# Mod_python Performance and Why It Matters Not.

TL;DR: mod_python is faster than you think.

Tonight I thought I’d spend some time looking into how the new mod_python fares against other frameworks of similar purpose. In this article I am going to show the results of my findings, and then I will explain why it really does not matter.

I am particularly interested in the following:

• a pure mod_python handler, because this is as fast as mod_python gets.
• a mod_python wsgi app, because WSGI is so popular these days.
• mod_wsgi, because it too runs under Apache and is written entirely in C.
• uWSGI, because it claims to be super fast.
• Apache serving a static file (as a point of reference).

# The Test

I am testing this on a CentOS instance running inside VirtualBox on an early 2011 MacBook Pro. The VirtualBox has 2 CPU’s and 6GB of RAM allocated to it. Granted this configuration can’t possibly be very performant [if there is such a word], but it should be enough to compare.

Real-life performance is very much affected by issues related to concurrency and load. I don’t have the resources or tools to comprehensively test such scenarios, and so I’m just using concurrency of 1 and seeing how fast each of the afore-listed set ups can process small requests.

I’m using mod_python 3.4.1 (pre-release), revision 35f35dc, compiled against Apache 2.4.4 and Python 2.7.5. Version of mod_wsgi is 3.4, for uWSGI I use 1.9.17.1.

The Apache configuration is pretty minimal (It could probably trimmed even more, but this is good enough):

I should note that <Location /> is there for a purpose - the latest mod_python forgoes the map_to_storage phase when inside a <Location> section, so this makes it a little bit faster.

And the mp.py file referred to by the PythonHandler in the config above looks like this:

As the benchmark tool, I’m using the good old ab, as follows:

For each test in this article I run 500 requests first as a “warm up”, then another 500K for the actual measurement.

For the mod_python WSGI handler test I use the following config (relevant section):

And the mp_wsgi.py file looks like this:

For mod_wsgi test I use the exact same file, and the config as follows:

For uWSGI (I am not an expert), I first used the following command:

Which yielded a pretty dismal result, so I tried using a unix socket -s /home/grisha/mp_test/uwsgi.sock and ngnix as the front end as described here, which did make uWSGI come out on top (even if proxied uWSGI is an orange among the apples).

### The results, requests per second, fastest at the top:

What’s interesting and unexpected at first is that uWSGI and the mod_python handler perform better than sending a static file, which I expected to be the fastest. On a second thought though it does make sense, once you consider that no (on average pretty expensive) filesystem operations are performed to serve the request.

Mod_wsgi performs better than the mod_python WSGI handler, and that is expected, because the mod_python version is mostly Python, vs mod_wsgi’s C version.

I think that with a little work mod_python wsgi handler could perform on par with uWSGI, though I’m not sure the effort would be worth it. Because as we all know, premature optimization is the root of all evil.

# Why It Doesn’t Really Matter

Having seen the above you may be tempted to jump on the uWSGI wagon, because after all, what matters more than speed?

But let’s imagine a more real world scenario, because it’s not likely that all your application does is send "Hello World!".

To illustrate the point a little better I created a very simple Django app, which too sends "Hello World!", only it does it using a template:

Using the mod_python wsgi handler (the slowest), we can process 455 req/s, using uWSGI (the fastest) 474. This means that by moving this “application” from mod_pyhton to uWSGI we would improve performance by a measley 5%.

Now let’s add some database action to our so-called “application”. For every request I’m going to pull my user record from the Django auth_users table:

Now we are down to 237 req/s for the mod_python WSGI handler and 245 req/s in uWSGI, and the difference between the two has shrunk to just over 3%.

Mind you, our “application” still has less than 10 lines of code. In a real-world situation the difference in performance is more likely to amount to less than a tenth of a percent.

Bottom line: it’s foolish to pick your web server based on speed alone. Factors such as your comfort level with using it, features, documentation, security, etc., are far more important than how fast it can crank out “Hello world!”.