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Reducing Workbench's impact on Drupal

Workbench can put substantial stress on Drupal. In some cases, this stress can lead to instability and errors.


The options described below modify Workbench's interaction with Drupal. They do not have a direct impact on the load experienced by the microservices Islandora uses to do things like indexing node metadata in its triplestore, extracting full text for indexing, and generating thumbnails. However, since Drupal is the "controller" for these microservices, reducing the number of Workbench requests to Drupal will also indirectly reduce the load experienced by Islandora's microservices.

Workbench provides two ways to reduce this stress:

  • pausing between Workbench's requests to Drupal, and
  • caching Workbench's requests to Drupal.

The first way to reduce stress on Drupal is by telling Workbench to pause between each request it makes. There are two types of pausing, 1) basic and 2) adaptive. Both types of pausing improve stability and reliability by slowing down Workbench's overall execution time.


Basic pause

The pause configuration setting tells Workbench to temporarily halt execution before every request, thereby spreading load caused by the requests over a longer period of time. To enable pause, include the setting in your configuration file, indicating the number of seconds to wait between requests:

pause: 2

Using pause will help decrease load-induced errors, but it is inefficient because it causes Workbench to pause between all requests, even ones that are not putting stress on Drupal. A useful strategy for refining Workbench's load-reduction capabilities is to try pause first, and if it reduces errors, then disable pause and try adaptive_pause instead. pause will confirm that Workbench is adding load to Drupal, but adaptive_pause will tell Workbench to pause only when it detects its requests are putting load on Drupal.


pause and adaptive_pause are mutually exclusive. If you include one in your configuration files, you should not include the other.

Adaptive pause

Adaptive pause only halts execution between requests if Workbench detects that Drupal is slowing down. It does this by comparing Drupal's response time for the most recent request to the average response time of the 20 previous requests made by Islandora Workbench. If the response time for the most recent request reaches a specific threshold, Workbench's adaptive pause will kick in and temporarily halt execution to allow Drupal to catch up. The number of previous requests used to determine the average response time, 20, cannot be changed with a configuration setting.

The threshold that needs to be met is configured using the adaptive_pause_threshold setting. This setting's default value is 2, which means that the adaptive pause will kick in if the response time for the most recent request Workbench makes to Drupal is 2 times (double) the average of Workbench's last 20 requests. The amount of time that Workbench will pause is determined by the value of adaptive_pause, which, like the value for pause, is a number of seconds (e.g., adaptive_pause: 3). You enable adaptive pausing by adding the adaptive_pause setting to your configuration file.

Here are a couple of examples. Keep in mind that adaptive_pause_threshold has a default value (2), but adaptive_pause does not have a default value. The first example enables adaptive_pause using the default value for adaptive_pause_threshold, telling it to pause for 3 seconds between requests if Drupal's response time to the last request is 2 times slower (adaptive_pause_threshold's default value) than the average of the last 20 requests:

adaptive_pause: 3

In the next example, we override adaptive_pause_threshold's default by including the setting in the configuration:

adaptive_pause: 2
adaptive_pause_threshold: 2.5 

In this example, adaptive pausing kicks in only if the response time for the most recent request is 2.5 times the average of the response time for the last 20 requests. You can increment adaptive_pause_threshold's value by .5 (e.g., 2.5, 3, 3.5, etc.) until you find a sweet spot that balances reliability with overall execution time. You can also decrease or increase the value of adaptive_pause incrementally by intervals of .5 to further refine the balance - increasing adaptive_pause's value lessens Workbench's impact on Drupal at the expense of speed, and decreasing its value increases speed but also impact on Drupal.

Since adaptive_pause doesn't have a default value, you need to define its value in your configuration file. Because of this, using adaptive_pause_threshold on its own in a configuration, e.g.:

adaptive_pause_threshold: 3

doesn't do anything because adaptive_pause has no value. In other words, you can use adaptive_pause on its own, or you can use adaptive_pause and adaptive_pause_threshold together, but it's pointless to use adaptive_pause_threshold on its own.

Logging Drupal's response time

If a request if paused by adaptive pausing, Workbench will automatically log the response time for the next request, indicating that adaptive_pause has temporarily halted execution. If you want to log Drupal's response time regardless of whether adaptive_pause had kicked in or not, add log_response_time: true to your configuration file. All logging of response time includes variation from the average of the last 20 response times.


The second way that Workbench reduces stress on Drupal is by caching its outbound HTTP requests, thereby reducing the overall number of requests. This caching both reduces the load on Drupal and speeds up Workbench considerably.

By default, this caching is enabled for requests that Workbench makes more than once and that are expected to have the same response each time, such as requests for field configurations or for checks for the existence of taxonomy terms. Note that you should not normally have to disable this caching, but if you do (for example, if you are asked to during troubleshooting), you can do so by including the following setting in your configuration file:

enable_http_cache: false