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Dalli is a high performance pure Ruby client for accessing memcached servers. It works with memcached 1.4+ only as it uses the newer binary protocol. It should be considered a replacement for the memcache-client gem.

The name is a variant of Salvador Dali for his famous painting The Persistence of Memory.

Persistence of Memory

Dalli's initial development was sponsored by CouchBase. Many thanks to them!


Mike Perham decided to write Dalli after maintaining memcache-client for two years for a few specific reasons:

  1. The code is mostly old and gross. The bulk of the code is a single 1000 line .rb file.
  2. It has a lot of options that are infrequently used which complicate the codebase.
  3. The implementation has no single point to attach monitoring hooks.
  4. Uses the old text protocol, which hurts raw performance.

So a few notes. Dalli:

  1. uses the exact same algorithm to choose a server so existing memcached clusters with TBs of data will work identically to memcache-client.
  2. is approximately 20% faster than memcache-client (which itself was heavily optimized) in Ruby 1.9.2.
  3. contains explicit "chokepoint" methods which handle all requests; these can be hooked into by monitoring tools (NewRelic, Rack::Bug, etc) to track memcached usage.
  4. supports SASL for use in managed environments, e.g. Heroku.
  5. provides proper failover with recovery and adjustable timeouts

Supported Ruby versions and implementations

Dalli should work identically on:

  • JRuby 1.6+
  • Ruby 1.9.3+
  • Rubinius 2.0

If you have problems, please enter an issue.

Installation and Usage

Remember, Dalli requires memcached 1.4+. You can check the version with memcached -h. Please note that the memcached version that Mac OS X Snow Leopard ships with is 1.2.8 and it won't work. Install memcached 1.4.x using Homebrew with

brew install memcached

On Ubuntu you can install it by running:

apt-get install memcached

You can verify your installation using this piece of code:

gem install dalli
require 'dalli'
options = { :namespace => "app_v1", :compress => true }
dc = Dalli::Client.new('localhost:11211', options)
dc.set('abc', 123)
value = dc.get('abc')

The test suite requires memcached 1.4.3+ with SASL enabled (brew install memcached --enable-sasl ; mv /usr/bin/memcached /usr/bin/memcached.old). Currently only supports the PLAIN mechanism.

Dalli has no runtime dependencies and never will. You can optionally install the 'kgio' gem to give Dalli a 20-30% performance boost.

Usage with Rails 3.x and 4.x

In your Gemfile:

gem 'dalli'

In config/environments/production.rb:

config.cache_store = :dalli_store

Here's a more comprehensive example that sets a reasonable default for maximum cache entry lifetime (one day), enables compression for large values and namespaces all entries for this rails app. Remove the namespace if you have multiple apps which share cached values.

config.cache_store = :dalli_store, 'cache-1.example.com', 'cache-2.example.com:11211:2',
  { :namespace => NAME_OF_RAILS_APP, :expires_in => 1.day, :compress => true }

You can specify a port and a weight by appending to the server name. You may wish to increase the weight of a server with more memory configured. (e.g. to specify port 11211 and a weight of 2, append :11211:2 )

If your servers are specified in ENV["MEMCACHE_SERVERS"] (e.g. on Heroku when using a third-party hosted addon), simply provide nil for the servers:

config.cache_store = :dalli_store, nil, { :namespace => NAME_OF_RAILS_APP, :expires_in => 1.day, :compress => true }

To use Dalli for Rails session storage that times out after 20 minutes, in config/initializers/session_store.rb:

For Rails >= 3.2.4:

Rails.application.config.session_store ActionDispatch::Session::CacheStore, :expire_after => 20.minutes

For Rails 3.x:

require 'action_dispatch/middleware/session/dalli_store'
Rails.application.config.session_store :dalli_store, :memcache_server => ['host1', 'host2'], :namespace => 'sessions', :key => '_foundation_session', :expire_after => 20.minutes

Dalli does not support Rails 2.x.

Multithreading and Rails

If you use Puma or another threaded app server, as of Dalli 2.7, you can use a pool of Dalli clients with Rails to ensure the Rails.cache singleton does not become a source of thread contention. You must add gem 'connection_pool' to your Gemfile and add :pool_size to your dalli_store config:

config.cache_store = :dalli_store, 'cache-1.example.com', { :pool_size => 5 }

You can then use the Rails cache as normal and Rails.cache will use the pool transparently under the covers, or you can check out a Dalli client directly from the pool:

Rails.cache.fetch('foo', :expires_in => 300) do

Rails.cache.dalli.with do |client|
  # client is a Dalli::Client instance which you can
  # use ONLY within this block


servers: An Array of "host:port:weight" where weight allows you to distribute cache unevenly.

Dalli::Client accepts the following options. All times are in seconds.

expires_in: Global default for key TTL. Default is 0, which means no expiry.

namespace: If specified, prepends each key with this value to provide simple namespacing. Default is nil.

failover: Boolean, if true Dalli will failover to another server if the main server for a key is down. Default is true.

threadsafe: Boolean. If true Dalli ensures that only one thread is using a socket at a given time. Default is true. Set to false at your own peril.

serializer: The serializer to use for objects being stored (ex. JSON). Default is Marshal.

compress: Boolean, if true Dalli will gzip-compress values larger than 1K. Default is false.

compression_min_size: Minimum value byte size for which to attempt compression. Default is 1K.

compression_max_size: Maximum value byte size for which to attempt compression. Default is unlimited.

compressor: The compressor to use for objects being stored. Default is zlib, implemented under Dalli::Compressor. If serving compressed data using nginx's HttpMemcachedModule, set memcached_gzip_flag 2 and use Dalli::GzipCompressor

keepalive: Boolean. If true, Dalli will enable keep-alive for socket connections. Default is true.

socket_timeout: Timeout for all socket operations (connect, read, write). Default is 0.5.

socket_max_failures: When a socket operation fails after socket_timeout, the same operation is retried. This is to not immediately mark a server down when there's a very slight network problem. Default is 2.

socket_failure_delay: Before retrying a socket operation, the process sleeps for this amount of time. Default is 0.01. Set to nil for no delay.

down_retry_delay: When a server has been marked down due to many failures, the server will be checked again for being alive only after this amount of time. Don't set this value too low, otherwise each request which tries the failed server might hang for the maximum socket_timeout. Default is 60 seconds.

value_max_bytes: The maximum size of a value in memcached. Defaults to 1MB, this can be increased with memcached's -I parameter. You must also configure Dalli to allow the larger size here.

error_when_over_max_size: Boolean. If true, Dalli will throw a Dalli::ValueOverMaxSize exception when trying to store data larger than value_max_bytes. Defaults to false, meaning only a warning is logged.

username: The username to use for authenticating this client instance against a SASL-enabled memcached server. Heroku users should not need to use this normally.

password: The password to use for authenticating this client instance against a SASL-enabled memcached server. Heroku users should not need to use this normally.

sndbuf: In bytes, set the socket SO_SNDBUF. Defaults to operating system default.

rcvbuf: In bytes, set the socket SO_RCVBUF. Defaults to operating system default.

cache_nils: Boolean. If true Dalli will not treat cached nil values as 'not found' for #fetch operations. Default is false.

raise_errors: Boolean. When true DalliStore will reraise Dalli:DalliError instead swallowing the error. Default is false.

instrument_errors: Boolean. When true DalliStore will send notification of Dalli::DalliError via a 'cache_error.active_support' event. Default is false.

Features and Changes

By default, Dalli is thread-safe. Disable thread-safety at your own peril.

Dalli does not need anything special in Unicorn/Passenger since 2.0.4. It will detect sockets shared with child processes and gracefully reopen the socket.

Note that Dalli does not require ActiveSupport or Rails. You can safely use it in your own Ruby projects.

View the Client API

Helping Out

If you have a fix you wish to provide, please fork the code, fix in your local project and then send a pull request on github. Please ensure that you include a test which verifies your fix and update History.md with a one sentence description of your fix so you get credit as a contributor.

We're not accepting new compressors. They are trivial to add in an initializer. See #385 (LZ4), #406 (Snappy)


Mike Perham - for originally authoring the Dalli project and serving as maintainer and primary contributor

Eric Wong - for help using his kgio library.

Brian Mitchell - for his remix-stash project which was helpful when implementing and testing the binary protocol support.

CouchBase - for their project sponsorship


Copyright (c) Mike Perham, Peter M. Goldstein. See LICENSE for details.