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Speedy Rails JSON serialization with built-in caching
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Adam Crownoble
Adam Crownoble Bump version to 1.1.1
Latest commit 54cd121 Jan 10, 2020

README.md

Cache Crispies Build Status Maintainability Test Coverage

Speedy Rails JSON serialization with built-in caching.

Why?

There are a lot of Rails serializers out there, but there seem to be very few these days that are well maintained and performant. The ones that are, tend to lock you into a specific standard for how to format your JSON responses. And the idea of introducing breaking API changes across the board to a mature Rails app is daunting, to say the least.

In addition, incorporating a caching layer (for performance reasons) into your serializers can be difficult unless you do it at a Rails view layer. And the serialization gems that work at the view layer tend to be slow in comparison to others. So it tends to be a one step forward one step back sort of solution.

In light of all that, this gem was built with these goals in mind:

  1. Be fast
  2. Support caching in as simple a way as we can
  3. Support rollout without causing breaking API changes
  4. Avoid the bloat that can lead to slowness and maintenance difficulties

Requirements

  • Ruby 2.4–2.6 (others will likely work but are untested)
  • Rails 5 or 6 (others may work but are untested)

Features

  • Fast even without caching
  • Flexible lets you serialize data any way you want it
  • Built-in Caching (documentation coming soon)
  • ETags for easy HTTP caching
  • Simlpe, Readable DSL

Configuration

ETags

CacheCrispies.configure do |conf|
  conf.etags = true
end

etags is set to false by default.

Custom Cache Store

CacheCrispies.configure do |conf|
  conf.cache_store = ActiveSupport::Cache::DalliStore.new('localhost')
end

cache_store must be set to something that quacks like a ActiveSupport::Cache::Store.

cache_store is set to Rails.cache by default, or ActiveSupport::Cache::NullStore.new if Rails.cache is nil.

Usage

A simple serializer

class CerealSerializer < CacheCrispies::Base
  serialize :name, :brand
end

A not-so-simple serializer

  class CerealSerializer < CacheCrispies::Base
    key :food
    collection_key :food

    do_caching true

    cache_key_addons { |options| options[:be_trendy] }
    dependency_key 'V3'

    serialize :uid, from: :id, to: String
    serialize :name, :company
    serialize :copyright, through: :legal_info
    serialize :spiel do |cereal, _options|
      'Made with whole grains!' if cereal.ingredients[:whole_grains] > 0.000001
    end
    merge :itself, with: MarketingBsSerializer

    nest_in :about do
      nest_in :nutritional_information do
        serialize :calories
        serialize :ingredients, with: IngredientSerializer
      end
    end

    show_if ->(_model, options) { options[:be_trendy] } do
      nest_in :health do
        serialize :organic

        show_if ->(model) { model.organic } do
          serialize :certification
        end
      end
    end

    def certification
      'Totally Not A Scam Certifiers Inc'
    end
  end

Put serializer files in app/serializers/. For instance this file should be at app/serializers/cache_serializer.rb.

In your Rails controller

class CerealsController
  include CacheCrispies::Controller

  def index
    cereals = Cereal.all
    cache_render CerealSerializer, cereals, custom_option: true
  end
end

Anywhere else

CerealSerializer.new(Cereal.first, be_trendy: true).as_json

Output

{
  "uid": "42",
  "name": "Eyeholes",
  "company": "Needful Things",
  "copyright": "© Need Things 2019",
  "spiel": "Made with whole grains!",
  "tagline": "Part of a balanced breakfast",
  "small_print": "This doesn't mean jack-squat",
  "about": {
    "nutritional_information": {
      "calories": 1000,
      "ingredients": [
        {
          "name": "Sugar"
        },
        {
          "name": "Other Kind of Sugar"
        }
      ]
    }
  },
  "health": {
    "organic": false
  }
}

A Note About Caching

Turning on caching is as simple as adding do_caching true to your serialzer. But if you're not familiar with how Rails caching, or caching in general works you could wind up with some real messy caching bugs.

At the very least, you should know that Cache Crispies bases most of it's caching on the cache_key method provided by Rails Active Record models. Knowing how cache_key works in Rails, along with touch, will get you a long way. I'd recommend taking a look at the Caching with Rails guide if you're looking for a place to start.

For those looking for more specifics, here is the code that generates a cache key for a serializer instance:

[
CACHE_KEY_PREFIX, # "cache-crispies"
serializer.cache_key_base, # an MD5 hash of the contest of the serializer file and all nested serializer files
serializer.dependency_key, # an optional static key
addons_key, # an optional runtime-generated key
cacheable.cache_key # typically ActiveRecord::Base#cache_key
].flatten.compact.join(CACHE_KEY_SEPARATOR) # + is used as the separator

Key Points to Remember

  • Caching is completely optional and disabled in serializers by default
  • If an object you're serializing doesn't have a cache_key method, it won't be cached
  • If you want to cache a model, it should have an updated_at column
  • Editing an app/serializers/____serializer.rb file will bust all caches generated by that serializer
  • Editing an app/serializers/____serializer.rb file will bust all caches generated by other serialiers that nest that serializer
  • Changing the dependency_key will bust all caches from that serializer
  • Not setting the appropriate value in cache_key_addons when the same model + serializer pair could produce different output, depending on options or other factors, will result in stale data
  • Data will be cached in the Rails.cache store by default

How To...

Use a different JSON key

serialize :is_organic, from: :organic?

Use an attribute from an associated object

serialize :copyright, through: :legal_info

If the legal_info method returns nil, copyright will also be nil.

Nest another serializer

serialize :ingredients, with: IngredientSerializer

Merge attributes from another serializer

merge :legal_info, with: LegalInfoSerializer

Force another serializer to be rendered as a single or collection

merge :prices, with: PricesSerializer, collection: false

Coerce to another data type

serialize :id, to: String

Supported data type arguments are

  • String
  • Integer
  • Float
  • BigDecimal
  • Array
  • Hash
  • :bool, :boolean, TrueClass, or FalseClass

Nest attributes

nest_in :health_info do
  serialize :non_gmo
end

You can nest nest_in blocks as deeply as you want.

Conditionally render attributes

show_if (model, options) => { model.low_carb? || options[:trendy] } do
  serialize :keto_certified
end

You can nest show_if blocks as deeply as you want.

Render custom values

serialize :fine_print do |model, options|
  model.fine_print || options[:fine_print] || '*Contents may contain lots and lots of sugar'
end

or

serialize :fine_print

def fine_print
  model.fine_print || options[:fine_print] || '*Contents may contain lots and lots of sugar'
end

Include other data

class CerealSerializer < CacheCrispies::Base
  serialize :page

  def page
    options[:page]
  end
end

CerealSerializer.new(cereal, page: 42).as_json
# or
cache_render CerealSerializer, cereal, page: 42

Include metadata

  cache_render CerealSerializer, meta: { page: 42 }

This would render

{
  "meta": { "page": 42 },
  "cereal": {
    ...
  }
}

Note that metadata is not cached.

Change the default metadata key

The default metadata key is meta, but it can be changed with the meta_key option.

  cache_render CerealSerializer, meta: { page: 42 }, meta_key: :pagination

This would render

{
  "pagination": { "page": 42 },
  "cereal": {
    ...
  }
}

Set custom JSON keys

class CerealSerializer < CacheCrispies::Base
  key :breakfast_cereal
  collection_key :breakfast_cereals
end

Note that collection_key is the plural of key by default.

Force rendering as a collection or not

By default Cache Crispies will look at whether or not the object you're serializing responds to #each in order to determine whether to render it as a collection, where every item in the Enumerable object is individually passed to the serializer and returned as an Array. Or as a non-collection where the single object is serialized and returned.

But you can override this default behavior by passing collection: true or collection: false to the cache_render method.

This can be useful for things like wrappers around collections that contain metadata about the collection.

class CerealListSerializer < CacheCrispies::Base
  nest_in :meta do
    serialize :length
  end

  serialize :cereals, from: :itself, with: CerealSerializer
end

cache_render CerealSerializer, cereals, collection: false

Render a serializer to a Hash

CerealSerializer.new(Cereal.first, trendy: true).as_json

Enable Caching

do_caching true

Customize the Cache Key

  cache_key_addons do |options|
    options[:current_user].id
  end

By default the model's cache_key is the primary thing determining how something will be cached. But sometimes, you need to take other things into consideration to prevent returning stale cache data. This is espcially common when you pass in options that change what's rendered.

Here's an example:

class UserSerializer < CacheCrispies::Base
  serialize :display_name

  def display_name
    if options[:current_user] == model
      model.full_name
    else
      model.initials
    end
  end
end

In this scenario, you should include options[:current_user].id in the cache_key_addons. Otherwise, the user's full name could get cached, and users, who shouldn't see it, would.

Bust the Cache Key

dependency_key 'V2'

Cache Crispies does it's best to be aware of changes to your data and your serializers. Even tracking nested serializers. But, realistically, it can't track everything.

For instance, let's say you have a couple Rails models that have email fields. These fields are stored in the database as mixed case strings. But you want them lowercased in your JSON. So you decide to do something like this.

module HasEmail
  def email
    model.email.downcase
  end
end

class UserSerializer < CacheCrispies::Base
  include HasEmail

  do_caching true

  serialize :email
end

As your app is used, keys are generated and stored with downcased emails. But then you realize that you have trailing whitespace in your emails. So you change your mixin to do model.email.downcase.strip. Now you've changed your data, without changing your database, or your serializer. So Cache Crispies doesn't know your data has changed and continues to render the emails with trailing whitespace.

The best solution for this problem is to do something like this:

module HasEmail
  CACHE_KEY = 'HasEmail-V2'

  def email
    model.email.downcase
  end
end

class UserSerializer < CacheCrispies::Base
  include HasEmail

  do_caching true
  dependency_key HasEmail::CACHE_KEY

  serialize :email
end

Now anytime you change HasEmail in a way that should bust the cache, just change the CACHE_KEY and you're good.

Detailed Documentation

See rubydoc.info/gems/cache_crispies

Benchmarks and Example Application

See github.com/codenoble/cache-crispies-performance-comparison

Tips

To delete all cache entries in Redis: redis-cli --scan --pattern "*cache-crispies*" | xargs redis-cli unlink

License

MIT

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