Getting Started with Gearman

This document is meant to provide enough information to get a basic Gearman installation up and running with a simple application. This document assumes a high-level understanding of the role of the job server, clients, and workers. If not, please refer to the home page overview. For more detailed documentation on Gearman components and features, please refer to the manual.

Job Server

Gearman currently has three job server implementations, but this document will focus on the Gearman C Job Server since this is where the most active development is currently. See the download page for other options. There are currently four ways to installed the Gearman C Job Server.



Run yum install gearmand (older packages might be called gearmand-server)

Debain/Ubuntu Package

If you are running Debian/sid, run apt-get install gearman-job-server. This package may be slightly out of date due to the time it takes to propagate to the repositories.


Install Gearman on Windows

Compile and install from tarball

This is the best way to get the latest stable features. First, download the latest tarball from the download page or Launchpad. Once downloaded, run:

tar xzf gearmand-X.Y.tar.gz
cd gearmand-X.Y
make install

Compile and install from source repository

The Bazaar version control system is required to check out the latest stable development source. To download and install, run:

bzr branch lp:gearmand
cd gearmand
make install


Once the job server has been installed, it can be started by running:

$ gearmand -d

The -d option causes the server to detach from the shell and run in the background. If you would like to run the server in a debugging mode, you can use one or more -v flags:

$ gearmand -vvv
 INFO Starting up
 INFO Listening on :::4730 (6)
 INFO Creating wakeup pipe
 INFO Creating IO thread wakeup pipe
 INFO Adding event for listening socket (6)
 INFO Adding event for wakeup pipe
 INFO Entering main event loop

Client and Worker API

With the job server installed and running, the next step is to choose a client and worker API. There are a number of options listed on the download page, but this document will focus on the command line utility and the PHP extension.

Gearman Command Line Tool

This tool is installed as part of the Gearman C Server and Library package. It provides both a client and worker interface, with multiple options for each. Run gearman -H for all available options.


The -W flag tells the gearman tool to run in worker mode. After all options, a command can be specified to run for each job. For example:

$ gearman -w -f wc -- wc -l

This will start a worker, connect to the job server on localhost (the default), and register the function wc (the argument to the -f option). For each job that comes in, the gearman tool will fork a process to run the wc -l command. The gearman tool will write the workload of the job to the processes standard input, and then read the response from standard output. The gearman tool will wait and accept jobs indefinitely, so press CTRL-C or kill the process to stop.


Without the -w worker flag, the gearman tool will run as a client. By default it submits a foreground job and waits for the response. You can also start background jobs by specifying the -b flag. The workload for the job can be given after all options, or piped into the process like other shell utilities. For example:

$ gearman -f wc < /etc/passwd

This will submit a foreground job to the Gearman job server running on localhost for the function wc. The workload for this job will be the entire contents of the file /etc/passwd. The worker started above will process this request and send the result 26 back. This is equivalent to running:

$ wc -l < /etc/passwd

Through Gearman, the job server, client, and worker can all be running on separate machines. This command line tool can be very useful for quick prototyping, writing distributed machine management tools, and pushing expensive shell script processing out to other machines (like log analysis).

Gearman PHP Extension

The Gearman PHP extension wraps the C library installed with the Gearman C Job Server package. This provides a client and worker interface in PHP that looks much like the C interface. The PHP extension also extends the procedural interface to provide a native object oriented interface as well. This allows you to use either programming paradigm with the extension. This document will use the object oriented interface.


The Gearman PHP extension is hosted on PECL like most other extensions. Building PHP extensions assumes the PHP development package is installed (php5-dev on Ubuntu and Debian). The PHP command line interface package should also be installed for development and workers (php5-cli on Ubuntu and Debian). The tarball should be downloaded from PECL, and then to build and install run:

tar xzf gearman-X.Y.tgz
cd gearman-X.Y
make install

The following line will need to be added to all php.ini files, usually located in /etc/php.


The module should now be usable by all PHP interfaces. To test using the PHP command line interface, create gearman_version.php with the following contents:

print gearman_version() . "\n";

This can then be run on the command line:

$ php gearman_version.php

If any errors are reported, the extension installation was not successful.


The following worker code will take a string as its input and return the reverse of that string as its output.

$worker= new GearmanWorker();
$worker->addFunction("reverse", "my_reverse_function");
while ($worker->work());

function my_reverse_function($job)
  return strrev($job->workload());

This code creates a worker object, adds the default server (localhost), registers the function reverse with the callback function my_reverse_function, and then enters a loop waiting for jobs. Each time a job is received, the callback function is run, which then simply reverses and returns the string passed in as the workload. If this has been added to the file worker.php, it can be started with:

$ php worker.php

This will wait for jobs until CTRL-C is pressed or it is killed.


The PHP client interface is similar to the worker. The following code will send a string to the job server and print the return value.

$client= new GearmanClient();
print $client->do("reverse", "Hello World!");

This code creates a client object, adds the default server (localhost), and sends a foreground job to the job server for the function reverse with workload Hello World!. The result of that job is printed. If this has been added to the file client.php, it can be run with:

$ php client.php
!dlroW olleH

Image Resize Application

This section will combine the components explained above to demonstrate a simple Gearman application. One of the original purposes of Gearman was to push expensive image processing off to another set of machines, this example will do the same. This example uses the ImageMagick module for PHP (php5-imagick package on Ubuntu or Debian).

Resize Worker

The following code implements a worker that takes the entire image blob as the workload, resizes the image, and returns the resized image blob. This may not be the most efficient implementation for a resize application since the original image is most likely being stored in a shared file system. It may make more sense to pass a pathname or URL to the image to be resized and write the resized image back to that filesystem rather than pushing the large objects through Gearman. In order to keep this demonstration simple, the image blobs are being exchanged as the workload and result.

$worker= new GearmanWorker();
$worker->addFunction("resize", "my_resize_function");
while ($worker->work());

function my_resize_function($job)
  $thumb = new Imagick();

  if ($thumb->getImageHeight() > 600)
    $thumb->scaleImage(0, 600);
  else if ($thumb->getImageWidth() > 800)
    $thumb->scaleImage(800, 0);

  return $thumb->getImageBlob();

This worker application code looks much like the reverse code above, except the resize callback function performs the image resize. Please refer to the PHP ImageMagick documentation for details on the PHP interface. The key thing to take away from this example is the importing of the workload into an image (readImageBlob), and exporting of the converted image (getImageBlob) and returning that in the function. As mentioned above, it may be more efficient to import and export images files and pass around pathnames or URLs in environments with shared or global filesystems.

Resize Client

The simplest way to test this worker is by using the command line utility. Assuming the resize worker code above is running, the following command sends a full size image as the workload and writes the output of that job to the thumbnail image. File I/O redirection in the shell for both input and output.

$ gearman -f resize < full.jpg > thumb.jpg
$ ls -l full.jpg thumb.jpg
-rw-r--r-- 1 eday eday 3220493 2009-06-24 12:14 full.jpg
-rw-r--r-- 1 eday eday  328421 2009-06-24 12:21 thumb.jpg


For further applications and examples, please see the examples. The mailing list and IRC channel can act as a sounding board for what applications may be suitable for Gearman. New ideas, use cases, and examples are always welcome!