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​NGINX releases new full-featured web server

NGINX wants to become your web server -- whether you need a simple web page service or a complex web application delivery system.
Written by Steven Vaughan-Nichols, Senior Contributing Editor

NGNIX's slogan should borrow Avis's iconic tagline, "When you're number two, you try harder." While Apache is far more popular, 50.7 percent to NGINX's 14.4 percent - by Netcraft's web server count -- NGINX is trying hard with its latest update, NGINX Plus Release 6 (R6), to challenge Apache for the top spot.

Indeed, NGINX claims, based on Web Technology Surveys data that its eponymous web server "now powers nearly half of the top 10,000 sites and applications in the world." In addition, NGINX powers Netflix, Pinterest, Airbnb, and many other high-volume sites.

The open-source NGINX has been so successful because it's very fast. It also uses far fewer resources than Apache or Microsoft Internet Information Server (IIS). How? NGINX is event-based: It doesn't spawn new processes or threads for each Web page request. Consequently, as web server load increases, memory use remains predictable.

With this new version, NGINX introduces numerous enhancements. These include:

  • Faster Load Balancing Algorithm: Now the technology can automatically select faster and less-loaded nodes for superior performance. The solution monitors the number of concurrent connections and the average response time from each node in the load balancing pool and uses this intelligence to estimate the best possible node for each request.
  • Full-Featured TCP Load Balancing: The TCP load balancing feature that was introduced in NGINX Plus R5 has been significantly extended to include health checks, dynamic reconfiguration, full access logs, and SSL termination and encryption. In addition, NGINX Plus' extended status feature now reports TCP load balancing counters.
  • High Availability: Based on Keepalived, NGINX Plus now uses the Virtual Router Redundancy Protocol (VRRP) to achieve high availability and fail-over between NGINX Plus instances.
  • Updated Extended Status Dashboard: NGINX Plus sports a new, richer status dashboard that charts the health and activity of NGINX Plus instances using the extended status module.
  • Unbuffered Upload Support: NGINX Plus improves the responsiveness of web applications that handle large file uploads with new options for 'unbuffered upload,' which means that the technology streams the data in large HTTP requests (such as file uploads) to the server as it arrives, rather than buffering it and forwarding the request only after its entire contents are received.
  • Secure Socket Layer (SSL) Authentication For Simple Mail Transport Protocol (SMTP): NGINX Plus R6 support for SSL client authentication for SMTP traffic.

  • When you look at all these changes, it's clear that NGINX is more than just a web server. It incorporates high-availability, load-balancing, and mail server support to provide companies with a fast Internet services software stack.

    As Owen Garrett, head of products at NGINX, said in a statement, "NGINX Plus R6 represents a significant technical leap in features and functionality that extend developers' capabilities and improve overall application performance. We've worked closely with customers and the community to pinpoint and address some of the most common challenges that businesses face with web application delivery, and we see the innovation behind R6 as a critical response to those challenges and emerging market needs."

    At the same time, NGINX is introducing its Innovators Program. This puts the commercial version of NIGNX in the hands of developers for free, if their startup makes less than $2 million in annual revenue and less than $10 million in fund raising.

    The latest open-source version, NGINX 1.7.12, is also available. It was last updated on April 7, 2015.

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