Profiling django views for SQL queries

01 Feb 2016

We at HackerEarth regularly conduct 24-hours internal hackathons usually once a month to boost ourselves to get familiar with new technologies and to come up with great ideas and hacks to increase our productivity. A hackathon project can be anything from creating a new product to creating some tools which helps our own devlopment. In the hakathon in Dec 2015, I came up with the idea to create a profiler which could tell which code inside django views causes SQL queries so that we can optimize them easily.

Initial thoughts

There are already many good django packages to profile views for SQL queries. One of them is django-toolbar which we already use. Django-toolbar is great but it shows all raw SQL queries which are happening inside a view and you have to analyze each query, see the whole traceback and figure out which line of code inside the view is triggering the query. This way, you can only figure out the line number of the code in a file, not the exact function or expression or attribute access which is causing the query. What I wanted was that a profiler should tell about the exact expressions which trigger the SQL queries.

There were some solutions which came up in my mind to get it done like using tracebacks or by manipulating AST of the python function. Praveen had just told me about the python’s ast module which can parse and modify code during runtime and I was fascinated about using it in future. I chose to use AST manipulation to implement the profiler and the trick here is to patch every function call, attribute access and other constructs. Here is what I thought:

Suppose there is a function f which internally calls get_user triggering a SQL query

def f(request):
    user = get_user(request)

and decorating the function f with profile decorator will manipulate its AST code. It will find all locations of function calls inside function body and will encapsulate it in our special function call_handler. So the function f’s definition will become

def f(request):
    user = call_handler(get_user, request)

call_handler will call the passed function with given arguments. Before calling it will start tracking for the SQL queries. And after the function has been called it will collect the sql_queries and will store it with the function so that we can see later if during call any SQL query was made. Moreover, to attain the functionality of collecting queries I will have to patch the django code which makes SQL queries (I will talk about it later). It’s definition would be something like

def call_handler(func, *args, **kwargs):
    result = func(*args, **kwargs)
    sql_queries = sql_counter.collect_queries()
    store_queries(func, sql_queries)
    return result

And then we’ll be able to see what calls inside function made SQL queries.


How to manipulate AST?

The python docs of ast doesn’t give much information on usage of it. Then I found Green Tree Snakes. Also I found an example to convert python code to javascript in a stackoverflow’s answer using ast transformation. I found them pretty helpful.

There were following improvements in initial ideas while implementing:

  • There are many cases other than function calling where python code gets executed e.g. on attribute access, automatic coercion to bool in if/else if statements and automatic coercion to iter in for statement. So I’d to cover them up too.

  • The call_handler was making whole function body unhygienic because any other usage of name call_handler will clash with it. So I thought to make a namespace with very unique name that nobody will define in any other place. Here, I came up with word goofy and replaced decorator profile with goofy.profile() and replaced call_handler with goofy.call_handler. And the only thing that I’ll have to import is goofy.

  • In goofy.call_handler I need to pass other information like lineno, colno too along with the calling function.

Here is the code which transforms the AST

import ast

class Transformer(ast.NodeTransformer):
    def __init__(self, lineno):
        """ lineno is the actual position of function code in source file
        self._lineno = lineno
        self._dec_lineno = 1

    def visit_FunctionDef(self, func):
        """ Remove decorators so that the decorators doesn't get applied more.
        for dec in func.decorator_list:
            if (isinstance(dec, ast.Call) and isinstance(dec.func,
                    ast.Attribute) and isinstance(dec.func.value,
                    ast.Name) and == 'goofy' and
                    dec.func.attr == 'profile'):
                self._dec_lineno = dec.lineno
        func.decorator_list = []
        func_ast = self.generic_visit(func)
        return func_ast

    def visit_Call(self, call):
        """ Change the function calling syntax
        func(*args, **kwargs) will be transformed to
        goofy.call_handler(func, line_no, col_no, *args, **kwargs)
        call_ast = self.generic_visit(call)
        call_ast.args.insert(0, call_ast.func)
        call_ast.func = ast.Attribute(
                value=ast.Name(id='goofy', ctx=ast.Load()),
                attr='call_handler', ctx=ast.Load())
        call_lineno = self._lineno - self._dec_lineno + call_ast.lineno
        call_colno = call_ast.col_offset + 1
        call_ast.args.insert(1, ast.Num(call_lineno))
        call_ast.args.insert(2, ast.Num(call_colno))
        return call_ast

There are many variants of statements and expressions in python, details of which you can find in ast docs’s Abstract grammar section. So any type of node that has to be changed while transforming the AST, a corresponding method of visit_<NodeClass> in Transformer class has to be written. (like visit_FunctionDef and visit_Call methods in above code). In actual code, I’d to implement visit_Assign, visit_Attribute, visit_If, visit_BoolOp and visit_For etc. too.

And here’s the code for goofy class.

def goofy_profiler(f):
    frame, filename, line_number, _, lines, _ = inspect.stack()[1]
    if lines[0].startswith('def'):
        line_number -= 1
    source = inspect.getsource(f)
    decorator_lineno = source.count('\n', 0, source.index('@goofy.profile')+1) + 1
    tree = ast.parse(source)

    transformer = Transformer(line_number)
    transformed_tree = transformer.visit(tree)

    ast.increment_lineno(transformed_tree, line_number - decorator_lineno)

    module_globals = inspect.getmodule(f).__dict__
    exec(compile(transformed_tree, filename=filename, mode="exec"), module_globals)
    func = eval(f.__name__, module_globals)
    func = deco(func)
    return func

def deco(func):
    def wrapper(*args, **kwargs):
        start_time =
        result = func(*args, **kwargs)
        timedelta = - start_time
        print 'Function: {}.{}'.format(
                func.__module__, func.func_name)
        print 'Total processing time: {} ms'.format(
        return result
    return wrapper

class goofy(object):
    def profile():
        return goofy_profiler

    def call_handler(func, lineno, colno,  *args, **kwargs):
        sargs = (" {}(..)".format(func.__name__), lineno, colno)
        result = func(*args, **kwargs)
        return result

Also I’d to patch the execute_sql method of SQLCompiler to collect sql queries.

from django.db.models.sql.compiler import SQLCompiler
from django.db.models.sql.datastructures import EmptyResultSet
from django.db.models.sql.constants import MULTI

def execute_sql(self, *args, **kwargs):
        q, params = self.as_sql()
        if not q:
            raise EmptyResultSet
    except EmptyResultSet:
        if kwargs.get('result_type', MULTI) == MULTI:
            return iter([])
    start =
        return self.__execute_sql(*args, **kwargs)
        d = ( - start)
            'query' : q, 'type' : 'sql',
            'time' : 0.0 + d.seconds * 1000.0 + d.microseconds/1000.0

SQLCompiler.__execute_sql = SQLCompiler.execute_sql
SQLCompiler.execute_sql = execute_sql

And here is the code of SQLCounter which collects SQL queries and also the information of what SQL queries got executed at different position inside a function.

class SQLCounter(object):
    def clear_data(cls):
        cls.current_code = ''
        cls.check = False = defaultdict(list)
        cls.hit_count = defaultdict(int)

    def before(cls, activity, lineno, colno):
        cls.check = True
        cls.current_code = ("line no {:<4}: {}".format(lineno, activity),
        cls.hit_count[cls.current_code] += 1

    def after(cls, activity, lineno, colno):
        cls.check = False

    def insert(cls, data):[cls.current_code].append(data)

    def current_func(cls, func):
        cls.func = func

    def show_data(cls):
        if not
        data = sorted(,key=lambda a: a[0][1])
        table = []
        headers = ['Location', 'Hit', 'Queries', 'Time (ms)', 'Avg Time (ms)']
        total_tm = 0.0
        total_qs = 0
        for current_code, qdata in data:
            activity, _ = current_code
            qs = len(qdata)
            total_qs += qs
            tm = sum(k['time'] for k in qdata)
            total_tm += tm
            avg_tm = tm / qs
            hit = cls.hit_count[current_code]
            table.append([activity, hit, qs, tm, avg_tm])
        print "Total SQL queries: {},  Total time: {} ms".format(
                total_qs, total_tm)
        tabular_table = tabulate(table, headers, tablefmt="simple")
        print tabular_table


There is a view get_bot_submission_response in our codebase and we applied goofy.profile() decorator on it to profile it.

from goofy import goofy

def get_bot_submission_response(request, game):

When the view gets called it prints following output to console.

Function: problems.views.get_bot_submission_response
Total processing time: 201.499 ms
Total SQL queries: 8,  Total time: 9.856 ms
Location                                        Hit    Queries    Time (ms)    Avg Time (ms)
--------------------------------------------  -----  ---------  -----------  ---------------
line no 100 : .user                               1          1        0.97            0.97
line no 100 : .player1                            1          1        1.38            1.38
line no 112 : .problem                            1          1        1.52            1.52
line no 119 :  player_2_name(..)                  1          2        2.193           1.0965
line no 138 :  get_game_data(..)                  1          2        2.244           1.122
line no 163 :  render_to_string(..)               1          1        1.549           1.549

All the .<attribute> tells the location of attribute access which triggered SQL queries. .user, .player1, .problem are attribute access and player_2_name(..), get_game_data(..), render_to_string(..) are function calls. I’ve used the tabulate package to pretty print the table.

What’s next

Not only SQL but any type of queries can be profiled in this model. We also added the feature to profile memcached queries in goofy profiler. Lots of more improvements can be done upon it. We’ll soon clean the goofy profiler’s code and open source it on github. Stay tuned!

Posted by Shubham Jain. You can follow me on twitter @shhaumb

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