11.9. Launching Subprocesses
The last topic we discuss is the API for launching subprocesses. While we don't like to encourage the creation of subprocesses because of the load they impose on a server, there are certain modules that need to do so. In fact, for certain modules, such as mod_cgi, launching subprocesses is their entire raison d'être.
Because Apache is a complex beast, calling fork() to spawn a new process within a server process is not something to be done lightly. There are a variety of issues to contend with, including, but not limited to, signal handlers, alarms, pending I/O, and listening sockets. For this reason, you should use Apache's published API to implement fork and exec, rather than trying to roll your own with the standard C functions.
In addition to discussing the subprocess API, this section covers a number of function calls that help in launching CGI scripts and setting up the environment for subprocesses.
void ap_add_cgi_vars (request_rec *r)
void ap_add_common_vars (request_rec *r)
(Declared in the header file util_script.h.) By convention, modules that need to launch subprocesses copy the contents of the current request record's subprocess_env table into the child process's environment first. This table starts out empty, but modules are free to add to it. For example, mod_env responds to the PassEnv, SetEnv, and UnsetEnv directives by setting or unsetting variables in an internal table. Then, during the request fixup phase, it copies these values ...