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Chapter 11. Server Hardware > How Server Hardware Is Different

11.1. How Server Hardware Is Different

11.1.1. Box on a Wire

A web server is essentially remote storage that copies data from its RAM or disk to the network connection upon request. It may not be a simple copy, since dynamic content or database access may be involved, but from the user's point of view, your web server is just one more mass storage device. Now, does a disk drive have a windowing system? No. Similarly, your web server does not need a windowing system, a video card, a monitor, or even a keyboard! In fact, a windowing system occupies a great deal of RAM and CPU time, so it is a drain on server performance. You don't have any choice if you're using a Windows or Mac web server, but on Unix systems you can simply turn off X Windows. NT and Unix have an additional reason not to use a windowing system: the currently active window has a higher execution priority than other processes. On Solaris for example, processes belonging to the currently selected window are bumped up in priority by 10 points (out of 100 or so). If you're not very careful with the windowing system, you can hurt web server performance simply by moving the mouse. It is better to do web server administration remotely over one or more telnet sessions from a different computer.

Web servers without monitors are known as headless servers.


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