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My question is if our webserver would benefit from having a faster network connection, even if the current 100Mb/s connection is not maxed out.

Our webserver is serving around 1.000.000 dynamic pages/day which translates to 20GB of daily traffic. Its internet uplink, which is 100Mb/s, has an average utilization of 10%. CPU usage can, at times, be quite high, so we are planning to upgrade soon, probably using 2 webservers and a load balancer in the future.

I currently believe that a Gbit uplink would be a major benefit too. Our favoured hosting provider (who can't offer 1Gbit uplink) instead tells me that it would not be a real benefit. He tells us that the load balancing makes a faster uplink unnecessary.

I am not really confident of this but can't really find much useful advice on this. We really want so serve our pages as fast as possible, so what would you recommend (in general)?

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What's the link speed on your colo's equipment? i.e. is your edge router even GbE? Even if it was, I'd say that a caching reverse proxy like nginx up front load balancing (and the added bonus of higher availability should a box go down) would have more of an impact. – gravyface Jul 30 '10 at 15:53
Average utilization is 10% and you want to take that to 1%? Unless your peak utilization is much higher, you're barking up the wrong tree. – Skyhawk Jul 30 '10 at 17:45

Gravyface makes a very useful point in the comments about local gig being useful for things like reverse proxy servers, or if you had a local database server.

The other issue that may be useful is that gigabit devices are more reliable in negotiating link speed.

Older network devices that do 10/100 tend to be a bit unreliable in negotiating link speed and duplex, while if you've got pure gig everywhere the auto-negotiation is pretty much 100% reliable.

Undocumented hard-coded ports or servers tend to cause problems in the distant future when you need to move a system from here to there in a hurry and then can't figure out why you're getting terrible network performance (duplex mismatch).

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I'm marking this up because you mention my name... oh the vanity. :) But seriously, what chris is saying is right here: your server-to-server/server-to-proxy communications should be on a GbE segment absolutely. – gravyface Jul 30 '10 at 17:07
While technically true, I have not seen any auto-negotiation issues in the wild for a long time. The last persistent auto-negotiation issues I found were Sun happy meal interfaces (hme) which required special port-settings to do 100fdx. Anything else found since then has almost always turned out to be a bad nic or switch. – David Mackintosh Jul 30 '10 at 17:31
I generally see duplex issues only where people have hard-coded the link speed on one or the other end these days. That said, if I'm connected to a 10/100 switch, I'd be sure to double-check that everything linked up properly, and be wary that ports weren't hard-coded by some other superstitious admin at some other time. – chris Jul 30 '10 at 18:29

I'd say that you would probably not notice any page response time increase. Most people cannot access your site that fast in the first place. The only reason, I can see for needing GbE, is when you are responding to so many page requests, that your aggraget bandwidth usage is maxing out your connection.

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Are you sure that your 100mbit/s pipe isn't being maxed out at peak times, or when mutiple clients are downloading/streaming something new and cool off your site?

This all depends on your traffic pattern, but let's say that you're using 80% bandwith average per day; then a gigabit uplink would (with no doubt) increase the bandwith each client gets at peak times.

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I had one user try to tell me that a Gb interface on his web server might not improve throughput, but because it was faster it reduced latency. While this might be theoretically so, the improvement in latency seen by the web user at the far end of the much-slower-than-Gb internet uplink would be so reduced as to be unmeasurable. You'd improve latency at the user's end far more by decongesting a router in between the server and the user.

A lot of it depends on how you are generating your pages and how you intend to spread the load.

If you are just going to have two web servers, then I don't see Gb as being a value-add.

On the other hand if you are going to split out a database server that itself would talk to two web servers, then putting a Gb network between those webservers and the database server quite probably would yield improvements.

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1M dynamic pages a day and "CPU occasionally quite high" sounds to me like you might benefit from further optimizing your page generation.

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You're a prime candidate for a vps or cloud-based solution. If you can't saturate a 100Mb pipe, you'd get much more value out of moving to Amazon and letting other people worry about these things.

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Not necessarily. Your cost/benefit of using EC2 for a simple web installation is not particularly appealing. Unless you need the benefit of dynamic server allocation, you can get 2x to 3x the performance per dollar running on dedicated hardware (at the right datacenter). – tylerl Jul 30 '10 at 19:40
Only presuming the OP is not getting paid. – Adam Nelson Aug 2 '10 at 22:55

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