In IT circles, memcached refers to a high performance multipurpose distributed memory caching system that is generic in nature. More often than not, it’s adopted to speed up dynamic database driven websites, like WordPress, by caching objects and data in RAM to decrease the number of times an external data source –API or database – must be read. Additionally, it runs on Linux, UNIX, Mac OS X and Windows operating systems and it is distributed under as a free software license.
Originally memcached was developed by Danga Interactive to boost the speed of LiveJournal.com; a site that was then experiencing database load problems courtesy of its numerous site visits pegged at 20 million plus dynamic page views per day. Once deployed, memcached reduced the database load significantly resulting in faster page load times for site viewers, faster access to databases, and better resource utilization. Nevertheless, as of recent the technology has proliferated and many other sites currently use it. Some of the sites that use memcached include: Wikipedia, LiveJournal, Bebo, Flickr, Twitter, Digg, Typepad, YouTube, Yellowbot, WordPress.com, Mixi and Craigslist.
The system adopts client-server architecture. The servers function on a key-value associated array, with clients given access to populate and query this array. The keys are typically 250 bytes long and the values can be up to 1MB in size. Servers store the values in RAM; hence clients must appreciate that memcached functions as a transitory cache.
Benefits of Memcached
- The benefit of being distributed is that in case you have a cluster of servers simultaneously accessing the cache, all of them will be reading and writing from the same cache.
- It offers an in-memory value store for bits of arbitrary data – objects and strings – from results of API calls, database calls or page rendering.
- Its power lies in its simplicity. Its simple design enables quick deployment that is adaptable to solve many problems associated with database loading problems.
- Since it results in reduction in page load times, site visitors enjoy quality web service resulting in higher retention and conversion rates. Additionally, higher page load times lead to higher search engine rankings.
- Memcached allows better utilization of resources in the sense that it enables one to redeploy memory from parts that are over allocated to parts that are in dire need.
Faced with increasingly savvy Internet users, website owners are obliged to have faster and efficient websites. Memcached is a vital technology that speeds up websites and WordPress load times especially for sites affected by database load problems. However, to incorporate memcached into WordPress one is required to install the W3 Total Cache plugin. All in all, the system offers numerous benefits as outlined above, but its key benefit is that it assists to speed up websites (and WordPress) load times.
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