As mentioned earlier, when running scripts under mod_perl you will notice that the httpd processes consume a huge amount of virtual memory—from 5 MB-15 MB, and sometimes even more. That is the price you pay for the enormous speed improvements under mod_perl, mainly because the code is compiled once and needs to be cached for later reuse. But in fact less memory is used if memory sharing takes place. Chapter 14 covers this issue extensively.
Using these large processes to serve static objects such as images and HTML documents is overkill. A better approach is to run two servers: a very light, plain Apache server to serve static objects and a heavier, mod_perl-enabled Apache server to serve requests for dynamically generated objects. From here on, we will refer to these two servers as httpd_docs (vanilla Apache) and httpd_perl (mod_perl-enabled Apache). This approach is depicted in Figure 12-2.
The advantages of this setup are:
The heavy mod_perl processes serve only dynamic requests, so fewer of these large servers are deployed.
MaxClients, MaxRequestsPerChild, and related parameters can now be optimally tuned for both the httpd_docs and httpd_perl servers (something we could not do before). This allows us to fine-tune the memory usage and get better server performance.
Now we can run many lightweight httpd_docs servers and just a few heavy httpd_perl servers.
The disadvantages are:
The need for two configuration files, two sets of controlling scripts (startup/shutdown), and watchdogs.
If you are processing log files, you will probably have to merge the two separate log files into one before processing them.
Just as in the one-server approach, we still have the problem of a mod_perl process spending its precious time serving slow clients when the processing portion of the request was completed a long time ago. (Deploying a proxy, covered in the next section, solves this problem.)
As with the single-server approach, this is not a major disadvantage if you are on a fast network (i.e., an Intranet). It is likely that you do not want a buffering server in this case.
Note that when a user browses static pages and the base URL in the browser's location window points to the static server (for example http://www.example.com/index.html), all relative URLs (e.g., <a href="/main/download.html">) are being served by the plain Apache server. But this is not the case with dynamically generated pages. For example, when the base URL in the location window points to the dynamic server (e.g., http://www.example.com:8000/perl/index.pl), all relative URLs in the dynamically generated HTML will be served by heavy mod_perl processes.
You must use fully qualified URLs, not relative ones. http://www.example.com/icons/arrow.gif is a full URL, while /icons/arrow.gif is a relative one. Using <basehref="http://www.example.com/"> in the generated HTML is another way to handle this problem. Also, the httpd_perl server could rewrite the requests back to httpd_docs (much slower) and you still need the attention of the heavy servers.
This is not an issue if you hide the internal port implementations, so the client sees only one server running on port 80, as explained later in this chapter.