Skip to content

Part 3. Application servers


In this chapter, you will learn about PHP and PHP-FPM.

PHP (PHP Hypertext Preprocessor) is a source scripting language specially designed for web application development. In 2024, PHP represented a little less than 80% of the web pages generated in the world. PHP is open-source and is the core of the most famous CMS (WordPress, Drupal, Joomla!, Magento, and others.).

PHP-FPM (FastCGI Process Manager) is integrated to PHP since its version 5.3.3. The FastCGI version of PHP brings additional functionalities.

Objectives: In this chapter, you will learn how to:

✔ install a PHP application server ✔ configure PHP-FPM pool ✔ optimize a PHP-FPM application server

🏁 PHP, PHP-FPM, Application server

Knowledge: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ Complexity: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

Reading time: 30 minutes


CGI (Common Gateway Interface) and FastCGI allow communication between the web server (Apache or Nginx) and a development language (PHP, Python, Java):

  • In the case of CGI, each request creates a new process, which is less efficient in performance.
  • FastCGI relies on a certain number of processes to treat its client requests.

PHP-FPM, in addition to better performances, brings:

  • The possibility of better partitioning the applications: launching processes with different uid/gid, with personalized php.ini files,
  • The management of the statistics,
  • Log management,
  • Dynamic management of processes and restart without service interruption ('graceful').


Since Apache has a PHP module, php-fpm is more commonly used on an Nginx server.

Choose a PHP version

Rocky Linux, like its upstream, offers many versions of the language. Some of them have reached the end of their life but are kept to continue hosting historical applications that are not yet compatible with new versions of PHP. Please refer to the supported versions page of the website to choose a supported version.

To obtain a list of available versions, enter the following command:

$ sudo dnf module list php

Rocky Linux 9 - AppStream
Name                                                 Stream                                                  Profiles                                                                   Summary
php                                                  8.1 [d]                                                 common [d], devel, minimal

Hint: [d]efault, [e]nabled, [x]disabled, [i]nstalled

The Remi repository offers more recent releases of PHP than the Appstream repository, including versions 8.2 and 8.3.

To install the Remi repository, run the following command:

sudo dnf install

Enable the Remi repository by running the following command:

sudo dnf config-manager --set-enabled remi

You can now activate a newer module (PHP 8.3) by entering the following command:

sudo dnf module enable php:remi-8.3
$ sudo dnf module list php

Rocky Linux 8 - AppStream
Name                                                 Stream                                                  Profiles                                                                   Summary
php                                                  7.2 [d]                                                 common [d], devel, minimal                                                 PHP scripting language
php                                                  7.3                                                     common [d], devel, minimal                                                 PHP scripting language
php                                                  7.4                                                     common [d], devel, minimal                                                 PHP scripting language
php                                                  8.0                                                     common [d], devel, minimal                                                 PHP scripting language

Hint: [d]efault, [e]nabled, [x]disabled, [i]nstalled

Rocky provides different PHP modules from its AppStream repository.

You will note that the default version of a Rocky 8.9 is 7.2 that has already reached its end of life at the time of writing.

You can activate a newer module by entering the following command:

sudo dnf module enable php:8.0
Package               Architecture         Version               Repository             Size
Enabling module streams:
httpd                                      2.4
nginx                                      1.14
php                                        8.0

Transaction Summary

Is this ok [y/N]:

Transaction Summary

Is this ok [y/N]: y

You can now proceed to the installation of the PHP engine.

Installation of the PHP cgi mode

First, install and use PHP in CGI mode. You can only make it work with the Apache web server and its mod_php module. You will see in the FastCGI part (php-fpm) of this document, how to integrate PHP in Nginx (but also Apache).

The installation of PHP is relatively trivial since it consists of installing the main package and the few modules you will need.

The example below installs PHP with the modules usually installed with it.

sudo dnf install php php-cli php-gd php-curl php-zip php-mbstring

You will be prompted to import GPG keys for the epel9 (Extra Packages for Enterprise Linux 9) and Remi repositories during installation. Enter y to import the keys:

Extra Packages for Enterprise Linux 9 - x86_64
Importing GPG key 0x3228467C:
Userid     : "Fedora (epel9) <>"
Fingerprint: FF8A D134 4597 106E CE81 3B91 8A38 72BF 3228 467C
From       : /etc/pki/rpm-gpg/RPM-GPG-KEY-EPEL-9
Is this ok [y/N]: y
Key imported successfully
Remi's RPM repository for Enterprise Linux 9 - x86_64
Importing GPG key 0x478F8947:
Userid     : "Remi's RPM repository ( <>"
Fingerprint: B1AB F71E 14C9 D748 97E1 98A8 B195 27F1 478F 8947
From       : /etc/pki/rpm-gpg/RPM-GPG-KEY-remi.el9
Is this ok [y/N]: y
Key imported successfully
Running transaction check
Transaction check succeeded.
Running transaction test
Transaction test succeeded.

sudo dnf install php php-cli php-gd php-curl php-zip php-mbstring

You can check that the installed version corresponds to the expected one:

$ php -v
PHP 8.3.2 (cli) (built: Jan 16 2024 13:46:41) (NTS gcc x86_64)
Copyright (c) The PHP Group
Zend Engine v4.3.2, Copyright (c) Zend Technologies
with Zend OPcache v8.3.2, Copyright (c), by Zend Technologies
$ php -v
PHP 7.4.19 (cli) (built: May  4 2021 11:06:37) ( NTS )
Copyright (c) The PHP Group
Zend Engine v3.4.0, Copyright (c) Zend Technologies
with Zend OPcache v7.4.19, Copyright (c), by Zend Technologies

Apache Integration

To serve PHP pages in CGI mode, you must install the Apache server, configure it, activate it, and start it.

  • Installation:
sudo dnf install httpd
sudo systemctl enable --now httpd
sudo systemctl status httpd
  • Do not forget to configure the firewall:
sudo firewall-cmd --add-service=http --permanent
sudo firewall-cmd --reload

The default vhost should work out of the box. PHP provides a phpinfo() function that generates a summary table of its configuration. It is useful to test the good working of PHP. However, be careful not to leave such test files on your servers. They represent a huge security risk for your infrastructure.

Create the file /var/www/html/info.php (/var/www/html being the default vhost directory of the default Apache configuration):


Use a web browser to check that the server works properly by going to the page http://your-server-ip/info.php.


Do not leave the info.php file on your server!

Installation of the PHP cgi mode (PHP-FPM)

Noted earlier, many advantages exist for switching web hosting to PHP-FPM mode.

The installation entails only the php-fpm package:

sudo dnf install php-fpm

As php-fpm is a service from a system point of view, you must activate and start it:

sudo systemctl enable --now php-fpm
sudo systemctl status php-fpm

Configuration of the PHP cgi mode

The main configuration file is /etc/php-fpm.conf.

pid = /run/php-fpm/
error_log = /var/log/php-fpm/error.log
daemonize = yes


The php-fpm configuration files are widely commented on. Go and have a look!

As you can see, the files in the /etc/php-fpm.d/ directory with the .conf extension are always included.

By default, a PHP process pool declaration named www, is in /etc/php-fpm.d/www.conf.

user = apache
group = apache

listen = /run/php-fpm/www.sock
listen.acl_users = apache,nginx
listen.allowed_clients =

pm = dynamic
pm.max_children = 50
pm.start_servers = 5
pm.min_spare_servers = 5
pm.max_spare_servers = 35

slowlog = /var/log/php-fpm/www-slow.log

php_admin_value[error_log] = /var/log/php-fpm/www-error.log
php_admin_flag[log_errors] = on
php_value[session.save_handler] = files
php_value[session.save_path]    = /var/lib/php/session
php_value[soap.wsdl_cache_dir]  = /var/lib/php/wsdlcache
Instructions Description
[pool] Process pool name. The configuration file can comprise several process pools (the pool's name in brackets starts a new section).
listen Defines the listening interface or the Unix socket used.

Configuring the way to access php-fpm processes

Two ways exist for connecting.

With an inet-interface such as:

listen =

Or with a UNIX socket:

listen = /run/php-fpm/www.sock.


Using a socket when the web server and PHP server are on the same machine removes the TCP/IP layer and optimizes the performance.

When working with an interface, you have to configure listen.owner,, listen.mode to specify the owner, the owner group, and the rights of the UNIX socket. Warning: Both servers (web and PHP) must have access rights on the socket.

When working with a socket, you must configure listen.allowed_clients to restrict access to the PHP server to certain IP addresses.

Example: listen.allowed_clients =

Static or dynamic configuration

You can manage PHP-FPM processes statically or dynamically.

In static mode, pm.max_children sets a limit to the number of child processes:

pm = static
pm.max_children = 10

This configuration starts 10 processes.

In dynamic mode, PHP-FPM starts at most the number of processes specified by the value of pm.max_children. It first starts some processes corresponding to pm.start_servers, keeping at least the value of pm.min_spare_servers of inactive processes and at most pm.max_spare_servers of inactive processes.


pm = dynamic
pm.max_children = 5
pm.start_servers = 2
pm.min_spare_servers = 1
pm.max_spare_servers = 3

PHP-FPM will create a new process to replace one that has processed several requests equivalent to pm.max_requests.

By default the value of pm.max_requests is 0, meaning processes are never recycled. Using the pm.max_requests option can be interesting for applications with memory leaks.

A third mode of operation is the ondemand mode. This mode only starts a process when it receives a request. It is not an optimal mode for sites with strong influences and is reserved for specific needs (sites with very weak requests, management backend, and so on.).


The configuration of the operating mode of PHP-FPM is essential to ensure the optimal functioning of your web server.

Process status

PHP-FPM offers, like Apache and its mod_status module, a page indicating the status of the process.

To activate the page, set its access path with the pm.status_path directive:

pm.status_path = /status
$ curl http://localhost/status_php
pool:                 www
process manager:      dynamic
start time:           03/Dec/2021:14:00:00 +0100
start since:          600
accepted conn:        548
listen queue:         0
max listen queue:     15
listen queue len:     128
idle processes:       3
active processes:     3
total processes:      5
max active processes: 5
max children reached: 0
slow requests:        0

Logging long requests

The slowlog directive specifies the file that receives logging requests that are too long (for instance, whose time exceeds the value of the request_slowlog_timeout directive).

The default location of the generated file is /var/log/php-fpm/www-slow.log.

request_slowlog_timeout = 5
slowlog = /var/log/php-fpm/www-slow.log

A value of 0 for request_slowlog_timeout disables logging.

NGinx integration

The default setting of nginx already includes the necessary configuration to make PHP work with PHP-FPM.

The configuration file fastcgi.conf (or fastcgi_params) is under /etc/nginx/:

fastcgi_param  SCRIPT_FILENAME    $document_root$fastcgi_script_name;
fastcgi_param  QUERY_STRING       $query_string;
fastcgi_param  REQUEST_METHOD     $request_method;
fastcgi_param  CONTENT_TYPE       $content_type;
fastcgi_param  CONTENT_LENGTH     $content_length;

fastcgi_param  SCRIPT_NAME        $fastcgi_script_name;
fastcgi_param  REQUEST_URI        $request_uri;
fastcgi_param  DOCUMENT_URI       $document_uri;
fastcgi_param  DOCUMENT_ROOT      $document_root;
fastcgi_param  SERVER_PROTOCOL    $server_protocol;
fastcgi_param  REQUEST_SCHEME     $scheme;
fastcgi_param  HTTPS              $https if_not_empty;

fastcgi_param  GATEWAY_INTERFACE  CGI/1.1;
fastcgi_param  SERVER_SOFTWARE    nginx/$nginx_version;

fastcgi_param  REMOTE_ADDR        $remote_addr;
fastcgi_param  REMOTE_PORT        $remote_port;
fastcgi_param  SERVER_ADDR        $server_addr;
fastcgi_param  SERVER_PORT        $server_port;
fastcgi_param  SERVER_NAME        $server_name;

# PHP only, required if PHP was built with --enable-force-cgi-redirect
fastcgi_param  REDIRECT_STATUS    200;

For nginx to process .php files, add the following directives to the site configuration file:

If PHP-FPM is listening on port 9000:

location ~ \.php$ {
  include /etc/nginx/fastcgi_params;

If php-fpm is listening on a UNIX socket:

location ~ \.php$ {
  include /etc/nginx/fastcgi_params;
  fastcgi_pass unix:/run/php-fpm/www.sock;

Apache integration

The configuration of Apache to use a PHP pool is quite simple. You have to use the proxy modules with a ProxyPassMatch directive, for example:

<VirtualHost *:80>
  DocumentRoot "/var/www/html/current/public"

  <Directory "/var/www/html/current/public">
    AllowOverride All
    Options -Indexes +FollowSymLinks
    Require all granted
  ProxyPassMatch ^/(.*\.php(/.*)?)$ "fcgi://"


Solid configuration of PHP pools

Optimizing the number of requests served and analyzing the memory used by the PHP scripts, is necessary to optimize the maximum amount of launched threads.

First of all, you need to know the average amount of memory used by a PHP process with the command:

while true; do ps --no-headers -o "rss,cmd" -C php-fpm | grep "pool www" | awk '{ sum+=$1 } END { printf ("%d%s\n", sum/NR/1024,"Mb") }' >> avg_php_proc; sleep 60; done

This will give you a pretty accurate idea of the average memory footprint of a PHP process on this server.

The result of the rest of this document is a memory footprint of 120MB per process at full load.

On a server with 8Gb of RAM, keeping 1Gb for the system and 1Gb for the OPCache (see the rest of this document), is 6Gb left to process PHP requests from clients.

You can conclude that this server can accept at most 50 threads ((6*1024) / 120).

A good configuration of php-fpm specific to this use case is:

pm = dynamic
pm.max_children = 50
pm.start_servers = 12
pm.min_spare_servers = 12
pm.max_spare_servers = 36
pm.max_requests = 500


  • pm.start_servers = 25% of max_children
  • pm.min_spare_servers = 25% of max_children
  • pm.max_spare_servers = 75% of max_children

Opcache configuration

The opcache (Optimizer Plus Cache) is the first level of cache that you can influence.

It keeps the compiled PHP scripts in memory, which strongly impacts the execution of the web pages (removes the reading of the script on disk + the compilation time).

To configure it, you must work on:

  • The size of the memory dedicated to the opcache according to the hit ratio, configuring it correctly
  • The number of PHP scripts to cache (number of keys + maximum number of scripts)
  • The number of strings to cache

To install it:

sudo dnf install php-opcache

To configure it, edit the /etc/php.d/10-opcache.ini configuration file:



  • opcache.memory_consumption corresponds to the amount of memory needed for the opcache (increase this until obtaining a correct hit ratio).
  • opcache.interned_strings_buffer the amount of strings to cache.
  • opcache.max_accelerated_files is near to the result of the find ./ -iname "*.php"|wc -l command.

You can refer to an info.php page (including the phpinfo();) to configure the opcache (see for example the values of Cached scripts and Cached strings).


At each new deployment of new code, it will be necessary to empty the opcache (for example by restarting the php-fpm process).


Do not underestimate the speed gain that can be achieved by setting up and configuring the opcache correctly.

Author: Antoine Le Morvan

Contributors: Steven Spencer, Ganna Zhyrnova