Portrait of a Busy Server

Because of minor problems with the Provincial Election, we weren’t able to truly take “results on the web” out for a ride. Last night’s municipal elections solved that problem.

All election results were served from a single RedHat Linux server, sitting on the Aliant network. The server was running Apache, and was serving static HTML pages that were updated from a database every minute.

Here’s the technical breakdown of how things went, for the 24 hours of November 3, 2003, election day, with the bulk of the traffic happening between 6:30 p.m. and 11:00 p.m.:

  • Unique IP addresses served: 4,376
  • Total Page Views: 142,100
  • Total Hits: 313,465
  • Total Bytes Transferred: 1,017 MB
  • Average length of user session: 51 minutes

The server generally stood up well, although at the peak of the evening response time got a little slower than I would have liked. I played with various settings for MaxClients in Apache over the course of the evening (and actually recompiled Apache mid-stream, to allow a value greater than 256), and finally settled on 312 as a workable number. Things got hairy when I raised the value about 400, as Apache started to cascade, the load average started to rise, and I had to restart the server. With the setting at 312, response time was reasonable, and we were able to sustain traffic of 30-40 requests per second.

All of the traffic was from the .ca, .com or .net domains, with the exception of one session from the Cayman Islands.

Assuming all of the traffic came from Prince Edward Island households (which is an inaccurate assumption), using Statistics Canada figures on Internet usage in the home (39% of Island households), the number of unique IP addresses we were hit from would mean 23% of Island homes accessed the site. Obviously the real number is different, but it’s an interesting calculation nonetheless.


Mandy's picture
Mandy on November 4, 2003 - 19:07 Permalink

I for one throughly enjoyed the site. I was glued to it half the night watching the race between Mr Lee and Hockey Mom. It was a good show. Thanx

Congrats to Mr Garrity also.

Charlie's picture
Charlie on November 4, 2003 - 19:52 Permalink

Hey Peter,

I watched the site from work last night here in Halifax and it was great except for a 5 minute period where I got nothing at all. Perhaps that was during the reboot period. Otherwise I was quite impressed at how fast the updated data was coming through.

Ann's picture
Ann on November 4, 2003 - 20:24 Permalink

Just a small point. The Elections PEI site still says “Today is Election Day”,

The other thing: I was with a number of people who were perusing the site and all agreed it would have been nice to have ward by ward results of the mayoralty race. If it did in a way that we did not see, I will be shamefaced. Especially since the site was terrific otherwise and was higly commended by all.

Peter Rukavina's picture
Peter Rukavina on November 4, 2003 - 21:20 Permalink

Charlie, you’re right — there was a five minute period of darkness when results weren’t available during a server restart.

Ann, your suggestion about mayoral results by ward was one that dawned on me, and several others, as soon as we started entering results. By that time it was too late to add that feature, so it will have to wait for November, 2006.

Wayne's picture
Wayne on November 5, 2003 - 11:03 Permalink

My session was from an Island household, however staged “from away”. Nice job, much appreciated and thanks to you and CBC for the service.