Everything started on Heroku in October 2012 over their dynos with Heroku Postgres and continued on OpenShift in August 2013 over a LAMP stack based on Apache 2.4, PHP 5.3 and MySQL 5.1.

Now it’s time to to move my little blog on a modern stack. Best offer on OpenShift is a variation of the standard LEMP (we can call it: LEMP-HH) stack with HHVM 3.8, MariaDB 5.5 over NGINX 1.7.


Actually biggest performances improvement was achieved adding a good cache plugin a few months ago. I always used W3 Total Cache and WP Super Cache but, in this specific case, they are both complex to use because of the structure of OpenShift stack. Best solution I found is WP Fastest Cache plugin, one of the latest cache plugin I tested. Here is the stunning header of their website showing two beautiful cheetahs (are they cheetahs?).


Anyway coming back on new stack, there is no official bundle yet but you can create a new application using tengyifei’s HHVM 3.8 cartridge and adding OpenShift MariaDB 5.5 cartridge. I wasn’t able to run them on different gears (with scaling option activated and HAProxy) but seems fast enough on a single gear.

Filesystem structure is similar to the standard PHP bundle except for the application dir that is named www/ instead of php/. I used last backup from UpdraftPlus to migrate database on MariaDB. On non scalable applications you need to forward port in order to access DB from your local machine. RHC command is:

rhc port-forward -a application-name

Source here: Getting Started with Port Forwarding on OpenShift

Moving on NGINX also causes problems on permalinks because .htaccess doesn’t work anymore. The Nginx Helper plugin fix the problem but you could simply add a couple of row to NGINX configuration located in /config/nginx.d/default.conf.erb.

# Handle any other URI
location / {
try_files $uri $uri/ /index.php?q=$request_uri;

Discussion on WordPress support forum: WordPress Permalinks on NGINX

Refactor of previous filesystem, migration of database and bugfix of permalinks and other stuff takes about 2 hours and, at the end, everything seems working fine. I’m quite confident this a future proof solution but I’m going to test it until next major update 🙂

[UPDATE 2015-09-06 21:56 CEST]

After migration sitemap_index.xml and robots.txt weren’t reachable. Some rules were missing. I took the opportunity to switch to Yoast SEO for sitemap, Facebook open graph and Twitter cards. Then, these rules fix problems with SEO.

# Rewrites for WordPress SEO XML Sitemap
rewrite ^/sitemap_index.xml$ /index.php?sitemap=1 last;
rewrite ^/([^/]+?)-sitemap([0-9]+)?.xml$ /index.php?sitemap=$1&sitemap_n=$2 last;
# Rewrites for robots.txt
rewrite ^/robots\.txt$ /index.php?robots=1 last;

bedrock_big_logo During the last couple of weeks I had to work on a PHP project with a custom WordPress stack I have never used before: Bedrock.

The home page says “Bedrock is a modern WordPress stack that gets you started with the best development tools, practices, and project structure.“.

What Bedrock really is

It is a regular WordPress installation with a different folder structure and is integrated with composer for dependencies management and capistrano for deploy. The structure reminds Rails or similar frameworks but contains usual WordPress component and run on the same web stack.

├── composer.json
├── config
│   ├── application.php
│   └── environments
│       ├── development.php
│       ├── staging.php
│       └── production.php
├── vendor
└── web
├── app
│   ├── mu-plugins
│   ├── plugins
│   ├── themes
│   └── uploads
├── wp-config.php
├── index.php
└── wp

Server configuration

The project use to works on Apache with mod_php but I personally don’t like this stack. I’d like to test it on HHVM but at the moment I preferred to run it on nginx with PHP-FPM. Starting with an empty Ubuntu 14.04 installation I set up a LEMP stack with memcached and Redis using apt-get:

apt-get update
apt-get install build-essential tcl8.5 curl screen bootchart git mailutils munin-node vim nmap tcpdump nginx mysql-server mysql-client memcached redis-server php5-fpm php5-curl php5-mysql php5-mcrypt php5-memcache php5-redis php5-gd

Everything works fine except the Redis extension (used for custom function unrelated with WordPress). I don’t know why but the config file wasn’t copied into the configuration directory /etc/php5/fpm/conf.d/. You can find it among the available mods into /etc/php5/mods-available/.

PHP-FPM uses a standard configuration placed into /etc/php5/fpm/pool.d/example.conf. It listen on or unix socket in /var/run/php5-fpm-example.sock (I assume the configured name was “example”).

Memcached should be configured to be used for session sharing among multiple servers. To activate it you need to edit the php.ini configuration file setting the following parameters into /etc/php5/fpm/php.ini

session.save_handler = memcache
session.save_path = 'tcp://,tcp://'

nginx configuration is placed into /etc/nginx/sites-available/ and linked into /etc/nginx/sites-enabled/ as usual and forward request to PHP-FPM for PHP files.

server {
listen 80 default deferred;
root /var/www/example/htdocs/current/web/;
index index.html index.htm index.php;
access_log /var/www/example/logs/access.log;
error_log /var/www/example/logs/error.log;
location / {
try_files $uri $uri/ /index.php?q=$uri&$args;
location ~\.php$ {
try_files $uri =404;
# fastcgi_pass;
fastcgi_pass unix:/var/run/php5-fpm-example.sock;
fastcgi_index index.php;
fastcgi_buffers 16 16k;
fastcgi_buffer_size 32k;
include fastcgi_params;
location ~ /\.ht {
deny all;

Root directory will be web/ of Bedrock prefixed with current/ to support the capistrano directory structure displayed below.

├── current -> /var/www/example/htdocs/releases/20150120114500/
├── releases
│   ├── 20150080072500
│   ├── 20150090083000
│   ├── 20150100093500
│   ├── 20150110104000
│   └── 20150120114500
├── repo
│   └── <VCS related data>
├── revisions.log
└── shared
└── <linked_files and linked_dirs>

Local configuration

I’m quite familiar with capistrano because of my Ruby recent background. You need a Ruby version greater then 1.9.3 to run it (RVM helps). First step is to download dependencies. Ruby uses Bundler.

# run it to install bundler gem the first time
gem install bundler
# run it to install dependencies
bundle install

Bundler read the Gemfile (and Gemfile.lock) and download all the required gems (Ruby libraries).

Now the technological stack is ready locally and on server 🙂
I’ll probably describe how to run a LEMP stack on OS X in a next post. For the moment I’m assuming you are able to run it locally. Here is useful guides by Jonas Friedmann and rtCamp.

Anyway Bedrock could run over any LAMP/LEMP stack. The only “special” feature is the Composer integration. Composer for PHP is like Bundler for Ruby. Helps developers to manage dependencies in the project. Here is used to manage plugins, themes and WordPress core update.

You can run composer install to install libraries. If you update libraries configuration or you want to force download of them (maybe after a fresh install) run composer update.


Capistrano enable user to setup different deploy environment. A global configuration is defined and you need to specify only custom configuration for each environment. An example of /config/deploy/production.rb:

set :application, 'example'
set :stage, :production
set :branch, "master"
server '', user: 'user', roles: %w{web app db}

Everything else is inherited from global config where are defined all the other deploy properties. Is important to say that deploy script of capistrano on Bedrock only download source code from Git repo and run composer install for main project. If you need to run in on any plugin you new to define a custom capistrano task and run it after the end of deploy. For instance you can add in the global configuration the following lines in order to install dependencies on a specific plugin:

namespace :deploy do
desc 'Rebuild Plugin Libraries'
task :updateplugin do
on roles(:app), in: :sequence, wait: 5 do
execute "cd /var/www/#{fetch(:application)}/htdocs/current/web/app/plugins/anything/ && composer install"
after 'deploy:publishing', 'deploy:updateplugin'

Now you are ready to deploy your Bedrock install on server!
Simply run cap production deploy, restart PHP-FPM (service php5-fpm restart) and enjoy it 😀

Many thanks to Giuseppe, great sysadmin and friend, for support during development and deploy of this @#@?!?@# application.


Informations about VKontakte, the largest european social network, and its infrastructure are very few and fragmented. The only recent insights, in english, about its technology is a BTI’s press release which talks about VK migration on their infrastructure. Everything was top secret.

Only on 2011 at Moscow HighLoad++Pavel Durov and Oleg Illarionov told something about the architecture of the social network and insights are collected into this post (in russian). 

VK seems not different than any other popular social network: is over a LAMP stack and uses many other open source technologies.

  • Debian is the base for their custom Linux distro.
  • nginx mange load balancing in front of Apache who runs PHP using mod_php and XCache as opcode cacher.
  • MySQL is the main datastore but a custom DBMS (written using C and based on memcached protocol) is used for some magics. memcached helps also page caching.
  • XMPP is used for messages and chats and runs over node.js. Availability is granted by HAProxy who handle the node’s fragility.
  • Multimedia files are stored using xfs and media encoding is made using ffmpeg.
  • Everything is distributed over more than 4 datacenters

vk_logoThe main difference betweek VK and other social network is about server functions: VK servers are multifunctional. There is no clear distinction between database servers or file servers, they are used simultaneously in several roles.

Load balancing between servers occurs on a layered circuit which includes at balancing DNS, as well as routing requests within the system, wherein the different servers are used for different types of requests. 

For example, microblogging is working on a tricky circuit using memcached protocol capability for parallel sending requests for data on a large number of keys. In the absence of data in the cache, the same request is sent to the storage system, and the results are subjected to sorting, filtering and discarding the excess at the level of PHP-code.

The custom database is still a secret and is widely used in VKontakte. Many services use it: private messages, messages on the walls, statuses, search, privacy, friends lists and probably more. It uses a non-relational data model, and most operations are performed in memory. Access interface is an advanced protocol memcached. Specially compiled keys return the results of complex queries. They said is developed “best minds” of Russia.

I wasn’t able to find any other insight about VK infrastructure after this speech. They are like KGB 😀

Facebook has one of the biggest hardware infrastructure in the world with more than 60.000 servers. But servers are worthless if you can’t efficiently use them. So how does Facebook works?

Facebook born in 2004 on a LAMP stack. A PHP website with MySQL datastore. Now is powered by a complex set of interconnected systems grown over the original stack. Main components are:

  1. Frontend
  2. Main persistence layer
  3. Data warehouse layer
  4. Facebook Images
  5. Facebook Messages and Chat
  6. Facebook Search

1. Frontend

hiphopThe frontend is written in PHP and compiled using HipHop (open sourced on github) and g++. HipHop converts PHP in C++ you can compile. Facebook frontend is a single 1,5 GB binary file deployed using BitTorrent. It provide logic and template system. Some parts are external and use HipHop Interpreter (to develop and debug) and HipHop Virtual Machine to run HipHop “ByteCode”.

Is not clear which web server they are using. Apache was used in the beginning and probably is still used for main fronted. In 2009 they acquired (and open sourced) Tornado from FriendFeed and are using it for Real-Time updates feature of the frontend. Static contents (such as fronted images) are served through Akamai.

Everything not in the main binary (or in the ByteCode source) is served using using Thrift protocol. Java services are served without Tomcat or Jetty. Overhead required by these application server is worthless for Facebook architecture. Varnish is used to accelerate responses to HTTP requests.

To speed up frontend rendering they use BigPipe, a sort of mod_pagespeed. After a HTTP request servers fetch data and build HTML structure. HTML is sent before data retrieval and is rendered by the browser. After render, Javascript retrieve and display data (already available) in asynchronous way.

memcachedThe Memcached infrastructure is based on more than 800 servers with 28TB of memory. They use a modded version of Memcached which reimplement the connection pool buffer (and rely on some mods on the network layer of Linux) to better manage hundred of thousand of connections.

Insights and Sources:

2. Main Persistence layer

Facebook rely on MySQL as main datastore. I know, I can’t believe it too…

mysql_clusterThey have one of the largest MySQL Cluster deploy in the world and use the standard InnoDB engine. As many other people they designd the system to easìly handle MySQL failure, they simply enforce backup. Recently Facebook Engineers published a post about their 3-level backup stack:

  • Stage 1: each node (all the replica set) of cluster has 2 rack backup. One of these backup binary log (to speed up slave promotion) and one with mysqldump snapshot taken every night (to handle node failure).
  • Stage 2: each binlog and backup are copied in a larger Hadoop cluster mapped using HDFS. This layer provide a fast and distributed source of data useful to restore nodes also in differenti locations.
  • Stage 3: provide a long-term storage copying data from Hadoop cluster to a discrete storage in a separate region.

Facebook collect several statistics about failure, traffic and backups. These statistics contribute to build a “score” of a node. If a node fails or has a score too low an automatic system provide to restore it from Stage 1 or Stage 2. They don’t try to avoid problem, they simply handle them as fast as possible.

Insights and Sources:

3. Data warehouse layer

hadoopMySQL data is also moved to a “cold” storage to be analyzed. This storage is based on Hadoop HDFS (which leverage on HBase) and is queried using Hive. Data such as logging, clicks and feeds transit using Scribe and are aggregating and stored in Hadoop HDFS using Scribe-HDFS.

Standard Hadoop HDFS implementation has some limitations. Facebook adds a different kind of NameNodes called AvatarNodes which use Apache ZooKeeper to handle node failure. They also adds RaidNode that use XOR-parity files to decrease storage usage.


Analysis are made using MapReduce. Anyway analyze several petabytes of data is hard and standard Hadoop MapReduce framework became a limit on 2011. So they developed Corona, a new scheduling framework that separates cluster resource management from job coordination. Results are stored into Oracle RAC (Real Application Cluster).

Insights and Sources:

In the next post I’m going to analyze the other Facebook services: Images, Message and Search.

When your WordPress blog gets bigger and traffic grows you have to handle cache. No excuse: is a fast, cheap and optimized way to deal with traffic problems.

W3 Total Cache and WP Super Cache are the most popular plugins to handle cache on WordPress which works well but I don’t like them. They are a good choice only if you don’t have many customizations or some hardware constrain. Recently I had many problems with both two because of other caching systems and some problems on the server.

Now if I have to activate cache on a production stack formed by Apache + PHP-CGI + WordPress I certainly choose nginx.

Using nginx you can activate a fully customized cache layer in front of your website. Unfortunately WordPress doesn’t support nginx cache natively. You need a plugin to deal with it: the WordPress Nginx proxy cache integrator. The code is below:

function add_xaccel_header() {
// Set the X-Accel-Expires header to never cache the page
// if it looks like the page needs to be tailored
// for a user.
$user_cookie_there = false;
foreach($_COOKIE as $key => $value){
if( preg_match('/wordpress_(?!test_cookie)|comment_author|wp-postpass/', $key) ){
$user_cookie_there = true;
header("X-Accel-Expires: 0");

The plugin sets a cookie to enable nginx to discriminate between logged and guest user and not cache pages for authors. Default behavior for nginx is to not cache any pages if a cookie is set.

After you had set this plugin you can put nginx in front of Apache. The authors of the plugin suggest an optimal configuration but I prefer a simpler one written by my friend @dani_viga on his blog.

[UPDATE 2013-03-05] Look at the post (finally public :))

In addition, to speed up IO (server’s NAS has some latency problems), we use a ramdrive to store cache files. We also had to disable mod_deflate in order to solve some problems when you active gzip compression before nginx.

Now average response time is under 100 ms, static contents are served without Apache and there is no potentially problematic plugin to manage. And purge cache takes less then 3 secs. 😀