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I have a LAMP server (CentOS-based MediaTemple (DV) Extreme with 2GB RAM) running a customized Wordpress+bbPress combination .

At about 30k pageviews per day the server is starting to groan. It stumbled earlier today for about 5 minutes when there was an influx of traffic. Even under normal conditions I can see that the virtual server is sometimes at 90%+ CPU load. Using Top I can often see 5-7 httpd processes that are each using 15-30% (and sometimes even 50%) CPU.

Before we do a big optimization pass (our use of MySQL is probably the culprit) I would love to find the pages that are the main offenders and deal with them first. Is there a way that I can find out which specific requests were responsible for the most CPU-hungry httpd processes? I have found a lot of info on optimization in general, but nothing on this specific question.

Secondly, I know there are a million variables, but if you have any insight on whether we should be at the boundaries of performance with a single dedicated virtual server with a site of this size, then I would love to hear your opinion. Should we be thinking about moving to a more powerful server, or should we be focused on optimization on the current server?

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up vote 7 down vote accepted

strace is a good way to start debugging this kind of problem. Try to strace the pid of one of the Apache processes consuming more CPU:

strace -f -t -o strace.output -p PID

This will show you the system calls made within that process. Take a look at strace.output and see what the process was doing. This might enlighten the way and show you where the process is hanging. The "-t" flag is very important here as it will prefix each line of the strace output with the time of the day. So, search for a leap.

On the other hand and as you think MySQL is probably the culprit, I'd enable the slow query log, take a look at it and try to optimize that queries. More info about the slow query log here.

Also, don't forget to take a look at the logfiles of your webserver.

Regarding your second question, I think it's hard to tell with only this info. Separating the frontend (webserver) from the backend (database) is always a good practice if you have the budget for it. On the other hand, I think that before adding more hardware, one should focus on trying to optimize the performance using the current hardware. Otherwise, the problem is probably just being postponed.

Hope this helps.

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Wow. The strace output is fascinating. What an education. I can actually see where the system is looking first in the root folder for my "require"s because I didn't include "./" in the path. Some very strange output though. Some of the CPU-hungry processes seem to start out in my site and then go on a tangent into ""/usr/lib/python24...". I'm not using python anywhere. What could this be? – Greg May 25 '10 at 2:26
@Greg: if you're not using python, that's weird. And did you notice a leap in time or something? – Marco Ramos May 25 '10 at 18:33
No, no leap in time. Here is a pastie of part of the strace output where the transition seems to happen: At the top it is in my site, and at the bottom it is heading into the python folders. – Greg May 25 '10 at 18:56
In this line: 31758 19:16:44 epoll_wait(26, {{EPOLLIN, {u32=[DELETED], u64=[]DELETED}}}, 2, -1) = 1 it seems that the process waits more than one second on file with file descriptor 26. That can be one of the sources of the problem. Hope this helps. – Marco Ramos May 25 '10 at 19:23

Try with The Grinder - it will help you find the bottleneck.

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Thanks Peter. On first glance The Grinder seems focused on Java, but I'll look into it. – Greg May 26 '10 at 16:02

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