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  1. #1

    Dedicated Server for High-volume forum

    All @ WHT:

    I need some help in figuring out the right dedicated server to get for a high-volume forum that my brother asked me to help him out with. This is his current setup from LayeredTech:
    OS: CentOS 4.x
    Hardware: AMD SEMPRON 260/1024MB/80GB
    Bandwith: 1500 GB/Month

    He's had that server for over a year, and his forum now has 33,000+ members,
    and almost 1/2 million posts. With this much traffic, he's getting a lot of bandwith overages
    and that's why I'm thinking it's best to move into a higher-end server that also
    would have unlimited bandwith.

    I've seen other posts talking about platinum server management, and I also think that would be
    great to keep the new server secure and to get it set up right.
    Do you have any suggestions on a good server setup to handle a forum of that size and lots of downloading
    of MP3s? His budget for the new server is $300 - $400 a month including cPanel.
    The more detail the better (Amount of RAM, Processor type, OS, etc...).

    Let me know if you need any additional info/stats on the server setup and/or current load:

    Thanks....


    -Galactico






  2. #2
    Join Date
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    For $325/mo you can get a Dual 3.0ghz Irwindale, 2GB DDR2 Ram, 250GB sata 2 HD, and 3000gb/mo transfer from softlayer.

    https://www.softlayer.com/order_form...=5&ITEM_PRICES

    This would be a major upgrade from his LT machine, also would have a better network.

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by galacticofmp
    Let me know if you need any additional info/stats on the server setup and/or current load:
    To answer all of your questions, we'll need some more information about the utilization on his current hardware. If the current hardware is not being taxed, then there is not a need to make a huge investment in a hardware upgrade. Of course, if his current server is having performance issues, then this is a great time to upgrade.

    We would need to see the current load, memory usage, storage usage, bandwidth usage, etc. Also how many users does he have online and what forum software does he run?. How many queries per second does his database server push?

    If this server is running purely PHP/MySQL for a busy forum, then I would opt for the Dual Core Dual Opteron 270 or the Dual Core Dual 5130 Intel Xeon, RAID1 or RAID10 array of fast hard drives, and as much RAM as his budget can afford Also be sure to budget for some additional services such as server administration and off-site backups, both of these services are extremely important to a growing web site.
    -Mat Sumpter
    Director, Product Engagement
    Penton Media

  4. #4
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    If you truly are growing that quickly you also may want to try and purchase your next server from a company that has clustering or load balancing experience. It is not uncommon for larger forums to require load segregation in order to perform optimally. At that point you may also find it more cost effective to buy multiple servers rather then just buying more bandwidth or an unlimited server as it's typically less expensive to purchase two servers (having double the hardware resource available) and have twice the bandwidth then pre-purchase bandwidth or pay the overage.
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  5. #5

    *

    Thank you all for your quick replies.

    Here's some more info on the server:

    Output from Top:

    top - 05:26:12 up 3 days, 3:10, 1 user, load average: 1.06, 0.53, 0.41
    Tasks: 141 total, 2 running, 139 sleeping, 0 stopped, 0 zombie
    Cpu(s): 43.7% us, 12.9% sy, 0.0% ni, 0.0% id, 39.1% wa, 1.7% hi, 2.6% si
    Mem: 1019604k total, 985820k used, 33784k free, 16736k buffers
    Swap: 1052248k total, 1964k used, 1050284k free, 687196k cached

    Storage Usage:

    2 Drives:
    1) 80 GB: 78 GB used
    2) 40 GB: 38 GB used

    Forum software: phpBB ( will switch to IPB or vBulletin in the near future)
    Avg. number of forum users at the same time: 200
    Bandwith Usage: Attached are the numbers for November (PNG file)
    November was a light month, but previous Month's usage has gone up to about 2100 GB.

    Mysql status:
    Uptime: 17684 Threads: 7 Questions: 369886 Slow queries: 14 Opens: 1866 Flush tables: 1 Open tables: 64 Queries per second avg: 20.916

    I apologize for any lack of full detail in these specs... I'm a programmer in my dayjob and I'm not too versed in sysadmin stuff. If there are any utilities that would make reporting easier and detailed let me know and I will bring all the numbers again for you... My first take was to upgrade the hardware now looking into the future growth, but perhaps what this server needs is a good optimization to improve performance. The forum has been very sluggish in the past few months...

    Thanks

    -Galactico
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails November Usage.png  

  6. #6
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    Working off what you've provided it looks like you're server is still relatively healthy. If you're looking to buy some time while you decide I would suggest adding another 1GB of memory to the server as it looks like you're very close to running out and swapping (which will gradually kill your performance as you swap more and more).

    You also seem to have a fairly high amount of cpu time spent in wait. This is likely due to disk io being consumed but could also be from the network being laggy (only if you're using 10Mbit of a 10Mbit or 100Mbit of 100Mbit, etc or have slow download'ers. general network latency shouldn't cause that). Your MySQL usage doesn't seem too bad right now at 20qps but was this taken at a peak load?

    For your replacement server you may want to look for something with raid 1 or better (raid 5 and 10 are also good for read performance) and SCSI if you can afford it. The seek times on SCSI disks are typically much better than IDE or SATA and that should help with your "wait" time assuming that is indeed the cause.

    As for the memory, 2GB to start should be ok but I would make sure the server has room for expansion. The CPU could also be upgraded, though if you resolve the wait time issue you'll have a bit to spare on what you have now.

    Finally, if you're serving mp3's via the same service as your forum you may run into an issue where your using loads more memory per mp3 download process then is really required (depending on how the client/customer is downloading, i.e. not through the forum). If you can, break out the mp3 downloading onto a different service or server. You should be able to tune the service providing these downloads to be fairly thin. Media downloads always take much longer to complete then generic page views and tie up your web processes when they could be doing better things (like servicing more page views / clients).
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  7. #7
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    1x single or dual opteron, 2-4GB of RAM. RAID array of drives. Dedicated DB server.
    2x or 3x single p4s/amd64s, 1-2gb of RAM. Dedicated web servers, primary & secondary mail.

    Use a basic round-robin DNS, or goto a more advanced carp load balancing setup. All the webservers connect to the DB server over a private off-net internal network.

    Awknet - DDoS Mitigation, Upstream ACLs/Filtering, Unmanaged Dedicated Servers, BGP IP Transit & More!

  8. #8
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    Does he really need more memory? Could you do a "free -m"? Wouldn't this give us a more accurate picture of memory usage? I run a high volume forum and that's what I always look at.

    Also, have you tried optimizing your current config? Have you tried using eaccelerator? How about optimizing mysql?

    http://eaccelerator.net/

  9. #9
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    There are many caching solutions out there that may fit the bill. However, from the information he's provided us neither the ones that cache in ram or flat files will help mitigate his problem. Again, assuming my assessment is correct regarding his cpu wait time, caching in flat files will only further exasperate his disk io strain and caching in ram will use up at least what he has left if not much much more and force his system to swap. Products like you linked to really shine when you're cpu bound. If he clears up the wait time issue he should have cycles to spare. I would still recommend adding another GB of ram and sorting out the cpu wait issue.

    Regarding mysql tuning, most tuning (caching and buffers) are extremely helpful in speeding up searching, sorting, joining, etc but almost all of them come at a cost of using additional ram. Unless the server has a large number of un-needed processes running that are consuming his ram he doesn't have a lot to spare. Tuning mysql could again lead to a swapping issue causing a lose in performance instead of a gain.
    Caro.Net: Support is everything
    Offering High Quality Dedicated Servers.

  10. #10

    Thumbs up

    Here's the output of free -m :

    total used free shared buffers cached
    Mem: 995 990 5 0 20 688
    -/+ buffers/cache: 281 713
    Swap: 1027 2 1025

    The server is using eaccelerator for php caching.

    CaroNet-Chris: Your point on the MP3 downloading is dead-on... I think that's what may be hogging the resources for displaying the pages. Will definitely consider setting up a separate server/service just for that.

    CardsFanInChiTown: I've done some optimization of mysql using some guides but they haven't really had any significant impact on performance. I think that may be due to only having 1 GB of RAM. I don't think the server has had optimization on any other areas yet. When we move to a new machine, I'll get PSM to give me a hand with optimization as well

    So it seems that everything points out that the server may not be in such bad a shape as I thought, but there are definite rooms for improvement to get (I/O Access, RAM, Mysql/System Optimization). With what you already know in mind, could you give me a suggestion for a server setup that will fulfill the server requirements with some room for expansion to handle growth?
    I think it's best if I start working with a clean new server rather than trying to make this one work properly...

    -->O/S: Centos 4.x has worked for this server w/o problems. Is RedHat Linux any better?
    -->Processor: Single or dual core?
    -->RAM: 2 GB+
    -->Storage: Raid 5+
    -->Possible additional dedicated server for MP3/Media files downloads
    -->Hosting company: ???

    Thank you very much for all your input.

    -Galactico

  11. #11
    Join Date
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    You should look into one of ev1 servers mysql cluster options. You can get two servers, so twice the bandwidth, and load balance them, plus have mysql data replication.

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by galacticofmp
    Here's the output of free -m :

    total used free shared buffers cached
    Mem: 995 990 5 0 20 688
    -/+ buffers/cache: 281 713
    Swap: 1027 2 1025

    The server is using eaccelerator for php caching.

    CaroNet-Chris: Your point on the MP3 downloading is dead-on... I think that's what may be hogging the resources for displaying the pages. Will definitely consider setting up a separate server/service just for that.

    CardsFanInChiTown: I've done some optimization of mysql using some guides but they haven't really had any significant impact on performance. I think that may be due to only having 1 GB of RAM. I don't think the server has had optimization on any other areas yet. When we move to a new machine, I'll get PSM to give me a hand with optimization as well

    So it seems that everything points out that the server may not be in such bad a shape as I thought, but there are definite rooms for improvement to get (I/O Access, RAM, Mysql/System Optimization). With what you already know in mind, could you give me a suggestion for a server setup that will fulfill the server requirements with some room for expansion to handle growth?
    I think it's best if I start working with a clean new server rather than trying to make this one work properly...

    -->O/S: Centos 4.x has worked for this server w/o problems. Is RedHat Linux any better?
    -->Processor: Single or dual core?
    -->RAM: 2 GB+
    -->Storage: Raid 5+
    -->Possible additional dedicated server for MP3/Media files downloads
    -->Hosting company: ???

    Thank you very much for all your input.

    -Galactico
    CentOS = Public build of Redhat Enterprise Linux

    Your memory and swap usage look great! You are using 2mb of swap which is acceptable and you have plenty of room in your buffers.

    For the primary server I would get a chassis that has a single dual core processor but has the option to moving dual processor dual core in the future. 2 gigabytes of system memory should be plenty considering you are not even touching most of your current 1gb constantly. Three or four disks in a RAID5 array should do the job you want wonderfully, if you can afford the faster 10k RPM SATA drives, go for that.

    I have a feeling that almost all of your bandwidth is the MP3 downloads; if you are not streaming the content to users (they are just downloading them). I would look into a server in a datacenter that has a cheaper mix of bandwidth providers and can give you a better bulk rate for bandwidth. You could even get two or three low end P4 servers and do DNS round-robin and distribute the load of serving the MP3s
    -Mat Sumpter
    Director, Product Engagement
    Penton Media

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by The Prohacker
    CentOS = Public build of Redhat Enterprise Linux

    Your memory and swap usage look great! You are using 2mb of swap which is acceptable and you have plenty of room in your buffers.

    For the primary server I would get a chassis that has a single dual core processor but has the option to moving dual processor dual core in the future. 2 gigabytes of system memory should be plenty considering you are not even touching most of your current 1gb constantly. Three or four disks in a RAID5 array should do the job you want wonderfully, if you can afford the faster 10k RPM SATA drives, go for that.

    I have a feeling that almost all of your bandwidth is the MP3 downloads; if you are not streaming the content to users (they are just downloading them). I would look into a server in a datacenter that has a cheaper mix of bandwidth providers and can give you a better bulk rate for bandwidth. You could even get two or three low end P4 servers and do DNS round-robin and distribute the load of serving the MP3s
    Great advice! I agree 100%.
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  14. #14
    For that budget,you can find many provider at offer forums,I would suggest:
    DualCore CPU
    2GB+ memory
    Current server seems ok but do not have enough bandwidth,so you should try 10Mbps unmetered,but I would like 3000GB+ bandwidth run at 100Mbps port,it would be faster.
    Also,I would said that no load balance need for your forum,all you need is more bandwidth.

  15. #15
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    2 Drives:
    1) 80 GB: 78 GB used
    2) 40 GB: 38 GB used
    You need bigger disks, and you'll need to copy the filesystem across as files, not an image - those will be fragged to hell (I know people say linux doesn't need defragmenting, but that's just plain wrong when disks fill up past a point).

    This is probably the main reason why your disc i/o is poor recently. Find and delete some old files (old backups? logs?) Then you'll see an instant improvement.

    For your new server, I'd not go for 3 or 4 disks in RAID5. RAID1, or 10 would be better for you as you don't need much storage. I'd only ever go RAID5 if I needed more disks than 4.
    Do not meddle in the affairs of Dragons, for you are crunchy and taste good.

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