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    Wednesday, September 12, 2012
Server optimization continued

This will be a long post. I don't post often but when I do, I post a long rant. Bewarded. ;)

Earlier this year we invested in a new dedicated server: An Intel Core i7-3930k Sandy Bridge (6 cores @ 3.2 Ghz) machine with 64 GB DDR3 RAM and 2 x 3000 GB SATA-III harddrives in RAID 1 (mirrored). A bit over the top for our needs perhaps but I prefer to go with top of the line. We only use about 10-15% of the server's capacity. ;)

Like our previous servers we decided to go with Debian (6.0) and Plesk Control Panel and apart from the general optimizations like PHP opcode cacher (Xcache) and mod_deflate (for compressing the pages), two major changes were made:

1. Varnish Cache

"Varnish Cache is a web application accelerator also known as a caching HTTP reverse proxy. You install it in front of any server that speaks HTTP and configure it to cache the contents. Varnish Cache is really, really fast. It typically speeds up delivery with a factor of 300 - 1000x, depending on your architecture. A high level overview of what Varnish does can be seen in the video attached to this web page."

In our case we have installed Varnish in front of Apache and the result has been staggering. I actually started out with Nginx but replaced it with Varnish because of performance. So to recap:

Dynamic content is served with Varnish and static content (images, html pages etc.) is served with Apache.

2. Sphinx Search

"Sphinx is an open source full text search server, designed from the ground up with performance, relevance (aka search quality), and integration simplicity in mind. It's written in C++ and works on Linux (RedHat, Ubuntu, etc), Windows, MacOS, Solaris, FreeBSD, and a few other systems.

Sphinx lets you either batch index and search data stored in an SQL database, NoSQL storage, or just files quickly and easily or index and search data on the fly, working with Sphinx pretty much as with a database server."

We're using Sphinx Search for all the vBulletin forums (including EmuTalk and DCEmu Forums) and normally a search takes about 0.10 seconds instead of a few seconds. Our server is capable of doing thousands of search queries per second.

3. So what's new?

I upgraded to the latest version of Varnish Cache (3.0.3) about a week ago and if it was because of the new version I'm not sure but we've had some issues with it. From time to time it crashed and looking at the syslog yesterday I think I found the culprit. I increased the storage size from 8GB to 16GB and moved it from the file system to RAM along with some other configuration changes. So far it's looking good and even faster.


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