Nextcloud 21 arrives with ten times better performance

The latest version of Nextcloud, the open-source IaaS cloud program boasts an optional high-performance backend for files, which speeds up client-server file connection updates by a factor of ten.
Written by Steven Vaughan-Nichols, Senior Contributing Editor

I've been using and recommending Nextcloud as a great open-source, private Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) cloud for years now. I run it myself both on a server in my office and on my TMDHosting remote server. Besides just providing a great cloud-based file server, Nextcloud has been adding more features. These include built-in video-conferencing and group meeting services. Nextcloud Talk and Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) version of the LibreOffice office suite, Collabora, and integration with third-party services such as Microsoft Teams, Slack, Jira, GitHub, and Twitter. Now, returning to basics, the latest version, Nextcloud 21, features a new, optional Rust-based high-performance backend for files, which reduces server load from desktop clients and web interface polling by 90% while delivering instant notifications and file changes to users. 

In a word, it's much faster. This is a massive performance improvement. Nextcloud has more than its new backend pushing its speed up. It comes with a wide range of performance optimizations aimed at increasing responsiveness and capacity at large Nextcloud installations. 

For example, Nextcloud no longer supports PHP 7.x. Its PHP 8 compatibility and improvements to app loading and database queries with specific boosts in how it handles Text, Object storage, and LDAP group handling all leads to greater performance. The end result is a desktop user interface which feels twice as responsive as earlier versions. New client preview features will also result in more responsive mobile clients and the unified search was optimized for various apps. 

Put all the improvements together -- database performance, file handling and app-specific speed ups and the high-speed backend -- and Nextcloud claims you'll see a 10x increase in capacity of large Nextcloud servers.

As Roeland Douma, Nextcloud server engineering and support lead explained, "At a scale of millions of users, milliseconds start to add up. After analyzing application and caching server, storage, and database behavior, our team was able to significantly reduce the impact of common operations. The high-performance back-end provides a completely new way of reducing server load while bringing a new level of responsiveness to users."

In other words, it's not just performance. The new Nextcloud will also put much less of a load on its servers. Frank Karlitschek, Nextcloud's CEO and founder said, "With the COVID crisis continuing to force employees to work from home, Nextcloud server administrators need to keep adding capacity. Nextcloud 21 will reduce the load on servers, enabling more employees to work without requiring additional hardware."

Nextcloud 21 also comes with improvements to its SaaS features. To improve team coordination, Nextcloud Hub 21 introduces a collaborative Whiteboard app. This enables users to draw, take notes and upload images during a call or on their own. 

This release also introduces author colors in Text. This makes it easier to track activity during a collaborative editing session. The addition of Document Templates can speed up the creation of frequently needed documents like meeting notes or reports. 

Nextcloud Talk debuts message status indicators, a raise hand feature, a group conversation description, improved call experience with collapsible video bar, full-screen screen sharing, and reduced CPU usage. It also includes an improved conversation view with bigger image previews, animated GIF support, and easier accessible settings

Finally, Nextcloud Mail introduces drag and drop support, configurable special folders, improved threaded view, updated attachment handling, and more. Administrators can now configure attachment limits in Mail. You can also use this to enforce Nextcloud share link usage instead. The Contacts app introduces the ability to automatically retrieve avatars from social media networks.

Users have been noticing all these improvements. The release of Nextcloud Hub early in 2020 tripled the download rate of Nextcloud and doubled lead flow, showing strong interest in the market. During March and April 2020, those numbers rose by another 4x as many organizations used Nextcloud to enable remote work during the first lockdown. 

It's not just users downloading the free, open-source version. Nextcloud saw a 50% growth in its commercial customer base and a near doubling of total bookings. Public clouds may get the bulk of the users' attention, but Nextcloud is showing that there's still a great deal of interest in private clouds as well. 

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