I host most of my WordPress websites with WP Engine. I’m currently managing 681 WordPress installations spread across 4 dedicated WP Engine servers, and as of one month ago I had 7 dedicated WP Engine servers. The following is some more depth look at why I ended up upgrading and merging my WP servers.
A little server instability tends to point to a larger problem
In August, a number of seemingly random and unrelated instability issues came up that affected most of my dedicated WP Engine servers. WP Engine doesn’t list pricing for their dedicated products, so for the sake of this writing let’s just say they have multiple levels of servers, each with high capacity. At P1 you can host around 100 websites. At P2 you can add some more. At P3 you can add some more.
What fixed instability before was not going to help this time
In the past, whenever one of my servers started to have stability issues due to high load, my plan was to spin up a new server and migrate some installs over. However, in this situation, all of the servers, even the healthy ones, started acting up at the same time with no apparent cause. After some review with the WP Engine L2 techies, they determined the source of the problem was due to database size over the recommended server limits which was causing the server memory to max out.
The WP Engine ‘secret sauce’ hurts more then it helps
WP Engine doesn’t share very much of their technical details unless something is broken. I never knew they had a recommended database size limit, nor what my database usage was. All of my servers were over their limits significantly, and in one case 13x larger than it should have been. Upgrading from P1 to P2 would not help either as those server only have about a 2x increase in database size capacity. However upgrading from a P1 to P3 increases database size capacity by 22x. With those massive increases I could merge two P1 servers into a single P3 server and still have extra database size capacity.
The issue is resolved however the trigger is unknown
I’m not sure what changed in the last few months. All of these servers have been relatively unchanged this entire year. Meaning this high database usage would have always been an issue. I’m suspicious that Google’s datacenter, where WP Engine has their servers, are now proactively throttling down high-load servers. That’s just a theory based on all of my conversations with WP Engine L2 support.
If you find yourself in a similar situation with WP Engine ask them about your current database size usage. Hopefully it will save you some unnecessary troubleshooting.