Improving mod_perl Driven Site's Performance -- Part I: Choosing Operating System and Hardware Page 2

Before you start to optimize server configuration and learn to write a more efficient code you need to consider the demands which will be placed on the Hardware and the Operating System. There is no point in investing a lot of time and money in configuration tuning and code optimizing only to find that your server's performance is poor because you did not choose a suitable platform in the first place.

Because hardware platforms and operating systems are developing rapidly (even while you are reading this article), the following advisory discussion must be in general terms, without mentioning specific vendors names.

Choosing the Right Operating System

I will try to talk about what characteristics and features you should be looking for to support a mod_perl enabled Apache server, then when you know what you want from your OS, you can go out and find it. Visit the Web sites of the operating systems you are interested in. You can gauge user's opinions by searching the relevant discussions in newsgroup and mailing list archives. Deja - http://deja.com and eGroups - http://egroups.com are good examples. I will leave this fan research to you. But probably the best shot will be to ask mod_perl users, they know the best.

Stability and Robustness Requirements

Probably the most important features in an OS are stability and robustness. You are in an Internet business. You do not keep normal 9am to 5pm working hours like many conventional businesses you know. You are open 24 hours a day. You cannot afford to be off-line, for your customers will go shop at another service like yours (unless you have a monopoly :). If the OS of your choice crashes every day, first do a little investigation. There might be a simple reason which you can find and fix. There are OSs which won't work unless you reboot them twice a day. You don't want to use the OS of this kind, no matter how good the OS' vendor sales department. Do not follow flashy advertisements, follow developers' advice instead.

Generally, people who have used the OS for some time can tell you a lot about its stability. Ask them. Try to find people who are doing similar things to what you are planning to do, they may even be using the same software. There are often compatibility issues to resolve. You may need to become familiar with patching and compiling your OS.

Good Memory Management Importance

You want an OS with a good memory management implementations. Some OSs are well known as memory hogs. The same code can use twice as much memory on one OS compared to another. If the size of the mod_perl process is 10Mb and you have tens of these running, it definitely adds up!

Say No to Memory Leaks

Some OSs and/or their libraries (e.g. C runtime libraries) suffer from memory leaks. A leak is when some process requests a chunk of memory for temporary storage, but then does not subsequently release it. The chunk of memory is not then available for any purpose until the process which requested it dies. You cannot afford such leaks. A single mod_perl process sometimes serves thousands of requests before it terminates. So if a leak occurs on every request, the memory demands could become huge. Of course your code can be the cause of the memory leaks as well, but it's easy to detect and solve. Certainly, we can reduce the number of requests to be served over the process' life, but that can degrade performance.

Memory Sharing Capabilities Is a Must

This article was originally published on Dec 7, 2000

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