Engine that can

Why Nginx is outmaneuvering Apache

Lucy Carey
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CEO Gus Robertson gives JAX the full story on the reverse proxy server with serious ambitions.

HTTP and reverse proxy server Nginx
has enjoyed a steady growth trajectory, overtaking Apache tech in
the past few months to become the number one web server for the top
10,000 busiest websites in the world. In this interview, Ngnix,
Inc. CEO Gus Robertson gives us his take on the rise of the
software, and what we can expect down the line.

JAX: What are the driving factors behind the
rise of Nginx?

Robertson: For starters, the
need for high performance websites and web applications,
particularly given that users now expect instantaneous
responsiveness, has fueled the growth of NGINX.  The rise of
smartphones and other mobile devices further impacts application
performance given bandwidth limitations – consumers want fast
internet access from anywhere at any time. As websites continue to
move from basic static content to more dynamic and feature
rich-applications, they require more sophisticated application
architecture and traffic management — and NGINX provides just
that.

Although Apache remains the overall market
leader, its growth is now slowing. Why do you think this
is?

Apache is great software and has strong
adoption. We don’t necessarily see Apache as a direct competitor.
In fact, many of our users deploy NGINX in front of Apache to
offload work, protect it from internet traffic surges and improve
the performance, often with a 10x increase in capacity.  Some
of Apache’s perceived decline in market share can be accounted for
by users deploying NGINX in front of Apache, rather than purely
replacing it.

NGINX was built specifically to be
high-performance, resource-efficient and deliver predictable
performance for web sites and web applications in the modern era of
mobility and dynamic content. It has performance benefits that are
typically 10x faster and more resource-efficient than other tools
in the market.

Where are you at with version 1.8 of the
software?

We just announced 1.7 in late April, so we’re at
the very early stages of development. In the meantime, we are
working on some very exciting innovations and have high
expectations for the next release – stay tuned!

Do you have a long-term roadmap for the
technology?

Absolutely. We want to
continue to grow market share of our open source and commercial
products.  To that end, we’re working on a modular
architecture that will make it easier for users to deploy
3
rd party and custom-developed modules with either
our open source or commercial software.

We’re also looking at ways to further improve
performance, complementing modern innovations and trends in the
industry, such as larger disks, higher-capacity networking and
high-performance SSD.

As we build out our load balancing and
application delivery capabilities, we have the potential to create
a unified platform that will manage HTTP traffic end-to-end within
the datacenter. However, we’re mindful that NGINX gained its
reputation by being fast, reliable and lightweight, and we’ll
maintain those values throughout our future
developments.

Who are the most prolific users of Nginx? Have
you had any big name adopters in the past three
months?

Yes – Nginx has multiple high-profile users such
as Facebook, Netflix, Box, Dropbox, Hulu, WordPress, Groupon and
Living Social. According to
w3techs,
in the last 2 months, every 15.5 seconds one of the top 10 million
websites started using Nginx (
see
here
).

Additionally, according to w3techs, new sites
that migrated to NGINX in recent months include CNET, The
Washington Post, HubSpot and
eHarmony.com to name
a few.

Why did you choose to make syslog integration
available to all users in 1.7?

Load balancing, application health checks,
monitoring and session persistence are just a few features that
create an application delivery platform that complements our open
source product.  These features are released via our
commercial product NGINX Plus. Our community felt that syslog
integration should be a standard feature of a webserver in a modern
distributed application architecture. We reflected on this thought
and agreed, so we decided to move this feature to the open source
product.

Here’s a blog post from our head of products
that discusses this decision in some more detail:

http://nginx.com/blog/whats-difference-nginx-foss-nginx-plus/

What are your future goals for Nginx? Do you
think your current growth rate is sustainable?

In the past, applications have been dependent on
underlying physical infrastructure and networking hardware to
deliver reliability and performance. In the era of cloud, mobile
and distributed application architectures, this is no longer
efficient and in the case of public cloud, even possible. You can’t
take your hardware with you to the public cloud! Applications need
to natively build reliability and performance into the architecture
all the way from the client connection to the back-end application
servers. This also provides the application developers with
independence from underlying infrastructure, enabling them to bring
on new services or resources in an instant, which is required by
this line of business.

NGINX enables this convergence of applications with
granular control of traffic management natively within the
application architecture. We are still at the early stages of this
trend, which is being driven by users demand for an interactive
experience on the web. Sites such as Facebook, Netflix, WordPress,
Living Social, Airbnb, Yammer and Eventbrite are leading the trend;
however it will naturally extend to enterprise and mid-market
companies as users’ expectations grow and competitors enter these
markets with new apps that force them to enhance their existing
websites.

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