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If I have a site with say 5 million unique visitors a month (probably 10+ million bot crawls) what size of a server would I need for nginx solely as a load balancer (using reverse proxy to apache on other servers)?

I've read somewhere that some use atom servers as frontend load balancers but I'm not sure about that.

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I'm not sure how relevant unique IPs is for a load balancer; hits per second and bandwidth seem more useful for me. As to that, I'm running my whole stack (nginx, php, postgres) on one server, and nginx is taking ~3% of the CPU to handle 1000 hits/sec @ 200Mbps. I'm fairly sure that any server you buy new today will be able to fill a gigabit pipe with ease if all it's doing is taking network data from one port and pushing it out to a different one.

That said, if you specifically want load balancing and can live without nginx's advanced web serving features, haproxy is probably a better fit.

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Interesting! What are you using to pass nginx requests to php? That's one of the main reasons why I'm still using bloated apache, reliability. I've read a few posts about issues with passing nginx to php so I'm curious to know what you are using. –  Joe Nov 7 '11 at 21:27
    
I'm using a few copies of "php5-cgi -b /tmp/php-1.socket" (incrementing the number each time), with each process monitored and restarted on crash by runit; then nginx connects to the sockets and talks fastcgi through them –  Shish Nov 10 '11 at 9:41

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