September 13th, 2008

Server load: DreamHost vs WebFaction

I got tired of the slowness of DreamHost servers and its consequences, such as sites being down or extremely slow from time to time. So I decided to migrate progressively over the next weeks to WebFaction because:

  1. The costs are the same.
  2. They don’t overload their servers.
  3. They have an excellent reputation in the TurboGears community.

So here I offer a comparison on the server load in my DreamHost shared host vs my WebFaction shared host.

Server load itself

DreamHost

Server load at a DreamHost machine

2.83 of mean load during the last 15 minutes!

Please note that DreamHost is hiding the actual amount of connected users.

WebFaction

Server load under a WebFaction host

0.44 of mean load during the last 15 minutes! Of course, WebFaction has nothing to hide.

Users per server

The conclusive proof to demostrate that DreamHost overloads their servers, while WebFaction cares about their servers’ load, is the amount of users per server:

DreamHost

[trans-am]$ wc -l /etc/passwd
875 /etc/passwd

875 users at the same host!

WebFaction

[gnarea@web51 ~]$ wc -l /etc/passwd
178 /etc/passwd

178 users on a server that is much better than DreamHost’s!

Server specs

Before somebody comes up and say “That’s not a conclusive proof, DreamHost’s hardware may be capable of handling more users than WebFaction’s”, here you have some specifications for every server — guess what? This WebFaction server is better than my shared host at DreamHost!

DreamHost

[trans-am]$ free -m
total used free shared buffers cached
Mem: 4039 3851 188 0 127 1855
-/+ buffers/cache: 1868 2170
Swap: 6165 544 5621
[trans-am]$ cat /proc/cpuinfo
processor : 0
vendor_id : AuthenticAMD
cpu family : 15
model : 67
model name : Dual-Core AMD Opteron(tm) Processor 1218 HE
stepping : 3
cache size : 1024 KB
fdiv_bug : no
hlt_bug : no
f00f_bug : no
coma_bug : no
fpu : yes
fpu_exception : yes
cpuid level : 1
wp : yes
flags : fpu vme de pse msr pae mce cx8 apic sep mtrr pge mca cmov pat pse36 clflush mmx fxsr sse sse2 ht syscall mmxext lm 3dnowext 3dnow pni
bogomips : 2588.67
#
processor : 1
vendor_id : AuthenticAMD
cpu family : 15
model : 67
model name : Dual-Core AMD Opteron(tm) Processor 1218 HE
stepping : 3
cache size : 1024 KB
fdiv_bug : no
hlt_bug : no
f00f_bug : no
coma_bug : no
fpu : yes
fpu_exception : yes
cpuid level : 1
wp : yes
flags : fpu vme de pse msr pae mce cx8 apic sep mtrr pge mca cmov pat pse36 clflush mmx fxsr sse sse2 ht syscall mmxext lm 3dnowext 3dnow pni
bogomips : 2588.67

WebFaction

[gnarea@web51 ~]$ free -m
total used free shared buffers cached
Mem: 4054 3869 185 0 103 1371
-/+ buffers/cache: 2394 1660
Swap: 1992 487 1505
[gnarea@web51 ~]$ cat /proc/cpuinfo
processor : 0
vendor_id : GenuineIntel
cpu family : 6
model : 15
model name : Intel(R) Xeon(R) CPU X3210 @ 2.13GHz
stepping : 11
cpu MHz : 2133.601
cache size : 4096 KB
physical id : 0
siblings : 4
core id : 0
cpu cores : 4
fdiv_bug : no
hlt_bug : no
f00f_bug : no
coma_bug : no
fpu : yes
fpu_exception : yes
cpuid level : 10
wp : yes
flags : fpu vme de pse tsc msr pae mce cx8 apic sep mtrr pge mca cmov pat pse36 clflush dts acpi mmx fxsr sse sse2 ss ht tm pbe nx lm constant_tsc pni monitor ds_cpl vmx est tm2 cx16 xtpr lahf_lm
bogomips : 4269.19
#
processor : 1
vendor_id : GenuineIntel
cpu family : 6
model : 15
model name : Intel(R) Xeon(R) CPU X3210 @ 2.13GHz
stepping : 11
cpu MHz : 2133.601
cache size : 4096 KB
physical id : 0
siblings : 4
core id : 1
cpu cores : 4
fdiv_bug : no
hlt_bug : no
f00f_bug : no
coma_bug : no
fpu : yes
fpu_exception : yes
cpuid level : 10
wp : yes
flags : fpu vme de pse tsc msr pae mce cx8 apic sep mtrr pge mca cmov pat pse36 clflush dts acpi mmx fxsr sse sse2 ss ht tm pbe nx lm constant_tsc pni monitor ds_cpl vmx est tm2 cx16 xtpr lahf_lm
bogomips : 4266.80
#
processor : 2
vendor_id : GenuineIntel
cpu family : 6
model : 15
model name : Intel(R) Xeon(R) CPU X3210 @ 2.13GHz
stepping : 11
cpu MHz : 2133.601
cache size : 4096 KB
physical id : 0
siblings : 4
core id : 2
cpu cores : 4
fdiv_bug : no
hlt_bug : no
f00f_bug : no
coma_bug : no
fpu : yes
fpu_exception : yes
cpuid level : 10
wp : yes
flags : fpu vme de pse tsc msr pae mce cx8 apic sep mtrr pge mca cmov pat pse36 clflush dts acpi mmx fxsr sse sse2 ss ht tm pbe nx lm constant_tsc pni monitor ds_cpl vmx est tm2 cx16 xtpr lahf_lm
bogomips : 4266.83
#
processor : 3
vendor_id : GenuineIntel
cpu family : 6
model : 15
model name : Intel(R) Xeon(R) CPU X3210 @ 2.13GHz
stepping : 11
cpu MHz : 2133.601
cache size : 4096 KB
physical id : 0
siblings : 4
core id : 3
cpu cores : 4
fdiv_bug : no
hlt_bug : no
f00f_bug : no
coma_bug : no
fpu : yes
fpu_exception : yes
cpuid level : 10
wp : yes
flags : fpu vme de pse tsc msr pae mce cx8 apic sep mtrr pge mca cmov pat pse36 clflush dts acpi mmx fxsr sse sse2 ss ht tm pbe nx lm constant_tsc pni monitor ds_cpl vmx est tm2 cx16 xtpr lahf_lm
bogomips : 4266.81

Comments

  1. Thomas N. on 09 Oct 2008 at 9:47 am #

    I’m on the same DH server as you (I found your blog when i googled for trans-am.dreamhost.com users :P ) and I pretty much agree with you… DH’s servers tend to be a bit crowded and busy. However, I think I’m staying for a number of reasons (including my own laziness and DH’s terms of service which are among the better ones among cheap hosts).. but I can’t say I’m hosting anything important either (but i keep an account on https://www.nearlyfreespeech.net for stuff I’d like to keep online more reliably)

    It remains to be seen how much reliability improvement will come from this
    http://blog.dreamhost.com/2008/10/01/lets-save-our-environment-harder/
    change of server architecture. Changes include local storage for better I/O and (i presume) 64 bit Linux systems with more than 4 gigs of ram.

    At the moment DH uses separate file and mysql boxes (probably with some network latency as a consequence).

    How is your machine @webfaction configured? are the /home dirs NFS mounts, or do they use local raid 6 for /home (the latter being what DH will migrate to)?

  2. Kevin on 19 Dec 2008 at 11:42 pm #

    I switched from Dreamhost to Webfaction a year ago, and my initial review would have looked much like yours. My sites were MUCH faster at Webfaction.

    Then, my sites got slower and slower, and when I complained, they said I should move my web sites to a different server. My sites were fast again, for a few months, and then they got slower, and slower… and it looks like I will have to go through the hassle of moving to a different server again.

    Right now my Webfaction server has a load of 12 and it takes between five and thirty seconds to load a page where it used to take less than one second. So I have to disagree with the claim that “They don’t overload their servers.” The statistics on the Google Webmaster tools show steadily deteriorating performance with an average page load going from less than one second to more than four seconds over the last three months.

    After 60 days there are no refunds so be careful about signing up with them for a long term contract. I’m tired of arguing with them about speed issues but at this point I don’t have any alternative except to abandon the money I’ve already paid them.

  3. jay on 29 Dec 2008 at 2:48 am #

    I switched from dreamhost to webfaction, mainly for the speed increase. I tested using a drupal install with devel to document load times and webfaction was 4 times or more faster (in miliseconds) than dreamhost. Of course milliseconds won’t even be visible to the human eye, but it all adds up. The fact dreamhost datacenter is in CA and webfaction is in dallas, where I live, it might not be totally fair.

    The day before my dreamhost account ended this happened: http://www.dreamhoststatus.com/2008/12/14/spacey-filer-problems/. So that was another incentive to leave DH. Dreamhost operates their own datacenter I thought, which I would think make repairs faster.

    The webfaction panel is very simplified compared to dreamhost which I think is a plus, but has fewer built in features. Webfaction is pretty cheap and their month to month pricing/billing is really good for a host.

    If it is true that servers are overloaded down the road after the “trial period”, then they will ultimately screw themselves. They will start getting bad press like above that doesn’t go away. But being a shared host inherently means trouble. You need to be lucky enough to get on a shared server with others who are not abusing it.

    There will always be alternatives to both dreamhost and webfaction. For now webfaction seems okay for me, but that could change. A website owners end goal should be to eventually move to a dedicated server or VPS.

  4. Eva Campbell on 19 May 2010 at 8:31 am #

    Can anyone suggest a reliable Dedicated Server hosting that is not very expensive?,`’

  5. Kian Gray on 16 Jul 2010 at 4:43 am #

    Dedicated servers are the best when you want a stable webhost. .;:

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    You're visiting the technical blog of Gustavo Narea, a Software Developer based in Oxford.