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We really squeeze every ounce out of our hardware resources here. The site started out on an old Dell 2300 tower with two PII processors running at 450mhz and 1gig of memory, plus six 9gig SCSI LVD 10k RPM drives and two intel/etherpro 10/100 ethernet cards.
This was built over a year ago and, apart from a memory upgrade, has run like a champ since. It stands now as our firewall and miscellaneous random script machine.
We soon added a bunch more machines, several Intel 2150s rackmounts, with 600mhz to 1ghz PIIIs, 1gig-2gigs of memory and 18gig SCSI LVD 10k RPM drives. We also have several second-hand 2U high VA Linux servers of similar configuration. Our newest performer is a 1-unit high Dell with 4gigs of memory and 2x1ghz PIII CPUs. Currently, I think we have about 18 or 20 CPUs (9 or 10 servers), if you count them all.
Most CPUs are located in New Jersey, at nac.net. We last saw/touched the machines in November 1999. A few more are at UUnet webhosting.
All the machines started as Redhat 6.x, but with everything stripped out and the critical parts (Apache, modperl, MYSQL) recompiled.
Our current connection to the data-center switch at nac.net is 100Mbit.
The site is maintained over DSL, cable modems and SSH2.
Is this a lot of hardware? Doesn't sound like much! It isn't a lot by any standard. We probably have the highest dynamic page/cpu ratio of any site on the web. Any web business would be talking Sun Enterprise servers and large Oracle databases for our traffic.
Why not use PHP? PHP is designed to generate web pages. Perl and associated Perl modules are designed to do anything. So, since we are required to do more than just web pages, Perl is a better choice for us.
Why not use FreeBSD? It is claimed that FreeBSD behaves better at high load than Linux. We should have used it over RedHat. Unfortunately, FreeBSD SMP support was lacking at the time the decisions were made, so we are where we are -- and reasonably happy as well. Sometimes upgrading to new kernels is a lucky dip, but a stable configuration stays stable for months or years.