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Boot large ruby/rails apps faster


~> 1.2
 Project Readme

Bootsnap Actions Status

Bootsnap is a library that plugs into Ruby, with optional support for YAML and JSON, to optimize and cache expensive computations. See How Does This Work.


  • Discourse reports a boot time reduction of approximately 50%, from roughly 6 to 3 seconds on one machine;
  • One of our smaller internal apps also sees a reduction of 50%, from 3.6 to 1.8 seconds;
  • The core Shopify platform -- a rather large monolithic application -- boots about 75% faster, dropping from around 25s to 6.5s.
  • In Shopify core (a large app), about 25% of this gain can be attributed to compile_cache_* features; 75% to path caching. This is fairly representative.


This gem works on macOS and Linux.

Add bootsnap to your Gemfile:

gem 'bootsnap', require: false

If you are using Rails, add this to config/boot.rb immediately after require 'bundler/setup':

require 'bootsnap/setup'

Note that bootsnap writes to tmp/cache (or the path specified by ENV['BOOTSNAP_CACHE_DIR']), and that directory must be writable. Rails will fail to boot if it is not. If this is unacceptable (e.g. you are running in a read-only container and unwilling to mount in a writable tmpdir), you should remove this line or wrap it in a conditional.

Note also that bootsnap will never clean up its own cache: this is left up to you. Depending on your deployment strategy, you may need to periodically purge tmp/cache/bootsnap*. If you notice deploys getting progressively slower, this is almost certainly the cause.

It's technically possible to simply specify gem 'bootsnap', require: 'bootsnap/setup', but it's important to load Bootsnap as early as possible to get maximum performance improvement.

You can see how this require works here.

If you are not using Rails, or if you are but want more control over things, add this to your application setup immediately after require 'bundler/setup' (i.e. as early as possible: the sooner this is loaded, the sooner it can start optimizing things)

require 'bootsnap'
env = ENV['RAILS_ENV'] || "development"
  cache_dir:            'tmp/cache',          # Path to your cache
  ignore_directories:   ['node_modules'],     # Directory names to skip.
  development_mode:     env == 'development', # Current working environment, e.g. RACK_ENV, RAILS_ENV, etc
  load_path_cache:      true,                 # Optimize the LOAD_PATH with a cache
  compile_cache_iseq:   true,                 # Compile Ruby code into ISeq cache, breaks coverage reporting.
  compile_cache_yaml:   true,                 # Compile YAML into a cache
  compile_cache_json:   true,                 # Compile JSON into a cache
  readonly:             true,                 # Use the caches but don't update them on miss or stale entries.

Protip: You can replace require 'bootsnap' with BootLib::Require.from_gem('bootsnap', 'bootsnap') using this trick. This will help optimize boot time further if you have an extremely large $LOAD_PATH.

Note: Bootsnap and Spring are orthogonal tools. While Bootsnap speeds up the loading of individual source files, Spring keeps a copy of a pre-booted Rails process on hand to completely skip parts of the boot process the next time it's needed. The two tools work well together.

Environment variables

require 'bootsnap/setup' behavior can be changed using environment variables:

  • BOOTSNAP_CACHE_DIR allows to define the cache location.
  • DISABLE_BOOTSNAP allows to entirely disable bootsnap.
  • DISABLE_BOOTSNAP_LOAD_PATH_CACHE allows to disable load path caching.
  • DISABLE_BOOTSNAP_COMPILE_CACHE allows to disable ISeq and YAML caches.
  • BOOTSNAP_READONLY configure bootsnap to not update the cache on miss or stale entries.
  • BOOTSNAP_LOG configure bootsnap to log all caches misses to STDERR.
  • BOOTSNAP_STATS log hit rate statistics on exit. Can't be used if BOOTSNAP_LOG is enabled.
  • BOOTSNAP_IGNORE_DIRECTORIES a comma separated list of directories that shouldn't be scanned. Useful when you have large directories of non-ruby files inside $LOAD_PATH. It defaults to ignore any directory named node_modules.


All Bootsnap features are enabled in development, test, production, and all other environments according to the configuration in the setup. At Shopify, we use this gem safely in all environments without issue.

If you would like to disable any feature for a certain environment, we suggest changing the configuration to take into account the appropriate ENV var or configuration according to your needs.


Bootsnap cache misses can be monitored though a callback:

Bootsnap.instrumentation = ->(event, path) { puts "#{event} #{path}" }

event is either :hit, :miss, :stale or :revalidated. You can also call Bootsnap.log! as a shortcut to log all events to STDERR.

To turn instrumentation back off you can set it to nil:

Bootsnap.instrumentation = nil

How does this work?

Bootsnap optimizes methods to cache results of expensive computations, and can be grouped into two broad categories:

  • Path Pre-Scanning
    • Kernel#require and Kernel#load are modified to eliminate $LOAD_PATH scans.
  • Compilation caching
    • RubyVM::InstructionSequence.load_iseq is implemented to cache the result of ruby bytecode compilation.
    • YAML.load_file is modified to cache the result of loading a YAML object in MessagePack format (or Marshal, if the message uses types unsupported by MessagePack).
    • JSON.load_file is modified to cache the result of loading a JSON object in MessagePack format

Path Pre-Scanning

(This work is a minor evolution of bootscale).

Upon initialization of bootsnap or modification of the path (e.g. $LOAD_PATH), Bootsnap::LoadPathCache will fetch a list of requirable entries from a cache, or, if necessary, perform a full scan and cache the result.

Later, when we run (e.g.) require 'foo', ruby would iterate through every item on our $LOAD_PATH ['x', 'y', ...], looking for x/foo.rb, y/foo.rb, and so on. Bootsnap instead looks at all the cached requirables for each $LOAD_PATH entry and substitutes the full expanded path of the match ruby would have eventually chosen.

If you look at the syscalls generated by this behaviour, the net effect is that what would previously look like this:

open  x/foo.rb # (fail)
# (imagine this with 500 $LOAD_PATH entries instead of two)
open  y/foo.rb # (success)
close y/foo.rb
open  y/foo.rb

becomes this:

open y/foo.rb

The following diagram flowcharts the overrides that make the *_path_cache features work.

Flowchart explaining Bootsnap

Bootsnap classifies path entries into two categories: stable and volatile. Volatile entries are scanned each time the application boots, and their caches are only valid for 30 seconds. Stable entries do not expire -- once their contents has been scanned, it is assumed to never change.

The only directories considered "stable" are things under the Ruby install prefix (RbConfig::CONFIG['prefix'], e.g. /usr/local/ruby or ~/.rubies/x.y.z), and things under the Gem.path (e.g. ~/.gem/ruby/x.y.z) or Bundler.bundle_path. Everything else is considered "volatile".

In addition to the Bootsnap::LoadPathCache::Cache source, this diagram may help clarify how entry resolution works:

How path searching works

It's also important to note how expensive LoadErrors can be. If ruby invokes require 'something', but that file isn't on $LOAD_PATH, it takes 2 * $LOAD_PATH.length filesystem accesses to determine that. Bootsnap caches this result too, raising a LoadError without touching the filesystem at all.

Compilation Caching

(A more readable implementation of this concept can be found in yomikomu).

Ruby has complex grammar and parsing it is not a particularly cheap operation. Since 1.9, Ruby has translated ruby source to an internal bytecode format, which is then executed by the Ruby VM. Since 2.3.0, Ruby exposes an API that allows caching that bytecode. This allows us to bypass the relatively-expensive compilation step on subsequent loads of the same file.

We also noticed that we spend a lot of time loading YAML and JSON documents during our application boot, and that MessagePack and Marshal are much faster at deserialization than YAML and JSON, even with a fast implementation. We use the same strategy of compilation caching for YAML and JSON documents, with the equivalent of Ruby's "bytecode" format being a MessagePack document (or, in the case of YAML documents with types unsupported by MessagePack, a Marshal stream).

These compilation results are stored in a cache directory, with filenames generated by taking a hash of the full expanded path of the input file (FNV1a-64).

Whereas before, the sequence of syscalls generated to require a file would look like:

open    /c/foo.rb -> m
fstat64 m
close   m
open    /c/foo.rb -> o
fstat64 o
fstat64 o
read    o
read    o
close   o

With bootsnap, we get:

open      /c/foo.rb -> n
fstat64   n
close     n
open      /c/foo.rb -> n
fstat64   n
open      (cache) -> m
read      m
read      m
close     m
close     n

This may look worse at a glance, but underlies a large performance difference.

(The first three syscalls in both listings -- open, fstat64, close -- are not inherently useful. This ruby patch optimizes them out when coupled with bootsnap.)

Bootsnap writes a cache file containing a 64 byte header followed by the cache contents. The header is a cache key including several fields:

  • version, hardcoded in bootsnap. Essentially a schema version;
  • ruby_platform, A hash of RUBY_PLATFORM (e.g. x86_64-linux-gnu) variable.
  • compile_option, which changes with RubyVM::InstructionSequence.compile_option does;
  • ruby_revision, A hash of RUBY_REVISION, the exact version of Ruby;
  • size, the size of the source file;
  • mtime, the last-modification timestamp of the source file when it was compiled; and
  • data_size, the number of bytes following the header, which we need to read it into a buffer.

If the key is valid, the result is loaded from the value. Otherwise, it is regenerated and clobbers the current cache.

Putting it all together

Imagine we have this file structure:

├── a
├── b
└── c
    └── foo.rb

And this $LOAD_PATH:

["/a", "/b", "/c"]

When we call require 'foo' without bootsnap, Ruby would generate this sequence of syscalls:

open    /a/foo.rb -> -1
open    /b/foo.rb -> -1
open    /c/foo.rb -> n
close   n
open    /c/foo.rb -> m
fstat64 m
close   m
open    /c/foo.rb -> o
fstat64 o
fstat64 o
read    o
read    o
close   o

With bootsnap, we get:

open      /c/foo.rb -> n
fstat64   n
close     n
open      /c/foo.rb -> n
fstat64   n
open      (cache) -> m
read      m
read      m
close     m
close     n

If we call require 'nope' without bootsnap, we get:

open    /a/nope.rb -> -1
open    /b/nope.rb -> -1
open    /c/nope.rb -> -1
open    /a/nope.bundle -> -1
open    /b/nope.bundle -> -1
open    /c/nope.bundle -> -1

...and if we call require 'nope' with bootsnap, we get...

# (nothing!)


In development environments the bootsnap compilation cache is generated on the fly when source files are loaded. But in production environments, such as docker images, you might need to precompile the cache.

To do so you can use the bootsnap precompile command.


$ bundle exec bootsnap precompile --gemfile app/ lib/

When not to use Bootsnap

Alternative engines: Bootsnap is pretty reliant on MRI features, and parts are disabled entirely on alternative ruby engines.

Non-local filesystems: Bootsnap depends on tmp/cache (or whatever you set its cache directory to) being on a relatively fast filesystem. If you put it on a network mount, bootsnap is very likely to slow your application down quite a lot.