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3. Capacity Planning > How Fast a Server Do You Need?

How Fast a Server Do You Need?

Given a certain network bandwidth, how fast a server do you need? More server disk speed, bus speed, and CPU speed all cost money. From the network bandwidth, you have an upper limit on the HTTP server hardware you need for serving static content such as HTML and images. A 250 MHz Pentium machine serving static files from Apache is capable of filling a 10 Mbps Ethernet line, because static pages are I/O-bound, not CPU-bound. On the other hand, sites that do a lot of servlets, CGI, or other dynamic content generation, are typically CPU-bound. If you have any dynamic content, you should size your server around that.

Another point to keep in mind is performance serving static files is not a bottleneck for most sites. Server performance is plenty fast enough with pretty much every web server, where “fast enough” means “faster than your outgoing line.” Remember that there’s no point in buying server hardware that has vastly more throughput capacity than the network it’s connected to because you can’t use that server’s throughput. The web server software and operating system determine how efficiently you can use your server hardware.


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