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Facebook's alternative PHP engine attracts Web service providers

Joab Jackson | Nov. 21, 2014
Some fairly large Internet services are pressing into production Facebook's open-source PHP runtime engine after being impressed with the performance metrics for the alternative to the ubiquitous open-source PHP package used across the Web.

Box did run into some transition challenges. One was the migration from the Apache Web server, which provided an PHP interpreter. HHVM runs an internal copy of the high- performance Nginx Web server instead. The Box engineering team also found a number of bugs in HHVM and sent fixes to the HHVM development team.

Because it is a just-in-time compiler, HHVM requires the code to be called a few times before the performance improvements kick in, to "warm up" the cache with material ready to be served, which was something else Box engineers had to get used to. Box changed internal operations to allow for a brief warm-up time before a new instance of HHVM goes live.

Puig agreed that moving to HHVM requires some up-front work.

"Supporting it from an infrastructure perspective is much better than loading a bunch of servers on a virtual machine with cPanel," Puig said, referring to the open-source Web hosting control panel cPanel.


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