Fragment of a discussion from Talk:Main Page
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Are you using php-fpm or spawn-fcgi? From my test, the former performs better under heavy load (though I am not sure since I tested it with nginx, not lighttpd; tested with apachebench with wordpress installation)

Nat Pavasant16:50, 4 December 2011

fcgi, however the number of requests per second was fairly modest really, so I doubt that type of overhead was the issue. More likely something on the MediaWiki side was being inefficient on the particular pages being spidered I think.

Rednaxela17:39, 4 December 2011

Yay for speedups! :D

I did some tweaking to the server configuration... according to benchmarks I improved things so that Main_Page went from 5.41 requests/second, all the way up to 80.71 requests/second.

Special:RecentChanges improved less though, going from 2.26 requests/second to 3.44 requests/second.

Rednaxela18:30, 4 December 2011