An Example of How Node.js is Faster Than PHP – Part 2


In my previous post I installed and configured Ghost (a node.js based blogging platform) and WordPress (a PHP based blogging platform and CMS). The purpose of that blog post was to test relative performance of the 2 platforms to see which one could handle more load. The test doesn’t compare like code between node.js and PHP, but instead was designed to understand what platform was faster from a basic blog functionality standpoint.

The result of the first set of tests was that Ghost was 678% faster than WordPress in their “out of the box” configurations. The test and results spurred a lot of interesting dialogue with many people requesting another test where an opcode cache was in place for WordPress. So that is exactly what this next blog post is about.

The Setup

I fired up the exact servers that I had used in my last round of testing so I have the same configuration as in my original blog post. For this set of tests I stuck with Apache as the web server for both Ghost and WordPress. I also added APC opcode cache by following the instructions in this blog post. It was pretty easy and painless getting APC installed and functional and it definitely made a nice difference in the performance of WordPress.

The Results

As before, I used Siege to apply load to the platforms. As a reminder of our WordPress baseline I ran a load test on Apache + WordPress first without the APC opcode cache. Those results are shown below.


Apache+Wordpress under heavy load.


CPU utilization during Apache + WordPress load test.

This load test resulted in 100% CPU utilization just as we had seen in my last blog post. I load tested Apache + Ghost again so that we could compare the base configurations and those results are shown below.


Apache + Ghost heavy load test results.


CPU utilization during Apache + Ghost heavy load test.

As expected Ghost had a much higher transactional throughput ~654% more than WordPress. So now came the real fun. Configure PHP to use APC, restart Apache, and restart the load test. Those results are shown below.


Apache + WordPress + APC heavy load test results.

Much better results for WordPress this time with ~159% improvement in throughput over WordPress without an opcode cache. Transaction response times were also much better showing with ~70% reduction in shortest response time and ~63 percent reduction in longest response time. That’s a nice performance gain for a small bit of work installing and configuring APC. I have included a couple of screenshots for those who are curious about key cache metrics (notice the high cache hit rate)…

APC Cache Info

APC Cache Hit Rate

While the improvement to WordPress was admirable the fact still remains that Ghost handled the load way better than WordPress. The results of this test show Ghost with a ~190% lead over WordPress when it comes to total throughput, ~51% faster for shortest response time, and ~80% faster for the longest response time.

It’s worth mentioning that the CPU load did not decrease while using the opcode cache during this test. Utilization stayed pegged at 100% for the duration of the test even though throughput and responsiveness improved.

What about lighter loading?

It’s also interesting to understand the difference in platform response time under light loading conditions. The following screen shots all show loads of 10 concurrent users in batches that are spaced 5 seconds apart. The combination of Apache and Ghost is just flat out fast and sets the bar for transaction response time with .01 seconds for the fastest transaction and .07 seconds for the slowest transaction.


Apache + Ghost light load test results.

Apache and WordPress without any opcode cache (shown below)ย is respectably fast coming in at .20 seconds for the fastest transaction and .66 seconds for the slowest. That is 1900% and 842% worse than Ghost respectively. The percentages are high but the reality is that the page loads are still fast.


Apache + WordPress light load test results.

Adding the APC opcode cache to the Apache and WordPress combination clearly makes pages load faster even under light load. You can see below that the fastest transaction took .07 seconds and the slowest took .25 seconds. That’s a very nice improvement in speed. It’s still considerably slower than Ghost response times but at these speeds nobody will notice the difference.


Apache + WordPress + APC light load test results.


One of the major difference between these two platforms is that Ghost was designed to be just a blogging platform so it is not bloated like WordPress is these days. I love the functionality that WordPress offers but as far as plain old blogging platforms go I think Ghost is going to be pretty tough to beat if you need a high throughput platform.

No matter what programming language is used on a project there will always be good code and bad code. By that I mean code that is efficient and effective (good) versus code that is resource heavy and potentially buggy (bad). If your application isn’t performing the way you want it or the way the business needs it to, then you should try installing AppDynamics for free and figure out what the problems are.

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  • Joseph Scott

    For reference APC doesn’t have anything to do with WordPress, it is specific to PHP as a whole.

    I haven’t looked at the internals of Ghost, but if I were to guess off the top of my head, it is likely caching data. The fastest database call in the world is the one you never make ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Hannah Wolfe

      The only thing that gets cached is the settings table, and only because it’s used so much during start-up. The rest of the data for the posts, users, tags, etc does all come directly from the database which is SQLite by default.

      Node just really is that fast ๐Ÿ™‚

      • Joseph Scott

        There are plenty of things “faster” than PHP (and Node for that matter) for a given set of work.

        I don’t like the way the author did this comparison because it mixes in several other elements. Database calls aren’t directly part of PHP v. Node.js, unless that is the component that you want to test.

        • TJ Koury

          We’re testing a blogging engine here. These tests show what someone who wants to set up a blog will see in a reasonable setup for each system. If you’re considering using WordPress I don’t think you’re concerned about database-specific performance.
          I’ve used everything from bash/CGI to Perl to PHP (and WordPress), C#, Java (using Tomcat), created httpd.conf files as long as my arm, and I can say without a doubt that NodeJS is the future of the web.

  • NessDan

    This may be slightly off topic, but how did you graph out your results?

    • Jim Hirschauer

      The CPU utilization charts are straight out of AppDynamics.

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  • Jimmy Rittenborg

    Then you only need to test NodeJS against HHVM and PHP 5.5 w/opcode ๐Ÿ˜€ I’m messing with you, thanks for your findings ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Mads Fuhr

    Appreciate the tests and insights here โ€” I’m just now considering moving from WP til Ghost. This argument is definitely worth taking into account. Here’s my shout out to the communities for advise on WP vs. Ghost:

  • Daniel Miessler

    “I”ll be your Huckleberry.”

    If you want to beat up on someone, try a stack that’s more comparable.

    Test that page against yours and see what you get.

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