Server Fault is a question and answer site for system and network administrators. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

What is the best sysctl.conf configuration for a high load, extremely busy content streaming server ? The server fetches the content from remote servers like amazon, s3, etc. then uses php to dynamically stream the content to user without saving it onto the hard drive. php uses CURL to fetch the file, then uses flush() to stream it simultaneously, so not much hard drive work... only network and bandwidth.

The server is quad core xeon, with 1Gbit full duplex NIC, 8gb RAM, and 500GBx2 in RAID. Server memory usage and cpu load is pretty low.

We're running debian lenny and lighttpd2 on it (yes I know its not released yet :-) ) with php 5.3.6 and php fastcgi with spawn-fcgi bind on 4 different unix sockets with 20 children each. Max fcgi requests is 20, with mod_balancer module in lighttpd2 configuration to balance the fastcgi requests among these 4 sockets in SQF (short queue first) configuration.

Our servers use a lot of bandwidth i.e network connection is busy all the time. Just after 100 to 200 parallel connections, the server starts to slow down and eventually becomes unresponsive, starts giving connection timeout errors. When we had cpanel, we never got timeout errors, so it cannot be a script issue. It must be a network configuration issue.

lighttpd2 configuration: worker processes = 8, keep alive requests is 32, keep alive idle timeout is 10 seconds, and max connections is 8192.

Our current sysctl.conf contents are:

net.ipv4.tcp_fin_timeout = 1
net.ipv4.tcp_tw_recycle = 1

# Increase maximum amount of memory allocated to shm

kernel.shmmax = 1073741824

# This will increase the amount of memory available for socket input/output queues
net.ipv4.tcp_rmem = 4096 25165824 25165824
net.core.rmem_max = 25165824
net.core.rmem_default = 25165824
net.ipv4.tcp_wmem = 4096 65536 25165824
net.core.wmem_max = 25165824
net.core.wmem_default = 65536
net.core.optmem_max = 25165824

net.ipv4.tcp_syncookies = 1
net.ipv4.tcp_max_orphans = 262144
net.ipv4.tcp_max_syn_backlog = 262144
net.ipv4.tcp_synack_retries = 2
net.ipv4.tcp_syn_retries = 2

# you shouldn't be using conntrack on a heavily loaded server anyway, but these are
# suitably high for our uses, insuring that if conntrack gets turned on, the box doesn't die
# net.ipv4.netfilter.ip_conntrack_max = 1048576
#  net.nf_conntrack_max = 1048576

# For Large File Hosting Servers
net.core.wmem_max = 1048576
net.ipv4.tcp_wmem = 4096 87380 524288
share|improve this question
Oh I forgot to mention, when I said unresponsive, I maen, it becomes unresponsive to .php pages, static pages such as index.html and serve-status page works fine... – Daniel Johnson Mar 22 '11 at 17:29
You have first to find what exactly is causing the unresponsiveness. It may not be anything related to sysctls. Check if there are processes choking, memory lacking, etc. strace the processes and see why/where they hang. – coredump Mar 22 '11 at 17:52
they dont hang.. as I said, only .php files become dead. server status page works fine.. – Daniel Johnson Mar 22 '11 at 18:30
@bilal you must check how everything works together. It can be a locking issue, a shared resource (memory/IRQ) problem. It's not trivial to find the solution to a problem like this. – coredump Mar 22 '11 at 18:39
Can you provide some more information here? netstat -in, ethtool -S eth0 (or whatever your live interface is). What does top show when your server slows down (memory line)? And - can you give Details about the server hardware? Brand/Type, type of network card, do you have other network cards you could use? – Nils May 29 '11 at 19:41

Performance tuning and identifying bottle necks like this are a hard problem to solve, and frequently require a lot of information to diagnose. The key to the process is to go through the process it uses and see if you can find what resource is being exhausted. When you said the server is unresponsive for php, but html still serves, that is an interesting data point. What is different between how those are served? It might be subtle network buffer overruns, or it might be more basic than that. You might have simply exhausted the 20 child fcgi child process limit, and they are all busy serving data, while new requests are getting jammed into the listen queue (and timing out eventually) waiting for a fcgi php process to come up.

The real trick when trying to get visibility on the box is to log into the box when problems are occurring and start gathering information.

To find out how many php processes are running you should be able to run something like this:

ps auxgmww | grep php

And if you would like to get a count of them rather than counting them yourself, you can do something like this:

ps auxgmww | grep php | wc -l

Back to your original question about performance tuning, before changing syctl.conf you might want to see what your server is telling you when the problem is occurring, you can find this out by doing the following:

sysctl -a > sysctl.txt

And then view your text file - it's a whole lot of data, but before tuning any given value, see if the sysctl output reports anything about what it's currently using for that tunable, and what it might be consuming. One example is open files, that you can see a sample output here:

fs.file-nr = 3456   0   102295

That tells us we are using 3456 file descriptors, but our limit is 102295, so we're nowhere near our limit. If the first number had been in the 100000 range, that would tell you that you are running out of file descriptors and that is what you need to tune.

share|improve this answer

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.