nginx's rise within the cloud

Lightweight server dominant on cloud providers, services

nginx is still neck-and-neck with Microsoft's IIS on global surveys of web servers, but it's racking up significant wins in the cloud along the way.

Back in April, nginx looked ready to take the number two web-server spot in market share for top servers across all domains, according to the April Netcraft Web Server Survey. That was supposed to happen last month, actually. But that trend has apparently stalled, according to the latest Netcraft survey, as IIS remains in the number two spot with a recent climb in use that nginx was unable to pass.

Not only that, it appears that nginx has slipped its lead over IIS in the Active Sites Across All Domains survey, falling to the number-three spot in that ranking.

It's not all bad for nginx. According to the same survey, which also scans web-facing server deployments in cloud providers, Amazon just became the number-one hosting location on the planet. And of the 6.8 million websites Amazon hosts, "2.9M of these sites are served by nginx, which is closely followed by 2.3M served by Apache. A further 410k are served by Polyvore Web Server, which is used by sites within the Polyvore fashion social-commerce network. Only 2.4% (163k) of the sites hosted at Amazon are running Microsoft IIS."

(Just to stick that in a little more, the survey also goes on to sat that 97 percent of Amazon's web-facing servers are running Linux.)

nginx has been getting a bit more attention lately, as the lightweight web server is making significant inroads in web server deployments. One that crossed my desk recently was some details about nginx's use within the popular blog hosting service WordPress.com.

WordPress.com is the cloud blog service that uses the same open source WordPress content management software used for individually hosted web sites. It's got big traffic: Automattic, the company that supports and hosts WordPress.com, reports that the blog hosting service handles more than 33 million sites, with over 339 million people viewing 3.4 billion pages each month.

Back in 2008, Automattic opted to deploy nginx as a load balancing solution, switching out Pound, which was running as a load balancer on top of the Litespeed web servers WordPress.com was using. But eventually, as time went on, the company eventually shifted nearly all of its web infrastructure to nginx.

"We use it for load balancing, image serving (via MogileFS), serving static and dynamic web content, and caching. In fact, we have almost 1000 servers running Nginx today, serving over 100,000 requests per second," wrote Automattic Chief Systems Wrangler Barry Abrahamson in June.

Right now, nginx's rise is still continuing, as web site developers get more attracted to features like handling a large number of clients at the same time. Nginx is event-based, so works better than Apache for concurrent requests.

Speed is the name of nginx's game, even if its rise in the ranks doesn't quite share that same haste.

Read more of Brian Proffitt's Open for Discussion blog and follow the latest IT news at ITworld. Drop Brian a line or follow Brian on Twitter at @TheTechScribe. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.

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