Python Memcached Compare-and-Swap (CAS) (Detailed Guide w/ Code Examples)

Use Case(s)

The compare-and-swap (CAS) feature in Memcached is used when you want to ensure that the value you are setting in the cache has not been overwritten by another process since you last fetched it. This is extremely useful in multi-threaded and distributed systems where multiple entities might be trying to update the same key.

Code Examples

Let's say we have a Memcached instance mc and a key my_key. We want to increment its value using CAS operation to prevent potential race conditions:

import pymemcache.client.base as memcache # Connect to memcached client = memcache.Client(('localhost', 11211)) def cas_increment(client, key): while True: result, cas_id = client.gets(key) if result is None: # Handle missing key case break incremented_value = int(result) + 1 if client.cas(key, str(incremented_value), cas_id): break # Assume 'my_key' is already set cas_increment(client, 'my_key')

In this example, we first retrieve the value and the unique CAS ID for the given key using client.gets(). Then, we attempt to increment the value with client.cas(). If the value hasn't been modified by someone else, client.cas() will return True and we break the loop. If not, we retry the whole process until successful.

Best Practices

  • Always handle the case where the key does not exist in the cache.
  • Limit the number of retries for a CAS operation to avoid potential infinite loops.
  • Consider other concurrency control mechanisms if CAS operations fail frequently due to high contention.

Common Mistakes

  • Not handling the case where the CAS operation fails. In a multi-threaded or distributed environment, it's entirely possible that another process updated the value between your gets() and cas() calls.
  • Ignoring the return value of cas(). It can indicate whether the operation was successful or not.


1. When should I use CAS in Memcached?

  • CAS is useful when you want to avoid overwriting changes made by other processes in a multi-threaded or distributed environment.

2. What happens if a key does not exist when I perform a CAS operation?

  • The CAS operation will fail and return False. It's important to handle this scenario in your code.

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