Author p-ganssle
Recipients p-ganssle
Date 2019-01-11.20:34:16
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When examining the performance characteristics of pytz, I realized that pytz's eager calculation of tzname, offset and DST gives it an implicit cache that makes it much faster for repeated queries to .utcoffset(), .dst() and/or .tzname()  though the eager calculation means that it's slower to create an aware datetime that never calculates those functions - see my blog post "pytz: The Fastest Footgun in the West" [1].

I do not think that datetime should move to eager calculations (for one thing it would be a pretty major change), but I did come up with a modest change that can make it possible to implement a pythonic time zone provider without taking the performance hit: introducing a small, optional, set-once cache for "time zone index" onto the datetime object. The idea takes advantage of the fact that essentially all time zones can be described by a very small number of (offset, tzname, dst) combinations plus a function to describe which one applies. Time zone implementations can store these offsets in one or more indexable containers and implement a `tzidx(self, dt)` method returning the relevant index as a function of the datetime. We would provide a per-datetime cache by implementing a datetime.tzidx(self) method, which would be a memoized call to `self.tzinfo.tzidx()`, like this (ignoring error handling - a more detailed implementation can be found in the PoC PR):

def tzidx(self):
    if self._tzidx != 0xff:
        return self._tzidx

    tzidx = self.tzinfo.tzidx(self)
    if isinstance(tzidx, int) and 0 <= tzidx < 255:
        self._tzidx = tzidx
    return tzidx

And then `utcoffset(self, dt)`, `dst(self, dt)` and `tzname(self, dt)` could be implemented in terms of `dt.tzidx()`! This interface would be completely opt-in, and `tzinfo.tzidx` would have no default implementation.

Note that I have used 0xff as the signal value here - this is because I propose that the `tzidx` cache be limited to *only* integers in the interval [0, 255), with 255 reserved as the "not set" value. It is exceedingly unlikely that a given time zone will have more than 255 distinct values in its index, and even if it does, this implementation gracefully falls back to "every call is a cache miss".

In my tests, using a single unsigned char for `tzidx` does not increase the size of the `PyDateTime` struct, because it's using a byte that is currently part of the alignment padding anyway. This same trick was used to minimize the impact of `fold`, and I figure it's better to be conservative and enforce 0 <= tzidx < 255, since we can only do it so many times.

The last thing I'd like to note is the problem of mutability - datetime objects are supposed to be immutable, and this cache value actually mutates the datetime struct! While it's true that the in-memory value of the datetime changes, the fundamental concept of immutability is retained, since this does not affect any of the qualities of the datetime observable via the public API.

In fact (and I hope this is not too much of a digression), it is already unfortunately true that datetimes are more mutable than they would seem, because nothing prevents `tzinfo` objects from returning different values on subsequent calls to the timezone-lookup functions. What's worse, datetime's hash implementation takes its UTC offset into account! In practice it's rare for a tzinfo to ever return a different value for utcoffset(dt), but one prominent example where this could be a problem is with something like `dateutil.tz.tzlocal`, which is a local timezone object written in terms of the `time` module's time zone information - which can change if the local timezone information changes over the course of a program's run.

This change does not necessarily fix that problem or start enforcing immutability of `utcoffset`, but it does encourage a design that is *less susceptible* to these problems, since even if the return value of `tzinfo.tzidx()` changes over time for some reason, that function would only be called once per datetime.

I have an initial PoC for this implemented, and I've tested it out with an accompanying implementation of `dateutil.tz` that makes use of it, it does indeed make things much faster. I look forward to your comments.

1. https://blog.ganssle.io/articles/2018/03/pytz-fastest-footgun.html
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Date User Action Args
2019-01-11 20:34:19p-gansslesetrecipients: + p-ganssle
2019-01-11 20:34:17p-gansslesetmessageid: <1547238857.17.0.663234077571.issue35723@roundup.psfhosted.org>
2019-01-11 20:34:17p-gansslelinkissue35723 messages
2019-01-11 20:34:16p-gansslecreate