very least a large percentage of them. Adding capacity made things slower in my Synchronous World.

My options to fix this issue where, do what I did in the past which, is boring, or try something new. In the past I wrote a server using Java with a Jetty Core that took a request and sent a merged response to get around php not having the ability to be parallel in a web context. It worked flawlessly but if that server went down users would not be able to see their info. Really its just another moving piece, another thing for me to monitor and at my company there is just 4 engineers to handle 3 million (and growing) DAU.

The new option was to use a mysqlnd option that enables asynchronous queries. Since I am running PHP 5.3.10 its an option that is available as a shared mod. and works with PDO except for this feature.

PDO is like Perl's DBI (but better) its an abstract that enables you to switch SQL database servers without having to change your method calls. The problem is PDO doesn't have the concept of asynchronous queries but this is really not an issue. I suggest for you to always write wrappers around used API's so you can switch the underlying (vendor) api without having to change multiple places in your code. I did such thing to PDO we call it Shard which is a wrapper around the PDO object. Then through polymorphism I am able to change query, connect, fetch equivalents to support this mysqlnd feature.

Below is the code


ShardDB is a static class that has a method getAsyncShardInstance for a given shard pool. Really the construct design pattern is a singleton which returns an async shard object that extends shard. (I love objects things just work and is clean).
setSide is optional to say keep the query on the side which the calling user uses unless that side is down.
query connects to the servers if not connected and executes the sql.
fetchAll polls for the responses and is equivalent to PDO's fetchAll.
Here is the query code:

public function query($query, $args = array()) {

foreach($this->connectionList as $shardId => $connection) {
$connection->query($query, MYSQLI_ASYNC);
Debugger::log("ASYNC_QUERY", $query, 'async_query');
return $this;

Then fetch all

public function fetchAll() {
$connectionCount = count($this->connectionList);
$results = array();
$processed = 0;
do {

$links = $errors = $reject = array();
foreach ($this->connectionList as $i => $link) {
$links[] = $errors[] = $reject[] = $link;

if (!mysqli_poll($links, $errors, $reject, $this->defaultTimeout)) {

foreach ($links as $link) {
if ($result = $link->reap_async_query()) {
while ($row = $result->fetch_object()){
$results[] = $row;

} while($processed++ < $connectionCount);
Debugger::log("ASYNC_QUERY", "Poll is done - Spinned $spinned times", 'async_poll');
return $results;

The affect of this code is illustrated below.

The blue line is greater than 2 seconds, which is bad then the line goes away the the change above. There is still some work needed to totally get rid of the greater than 2 second calls but what I got from this one change was worth the effort.

Thanks to mySQL and the internet super hero for building this feature. It was like it was built just for me!