Celery without a Results Backend

Published on Wednesday, July 17, 2019
Tags: celery

The Celery send_task method allows you to invoke a task by name without importing it. [1] There is an undocumented [2] caveat to using send_task: it doesn’t have access to the configuration of the task (from when the task was created using the @task decorator).

Much of this configuration doesn’t matter to the caller, for example the caller doesn’t care about:

  • Whether the task is bound or not.
  • The retry configuration of tasks.

There is also configuration from the caller that must be right for the task to execute as you’d expect:

  • The number of arguments and the keywords for any keyword arguments.
  • The serializer or compressor must match what the worker can handle.
  • If a non-default results backend is to be used.

Another piece of configuration that matters (which surprised me and had a performance impact for us [3]) is whether to ignore a task result or not. Unexpectedly, Celery will attempt to connect to the results backend on task call. I assumed that the results backend would never be contacted since we never attempted to retrieve a result! This turned out to be untrue.

Once identified, The fix was straightforward! We ensured that every task which had ignore_result=True on task declaration also had ignore_result=True on task call (when using send_task). [4] This duplication is unfortunate, but easy enough.

We figured this out due to a calling process which doesn’t use any results, but the celery.backends module was appearing in the pyflame profiles. Another solution (for this particular setup) was to use the (undocumented) disabled results backend.

[1]There are a variety of reasons you might want to do this, but I’ve used it when tasks that use Django models but the calling process does not have Django configured.
[2]I couldn’t find any documentation about it at least. Maybe this is meant to be obvious, but it didn’t click for me without deep understanding of how Celery works.
[3]The performance impact we were seeing was due to the TCP negotiation and login to the results backend. This got especially bad if the results backend was under load or down.
[4]Note that it is a best practice to ignore results on tasks where you don’t need the result!