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I'm having a Debian with WordPress on Apache, which gets pretty nasty spikes in load from time to time, leading to hanging on of the whole server. I've played a bit with some of the apache configuration parameters in order to make it a bit more stable, but the problems persists, although more rarely than before.

What I want to do now is trigger apache children massacre in the moment load hits... 20 for example. How do I do that?

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Rather than blindly killing Apache processes, you should look at resource limiting them to avoid the spikes. Perhaps configuring limits via /etc/security/limits.conf (what it's called on RH type systems, not sure what the Debian equivalent is), using setrlimit, (or perhaps some other way of limiting the resource usage of the process that I'm not aware of). Heck, just setting a MaxClients in Apache may do the trick.

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We couldn't figure it out and some other guys just switched to Lighttpd, which solved the problem (for now). Thanks for the useful suggestion, though! –  vlood May 17 '13 at 10:54

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