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Moodle on SAMP

Kevin Roebuck
Director, Digital Experience

Great news on the moodle front which may be of significant interest to other LAMP-based applications and a move to optimize them on Solaris 10. We got approval and funding for our upcoming performance test in MDE labs. Objectives for the reference architecture test include the following tech details.

1. Seeking a competitive advantage of deploying and promoting Moodle on Solaris 10 zones for better operational and manageability characteristics.

2. The configuration parameters of the Cool Stack and choice of x64 or Sparc/T1 performance capacity. The team has trialed the binary distribution and compiled the stack from source using both the GCC and Sun Studio 12 compilers.

3. Solaris Zones- techniques for setting up development, test and production environments using Solaris zones

4. how to architect a system to run Moodle on Solaris 10 with Cool Stack with a load of 1 million concurrent users.

5. Reference Architecture for using Erlang and Tsung on Solaris for a general purpose open source load generation tool for high performance web testing.

6. Joint Sun/Moodlerooms white paper on scaling PHP applications with the Cool Stack on Solaris 10 and maybe Open Solaris

7. Joint Sun/Moodlerooms white paper on next generation load testing and profiling with Tsung, Erlang and DTrace on Solaris 10 and maybe Open Solaris

8. Joint Sun/Moodlerooms white paper on deploying MySQL for large open source environments on Solaris 10 and maybe Open Solaris

9. build a large scale load generation facility and test harness to accurately simulate 1 million users on a Moodle installation and build out the reference architecture to adequately handle the demand.

10. Hardware requirements have been projected to both generate and handle the significant load of 1 million users in a full production capacity with failover.

Load Generator:
2 Sun Fire 4600s (Max Config)
4 Sun Fire T2000s (Max Config)

MySQL Database:
2 Sun Fire 4500 Thumpers (Max Config)

Cool Stack Zone Moodle Platform:
4 Sun Fire T2000s (Max Config)
4 Sun Fire 4200s (Max Config)
∑ 2 Sun Storagetek 5320 NAS devices

Load Generation Reference Architecture to make use of the open source Tsung load generation framework for simulating the 1 million users. There are many commercial load testing tools available but most carry very high license fees especially when considering the load of 1 million users. There is a need for a general purpose solution for simulating large user loads with an open source tool and one of the outcomes of the project will be to define the Reference Architecture for that solution and make it available to the community. Tsung is based on the Erlang high performance computing language and Moodlerooms has already successfully test compiled the platform on both x64 and Niagra platforms.

Official documentation, whitepapers and reference architecture will all be made publicly available with code and content being submitted back to the moodle community. 

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Comments ( 12 )
  • Patrick Giagnocavo Thursday, August 23, 2007

    Kevin this is very interesting. I can tell you that running Solaris Zones is a joy, in that you put the shared stuff in directories that are read-only within the zone; then as you create each zone you can be sure that the exact same code and files are available in each zone, which is a huge win.

    I have a customer running the (different but also education-oriented) dotLRN.org application and zones have been a blessing for that customer. We support no less than 40 deployments on a single V20z with 16GB RAM, and still have 5GB RAM free! Creating a zone takes about 5 minutes, mainly because we have a number of Blastwave packages (about 1000 packages total) that must each be initialized for the zone.

  • Bryan Cantrill Thursday, August 23, 2007

    Very interesting. We would love to get DTrace support for Erlang, so don't hesitate to get us on Team DTrace involved -- especially if the Erlang VM is open source (is it?).

  • Kevin Friday, August 24, 2007

    Hi Patrick.

    Wow. That's great news. Thanks. I need to spend some time getting to know the Dot.LRN package better and put a link on Sun.com/elearning to promote awareness of the project. Do let me know if there's anything we can do at Sun labs to optimize or tune any of the zones work.



  • Kevin Friday, August 24, 2007

    Hi Bryan.

    Thanks. I'll keep you and team posted and very much appreciate the support offer. I don't believe the Erlang VM has gone FOSS, just lang and OTP. I'll check with Stuart at Moodlerooms though and we'll post all the artifacts from the performance test when completed. cheers, kevin

  • Patrick Giagnocavo Friday, August 24, 2007

    Hi Kevin

    Actually most of what Sun is doing is already helpful.

    Right now we compile a custom PostgreSQL, but will use the included one in the future. The system has been up for over 450 days without a reboot, so it has an older version of Sol10 on it.

    My customer uses the V20z as I mentioned, but because none of my other systems are USIII CPUs or higher, nor T1-based, I don't have a good feel for performance on current non-Opteron hardware.

    I think that it would be a perfect workload for the T1 and T2 processors, because the interpreted languages in the "guts" of dotLRN (and the many PL/PGSQL stored procedures) mean there are cache misses; and T1 and T2 CPUs are supposed to perform better with many cache misses, than other CPU architectures. Also high memory bandwidth seems to be very important to performance.

  • Kevin Friday, August 24, 2007


    We should look at a collaboration opportunity to get you a T2000 system to evaluate performance on the niagara architecture for .LRN?

    Let's set-up a time to talk next week if you have some time available.


  • Ann Adamcik Wednesday, October 3, 2007

    Hi Kevin,

    We are running a campus-wide Moodle installation on two V440 servers with Coolstack 1.1, and are having difficulty finding configuration recommendations. We are very interested in obtaining information on an optimal configuration for Moodle on SAMP, and would certainly be open to participate in testing.

    Please let me know if you can point us in the right direction!

    Many thanks,


  • kevin Monday, October 8, 2007

    Hi Ann.

    I'd be happy to set-up a call to discuss your situation and our performance testing work with Moodlerooms. Just let me know a time that would work for you soon. thanks! kevin

  • patrick landry Saturday, January 19, 2008


    Did the work described in this post ever take place? Were any of the results made available? We are currently running moodle on Solaris and I would like to see the results of your testing if they are available.



  • kevin Thursday, January 31, 2008

    Hi Patrick.

    The Moodle Reference Architecture Project is almost completed. We're writing up the results for an upcoming whitepaper with our partner Moodlerooms. We have Moodle running well on Solaris 10 in containers and provisioning new instances almost on the fly with good performance on the AMD chip set.

    Performance tuning is also now looking at the threading models for PHP on the Niagara CMT platform. That is undergoing engineering work now.

    Happy to share the results and recommendations for the Million Moodle RA if you have any questions, just drop me a note direct at kevin.roebuck@sun.com



  • Wen Tuesday, March 4, 2008

    I heard from the lead developer of moodle (Martin Dougiamous) that the whitepaper (about performance comparision between moodle 1.5, 1.8, and 1.9) will be available from moodlerooms very soon, any news update about this? Are you in charge of this project? Thanks!

  • Ferdy Tuesday, August 12, 2008

    Hi! I just would like to inform <a href="http://www.ninehub.com/">NineHub.com</a> provides free Moodle hosting. Please check it. Cheers.

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