PHP RFC: CachedIterable (rewindable, allows any key&repeating keys)


Currently, PHP does not provide a built-in way to store the state of an arbitrary iterable for reuse later (when the iterable has arbitrary keys, or when keys might be repeated). It would be useful to do so for many use cases, such as:

  1. Creating a rewindable copy of a non-rewindable Traversable (e.g. a Generator) before passing that copy to a function that consumes an iterable/Traversable. (new CachedIterator(my_generator()))
  2. Generating an IteratorAggregate from a class still implementing Iterator (e.g. SplObjectStorage) so that code can independently iterate over the key-value sequences.
    (e.g. foreach ($cachingIterable as $k1 => $v1) { foreach ($cachingIterable as $k2 => $v2) { /* process pairs */ } })
  3. Providing internal or userland helpers such as iterable_flip(iterable $input), iterable_take(iterable $input, int $limit), iterable_chunk(iterable $input, int $chunk_size) that act on iterables with arbitrary key/value sequences and have return values including iterables with arbitrary key/value sequences
  4. Providing constant time access to both keys and values of arbitrary key-value sequences at any offset (for binary searching on keys and/or values, etc.)

Having this implemented as an internal class would also allow it to be much more efficient than a userland solution (in terms of time to create, time to iterate over the result, and total memory usage).


Add a class CachedIterable that contains an immutable copy of the keys and values of the iterable it was constructed from. (references inside of arrays within those keys/values will remain modifiable references, and objects within those keys/values will remain mutable)

final class CachedIterable implements IteratorAggregate, Countable, JsonSerializable
    public function __construct(iterable $iterator) {}
    public function getIterator(): InternalIterator {}
    public function count(): int {}
    // [[$key1, $value1], [$key2, $value2]]
    public static function fromPairs(array $pairs): CachedIterable {}
    // [[$key1, $value1], [$key2, $value2]]
    public function toPairs(): array{} 
    public function __serialize(): array {}  // [$k1, $v1, $k2, $v2,...]
    public function __unserialize(array $data): void {}
    // useful for converting iterables back to arrays for further processing
    public function keys(): array {}  // [$k1, $k2, ...]
    public function values(): array {}  // [$v1, $v2, ...]
    // useful to efficiently get offsets at the middle/end of a long iterable
    public function keyAt(int $offset): mixed {}
    public function valueAt(int $offset): mixed {}
    // '[["key1","value1"],["key2","value2"]]' instead of '{...}'
    public function jsonSerialize(): array {}
    // dynamic properties are forbidden

CachedIterables are IteratorAggregates, so foreach loops do not interfere with each other.

$x = new CachedIterable([0 => 100, 'key' => 'value']);
foreach ($x as $key1 => $value1) {
    echo "$key1 $value1:\n";
    foreach ($x as $key2 => $value2) {
        echo "- $key2 $value2\n";
0 100:
- 0 100
- key value
key value:
- 0 100
- key value

CachedIterables can be used to cache and efficiently process results of Traversables

CachedIterables can be created from any iterable (arrays or Traversables). They eagerly evaluate the results of Traversables (e.g. Generators) and store an exact copy of the keys and values that can be processed in many ways.

function my_generator() {
    yield from ['first array'];
    yield from ['repeated key is allowed'];
    yield '0' => 'string key is preserved';
    yield ['an array'] => null;  // any type can be used as keys
    echo "Finished iterating over the generator\n";
$x = new CachedIterable(my_generator());
foreach ($x as $k => $v) {
    printf("%s: %s\n", json_encode($k), json_encode($v));
Finished iterating over the generator
0: 'first array'
0: 'repeated key is allowed'
'0': 'string key is preserved'
["an array"]: null
printf("Keys: %s\n", json_encode($x->keys()));
printf("Values: %s\n", json_encode($x->values()));
Keys: [0,0,"0",["an array"]]
Values: ["first array","repeated key is allowed","string key is preserved",null]
printf("Last key: %s\n", json_encode($x->keyAt(count($x) - 1)));
// Last key: ["an array"]

CachedIterables are immutable

CachedIterable is a final class.

Dynamic properties are forbidden on CachedIterables.

The keys and values of the CachedIterable cannot be modified or appended to after an instance is constructed, though objects and references within those values can be modified.

CachedIterables can be created from pairs

This can be done imperatively, to avoid the need to manually create a generator with the sequence of keys and values to pass to the constructor. The values of an iterable (array or Traversable) can be used.

$it = CachedIterable::fromPairs([['first', 'x'], [(object)['key' => 'value'], null]]);
foreach ($it as $key => $value) {
    printf("key=%s value=%s\n", json_encode($key), json_encode($value));
key="first" value="x"
key={"key":"value"} value=null
object(CachedIterable)#2 (1) {
  array(2) {
    string(5) "first"
    string(1) "x"
php > echo json_encode((array)$it), "\n";

CachedIterables can also be converted back into pairs for further processing (e.g. using the wide array of helper methods php has for processing arrays):

php > $reversedIt = CachedIterable::fromPairs(array_reverse($it->toPairs()));
php > echo json_encode($reversedIt->toPairs());


CachedIterables are memory-efficient

Similarly to how SplFixedArray is a memory-efficient way to store a list of values, CachedIterable is a memory-efficient way to store a sequence of arbitrary keys and values.

function show_array_memory(int $n) {
    $before = memory_get_usage();
    $result = array_flip(range(10, 10 + $n - 1));  // create an **associative** array of size $n
    $after = memory_get_usage();
    printf("array memory:          (n=%5d) %7d bytes\n", count($result), $after - $before);
function show_cachediterable_memory(int $n) {
    $before = memory_get_usage();
    // create a CachedIterable from an **associative** array of size $n
    $result = new CachedIterable(array_flip(range(10, 10 + $n - 1)));
    $after = memory_get_usage();
    printf("CachedIterable memory: (n=%5d) %7d bytes\n", count($result), $after - $before);
foreach ([1, 8, 12, 16, 2**16] as $n) {
array memory:          (n=    1)     376 bytes
CachedIterable memory: (n=    1)      88 bytes
array memory:          (n=    8)     376 bytes
CachedIterable memory: (n=    8)     312 bytes
array memory:          (n=   12)    1336 bytes
CachedIterable memory: (n=   12)     440 bytes
array memory:          (n=   16)    1336 bytes
CachedIterable memory: (n=   16)     568 bytes
array memory:          (n=65536) 4198480 bytes
CachedIterable memory: (n=65536) 2097232 bytes

CachedIterables are much more efficient than a polyfill object

For a simple example, this uses much less time to construct. It is almost 6 times faster to iterate over and process results than a polyfill in that example, and uses half as much additional memory.

Time to construct PolyfillIterator: 0.087226, Time to iterate: 0.183351, memory usage: 67117328
Time to construct   CachedIterable: 0.051358, Time to iterate: 0.021905, memory usage: 32002128
// Not an IteratorAggregate for simplicity
class PolyfillIterator implements Iterator {
    public $i = 0;
    public $count = 0;
    public $keys;
    public $values;
    public function __construct(iterable $data) {
        $keys = [];
        $values = [];
        foreach ($data as $key => $value) {
            $keys[] = $key;
            $values[] = $value;
        $this->keys = $keys;
        $this->values = $values;
        $this->count = count($keys);
    public function rewind() { $this->i = 0; }
    public function valid(): bool { return $this->i < $this->count; }
    public function key() { return $this->keys[$this->i]; }
    public function current() { return $this->values[$this->i]; }
    public function next(): void { $this->i++; }
function a_generator() {
    for ($i = 0; $i < 1000; $i++) {
        for ($j = 0; $j < 1000; $j++) {
            yield $j => $i;
function benchmark(string $class) {
    $memory_usage_1 = memory_get_usage();
    $t1 = microtime(true);
    $it = new $class(a_generator());
    $t2 = microtime(true);
    $total = 0;
    foreach ($it as $k => $v) {
        $total += $k + $v;
    $t3 = microtime(true);
    $memory_usage_2 = memory_get_usage();
    printf("Time to construct %16s: %.6f, Time to iterate: %.6f, memory usage: %d\nresult:%d\n",
        $class, $t2 - $t1, $t3 - $t2, $memory_usage_2 - $memory_usage_1, $total);

CachedIterables support constant-time access to keys and values

CachedIterables support constant-time access to keys and values, allowing the result to be used in a wide variety of ways in an applicat. For example, it is possible to do binary search on keys (and/or values) without using any additional time or memory to create a copy of the keys. (Same for values).

 * @return int the offset of the first key in $it that is >= $target.
 * Returns count($it) if all keys are smaller than $target.
function do_binary_search_on_key(CachedIterable $it, int $target) {
    $lowOffset = 0;
    $highOffset = count($it) - 1;
    while ($lowOffset <= $highOffset) {
        $mid = $lowOffset + (($highOffset - $lowOffset) >> 1);
        $key = $it->keyAt($mid);
        if ($key < $target) {
            echo "at offset $mid: $key <= $target\n";
            $lowOffset = $mid + 1;
        } else {
            echo "at offset $mid: $key > $target\n";
            $highOffset = $mid - 1;
    echo "offset $lowOffset has the first key ({$it->keyAt($lowOffset)}) >= $target : associated value={$it->valueAt($lowOffset)}\n";
    return $lowOffset;
$data = [];
$N = 1000;
for ($i = 0; $i < $N; $i++) {
    $data[mt_rand()] = "value$i";
$it = new CachedIterable($data);
do_binary_search_on_key($it, mt_rand());
at offset 499: 1039143806 > 457052171
at offset 249: 595271545 > 457052171
at offset 124: 262516026 <= 457052171
at offset 186: 438739745 <= 457052171
at offset 217: 511637778 > 457052171
at offset 201: 468958912 > 457052171
at offset 193: 442664110 <= 457052171
at offset 197: 455906707 <= 457052171
at offset 199: 462794419 > 457052171
at offset 198: 459587085 > 457052171
offset 198 has the first key (459587085) >= 457052171 : associated value=value530

Backward Incompatible Changes

None, except that the class name CachingIterable will be declared by PHP and conflict with applications declaring the same class name in that namespace.

Proposed PHP Version(s)


Future Scope

  • This will enable adding internal iterable functions such as PHP\iterable\take(iterable $input, int $limit): CachingIterator or PHP\iterable\flip(iterable $input): CachingIterator
  • More methods may be useful to add to CachingIterable, e.g. for returning a sorted copy, returning a slice(range of entries), returning a copy sorted by keys/values, quickly returning the index/corresponding value of the first occurrence of mixed $key etc.
  • This may or may not be useful for future data types, e.g. a MapObject (hash map on any key type) type and may potentially be useful for converting some existing internal/user-defined Iterable types to IteratorAggregate types.

Proposed Voting Choices

Yes/No, requiring a 2/3 majority.


Rejected Features

Rejected: ArrayAccess

From https://github.com/php/php-src/pull/6655#issuecomment-770444285

I think ArrayAccess would lead to more bugs in application code for those expecting $cachedIt[$i] to find the value corresponding to the first key occurrence of $i - adding keyAt(int $offset): mixed, valueAt(int $offset): mixed, keyIndex(mixed $key): int, valueIndex(mixed $value): int would be my preference for fetching values.


  • 0.2: Use optimized build with opcache enabled for benchmark timings
rfc/cachediterable.txt · Last modified: 2021/02/11 04:16 by tandre