What is an Nginx Server?

What is an nginx server 1

Nginx is an OSS which means an Open Source Software whose sole purpose is web serving, caching, media streaming, etc. Nginx is pronounced as Engine-X. People often tend to mispronounce its name based on its spelling.

It is capable of running at high speed, even under heavy loads. Today, significant companies use Nginx to handle their heavy traffic. Some examples are T-Mobile, Facebook, Apple, Twitter, and many more.

Before getting into the details of Nginx, it is essential to know its history. Through this article, you will get to know everything about the Nginx server, right from its birth till now.

So, let’s begin!

The Backstory

The development of Nginx began in the year 2002 by Igor Sysoev. Back then, quite a few websites faced difficulty in managing many concurrent connections at one time.

This issue was called the C10K problem. With its beautiful architecture, Nginx revolutionized the way servers operated, especially in high performance scenarios.

Nginx was soon known as the fastest web server on the market. Later on, the Nginx project was open-sourced in the year 2004. Looking at its progress, Igor Sysoev and Maxim Knonovalov founded Nginx Inc in the year 2011.

It was created to provide commercial products and commercial support for the Nginx software. It also helped market Nginx Plus in many ways. Since then, their journey has been excellent.

As of now, Nginx and Nginx Plus can easily manage tons of concurrent connections without any inconvenience. Even if yours is currently one of the busiest sites, the Nginx web server has got you covered.

What is Nginx?

As mentioned earlier, it is a web server but is also commonly used as a reverse proxy. It is an essential software as the primary purpose behind its creation was to handle extreme loads.

One key feature of Nginx is that it does not create a different process for every user. Instead, Nginx has the master-worker process system. It is instrumental in terms of delivery services and hosting site applications.

All the calculations are done by the work-processor, which the master processor manages. Currently, the Nginx web server is owned by F5 Networks. They purchased it in March 2019 for $670 million.

Nginx is an accessible web server, but a paid version is available called the Nginx Plus, which comes with support.

How does Nginx Work?

If you wish to know how the Nginx Server works, it is essential to understand how any web server functions. The main work of any web server is to accept the request sent by the browser and send the requested files.

To put it in simple words, a person wants to open a webpage, so he sends a request. The browser takes that request and forwards it to that site’s server. The web server searches for the requested file and sends it back in the same order.

This procedure is the one that most traditional web servers follow, i.e., with every request, a single thread is created. However, with Nginx, things are a bit different. As said earlier, Nginx uses the master-worker process, i.e., an asynchronous event-driven approach. In this process, similar threads get handled by one worker process.

Every worker process contains worker connections. Therefore, this entire unit becomes responsible for managing the request threads. And, lastly, it’s the master process that sends the results to those requests.

The process sounds pretty simple but is certainly not. The worker connections are called small units, but each contains over 1,000 connections. It is because of this reason Nginx can handle tons of requests at a single time.

Nginx is today one of the best web servers on the market. Thousands of businesses widely use it all over the world.

Advantages and Disadvantages

Advantages

If you wonder why people prefer the Nginx server over other alternatives, the list below will help answer your question.

  • Most web servers have overly complex configuration formats that commoners don’t necessarily seem to understand. However, with Nginx, you get a friendly format and also a modern design.
  • Unlike other web servers, Nginx uses very little memory space.
  • It is compatible with most of the standard web applications.
  • Loads of concurrent connections get handled in one go.
  • It also makes your website faster, thereby increasing your google ranking.

Disadvantages

Like any other software, even Nginx has a few drawbacks. However, these setbacks are as few as none.

  • If compared to Apache, Nginx provides a fewer number of extensions or modules.
  • Its community support is smaller than that provided by Apache. However, it does have more use cases.

What can Nginx do beyond Web Serving?

Nginx is mainly known as one of the best web servers, but it also has many other uses. As Nginx can handle a high load of connections, it is commonly used as a reverse proxy.

Reverse proxies are servers that sit before the web servers and pass the request to the web server. It also acts as a load balancer that helps manage the incoming traffic.

Many-a-times, Nginx is placed between the clients and the second web server. Here, it serves as a web accelerator. It performs crucial tasks such as caching content, negotiating SSL, etc.

It helps increase the speed and performance of the site. Nginx also deals with the content cache, thereby reducing the load on the application servers. It is due to these benefits Nginx stands as the best web server.

What is the Difference Between Nginx and Nginx Plus?

There are two versions available for Nginx – Nginx and Nginx Plus. The first and most evident difference between them is that Nginx is free of charge. Nginx Plus comes with paid support.

It also contains more features and benefits as compared to Nginx. Some of the most common ones are Health Checks, Key-value store, Datalog, Web Application Firewall, etc.

Another aspect of Nginx Plus is that it keeps adding newer features to it for smoother functioning.

Nginx and Nginx Plus

Over 400 million websites use Nginx or Nginx Plus as their web server and reverse proxy because of its excellent performance. They ensure that your content gets delivered quickly and smoothly.

Nginx helps in accelerating your IT structure, whereas Nginx Plus offers enterprise-grade capabilities that provide excellent security. The best part of Nginx is that it is multifunctional. You can use it like a web server, reverse proxy, load balancer, content cache, and so much more.

Nginx always keeps on evolving with time. As there is development in the web application delivery, Nginx adds new features to itself. Through this, you always get the best and more unique features.

It is one of the main reasons why people favour Nginx a lot.

Nginx vs. Apache

Apache has been considered as one of Nginx’s main rivals for quite a few years. Apache has been in the market for a long time; it has a larger community than Nginx. If you, too, are wondering whether to opt for Nginx or Apache, the comparison below might help you.

High Performance – Nginx can handle over 1000 concurrent connections simultaneously and is much faster than Apache. Apache also uses more memory than Nginx. Both have a similar speed for running content. However, if your website gets requested thousands of times in a day, Nginx is the best for you.

Support – Nginx might not have that excellent community support, but Nginx Plus offers excellent support. The user could be a professional or a beginner, but all desire to achieve good experiences working with any web server. Both these web servers have significant mailing support. However, Apache does not have community support from the Apache Foundation.

Compatibility – Compatibility is one of the main aspects that is considered while choosing a web server. Nginx and Apache are compatible with most of the operating systems supporting the Unix system. The sad part here is that Nginx does not perform that well with Windows.

Why should I opt for Nginx?

Most people have this question at the back of the mind as to why should I choose Nginx. Here are a few of the reasons why you should do so –

Caching – You are provided with a cache for static content and dynamic content as well. It helps in enhancing your website performance. It ensures that your website has smooth functioning even during high traffic.

Load of Back-end Apps Available – The reason most Cloud providers love Nginx is it helps in managing the traffic for many applications. Another fascinating feature of Nginx is that you can update rules with zero downtime. Therefore, you can make Nginx available for all applications, even complex ones.

Lessen DoS Attacks – As now you already know, Nginx can handle thousands of HTTP requests at a single time; it also ensures the safety of the application. It specifically takes care of the traffic that can overload the APIs and the URLs with requests. To prevent this from happening, you can apply queuing requests or concurrency limits.

No Downtime – As mentioned in one of the points earlier, Nginx has no downtime whatsoever. It ensures that your application works smoothly without any issues. Even when the system software gets upgraded, there are no interruptions or problems faced.

Conclusion

In this small write-up on Nginx, I tried to highlight most of its essential aspects. We have covered most of it, from its history to its functions to comparisons between Nginx and Apache. You can also check our article on Why would you Need a Dedicated IP?

It’s highly scalable, which means the more the number of clients, the better the service. There’s no denying that Apache gives a tough competition to Nginx, but we aren’t settling for a winner here.

The decision lies in your hands. The above article is all that I had to offer; if there are any suggestions or opinions from your end, do let me know. Take care! Good Luck!

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