Open source Apache HTTP Server, frequently referred to asjust “Apache” by those in the know, has long been a leader in the web servermarket. However, the popular open source server may be getting a littlecompetition from relative newcomer nginx (pronounced "engine-x").

Web Server Market Share

The open source Apache (news, site) HTTP server has been the most popularwebserver since 1996. The server is singlehandedly responsible for hosting46% of all websites. Despite the availability of manycommercialalternatives, the web server has remained a market leader.However, theextremely lightweight nginx server has emerged as a viableopen sourcealternative.

Nginx seems to be growing in popularity and may one dayrival Apacheon non-Microsoft platforms, especially as sites are challengedwithincreasingly higher traffic levels and performance requirements. Nginxwasinitially released about six years ago after the web servermarket was wellestablished. Since its introduction, it has become thethird most popular webserver. Although Apache achieved its number onespot after only a year, themarket was still new and there wasreally no dominant market leader.


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source: Netcraft May 2011 Web Server Survey

Why Use Nginx

Why would an organization elect to use nginx when literallymillionsof use cases have demonstrated the capabilities of Apache? Simple configuration and performance for static content. The design of nginxmakes itcapable of handling heavier loads with less memory thanApache. This makes it possibleto handle more traffic with lesshardware and resources -- a factor that is importantto enterprises withheavily trafficked sites. Metrics from Wordpress.comindicate thatnginx was the only load balancer that it was able to get to handleover8,000 requests per second.

Learning Opportunities

Wordpress.com isn’t the only site that hasmadethe jump to nginx. Nginx is used by several other high trafficsits such as stackoverflow.com and qq.com, a Chinese portal that ranks asone of the top 10in the world.

Considerations Before Jumping Ship From Apache

Although nginx is growing in popularity and is clearlydemonstratingits ability to be an Apache alternative, there are a few thingstoconsider before abandoning your current web server. Nginx does not havethepopularity of Apache, so finding experts familiar with the servermay be moredifficult. The implementer community is much smaller anddoes not have thestrength of an open source giant like an Apachesupporting it. Additionally,the current stable release is 1.0,something some conservative organizationsmay be uncomfortableimplementing. Finally, unlike Apache, nginx does not have agraphicaladministrative panel natively.

Nginx, and every other server for that matter, is far from dominating Apache in the market. However, it is a stable, fast alternative toApache and competition is always good in software.