Tips on Load Balancing a Joomla Cluster with HAProxy

For the past several weeks, I have been working with Joomla in a clustered environment. We have a single load-balancer running HAProxy that sends requests to two web servers synchronized with unison. One server is a hybrid and includes both the MySQL database as well as Apache2/PHP5. The other web server is strictly Apache2/PHP5. We have been renting two super fast dedicated servers temporarily until we acquire some new hardware, so I had to make do with what few servers I had.

Update: Having written this blog post almost a full year ago, I have since then completely switched all of my Joomla websites to the automatically scaling website cloud host: Scale My Site. Since doing so, we haven’t had to deal with HAProxy, load balancing, or anything with regard to scaling due to the hosting cloud’s seamlessly clustered environment. I highly recommend anyone reading this article right now to check out cloud hosting to get load balancing/scaling for your Joomla website without breaking a sweat.

The load balancer is located at our own colo. I followed the tutorial on Setting Up A High-Availability Load Balancer (With Failover and Session Support) With HAProxy/Heartbeat On Debian Etch to set up two servers at our colo in an ActivePassive fashion using Heartbeat for redundancy.

Weighted Load Balancing

Since I’m using only two web servers and one needs to serve database requests, I decided to set weights in HAProxy so that the hybrid server receives half as many requests as the dedicated web server. Here is an example of what my haproxy.cfg file contains:

/etc/haproxy.cfg

global
    log 127.0.0.1 local0
    log 127.0.0.1 local1 notice
    maxconn 4096
    user haproxy
    group haproxy

defaults
    log global
    mode http
    option httplog
    option dontlognull
    retries 3
    redispatch
    maxconn 2000
    contimeout 5000
    clitimeout 50000
    srvtimeout 50000

listen webfarm 63.123.123.100:80
    mode http
    balance roundrobin
    cookie SERVERID insert nocache indirect
    option forwardfor
    option httpchk HEAD /check.txt HTTP/1.0

    # Stats
    stats enable
    stats auth admin:password

    # Web Node
    server SBNode1 63.123.123.101:80 cookie Server1 weight 20 check
    # Web + MySQL Node
    server SBNode2 63.123.123.102:80 cookie Server2 weight 10 check

How to Use the Administrator Control Panel in a Joomla Cluster

Many people understand that it’s a super big pain to work with the administrator control panel in a Joomla clustered environment. First of all, you’ll keep getting kicked out every few page requests, even while using sticky/persistent load balancing. Second, working with backend WYSIWYG rich-text editors is nearly impossible. I figured out how to do it, and here’s what I did.

  1. Decide upon the management node
  2. Give the management node a public host entry in DNS (e.g. node1.yourdomain.com)
  3. Open configuration.php for editing
  4. Locate the “live site” variable ($mosConfig_live_site)
  5. Replace with “http://” . $_SERVER[“HTTP_HOST”];
  6. Save

Using the current host as the live site allows you to use node1.yourdomain.com as an access point for the control panel. You can work in the control panel without doing this, but you will run into tons of problems with rich-text editors and custom components that request the live site URL in their underlying code.

Update: Recently, I implemented a load balancing solution using HAProxy that used the ACL system to send all traffic with /administrator/ in the URL to one “master” node, and it provided a way around the Joomla configuration change mentioned above. Check out this blog post for more info.

3 thoughts on “Tips on Load Balancing a Joomla Cluster with HAProxy”

  1. We’ll see how well it works – we’re rolling out a fairly large Joomla load-balanced environment this weekend. Thanks for the tip on the management node.

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