Memcache PHP API Overview

Python |Java |PHP |Go

High performance scalable web applications often use a distributed in-memory data cache in front of or in place of robust persistent storage for some tasks. App Engine includes a memory cache service for this purpose.

  1. PHP memcache implementation
  2. When to use a memory cache
  3. How cached data expires
  4. Sharing memcache between different programming languages
  5. Statistics
  6. Limits
  7. Configuring memcache

PHP memcache implementation

App Engine includes implementations of the standard Memcache and Memcached APIs, which invoke the App Engine memcache service "under the hood". Some functions are callable ("stubbed") but do nothing, as they aren't needed in the context of an App Engine app. As such, calls to the following functions will be ignored:

Stubbed functions in the Memcache API

  • memcache_add_server()
  • memcache_close()
  • memcache_connect()
  • memcache_pconnect()
  • memcache_set_compress_threshold()
  • addServer()
  • close()
  • connect()
  • pconnect()
  • setCompressThreshold()

Stubbed functions in the Memcached API

  • addServer()
  • addServers()
  • getAllKeys()
  • getServerByKey()
  • getServerList()
  • getStats()
  • getVersion()
  • isPersistent()
  • isPristine()
  • quit()
  • resetServerList()
  • setSaslAuthData()

An example usage of the Memcache PHP API in App Engine:

function getData($key) {
  $memcache = new Memcache;
  $data = $memcache->get($key);
  if ($data === false) {
    $data = doSlowQuery($key);
    $memcache->set($key, $data);
  return $data;

An example usage of the Memcached PHP API in App Engine:

$memcache = new Memcached;
$memcache->setMulti(['image' => $image, 'data' => $data], 300);

When to use a memory cache

One use of a memory cache is to speed up common datastore queries. If many requests make the same query with the same parameters, and changes to the results do not need to appear on the web site right away, the app can cache the results in the memcache. Subsequent requests can check the memcache, and only perform the datastore query if the results are absent or expired. Session data, user preferences, and any other queries performed on most pages of a site are good candidates for caching.

Memcache may be useful for other temporary values. However, when considering whether to store a value solely in the memcache and not backed by other persistent storage, be sure that your application behaves acceptably when the value is suddenly not available. Values can expire from the memcache at any time, and may be expired prior to the expiration deadline set for the value. For example, if the sudden absence of a user's session data would cause the session to malfunction, that data should probably be stored in the datastore in addition to the memcache.

How cached data expires

By default, values stored in memcache are retained as long as possible. Values may be evicted from the cache when a new value is added to the cache if the cache is low on memory. When values are evicted due to memory pressure, the least recently used values are evicted first.

The app can provide an expiration time when a value is stored, as either a number of seconds relative to when the value is added, or as an absolute Unix epoch time in the future (a number of seconds from midnight January 1, 1970). The value will be evicted no later than this time, though it may be evicted for other reasons.

Under rare circumstances, values may also disappear from the cache prior to expiration for reasons other than memory pressure. While memcache is resilient to server failures, memcache values are not saved to disk, so a service failure may cause values to become unavailable.

In general, an application should not expect a cached value to always be available.

You can erase an application's entire cache via the API or via the Admin Console (under Memcache Viewer).

Sharing memcache between different programming languages

An App Engine app can be factored into one or more modules and versions. Sometimes it is convenient to write modules and versions in different programming languages. You can share the data in your memcache between any of your app's modules and versions. Because the memcache API serializes its parameters, and the API may be implemented differently in different languages, you need to code memcache keys and values carefully if you intend to share them between langauges.

Key Compatibility

To ensure language-independence, memcache keys should be bytes:

  • In Python use plain strings (not Unicode strings)
  • In Java use byte arrays (not strings)
  • In Go use byte arrays
  • In PHP use strings

Remember that memcache keys cannot be longer than 250 bytes, and they cannot contain null bytes.

Value Compatibility

For memcache values that can be written and read in all languages, follow these guidelines:

  • Byte-arrays and ASCII strings can be safely passed between languages.
  • Unicode strings are compatible, but you must encode and decode them properly in Go and PHP.
  • Be careful using integers, they are safe for increment/decrement operations, but Go does not directly support integers and PHP cannot handle 64-bit integers.
  • Avoid using floating point values and complex types like lists, maps, structs, and classes, because each language serializes them in a different way. If you need to use types like these we recommend that you implement your own language-independent serialization that uses a format such as JSON or protocol buffers.


The example code below operates on two memcache items in Python, Java, Go, and PHP. It reads and writes an item with the key “who” and increments an item with the key “count”. If you create a single app with separate modules using these four code snippets, you will see that the values set or incremented in one language will be read by the other languages.


self.response.headers['Content-Type'] = 'text/plain'

who = memcache.get('who')
self.response.write('Previously incremented by %s\n' % who)
memcache.set('who', 'Python')

count = memcache.incr('count', 1, initial_value=0)
self.response.write('Count incremented by Python = %s\n' % count)



byte[] whoKey = "who".getBytes();
byte[] countKey = "count".getBytes();

byte[] who = (byte[]) memcache.get(whoKey);
String whoString = who == null ? "nobody" : new String(who);
resp.getWriter().print("Previously incremented by " + whoString + "\n");
memcache.put(whoKey, "Java".getBytes());

Long count = memcache.increment(countKey, 1L, 0L);
resp.getWriter().print("Count incremented by Java = " + count + "\n");


w.Header().Set("Content-Type", "text/plain")

whoItem, err := memcache.Get(c, "who")
var who = "nobody"
if err == nil {
  who = string(whoItem.Value)
fmt.Fprintf(w, "Previously incremented by %s\n", who)
memcache.Set(c, &memcache.Item{
  Key:   "who",
  Value: []byte("Go"),

count, _ := memcache.Increment(c, "count", 1, 0)
fmt.Fprintf(w, "Count incremented by Go = %d\n", count)


header('Content-Type: text/plain');

$who = $memcache->get('who');
echo 'Previously incremented by ' . $who . "\n";
$memcache->set('who', 'PHP');

$count = $memcache->increment('count', 1, 0);
echo 'Count incremented by PHP = ' .  $count . "\n";


Memcache maintains statistics about the amount of data cached for an application, the cache hit rate, and the age of cache items. Note that the age of an item is reset every time it is used, either read or written. You can view these statistics using the API or in the Administration Console, under Memcache Viewer.


The following limits apply to the use of the memcache service:

  • The maximum size of a cached data value is 1 MB minus the size of the key minus an implementation-dependent overhead which is approximately 96 bytes.
  • A key cannot be larger than 250 bytes. In the PHP runtime, if you try to set memcache with a larger key the call will raise an exception. (Other runtimes behave differently.)
  • The "multi" batch operations can have any number of elements. The total size of the call and the total size of the data fetched must not exceed 32 megabytes.

Configuring memcache

The memcache service provides best-effort cache space by default. Apps with billing enabled may opt to use dedicated memcache which provides a fixed cache size assigned exclusively to your app. The service is configured via memcache settings on the Admin Console.