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Old 10-20-2010, 10:00 PM   #1
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Memory limits for CMS sites

I've been a HN reseller for a number of years, and a client for several more years before that. I've always loved HN and the excellent support here.

I have a recurring issue that I've seen grow over time, and it's only going to get worse, so I thought I would bring it up here. Almost all of the websites that I build for myself and my clients now are based on a CMS -- most often Drupal, Zen Cart or Joomla. As these CMS packages get increasingly complex, they have more and more memory requirements. It has become standard for me to have to submit a support ticket for every new site to ask that the PHP memory_limit be increased.

Understandably, there is some resistance from the HN admins to increase the memory limit too high. Obviously, if every site on a shared server would use its maximum memory limit all the time, the server would choke. However, in most cases the need for more memory is only an occasional requirement for certain admin operations. For example, Drupal's module admin page loads all of the installed modules into memory at the same time, and some of the modules are quite large (eg views, ubercart). So loading that page can easily require 48MB or 64MB of memory if there are a lot of modules, which can cause a fatal error if the memory limit is exceeded.

As I said, I can only see this issue getting more prevalent over time, so I wonder if there are any ideas that would work to counteract this problem. Is there any way to allocate memory limits dynamically, so that a site can use a higher amount of memory for a brief time, such as for admin operations, if it keeps a low average the rest of the time? Or can the default limit be set higher, with monitoring in place to cut the limit down if a site is a consistent memory hog?
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Old 10-21-2010, 11:52 PM   #2
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Well, as servers get more powerful and capable of holding more memory the memory limit we allow also does go up. What we can definitely do is increase memory limits on a per domain basis. And if you need more dedicated resources you can look into getting a VPS as then you just pay for the memory you use.
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Old 10-22-2010, 04:35 PM   #3
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That's awesome, Laurence -- however I've noticed a distinct resistance from the admins to increase the PHP memory_limit to anything more than 48MB. Some of my sites, especially if they're running ecommerce, can easily run into 128MB or even 256MB memory requirements. In most cases, that's only a very occasional need for certain admin operations, but the site isn't fully functional without it. Is that kind of limit an option for shared hosting?
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Old 10-22-2010, 10:19 PM   #4
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Well 256mb is never going to happen on any shared server in any hosting company on the planet.

Say you have 7 sites running 128mb sites all the time, that's 1gb on a server that has 4-8gb total. So normally 64 would be the max.

If you want to use that much memory, you need to pay for it, eiother with a VPS or a dedicated server. The latter always being the better option.
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Old 10-23-2010, 01:21 AM   #5
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Agreed. But my point is that this kind of site only needs a very occasional spike in memory usage for certain admin operations. So I'm hoping there's some way of allowing that, without allowing a site to hog a lot of memory continuously.
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Old 10-26-2010, 04:16 PM   #6
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The only time you should need that volume of memory ("occational spike") is image processing - which is very memory hungry in PHP. If a CMS needs 128MB of memory just to deliver a page, it's not well written at all - and you're saying these sites need 256MB to load an admin interface?! You need a different CMS if that's the case.

You can't control occassional spikes, so the space needs to be reserved. There are, at a guess, 500 domains on a shared server. Assuming that only 20 of them are really active, but all are CMS built (most active sites are). If they all needed 256MB, the server needs 5GB reserverd for 20 domains admin panels. And I'd question, if the back-end needs that much memory, how much is required for basic page delivery, how much disk traffic is there (that 256MB needs to be loaded from somewhere - at least most of it).

20 years ago, programs and databases were built where every byte counted. 10 years ago databases were still built where every byte counted. Today, no-one seems to care - but data and processing still costs money. Perhaps someone needs to teach whoever programs these CMS systems about the values of decent coding again?
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Old 10-27-2010, 12:42 PM   #7
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Haha, I remember learning to program on a Northstar Horizon and a Sinclair ZX81, so I know what you mean about making every byte count, Rob!

The particular issue I'm running up against here is the Drupal module admin page. On most sites it isn't an issue, but with a site with a lot of large modules installed this page won't work without enough PHP memory -- it loads all of the installed modules into memory. When I'm building a site I'm likely to visit this page a number of times, then very rarely after the site is live. So it really is a rare spike of memory usage, and the argument that the active sites on a shared server would use up all available memory seems unlikely to me for that particular case.

Regardless, I understand what you're both saying, you can't over-allocate memory limits on a shared server. I guess what I'm asking is what is the upper limit that I could request for a particular site with heavy memory needs? If I know what the limit is, and I can't run the site within that, then I can move it to a VPS.
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Old 11-02-2010, 04:20 PM   #8
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Just to respond to the question about what is the maximum, I can't anwer as I don't run the servers. Sorry!

You might try asking support or sales for an increase "for 12 hours" (or however long it takes to setup and then drop back down after the 12 hours?
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