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Getting Started with Nginx and PHP-FPM

Note: This article was originally published at Planet PHP on 13 July 2010.
Planet PHP

Nginx, a HTTP and reverse proxy server, known for its blazing speed in serving static files, including grand performance in terms of serving up FastCGI pages makes for a great coupling with the upcoming PHP-FPM sapi in PHP (It is currently in the 5.3 branch and previously was a patch) offer a great solution for finally getting rid of that old sloppy mod_php in Apache. Do you have the same issue where your apache instances have started to run too large? This might be the time to start to move forward.

A little background on why I have endeavored on this path. While running Apache at several jobs and institutions it simply became clear that under heavier traffic loads having all of the ridged custom components of Apache were starting to slow things down. To the point of large instances running sometimes up to 300MB in size. Having this size just to get a simple image or PHP page was just not necessary as well as proved to be a performance bottleneck.

While the first point of departure is to utilize a faster web server to proxy the existing one, it still does not stand to the point of keeping everything to a single task. This is where the FastCGI instances of PHP started to come in very useful as well as having something to monitor the processes aka PHP-FPM.


This posting assumes that you are not operating under a shared hosting account and that you have some dedicated hardware, a virtual machine or something in the cloud. Currently I have just switched from a dedicated server at The Planet to their new cloud offering which reduced my immediate costs substantially (149 to 99 per month for essentially the same thing but even better - my disk now operates off of a SAN. To you cloud junkies, you know disk speed / IO wait time is a pain in the a**. This simply mitigates these types of issues). Which has allowed me to take some time to move over to Nginx and PHP-FPM without having to have reconfigured my existing machine to what I wanted.

Further, you must be comfortable in running everything under a single user account, this is not something for a shared hosting supplier (while you can accomplish this, it is not why I am writing this post since the security of which, is just terrible). Simply put, if you have a shared hosting account switch to a VM (cloud hosting is a VM) or a dedicated server. This may not make some of you happy to hear but there are generally a large amount of issues with shared hosting - mostly related to security. But that is another ranta. Let's get started.


PHP-FPM is a FastCGI process manager for PHP, say goodbye to the spawn-fcgi script from Lighttpd. The PHP-FPM has additional features that can make it appealing for any crowd. To name a few:

  • Emergency restart in case of accidental opcode cache destruction
  • Enhancements to FastCGI, such as fastcgi_finish_request() - a special function to finish request & flush all data while continuing to do something time-consuming
  • Ability to start workers with different uid/gid/chroot/environment and different php.ini (replaces safe_mode) - Covered in the PHP-FPM workers documentation.
  • Adaptive process spawning

PHP-FPM has been available for quite some time, however, it is new to the PHP 5.3 branch (to date, it has not been in a packaged release from PHP). There is a bit of configuration that you will need to do with PHP in order to get up and running with PHP-FPM. If you are afraid of compiling or not using your package managers builds, then you may want to stop reading now.

PHP 5.3 + PHP-FPM Installation

Installing PHP 5.3 and including PHP-FPM is simple. I tend to statically compile many of my extensions into PHP to make maintenance more simple with multiple machines. However, this is not a necessity. To get going follow these instructions (if you already have PHP and want to maintain some of your current configuration do a php -i from the command line and grab the configure statement - excluding apache related configuration (aka apxs). I've removed most of my configuration from this tutorial. You may find that you need additional librarys installed (just install them through your package manager).

#!/bin/bash wget"/

Truncated by Planet PHP, read more at the original (another 19714 bytes)