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Benchmarking Phoenix vs Rails vs Sinatra vs Express vs Martini...

I was curious about Chris McCord's Phoenix vs Rails article -- if you haven't read it, go do that now first. Go ahead, this will still be here when you get back. It won't make much sense unless you've read the original.

Like many other Elixir enthusiasts, I come from a Ruby background. That said, I found Rails to be a curious choice for comparison to Phoenix, since Rails is really a kitchen-sink framework meant to handle everything from database migrations to asset-pipeline compilation. Sinatra, on the other hand, is a more modular, semi-minimal framework that is appears to be pretty close in philosophy to what Phoenix looks like at the moment (at least to me).

While I didn't expect the performance to match Elixir/Phoenix, I was curious what would happen if I dropped those same ERB templates in a minimal Sinatra app instead of a Rails one.

And heck, while I was there, since Express is essentially Sinatra for Node, why not do a quick port over there for comparison too...

...And then I realized there was a Sinatra-inspired framework for Go called Martini, so what the heck, I went crazy and made one for that as well...

Important note: My benchmarking here was primarily for fun, not science. It was mostly an interesting exercise to write the identical application in many of the "Sinatra-like" web frameworks to see how similar they were across languages. More on this later.

Frameworks Compared

In the end, I had a comparison of the following:

  • Phoenix (Elixir) - EEx
  • Rails (Ruby) - ERB
  • Sinatra (Ruby) - ERB
  • Express (NodeJS) - EJS
  • Martini (Go) - template/html

Compared to @chrismccord's original tests

For the most part I tried to keep things as close as possible to the original comparison. I used the same exact templates, splitting them up into equivalent files. I tried to do things the same way in every instance, rather than getting clever and micro-optimizing for performance.

If you compare the application logic across version, you should (hopefully) find it to be very consistent.


There was a few gotchas that I adjusted with the new additions to try to get at least a closer to an "apples to apples" comparison.

Sinatra / ERB

  • Since Phoenix didn't appear to be logging to STDOUT, Rack's default logger was disabled to be more comparable (netting a ~35% throughput increase right there).

Express / EJS

  • NodeJS cannot run multi-threaded, so cluster mode with multiple processes is required to take advantage of multi-core. I used express-cluster to make this fairly trivial to implement. I included benchmarks with this both enabled and disabled.

  • Express now pushes all partial/layout handling to the template engine. EJS doesn't really handle block layouts, only includes. Therefore, the "layout" template needs to be split into a _layout_header and _layout_footer which was manually included in the index template. This probably doesn't make a big difference but since it's the only template difference I figured I should mention it.

Martini / Go

I'm sure some people will complain about my usage of Martini versus a more idiomatic Go solution, however this is intended to be a comparison of similar style frameworks, so it makes sense to use the one that works in the same style.

Rails / ERB

I originally didn't find Rails to be as apt a comparison for this use case as Sinatra, since it contains a lot of functionality not being used here that contributes to overhead.

For that reason, I didn't do too much here. That said, there is probably a lot that can/should be disabled in Rails that is there by default for "free" if you wanted this to be a closer comparison. Pull requests welcome if you care!

Updates! Round two of benchmarks (January 2015)

Phoenix has evolved quite a bit since the first version of this post! It's taken on a lot of great functionality, moving it perhaps closer to being a Rails alternative than Sinatra. This somewhat obviates the point of these benchmarks (which were to compare to more minimal Sinatra like frameworks), but let's update them anyhow, and see if Phoenix can maintain its excellent performance characteristics while taking on more.

Additionally, I received PRs to add two new additional frameworks to the mix. Gin is another Sinatra-like for Go focused on performance. The Play Framework is a JVM platform that seems a bit more similar to Rails to me, but with the expanded functionality Phoenix has taken on, is probably a good comparison.

And finally, since Phoenix has evolved and taken on so much functionality, José Valim contributed an example of using Plug for an ultra minimal Elixir based solution.

On a side note: I never expected these tests to get so much attention, a sincere thanks to everyone who has contributed PRs, feedback, and commentary!


I ran these on my iMac Intel Core i7 (4.0 GHz 4 Cores) 32 GB RAM.

Note: All benchmarks run on a local dev machine are highly suspect. If you want more scientific results these should really be done in a production server environment.

Comparative Benchmark Numbers

Framework Throughput (req/s) Latency (ms) Consistency (σ ms)
Gin 51483.20 1.94 0.63
Phoenix 43063.45 2.82 (1) 7.46
Express Cluster 27669.46 3.73 2.12
Martini 14798.46 6.81 10.34
Sinatra 9182.86 6.55 3.03
Express 9965.56 10.07 0.95
Rails 3274.81 17.25 6.88
Plug (1) 54948.14 3.83 12.40
Play (2) 63256.20 1.62 2.96
  1. Consistency for both Erlang solutions have become more unstable in this round of tests compared to previous (where it was rock solid). It appears to be somewhat specific to my Erlang install, but I haven't been able to locate a reason for it yet. Some others are experiencing similar results, we have been discussing this in the #elixir-lang IRC channel if you want to help.

  2. Play consistently appeared to generate hundreds of socket read errors (see the detailed output), so I believe it should probably be semi-disqualified from the results for now.

You can view the detailed results, or see the original round of benchmarks to compare.

Client-server benchmarks on a dual 10 core Xeon were contributed by Juliano Solanho and are also available for comparison.

UPDATE JULY 2016: There is a now a slightly more recent version update run as Round #3. Please note I do not intend to continue updating these benchmarks further past this point.


The only benchmarks that really matter are the ones that apply to your own environment and use case. This was really just for curiosity and fun.

That said, some things stuck out to me:

  • As seen in the numerous caveats, looking into tuning things like caching or the impact of logging strategies will have a major impact on your overall app performance, quite possibly more than platform. Think about your own use case and pick a strategy accordingly.

  • The default performance of Phoenix/Elixir is quite impressive, especially for such young projects. Given that Elixir is also one of the most conceptually enjoyable languages that I've personally coded with in years, I'm pretty bullish about their future.

  • Looking at the NodeJS/Express performance, it's clear that if you use NodeJS in production on multi-core boxes, you should probably be using cluster workers (but do your own research, they won't be appropriate for every situation.)

  • Sinatra is pretty awesome to begin with. The similarity in writing the code for all these frameworks was pretty astonishing (check out how similar they all are!), and it shows how influential the modular approach taken by Sinatra has been in inspiring other frameworks. If you are a Ruby user currently using Rails, check out Sinatra for a more bottom-up approach and compare.

Finally, really, please never focus on contrived benchmarks as a way to pick the best environment for your project. Think about your use case, but also optimize for developer productivity and happiness. I've used most of these languages / frameworks in production, and each has cases which make it more desirable in certain circumstances. There is no "best" language/framework for all situations.

Discussion / Feedback

I've worked with all of the languages involved in production systems (with the exception of Elixir, which I'm just getting started with). That said, I'm nowhere near an expert in any of them -- so feedback, comments, and pull requests are encouraged.

I'm publishing this as a GitHub repo rather than a blog post since the intended audience is nerds. If you want to comment, in lieu of a comment thread, just open a GitHub issue with the subject of your comments (or participate in one on the same topic if it already exists).

(I'm also currently working on a similar showdown for Twitter Streaming API libraries, and it could use your help!)

One last thing

If you enjoyed these benchmarks / programs or found them useful, please consider following me on GitHub or Twitter to see when I post new projects. ✌️👨✌️