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Noblogs documentation

A distributed, scalable version of WordPress, with some pre-bundled (and audited) plugins, and some privacy-related tweaks.

This software is intended to be used as a basis for a large (potentially, very large), geographically distributed, WordPress multisite installation.

Although some of our patches can be of general use for a WordPress user that cares about his privacy, this WordPress version is meant to be deployed on multiple servers.


Scaling WordPress is usually achieved through some form of database partitioning using HyperDB. This will not work very well in a high-latency scenario, such as a geographically distributed cluster (i.e. commodity hardware on different ISPs), due to the very high number of (sequential) database requests needed to render a single WordPress page.

We are solving the distribution problem in a high-latency cluster as follows:

  • Each blog is completely local to one server (images, files, database) and is served locally from that server

  • Global data (the main site, buddypress, users, blog index, etc) is stored on a separate database, relatively small, that is replicated to all nodes with a master-slave setup. Using HyperDB, we're able to read from the local replica and to write to the remote master, just for this tiny global layer.

  • HTTP requests for a specific blog are forwarded to the right backend by the reverse HTTP proxy layer which stands in front of the PHP workers, so that partitioning is completely transparent to the users.


In this installation example, we assume you have at least 3 servers; all of them with a fully-functional LAMP stack already installed.

Get the software

Create a working directory for your noblogs-wp installation on all your servers, and then clone the noblogs-wp repository:

    $ mkdir -p /opt/noblogs/www
    $ git clone

The noblogs-wp repository is split in an "upstream" branch, where we keep all the upstream code, the "noblogs" branch, where we collect our patches on top of the upstream branch, and a few "release" branches, used in production.

So, if you want to use a stable release branch, check it out, i.e.

    $ git checkout noblogs-1.2.7

Setting up MySQL databases

This is probably the trickiest part of the installation, so please if you have doubts take a good look at the MySQL manuals.

Each MySQL instance will have two datasets:

  • A global, shared dataset
  • A local dataset containing data of the blogs assigned to this server

Let's create the two datasets on each server (here we're showing server 1):

    $ mysqladmin create global
    $ mysqladmin create local_1
    $ mysql -e "GRANT ALL PRIVILEGES ON global.* TO 'myuser'@'localhost' \
          IDENTIFIED BY 'somepassword'"
    $ mysql -e "GRANT ALL PRIVILEGES ON local_1.* TO 'myuser'@'localhost' \
          IDENTIFIED BY 'someotherpassword'"

The name of the local database name should change on the other servers, to be i.e. local_2, local_3 and so on. The global dataset should be replicated, and have a master instance. So, pick one server to be your master, and configure it to allow replication (in the following, we assume your master will be server 1):

    $ mysql -e "CREATE USER 'noblogs_replica' IDENTIFIED BY \
    $ mysql -e "GRANT REPLICATION SLAVE ON *.* TO 'noblogs_replica'"

On all servers, you should add to your mysql configuration file:

    binlog-do-db = global

Now set up the replica on the slaves (in our example, servers 2 and 3):

    $  mysql -e "CHANGE MASTER TO \
          MASTER_HOST='server_1', \
          MASTER_PORT=3306, \
          MASTER_USER='noblogs_replica', \

Since the databases are empty at this point, we can safely start replication:

    $ mysql -e 'SLAVE START;'

Configuring wp-config.php

As every other WordPress installation, all global configuration variables are stored in wp-config.php. You can follow the usual instruction for a wordpress database, just remember to fill the database information with the data regarding the global dataset.

You'll have a few more information to fill into this file, as follows:

    // The master, backends and host files (see below)
    define("NOBLOGS_BACKEND_CONFIG", "/etc/noblogs/backends");
    define("NOBLOGS_MASTER_CONFIG", "/etc/noblogs/master");
    define("NOBLOGS_HOST_FILE", "/etc/noblogs/ip");
    // Set to true if you want to activate query profiling
    define('AI_DB_PROFILER', false);
    // Number of replicas for consistent hashing.
    define('R2DB_FLEXIHASH_REPLICAS', 128);
    // Recaptcha keys should be global for all blogs
    define('GLOBAL_RECAPTCHA_KEY', 'value_you_got');
    define('GLOBAL_RECAPTCHA_PRIVATE_KEY', 'value_of_private_key_you_got');

Setting up the master and backend roles

A few file paths are currently hard-coded in our code (hopefully this will change soon...). In order for our HyperDB configuration to work, you need to create 3 files under /etc/noblogs. You defined previously in wp-config.php three file paths:


The NOBLOGS_MASTER_CONFIG should contain:


So, just the DSN of the master database. Beware that it is critical that you use the IP address of the master here, and the hostname later. This is due to a HyperDB limitation: it does not allow using the same host/port for two separate targets.

You will need to populate the NOBLOGS_BACKEND_CONFIG file next. Fill it with the connection parameters for all the backends:

    1 backend1 mysql://someuser:someotherpassword@backend_1-hostname:3306/local_1
    2 backend2 mysql://someuser:someotherpassword@backend_2-hostname:3306/local_2
    3 backend3 mysql://someuser:someotherpassword@backend_3-hostname:3306/local_3

So, the format is <ID> <HOSTNAME> <DSN>, where the DSN is the one of the local dataset.

Finally, NOBLOGS_HOST_FILE: this file should contain only the IP address of the server you're on. This is used on the MySQL slaves in order to automatically detect whether they are the master or not.

Create directories

This command creates the required directory hierarchy for noblogs-wp.

    # set ROOT to the root of your noblogs installation
    # i.e. ROOT="/var/www"
    for subdir in blogs.dir cache uploads ; do
        test -d ${ROOT}/wp-content/${subdir} \
            || mkdir -p ${ROOT}/wp-content/${subdir}
        chmod 02770 ${ROOT}/wp-content/${subdir}

Create the master db schema

Just visit the install page on the master host, i.e.:

this will also initialize the schema on the MySQL master, propagating it to the slaves.

Create the global traffic proxy

You need a global proxy that can redirect the HTTP request to the correct backend, using the same partitioning function that wordpress uses in HyperDB.

We use NGINX as frontend/load balancer. We have a cron job that creates the redirection map based on the partition function used by HyperDB. This cronjob fetches wp-nginx-map.php from the repository. You should tweak this script for your needs, as it has only been tested with


We expect that! Please let us know and we'll assist you and also fix the installation instructions!

Additional management tools

We have released additional management tools for noblogs, noblogs-cli (a set of tools to ease the day-to-day operations) and noblogsmv, a state-machine that allows to rebalance easily (and fast! as you can use as many workers as possible in parallel) the cluster if you add or remove one backend, moving databases and blogs around.


The upgrade procedure involves upgrading the source repository on all your servers, and running database upgrades for each blog. In order to upgrade your installation, you will need the noblogs tool from the noblogs-cli repository.

Upgrading the source code

We rebase our patch set on top of the Wordpress upstream on every release, creating a new versioned branch of our repository. So the first step is to figure out the most recent version is (our versioning does not necessarily follow the Wordpress versioning scheme): you can check the available branches in the git web interface for this repository. At the time of this writing, the current version is noblogs-2.1.10, which we will use in the example below.

The following commands should upgrade your installation in place:

$ git remote update
$ git fetch noblogs-2.1.10

Running database upgrades

The Network Upgrade option from the Wordpress admin panel does not really work reliably, especially on large installations (due to request timeouts and memory issues), so it is advised to use the noblogs command-line tool to perform post-upgrade maintenance tasks.

Assuming you have installed noblogs-cli in /opt/noblogs, the following commands will upgrade the database schema for all blogs:

$ /opt/noblogs/bin/on-all-blogs upgrade

Note that this requires passwordless SSH access to the backend servers. Otherwise you can always run

$ /opt/noblogs/bin/on-local-blogs upgrade

manually on each backend.

Contributing to the project

We're not ready to accept external contributors on our git platform at the moment (but this will change). For now, just prepare a patch and let us know at info at autistici dot org. You can find us hanging around in the #ai channel on