WordPress VPS hosting simplified – Using Docker to deliver light, scalable WordPress containers
As we’ve seen in a previous post, WordPress multisite is a great way to deliver multi-tenant WordPress hosting. However, multisite doesn’t allow customers access to the WordPress back-end in case they want to make custom modifications.
For WordPress developers and web hosts who want to give their customers an option to manage their own WordPress installation, but free from the limitations of a shared hosting environment, WordPress VPS hosting is the best fit.
Today we’ll see how Docker can be used to setup a light weight WordPress VPS hosting service.
How to make WordPress VPS hosting better?
When you think about VPS, the names Xen, OpenVZ and KVM come to mind. So, to setup a WordPress VPS hosting, all you need to do is to get a KVM (or another like it) hypervisor and create VPSs on which WordPress will be installed in a LAMP environment.
Let’s take a look at what all needs to be done:
- Install a hypervisor.
- Create VPS templates for various resource sizes.
- When an order comes in, create a VPS, and install WordPress in it.
Sounds good enough. You may have to create a couple of scripts to take care of the boiler-plate WordPress setup steps like database creation, DNS addition, Apache configuration, etc., but essentially this process is the best way to go about it. Or is it?
This would be a great implementation strategy a couple of years back, but today you have better ways to do it. Let’s look at what are the opportunities for improvement:
Better resource utilization – VPS systems that use hardware virtualization spend a lot of CPU, memory and I/O to run the hypervisor. Saving on those resources means you can accommodate more customers per server.
Easy deployment of latest software – Creating a VPS template is expert territory. You need to modify the filesystem configuration, reset network interfaces, and more to get a working template. It can be a bit hard to keep the templates updated as new versions of applications are released. As we’ll see later, template maintenance can be very easy with layered file systems like UFS. This allows you to always provision the latest software, even if an update was released just minutes back.
Better scalability – What do you do when the resource usage in VPSs go up? Usual solutions include upgrading the hardware, or taking a dump of heavy usage VPSs and restoring them in a new server. If you just have one or two servers, this idea is OK, but as the number of servers increase, it can quickly become tedious. Container technologies such as LXC makes it easy to do live migration or adjust resource usage on the fly. It saves you time on account administration and reduce service downtime.
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Light weight WordPress VPS using Docker
Container technology is not new. It’s been around since 2008, and projects like LXC and OpenVZ have used resource limitation features in Linux to create OS virtualized VPSs. It cut down on resource usage overhead and enabled better scalability. The latest kid on the block, Docker, added a couple more useful features to it.
- Layered file system – Docker uses UFS (Union File System) in their storage implementation. This makes sure that common data (like base image) is shared by all containers, with only changed data stored for each different container. This saves disk space, and more importantly, frees up system memory to create more container instances.
- Easy image management – Docker brought in an easy way to manage container templates (known as images in Docker land). You can update a container image, write down the changes using “commit” command, put it in a central repository using “push” command, and spin off a new container in another server using a “pull” command. No more need for tedious template creation kung-fu.
So, now that we know Docker is an option worth exploring, let’s see what’s involved in setting up a WordPress VPS hosting environment.
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