Improve Performance

This document covers some techniques you can use to improve the performance of your application. In some cases, examples from other APIs or generic APIs are used to illustrate the ideas presented. However, the same concepts are applicable to the Compute Engine API.

Compression using gzip

An easy and convenient way to reduce the bandwidth needed for each request is to enable gzip compression. Although this requires additional CPU time to uncompress the results, the trade-off with network costs usually makes it very worthwhile.

In order to receive a gzip-encoded response you must do two things: Set an Accept-Encoding header, and modify your user agent to contain the string gzip. Here is an example of properly formed HTTP headers for enabling gzip compression:

Accept-Encoding: gzip
User-Agent: my program (gzip)

Working with partial resources

Another way to improve the performance of your API calls is by sending and receiving only the portion of the data that you're interested in. This lets your application avoid transferring, parsing, and storing unneeded fields, so it can use resources including network, CPU, and memory more efficiently.

There are two types of partial requests:

  • Partial response: A request where you specify which fields to include in the response (use the fields request parameter).
  • Patch: An update request where you send only the fields you want to change (use the PATCH HTTP verb).

More details on making partial requests are provided in the following sections.

Partial response

By default, the server sends back the full representation of a resource after processing requests. For better performance, you can ask the server to send only the fields you really need and get a partial response instead.

To request a partial response, use the fields request parameter to specify the fields you want returned. You can use this parameter with any request that returns response data.

Note that the fields parameter only affects the response data; it does not affect the data that you need to send, if any. To reduce the amount of data you send when modifying resources, use a patch request.

Example

The following example shows the use of the fields parameter with a generic (fictional) "Demo" API.

Simple request: This HTTP GET request omits the fields parameter and returns the full resource.

https://www.googleapis.com/demo/v1

Full resource response: The full resource data includes the following fields, along with many others that have been omitted for brevity.

{
  "kind": "demo",
  ...
  "items": [
  {
    "title": "First title",
    "comment": "First comment.",
    "characteristics": {
      "length": "short",
      "accuracy": "high",
      "followers": ["Jo", "Will"],
    },
    "status": "active",
    ...
  },
  {
    "title": "Second title",
    "comment": "Second comment.",
    "characteristics": {
      "length": "long",
      "accuracy": "medium"
      "followers": [ ],
    },
    "status": "pending",
    ...
  },
  ...
  ]
}

Request for a partial response: The following request for this same resource uses the fields parameter to significantly reduce the amount of data returned.

https://www.googleapis.com/demo/v1?fields=kind,items(title,characteristics/length)

Partial response: In response to the request above, the server sends back a response that contains only the kind information along with a pared-down items array that includes only HTML title and length characteristic information in each item.

200 OK
{
  "kind": "demo",
  "items": [{
    "title": "First title",
    "characteristics": {
      "length": "short"
    }
  }, {
    "title": "Second title",
    "characteristics": {
      "length": "long"
    }
  },
  ...
  ]
}

Note that the response is a JSON object that includes only the selected fields and their enclosing parent objects.

Details on how to format the fields parameter is covered next, followed by more details about what exactly gets returned in the response.

Fields parameter syntax summary

The format of the fields request parameter value is loosely based on XPath syntax. The supported syntax is summarized below, and additional examples are provided in the following section.

  • Use a comma-separated list to select multiple fields.
  • Use a/b to select a field b that is nested within field a; use a/b/c to select a field c nested within b.

    Exception: For API responses that use "data" wrappers, where the response is nested within a data object that looks like data: { ... }, do not include "data" in the fields specification. Including the data object with a fields specification like data/a/b c