Apache Performance Tuning (Part I/III) – Choosing the Best Platform for Apache

Tags: Apacheapache performanceLinuxtuningtuning apachetweaking

Published on: January 4, 2011 by Subin M.

Apache Performance Tuning (Part I/III) – Choosing the Best Platform for Apache


Apache is a highly configurable software.It is important in apache server management that to configure the apache for maximum performance. Apache tuning can be learned effectively only by getting first hand experiences in live environments. But, all the knowledge in this world, before being put into practical usage, will need proper theoretical explanation and analysis. This is what this document intends to provide you with references from online articles and books on Apache.

Configuring Apache for maximum performance requires our interest in 2 areas:

i) Tuning Apache so that it exploits the maximum out of the system’s available Hardware and Software. The term Hardware signifies the system CPU, RAM and the disk I/O. Software signifies apache-modules and system OS. Be it software or hardware, I haveoverhead mentioned only those components which the apache software is in direct concern with.

ii)Tuning Apache so that it withstands attacks. Just imagine. All our above efforts in (i)would be in vain if the software is not properly configured to resist attacks such as DOS and even more undesirable, the DDOS. Web server administrators in trying to do so discovered that this itself was a vast area to study and explore and lead to a stream called as ‘Apache Security’. This is why I have placed apache tuning into 2 areas.

So we are now going to journey into the former part. Although, I will not be able to give you a comprehensive detail on each subject (which will require hundreds of pages!) I will try to throw light on some of the most important areas to cover.

The performance tuning of apache will be done in a few stages. These are:

1. Choosing the Best Platform for Apache

2. Editing the Apache Software for Performance

From Part I through Part III, I have references from:

– FMC – The Apache Modelling Project

– Pro Apache by Peter Wainwright


Lets discuss the former part.

A fine performing and well tuned software is of no use unless it has a good foundation to work on. It must have the best suited combination of both the Hardware & Software(primarily the OS). Below I attempt to discuss some points which should be kept in mind.

1.1 Choosing the Right Operating System

This is one of the main key element required for proper functioning of the server software. The characteristics of this highly influences the Apache software. Search for the below points when choosing the OS for apache.

1.1.(i) mod_perl Support for the Operating System

This is to be considered seriously since the module mod_perl is a very handy tool which can help in extracting the maximum out Apache. I will be discussing its significance(not tuning with mod_perl) towards the end of this document.

1.1.(ii) Supports ‘sendfile’ system call

This mainly benefits applications following the client-server arhitecture. A sendfile system call in general improves delivery of data from disk over to sockets. For retriveing a client requrested data, from disk, applications spends much time in transferring data from disk to many intermediate buffers and only then, to the socket. This induces much delay. With OS having kernel supporting sendfile, this can be achieved in a single operation.

1. 1.(iii) Good Memory Management

The reason why I mention this is because for the same script, some OS will tend to use the twice as much as memory used by another. Please consider from discarding such OS from your list immediately.

1.1.(iv) Avoiding Memory Leaks

A memory leak happens when some process occupies some blocks of memory and does not release it after it completes the execution of instructions which require those memory blocks. As a result, this part of the memory becomes unusable to other processes until the process that has occupied it has died. We certainly do not want that.

1.1.(iv) Memory-Sharing Capabilities

The new processes(children) that are spawned by apache should be able to share the features of the loaded modules of the parent apache process. This can save much memory and can be realized only if the OS supports memory sharing.

1.1.(v) The Support for OS

Good technical support must be available for the OS you implement and the support team remain vigilant about the holes and other aspects so that they do not give way for hackers. They should also be able to provide you personal support regarding the issues you have with your OS.

1.1.(vi) Discontinued Products

The company of your OS should not all of a sudden withdraw the release of new products and this can prove very bad in course of time even if you are satisfied with the functioning of the OS currently.

1.1.(vii) Regular OS releases

The OS needs to be kept up to date with the latest technology and kernel updates which are utmost necessary to keep the OS stable and free from security leaks.

1.2 Choosing the Right Hardware

In concern with Hardware, there are no hard-set rules in calculating the appropriate number(the number specification of hardware. Eg: 128M RAM). This is because the number needed will be depend on the environment you place Apache in. A well functioning OS can be built on a good hardware and implementation such as:

1.2.(i) Random Access Memory (RAM)

Although you may see everywhere as the amount of installed RAM on the system, this is misleading. What actually counts is the RAM that is actually available to apache process. So we should actually calculate the amount of RAM usage on the system with all the process except apache started. This will be the available RAM for apache. The main goal while calculating the RAM for the server should be: the system never goes into a state to use the SWAP memory. When you need to write something into memory, and it is full, it swaps pages out of the memory that are less frequently used to the SWAP space. Only then you will be able to perform write operation to RAM memory. Thus delay is caused.

In the meantime if an other application supplementing the web server requests some pages and if it happens to be in one of the swapped pages, then the processor will have to load those pages again into main memory(RAM) swapping out some other data which might be needed in a short while. Let to repeat this, the state of the system can get worse. While configuring, you should also be aware that other essential system processes also need to be running smoothly.

1.2.(ii) CPU

This is the ‘Processor’. Using multicore processor with multi cache levels is a general and accepted implementation.

1.2.(iii) Disks with good I/O

Since apache is constant process of retrieval and writing data into disk, a good disk with high I/O capabilities is very much essential. This can also be achieved by implementing RAID.

1.2.(iv) Network Interface Card (NIC)

A hardware component that allows your machine to connect to the network. It sends and receives packets. NICs come in different speeds, varying from 10 MBps to 10 GBps and faster. The most widely used NIC type is the one that implements the Ethernet networking protocol.

1.2.(v) Cluster Implementation

As the name suggests, one or more interconnected machines working together to perform one big task is the core idea behind clustering. This is also implemented to provide backup during failure of one machine in the cluster. Similar to implementing RAID in disks to account for recovery from data loss due to disk failure.

1.2.(vi) Load balancing

This is a by product of clustering. If a web server is unable to handle load, it then dispatches the requests it receives to the web servers in it’s cluster to server the requests. In this mode of implementation, the http request will always reach first to the main server which is configured to hold the sites(or the as mentioned in the DNS). The server according to its load, will either server the request or dispatch the request to its’s load balancing server which handles the request from thereon.

Category : Apache, Linux

Subin M.

Subin M.

Subin loves to dive deep into the engineering aspects of technology and internet in particular. He has indepth knowledge in various webservers and DNS.

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