Yeah, I don't recommend using mod_perl to serve static files on a site with much traffic. You should use a reverse proxy setup or similar for that, as described in the mod_perl docs, or use FastCGI. The nice thing about FastCGI's new popularity is it means ISPs are getting pressure to support it.
Re^5: Perl is dying
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You should use a reverse proxy setup or similar for that, as described in the mod_perl docs, or use FastCGI.
Or both. There's a new kid on the web servers block, putting pressure onto Apache: Lighttpd AKA "Lighty". It doesn't have mod_perl, obviously (as mod_perl is Apache technology), but instead, it puts a heavy focus onto FastCGI and proxying.
Why? Because they can feel the pressure, from Lighttpd, for one.
Other platforms, like Zope, Ruby On Rails, and even PHP, apparently prefer to use FastCGI or similar technologies to an embedded interpreter. I think it would be a better alternative to mod_perl, too, because, well, if each website has its own persistent Perl environment (which I can envision to actually be much like mod_perl), they can't crash each other. The scripts interpeter would be running independently of the webserver, so it can't touch the internals of the webserver either.
As a whole, this looks to me like it would be a lot like the "mod_perl light" the OP was dreaming out loud about.