Apache2 mod_fastcgi: Connect to External PHP via UNIX Socket or TCP/IP Port

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Now, mod_fastcgi is configured and running. FastCGI supports connection via UNIX sockets or TCP/IP networking. This is useful to spread load among various backends. For example, php will be severed from and python / ruby on rails will be severed from This is only possible with mod_fastcgi.


Required utilities

You can spawn FastCGI processes using a dispatcher script or using spawn-fcgi utility, which is used to spawn remote FastCGI processes. spawn-fcgi included with lighttpd web server. You can grab source code from lighttpd.net or simply install it using lighttpd as follows (you need EPEL repo enabled under RHEL / CentOS / Fedora Linux):
# yum install lighttpd-fastcgi
# cp /usr/bin/spawn-fcgi /tmp
# yum remove lighttpd-fastcgi
# mv /tmp/spawn-fcgi /usr/bin/spawn-fcgi

lighttpd-fastcgi is FastCGI module and spawning helper for lighttpd and PHP configuration.

How do spawning php as TCP/IP remote app?

Use /usr/bin/spawn-fcgi as follows, enter:
# /usr/bin/spawn-fcgi -f /usr/bin/php-cgi -a -p 9000 -P /var/run/php-cgi.fastcgi.pid -u apache -g apache
You can also jail php, using following syntax (make sure /var/run/ and /usr/bin/php-cgi exists inside jail directory):
# /usr/bin/spawn-fcgi -c /httpdjail -a -p 9000 -P /var/run/php-cgi.fastcgi.pid -u apache -g apache -- /usr/bin/php-cgi

  • -f /usr/bin/php-cgi: Filename of the fcgi-application
  • -a : Bind to ip address
  • -p 9000 : Bind to tcp-port
  • -P /var/run/php-cgi.fastcgi.pid: Name of PID-file for spawed process
  • -c /httpdjail : Chroot to directory (security feature)
  • -u apache : Change to user-id (security feature – drop root user privileges to apache user)
  • -g apache : Change to group-id (security feature – drop root group privileges to apache group)

Configure Apache 2 mod_fastcgi connect to external PHP fcgi application

Above command will run php fcgi on Here is our sample setup:

  1. port 9000 : PHP FastCGI server
  2. port 9000 : Python or Ruby on rails cgi process
  3. port 80 : Apache 2 running mod_fastcgi (DocumentRoot set to /webroot/http)

Open your httpd.conf on, enter:
# vi /etc/httpd/conf/httpd.conf
Locate your domain VirtualHost configuration and append following two directives:

AddHandler php5-fastcgi .php
FastCgiExternalServer /webroot/http -host

Here is complete snippet from one my box:

<virtualHost nixcraft.com:80>
    ServerAdmin webmaster@nixcraft.com
    DocumentRoot /webroot/http
    ServerName nixcraft.com
    ErrorLog logs/nixcraft.com-error_log
    CustomLog logs/nixcraft.com-access_log common
    AddHandler php5-fastcgi .php
    FastCgiExternalServer /webroot/http -host

Save and close the file. Restart httpd:
# service httpd restart
Make sure iptables is configured to allow communication between public and private fastcgi server.

How do I configure PHP FastCGI via UNIX sockets?

UNIX sockets are faster as compare to TCP/IP sockets. However, they do not support remote spawning. Create /tmp/php.socket as follows:
# /usr/bin/spawn-fcgi -f /usr/bin/php-cgi -s /tmp/php.socket -u apache -g apache
Add following configuration to your httpd.conf virtual host:

AddHandler php5-fastcgi .php
FastCgiExternalServer /webroot/http -socket /tmp/php.socket

Save and close the file. Restart httpd, type:
# service httpd restart

mod_fastcgi has lots of other options. Please refer to Apache and mod_fastcgi documentation for further information.

A note about mod_fastcgi limitation

You can not load balance between multiple php backend. You need to use lighttpd or nginx or other reverse proxy software.


Posted by: Vivek Gite

The author is the creator of nixCraft and a seasoned sysadmin, DevOps engineer, and a trainer for the Linux operating system/Unix shell scripting. Get the latest tutorials on SysAdmin, Linux/Unix and open source topics via RSS/XML feed or weekly email newsletter.

8 comment

  1. Hello,

    when i use fastcgi i have problems with the DirectoryIndex. For example, when i has activated fastcgi and go on my website i become 404, only when i give direct the index,php. When i delete the fastcgi Support in Apache then all running well. Has someone the same problem and find a way to fix it?


  2. i do too, wanted to know the answer for that as i’m also experiencing same issue.

    also (if that helps) here is another weird part…
    i don tknow when I go to foo.bar/php instead of index I get “No input file specified.” in my browser.

    curl’s headers:

    HTTP/1.1 404 Not Found
    Date: Fri, 24 Feb 2012 23:04:00 GMT
    Server: Apache/2.2.21 (FreeBSD) mod_ssl/2.2.21 OpenSSL/0.9.8q DAV/2 mod_python/3.3.1 Python/2.7.2 mod_fastcgi/2.4.6
    X-Powered-By: PHP/5.3.8
    Content-Type: text/html

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