Ubuntu: nginx+php-cgi on a socket

Friday, July 31. 2009
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Moving our PHP application into the cloud, means for us that we are leaving FreeBSD for Linux. Not the best move (IMHO), but I shall elaborate on this in a future blog post.

Once we decided on Ubuntu as the Linux of our choice, I started by moving our development server to an instance on Slicehost. Point taken, Slicehost is not the cloud (as in Amazon EC2, Rackspace, Flexiscale or GoGrid) yet, but Linux on Slicehost and Linux on Amazon EC2 will be alike (or so I hope :-)) and a getting a small slice versus getting a small EC2 instance is an economical decision in the end.

Introduction

The following is the start script for my php-cgi processes, which I ported from FreeBSD (I previously blogged about it here).

The advantages of this script are:

  1. php-cgi runs on a unix domain socket — no need for tcp/ip on localhost.
  2. No need for the infamous spawn-fcgi script, which never worked for me anyway, and on Ubuntu requires you to install lighttpd (if you don't happen to be on Karmic Koala).
  3. You can setup different websites with different instances of php-cgi. This is great for virtual hosting, especially on a development server where the different workspaces may have different PHP settings and you want to run versions in parallel without sharing settings and therefore maybe affecting each other.
  4. Icing on the cake: we could even add a custom php.ini to the start call for each instance (-c option) to customize it even further.

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Nginx+PHP+FastCGI: Testing your web application with bleeding edge PHP

Sunday, July 5. 2009
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So, every once in a while I find myself in need of trying out newer, maybe, not-yet-released features in PHP. For example, recently, I wanted to test RoundCube PHP6 — this is how I did it.

On a side note, the same setup would also work for testing code with previous versions of PHP.

Toolbox

I used nginx and the PHP source with a little bit of ./configure and make — for kicks!

My O.S. of choice is FreeBSD and therefor the installation steps covered are tailored to it. With a small amount of Linux/Unix-fu, anyone should make it work on another distribution regardless.

Install nginx

First off, install nginx. On FreeBSD, this should be all:

  • cd /usr/ports/www/nginx-devel && make install distclean

On other systems, this maybe a:

  • apt-get install nginx
  • emerg nginx
  • rpm -shoot-myself nginx

The next step includes the infamous spawn-fcgi which many people use to control the php-cgi processes. A lot of tutorials on the net suggest to install lighttpd because it's a part of it, but on FreeBSD, you may skip that and do the following instead:

  • cd /usr/ports/www/spawn-cgi && make install distclean

Pretty cool, huh?

So once this is done, the usual tasks need to be completed — in no particular order:

  • edit the nginx config and enable fastcgi in nginx (/usr/local/etc/nginx/nginx.conf)
  • enable nginx itself in /etc/rc.conf (nginx_enable="YES")
  • get another nifty start script (see Shell Script) to wrap spawn-cgi

... and done!


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PHP performance III -- Running nginx

Sunday, May 31. 2009
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Since part one and two were uber-successful, here's an update on my Zend Framework PHP performance situation. I've also had this post sitting around since beginning of May and I figured if I don't post it now, I never will.

Disclaimer: All numbers (aka pseudo benchmarks) were not taken on a full moon and are (of course) very relative to our server hardware (e.g. DELL 1950, 8 GB RAM) and environment. The application we run is Zend Framework-based and currently handles between 150,000 and 200,000 visitors per day.

Why switch at all?

In January of this year (2009), we started investigating the 2.2 branch of the Apache webserver. Because we used Apache 1.3 for forever, we never had the need to upgrade to Apache 2.0, or 2.2. After all, you're probably familiar with the don't fix it, if it's not broken-approach.

Late last year we ran into a couple (maybe) rather FreeBSD-specific issues with PHP and its opcode cache APC. I am by no means an expert on the entire situation, but from reading mailing lists and investigating on the server, this seemed to be expected behavior — in a nutshell: Apache 1.3 and a large opcode cache on a newer versions of FreeBSD (7) were bound to fail with larger amounts of traffic.

We tried bumping up a few settings (pv entries), but we just ran into the same issue again and again.

Because the architecture of Apache 2.2 and 1.3 is so different from one another (and upgrading to 2.2 was the proposed solution), I went on to explore this upgrade to Apache 2.2. And once I completed the switch to Apache 2.2, my issues went away.

So far, so good!

Performance?

On the performance side we experienced rather mediocre results.

While we benched that a static file could be read at around 300 requests per second (that is a pretty standard Apache 2.2 install, sans a couple unnecessary modules), PHP (mod_php) performed at a fraction of that, averaging between 20 and 23 requests per second.

Myth: Hardware is cheap(, developer time is not)!

Before some people yell at me for trying to optimize my web server, one needs to take the costs of scaling (to a 100 requests per seconds) into account.

One of those servers currently runs at 2,600.00 USD. The price tag adds up to an additional 10,400.00 USD in order to scale to a 100 (lousy) requests per seconds. Chances are of course, that the hardware is slightly less expensive since DELL gives great rebates — but the 8 GB of (server) RAM and the SAS disks by themselves are melting budgets away.

And on top of all hardware costs, you need add setup, maintenance and running costs (rack space, electricity) for an additional four servers — suddenly, developer time is cheap. ;-)

So what do we do? Nginx to the rescue?!


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PHP FastCGI woes!

Monday, January 26. 2009
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Those of you who run high traffic websites, have probably tried php-cgi/fcgi down the road. And most of us, have gone back to Apache.

But now — actually since the middle of 2007 — there's light at the end of the tunnel. I read a blog post by Evert Pot's last night (Apache speed and reverse proxies). Evert noted that he tried to use Lighttpd and php-fcgi, all the infamouse tricks with spawn-fcgi.sh, etc.. — and failed.

He referenced my own blog post where I shared a similar experience; on a sidenote, I'm very glad I'm not the only one who's had these issues. One of the commenters on Evert's blog suggested that he used a project called php-fpm, which I had never heard of to date.

Drum roll!

So anyway, php-fpm is the efforts of Andrei Nigmatulin and they seem to be the end to all those problems. I've spend a few hours last night reading up on it (with the help of Google Translate) and doing a test install, and it seemed pretty cool. I emailed Andrei and suggested that he added links to Google Translate from all pages but he instead setup a wiki. Wee!

I spent two hours over the course of this day moving the pages into the wiki. And the result is:

Quo vadis?

First off, let me just add that the wiki is work in progress, and you are welcome to contribute! A lot of English is straight Google Translate which is naturally not perfect.

So far, I've been moving all Russian pages to English ones, I'm hoping Andrei feels guilty (:-)) when he sees my pages and adds Russian back in. I've also emailed someone who translated the brief HowTo into Chinese!

Further more, I have not yet tried php-fpm but I'm excited and will let you know what the results are. If you are a step ahead of me (Well, I've overslept this thing since 2007!), please share your experience in the comment section!