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Troubleshooting Performance Problems
Phabricator User Documentation (Field Manuals)

Guide to the troubleshooting slow pages and hangs.


This document describes how to isolate, examine, understand and resolve or report performance issues like slow pages and hangs.

This document covers the general process for handling performance problems, and outlines the major tools available for understanding them:

  • Multimeter helps you understand sources of load and broad resource utilization. This is a coarse, high-level tool.
  • DarkConsole helps you dig into a specific slow page and understand service calls. This is a general, mid-level tool.
  • XHProf gives you detailed application performance profiles. This is a fine-grained, low-level tool.

Performance and the Upstream

Performance issues and hangs will often require upstream involvement to fully resolve. The intent is for Phabricator to perform well in all reasonable cases, not require tuning for different workloads (as long as those workloads are generally reasonable). Poor performance with a reasonable workload is likely a bug, not a configuration problem.

However, some pages are slow because Phabricator legitimately needs to do a lot of work to generate them. For example, if you write a 100MB wiki document, Phabricator will need substantial time to process it, it will take a long time to download over the network, and your browser will probably not be able to render it especially quickly.

We may be able to improve performance in some cases, but Phabricator is not magic and can not wish away real complexity. The best solution to these problems is usually to find another way to solve your problem: for example, maybe the 100MB document can be split into several smaller documents.

Here are some examples of performance problems under reasonable workloads that the upstream can help resolve:

  • Commenting on a file and mentioning that same file results in a hang.
  • Creating a new user takes many seconds.
  • Loading Feed hangs on 32-bit systems.

The upstream will be less able to help resolve unusual workloads with high inherent complexity, like these:

  • A 100MB wiki page takes a long time to render.
  • A Turing-complete simulation of Conway's Game of Life implemented in 958,000 Herald rules executes slowly.
  • Uploading an 8GB file takes several minutes.

Generally, the path forward will be:

  • Follow the instructions in this document to gain the best understanding of the issue (and of how to reproduce it) that you can.
  • In particular, is it being caused by an unusual workload (like a 100MB wiki page)? If so, consider other ways to solve the problem.
  • File a report with the upstream by following the instructions in Contributing Bug Reports.

The remaining sections in this document walk through these steps.

Understanding Performance Problems

To isolate, examine, and understand performance problems, follow these steps:

General Slowness: If you are experiencing generally poor performance, use Multimeter to understand resource usage and look for load-based causes. See Multimeter User Guide. If that isn't fruitful, treat this like a reproducible performance problem on an arbitrary page.

Hangs: If you are experiencing hangs (pages which never return, or which time out with a fatal after some number of seconds), they are almost always the result of bugs in the upstream. Report them by following these instructions:

  • Set debug.time-limit to a value like 5.
  • Reproduce the hang. The page should exit after 5 seconds with a more useful stack trace.
  • File a report with the reproduction instructions and the stack trace in the upstream. See Contributing Bug Reports for detailed instructions.
  • Clear debug.time-limit again to take your install out of debug mode.

If part of the reproduction instructions include "Create a 100MB wiki page", the upstream may be less sympathetic to your cause than if reproducing the issue does not require an unusual, complex workload.

In some cases, the hang may really just a very large amount of processing time. If you're very excited about 100MB wiki pages and don't mind waiting many minutes for them to render, you may be able to adjust max_execution_time in your PHP configuration to allow the process enough time to complete, or adjust settings in your webserver config to let it wait longer for results.

DarkConsole: If you have a reproducible performance problem (for example, loading a specific page is very slow), you can enable DarkConsole (a builtin debugging console) to examine page performance in detail.

The two most useful tabs in DarkConsole are the "Services" tab and the "XHProf" tab.

The "Services" module allows you to examine service calls (network calls, subprocesses, events, etc) and find slow queries, slow services, inefficient query plans, and unnecessary calls. Broadly, you're looking for slow or repeated service calls, or calls which don't make sense given what the page should be doing.

After installing XHProf (see Using XHProf) you'll gain access to the "XHProf" tab, which is a full tracing profiler. You can use the "Profile Page" button to generate a complete trace of where a page is spending time. When reading a profile, you're looking for the overall use of time, and for anything which sticks out as taking unreasonably long or not making sense.

See Using DarkConsole for complete instructions on configuring and using DarkConsole.

AJAX Requests: To debug Ajax requests, activate DarkConsole and then turn on the profiler or query analyzer on the main request by clicking the appropriate button. The setting will cascade to Ajax requests made by the page and they'll show up in the console with full query analysis or profiling information.

Command-Line Hangs: If you have a script or daemon hanging, you can send it SIGHUP to have it dump a stack trace to sys_get_temp_dir() (usually /tmp).

Do this with:

$ kill -HUP <pid>

You can use this command to figure out where the system's temporary directory is:

$ php -r 'echo sys_get_temp_dir()."\n";'

On most systems, this is /tmp. The trace should appear in that directory with a name like phabricator_backtrace_<pid>. Examining this trace may provide a key to understanding the problem.

Command-Line Performance: If you have general performance issues with command-line scripts, you can add --trace to see a service call log. This is similar to the "Services" tab in DarkConsole. This may help identify issues.

After installing XHProf, you can also add --xprofile <filename> to emit a detailed performance profile. You can arc upload these files and then view them in XHProf from the web UI.

Next Steps

If you've done all you can to isolate and understand the problem you're experiencing, report it to the upstream. Including as much relevant data as you can, including:

  • reproduction instructions;
  • traces from debug.time-limit for hangs;
  • screenshots of service call logs from DarkConsole (review these carefully, as they can sometimes contain sensitive information);
  • traces from CLI scripts with --trace;
  • traces from sending HUP to processes; and
  • XHProf profile files from --xprofile or "Download .xhprof Profile" in the web UI.

After collecting this information: