If there's something we developers are really bad at, it's guessing. We think we know which parts of our application are slow, and spend a lot of time optimising those, but in reality the bottlenecks are often somewhere else. The only sane thing to do is measuring, with the help of some profiling tools.
There are a few profilers available for PHP, the most commonly used being Xdebug, which combined with KCacheGrind/WinCacheGrind/MacCallGrind can show the function call graph and the time spent in each function.
In this article, we're going to try another profiler, XHProf, developed at Facebook and open sourced in March 2009 (under the Apache 2.0 license). XHProf is a function-level hierarchical profiler, with a PHP extension (written in C) to collect the raw data, and a few PHP scripts for the reporting/UI layer.