Web Programming TutorialsIntroduction To Installing Blackfire With Examples

Introduction To Installing Blackfire With Examples

Performance is now as important as features in an application. Most of the users will leave your app or website if it is slower than three seconds. This makes optimization more critical than it is anytime. Also, real-time applications need performance otherwise they will not be able to do their job.

Meet BlackFire, a PHP performance profiler. It is a performance management solution that helps PHP developer to take care of the performance throughout the application’s lifecycle. This means that the developers can make sure that the performance of the app is not left out to test and improve until the app is entirely built from scratch.

Until now, you will find a lot of profiling solution that automates the performance of an application. But none of them are user-friendly. Blackfire solves the problem by providing a modern profiling alternative with a good user interface.

In today’s article, we will introduce BlackFire and see what it has to offer regarding features and functionality. Let’s get started.

Installing BlackFire

Installing Blackfire is easy and intuitive. It only takes 5 minutes to do so. It can be done by following this comprehensive guide on the blackfire.io docs.

Installing BlackFire

To make it work, you need to get server credentials. To do so, you need to create a new profile and then login using it. Once done, the section where it is asking you to sign up will show up the “Server ID” and “Server token.”

Once you are done, you are set to use it for your application.

How does BlackFire help?

As a developer, you might be thinking how Blackfire helps you in improving the app performance? It does through assertions.

An assertion is a statement/expression that returns either true or false. It is used to replicate behavior and ensure that the output is as intended. Also, assertions are only made of variables, operators, units and metric values. Let’s see an example below to get a proper understanding.

"main.peak_memory < 5mb"
"metrics.sql.queries.count == 0"
"main.peak_memory < vars.max_memory"

The above code will check if variable memory usage goes above the peak memory.

How does it work?

To get a better understanding, let’s see how it uses profiling techniques and help you automate tasking methods. It starts with resource consumption data when your code is executed. It runs in the background and uses two profiling views to render data.

1. Timeline: A timeline is used to showcase individual function calls. It helps to get a better understanding of the whole call stack and also let you inspect parent calls.
2. Call-graph: Call-graph, on the other hand, shows the caller/callee relation. It also shows the execution path. It also helps you to identify different resource consumption such as memory, network, HTTP and others.

To create profiles, you can either write assertions in your code and let Blackfire automate the whole profiling task.

Automating the profiling is done through the use of Blackfire’s runtime instrumentation. It runs without any code modification and can also be deployed in production without any overhead or performance loss. Overall, automation can really help you gain a different perspective to your app performance and also let you know how you can optimize it further.

Blackfire Features

Now, that we have a basic understanding of Blackfire and how it works. Let’s list the features offered by it below.

1. Performance Testing

Performance testing is one of the key features of Blackfire as you might already know. It enables you to test your app thoroughly and ensure that it does it meeting your business logic. To do performance testing, it uses the following elements or methods.

Assertions are used by developers to check performance on their code. It is similar to writing tests. It also provides built-in metrics which can then be used in creating assertions. Furthermore, you can also use custom metrics can also be used for analyzing and optimizing proprietary code.

Blackfire supports collaboration through collaborative workspaces, and testing and profiling shared resources. Environments can be configured according to your requirements. Last, but not the least, it offers both on-premise and as Software as a Service.

2. Performance Profiling

Profiling can be done using Blackfire. As we already discussed, it uses two ways of profiling. You can view and interact with both timeline and call graphs, and understand how to remove bottlenecks and improve performance. Performance profiling saves your time and money by listing all the resources including CPU, memory, I/O wait, and much more.

It is also production ready which means that you can load performance profiling on in production. To make it easy for you to monitor and use profiling, it also comes with HTTP and CLI. You can also use the chrome extension to trigger profiles.

3. Performance Management Automation

You can completely automate performance management by loading different builds on your app. Once automated, it will notify you when a build report is ready to be reviewed. Furthermore, it also provides tests reports that can help you develop PHP SDK. Native integrations with 3rd party services are also provided so that you can make use of powerful apps and services without losing the features that Blackfire has to offer.

It also provides API so that you can code the automation management to your custom apps and services if needed.

4. Performance Recommendation

Blackfire provides performance recommendation. It is build based on PHP and has complete knowledge of how PHP works and interacts. That’s why it recommends you performance changes by keeping the best practices in mind. It works with all the PHP frameworks as well.

If you are confused, you can also take advantage of the documentation which is pretty comprehensive and can help you if you are stuck.


Blackfire is one of the best modern PHP performance management solution out there. It provides you end-to-end solution with a user-friendly experience. So, what do you think about Blackfire? Comment below and let us know.


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