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Apache Performance Tuning

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Apache 2.x is a general-purpose webserver, designed to provide a balance of flexibility, portability, and performance. Although it has not been designed specifically to set benchmark records, Apache 2.x is capable of high performance in many real-world situations.

Compared to Apache 1.3, release 2.x contains many additional optimizations to increase throughput and scalability. Most of these improvements are enabled by default. However, there are compile-time and run-time configuration choices that can significantly affect performance. This document describes the options that a server administrator can configure to tune the performance of an Apache 2.x installation. Some of these configuration options enable the httpd to better take advantage of the capabilities of the hardware and OS, while others allow the administrator to trade functionality for speed.

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Hardware and Operating System Issues

The single biggest hardware issue affecting webserver performance is RAM. A webserver should never ever have to swap, as swapping increases the latency of each request beyond a point that users consider "fast enough". This causes users to hit stop and reload, further increasing the load. You can, and should, control the MaxRequestWorkers setting so that your server does not spawn so many children that it starts swapping. The procedure for doing this is simple: determine the size of your average Apache process, by looking at your process list via a tool such as top, and divide this into your total available memory, leaving some room for other processes.

Beyond that the rest is mundane: get a fast enough CPU, a fast enough network card, and fast enough disks, where "fast enough" is something that needs to be determined by experimentation.

Operating system choice is largely a matter of local concerns. But some guidelines that have proven generally useful are:


Run-Time Configuration Issues

HostnameLookups and other DNS considerations

Prior to Apache 1.3, HostnameLookups defaulted to On. This adds latency to every request because it requires a DNS lookup to complete before the request is finished. In Apache 1.3 this setting defaults to Off. If you need to have addresses in your log files resolved to hostnames, use the logresolve program that comes with Apache, or one of the numerous log reporting packages which are available.

It is recommended that you do this sort of postprocessing of your log files on some machine other than the production web server machine, in order that this activity not adversely affect server performance.

If you use any Allow from domain or Deny from domain directives (i.e., using a hostname, or a domain name, rather than an IP address) then you will pay for two DNS lookups (a reverse, followed by a forward lookup to make sure that the reverse is not being spoofed). For best performance, therefore, use IP addresses, rather than names, when using these directives, if possible.

Note that it's possible to scope the directives, such as within a <Location "/server-status"> section. In this case the DNS lookups are only performed on requests matching the criteria. Here's an example which disables lookups except for .html and .cgi files:

HostnameLookups off
<Files ~ "\.(html|cgi)$">
  HostnameLookups on

But even still, if you just need DNS names in some CGIs you could consider doing the gethostbyname call in the specific CGIs that need it.

FollowSymLinks and SymLinksIfOwnerMatch

Wherever in your URL-space you do not have an Options FollowSymLinks, or you do have an Options SymLinksIfOwnerMatch, Apache will need to issue extra system calls to check up on symlinks. (One extra call per filename component.) For example, if you had:

DocumentRoot "/www/htdocs"
<Directory "/">
  Options SymLinksIfOwnerMatch

and a request is made for the URI /index.html, then Apache will perform lstat(2) on /www, /www/htdocs, and /www/htdocs/index.html. The results of these lstats are never cached, so they will occur on every single request. If you really desire the symlinks security checking, you can do something like this:

DocumentRoot "/www/htdocs"
<Directory "/">
  Options FollowSymLinks

<Directory "/www/htdocs">
  Options -FollowSymLinks +SymLinksIfOwnerMatch

This at least avoids the extra checks for the DocumentRoot path. Note that you'll need to add similar sections if you have any Alias or RewriteRule paths outside of your document root. For highest performance, and no symlink protection, set FollowSymLinks everywhere, and never set SymLinksIfOwnerMatch.


Wherever in your URL-space you allow overrides (typically .htaccess files), Apache will attempt to open .htaccess for each filename component. For example,

DocumentRoot "/www/htdocs"
<Directory "/">
  AllowOverride all

and a request is made for the URI /index.html. Then Apache will attempt to open /.htaccess, /www/.htaccess, and /www/htdocs/.htaccess. The solutions are similar to the previous case of Options FollowSymLinks. For highest performance use AllowOverride None everywhere in your filesystem.


If at all possible, avoid content negotiation if you're really interested in every last ounce of performance. In practice the benefits of negotiation outweigh the performance penalties. There's one case where you can speed up the server. Instead of using a wildcard such as:

DirectoryIndex index

Use a complete list of options:

DirectoryIndex index.cgi index.pl index.shtml index.html

where you list the most common choice first.

Also note that explicitly creating a type-map file provides better performance than using MultiViews, as the necessary information can be determined by reading this single file, rather than having to scan the directory for files.

If your site needs content negotiation, consider using type-map files, rather than the Options MultiViews directive to accomplish the negotiation. See the Content Negotiation documentation for a full discussion of the methods of negotiation, and instructions for creating type-map files.


In situations where Apache 2.x needs to look at the contents of a file being delivered--for example, when doing server-side-include processing--it normally memory-maps the file if the OS supports some form of mmap(2).

On some platforms, this memory-mapping improves performance. However, there are cases where memory-mapping can hurt the performance or even the stability of the httpd:

For installations where either of these factors applies, you should use EnableMMAP off to disable the memory-mapping of delivered files. (Note: This directive can be overridden on a per-directory basis.)


In situations where Apache 2.x can ignore the contents of the file to be delivered -- for example, when serving static file content -- it normally uses the kernel sendfile support for the file if the OS supports the sendfile(2) operation.

On most platforms, using sendfile improves performance by eliminating separate read and send mechanics. However, there are cases where using sendfile can harm the stability of the httpd: