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Twisted Trial performance improvements 2007-08-21

Trial, Twisted’s xUnit(-esque) testing package (library, discovery tool, runner, etc), has long inherited its overall testing flow from the Python standard library unittest module. It’s quite simple, actually: iterate over a sequence of test cases and invoke each one with the result object. Lately, this has actually led to some noticeable problems with its performance. Creating a test case instance for each test method isn’t extremely unreasonable, but in the process of running them all, more and more objects are created and the process balloons to an unreasonable size. The Twisted test suite typically uses about 800MB of RAM by the time the last test method is run.

So, in order to be able to run the Twisted tests on machines without 800MB of free memory, we changed our TestSuite so that it drops each test after it runs it. The suite now takes about one quarter as much memory to run. As an unexpected bonus, it also runs almost 50% faster (66% for trial –force-gc which calls gc.collect in between each test method). I can only explain the speedup as time saved inside the garbage collector itself due there being far fewer objects to examine (this is not a completely satisfying explanation, but I cannot think of a better one).

If you’re using trial to run your test suite, you may notice reduced memory requirements and reduced overall runtime, too. :)