All aboard the gravy train

Nginx goes commercial, adds live configuration

Elliot Bentley

Lightweight server gets Pro option including performance metrics and advanced load balancing.

The creators of lightweight server Nginx have released a premium edition, adding some long-awaited additional features – but for a price.

The open-source Apache replacement is now found on around 14% of all sites, favoured by many for its ability to handle large amounts of traffic. It’s already used as a load balancer by WordPress and Instagram, and looks likely to soon overtake Microsoft IIS as the second-most used server in the world.

Having been created by Igor Sysoev in 2002, it has taken 11 years for the open-source project to receive a commercial sibling. Nginx, Inc, the commercial arm founded in 2011 by Sysoev, previously only offered paid support, but will now provide a commercial edition with additional bells and whistles. Subscriptions start at $1,350 per instance per month, which includes a support package.

Key selling points of Nginx Plus include the ability to make changes to a live server’s configuration, JSON-formatted performance metrics and New Relic-integrated “health checks” to uncover any performance issues.

Performance metrics can be exported elsewhere or to a custom HTML/JS page, although Nginx comes with a built-in monitoring dashboard, too. In addition, an automatic health check watches for unexpected changes in page size and other abnormalities.

Nginx is frequently used as a load balancer, and the promotional material claims that the addition of “advanced load balancing” allows for a “fully converged HTTP proxy solution with request routing, load balancing, SSL termination and edge caching”.

The move from a purely support-only business to this “freemium” model might concern some users of Nginx, worried that development of the open source version will slow. Indeed, paid features that all developers might find useful, such as live reconfiguration, seem unlikely to trickle down later.

Still, its developers need to turn a profit somehow –  especially after receiving that $3m in funding in 2011. It remains to be seen whether it bolsters, or merely distracts from, the open source version’s development.

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