Incrementing Values in Memcached with Java (Detailed Guide w/ Code Examples)

Use Case(s)

The incr operation in Memcached is widely used when we need to increment a numeric value stored in the cache. It's often useful in rate limiting, counters, and other scenarios where atomic increments are needed.

Code Examples

Let's consider two examples using the incr method with spymemcached, a popular memcached client for Java.

  1. Incrementing a counter First, we set a value in the cache, then use incr to increment it.
MemcachedClient c=new MemcachedClient(new InetSocketAddress("localhost", 11211)); // Set initial value c.set("counter", 3600, 0); // Increment counter c.incr("counter", 1);

In this example, we first initialize a counter named 'counter' to 0 with an expiry time of 1 hour (3600 seconds). Then, we increment the value by 1 each time the incr function is called.

  1. Rate Limiting Here, incr can be used to limit the number of requests made by a user.
MemcachedClient c=new MemcachedClient(new InetSocketAddress("localhost", 11211)); String userID = "user123"; String key = userID + "_requests"; // Increment the request count long requests = c.incr(key, 1, 1, 60); // expire after 60 seconds if (requests > 10) { System.out.println("Rate limit exceeded"); }

In this example, we keep track of the number of requests made by a user within a minute. If a user makes more than 10 requests, we print a message indicating that the rate limit has been exceeded.

Best Practices

  • Use unsigned integers as values for keys you're going to use with incr or decr operations, as they only work with numeric values.
  • Be aware of your cache size. If it's getting filled up quickly, consider increasing the size or re-evaluating what data you're storing in the cache.

Common Mistakes

  • The incr operation won't work if the key doesn't exist or isn't a number. Always make sure to initialize your counter keys with a numeric value using the set operation before incrementing or decrementing them.
  • Not handling race conditions can lead to inaccurate data. Memcached's atomic incr and decr commands help mitigate this issue.


  1. Does Memcached's incr operation guarantee atomicity? Yes, Memcached guarantees atomic increments, which means multiple clients can safely increment the same key simultaneously without causing a race condition.

  2. What happens when the incremented value exceeds the maximum size of an integer? Memcached stores values as unsigned 64-bit integers. If a value incremented by incr exceeds this range, it wraps around to 0.

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