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Best Web Hosting Review

Fri, 11 Apr 2008 16:09:19 +0000
The purpose of the Best Web Hosting Review is to provide you with the information and knowledge to permit you to choose the best web hosting companies.
Writing down a best web hosting review article is not an easy task as there’re so many factors and so many different individual requirements and expectations.
Anyway, after spending a ...]

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Microsoft IIS to overtake Apache?

Mon, 05 Nov 2007 20:50:09 +0000

This is why hosting companies have to remain vigilant about every sign up they get. Unfortunately, this is why you may also have to provide additional info upon signup, which could extend your signup process from a few minutes to a couple of days. For your own safety though...

ServerWays OpenVZ VPS Review

Tue, 05 Feb 2008 00:17:42 +1100

Last week I needed a small VPS to test a new project so I went to Web Hosting Talk VPS offers forum to look for something really cheap, and found this deal at ServerWays.com. ServerWays is a new company, with its domain registered in December 2007. It is also a one-man shop according to this discussion thread. However it does not really matter to me as (1) it is only less than $5 per month (2) it is for a throw away project. So I clicked on the Order button for their lowest spec’ed VPS 111.

This is what you get for $4.90/month, billed monthly and no set up fee.

  • 100MB guaranteed memory

  • 10GB storage

  • 100GB/month transfer

  • OpenVZ + HyperVM

Provisioning and Setting Up

I submitted an order at around 22:30 -700 and got an notification pretty much straight away. It was set up at 1:40 -700 so 3 hours turn around setting up new accounts at odd hour of the day — not too bad. I ordered a Debian 4 Etch minimum, and then installed a basic PHP stack for some quick test.

  • MySQL 5.0.32 — default set up with query cache and innode DB turned off

  • PHP 5.2.0 — 2x FastCGI slaves

  • Lighttpd 1.4.13

A few observations while setting up this low end box.

  • Network is Cogent, which explains why it is so cheap.

  • Throughput of network is actually pretty good. I can download big Debian packages at around 500+ Kbps from US mirrors. Latency is not too bad either as the server is located in Portland Oregon. 190ms from my Sydney ADSL connection.

  • There is no “burstable” memory. 25,600 privvmpages — exactly 100MB that can be allocated by all processes. However, a simple stack like above + Exim4 + cron + syslog-ng + xinetd comes down to around only 35MB used.

  • Physical server is an old Pentium D 3.0Ghz. It is dual core, but your VPS only has access to only one of its CPU cores.

  • Most user_beancounters values are very reasonable. I guess these were set up by HyperVM.

  • meminfo has been virtualised so there is no way to find out the memory utilisation on the physical node.

It is all good so far. Until I started doing some test.

CPU — Severely Limited

So I have pretty much everything needed to serve up dynamic PHP content. I then checked out the latest WordPress from subversion, and started to install a new blog.

And it was frustratingly slow!!

An out-of-box WordPress front page having only one single “Hello World” post will take around 5 seconds to render (compare to around 0.3 second on my SliceHost VPS, and 0.8 second on my DreamHost account). Everytime you click on a link, you have to wait for 5 seconds for the page to be generated, and you can see the load went straight up with php-cgi as the most CPU-consuming process. However, there is something wrong —

It is only using less than 4% of CPU time!!

Basically throughout the 5 seconds it tried to generate the pages, PHP interpretor process exhausted all the CPU time this VPS is allowed to have, which is less than 4% of a single out-dated NetBurst core! It can be easily verified — just create a simple busy loop program in C, run it, and watch it consuming all the CPU resources you got — no more than 4% of the CPU time!

There might be a few possible explanations:

  • ServerWays has an overcrowded server where everyone is fighting for the CPU time

  • My VPS has been throttled with limited CPU time

To me it is more of later than former as the maximum CPU time my processes can get seems to be fixed at always less than 4%. Looking at /proc/cpuinfo reveals that the CPU has indeed been capped at 114Mhz. It appears that cpulimit has been used so my “burstable CPU” can never exceed 4% of a CPU core!

That seems to be defeating the purpose of virtualisation, where you get burstable CPU time to improve CPU utilisation, doesn’t it? So I opened a support ticket for clarification.


It is also a great opportunity to test the support response. ServerWays uses WHM Complete as billing/support portal so I posted the following support ticket at 018:30 -700:

Hi ServerWays,

I have recently acquired a VPS 111 (great price, btw) to do some testing, and noted that it seems to be *limited* to 100Mhz, instead of guaranteed with 100Mhz, i.e. cpulimit instead of cpuunit in OpenVZ VE parameters. It is a bit frustrating seeing even a process with a spinning loop can use no more than 4% of CPU. With a testing WordPress install it is still taking around 5 seconds to generate each page because CPU utilisation has been throttled. Is that intentional with this plan?

Response came back 6 hours later. I won’t post the verbatim response here, but basically:

  • Yes it is intentional, setting provided by HyperVM.

  • You need to upgrade plans to get more CPU time.

Hmm. All right. Even if I upgraded to their VPS 555 plan with 500MB privvmpages, 50GB storage and 500GB monthly transfer for only $12.90, the CPU will still be limited at 500Mhz. The WordPress page generation time might be reduced by one fifth to 1 second per page, it is still far more than what I have expected.


There is no doubt ServerWays.com provides cheap low-end VPS. $4.90/month is even cheaper than many shared hosting accounts. 100MB burstable memory is plenty with a lighttpd/MySQL/PHP stack to run low traffic sites. And you have root to install anything you want.

However, its CPU limit has drastically reduced its usefulness. Forget about using it to run any dynamic site unless you are training your users the virtue of patience. For me, it is $4.90 wasted.

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