Picking a Web server used to be easy. If you ran a Windows shop, you used Internet Information Server (IIS); if you didn’t, you used Apache. No fuss. No muss. Now, though, you have more Web server choices, and far more decisions to make. One of the leading alternatives, the open-source NGINX, is now the number two Web server in the world, according to Netcraft, the Web server analytics company.
NGINX (pronounced “engine X”) is an open-source HTTP Web server that also includes mail services with an Internet Message Access Protocol (IMAP) and Post Office Protocol (POP) server. NGINX is ready to be used as a reverse proxy, too. In this mode NGINX is used to load balance among back-end servers, or to provide caching for a slower back-end server.
Companies like the online TV video on demand company Hulu use NGINX for its stability and simple configuration. Other users, such as Facebook and WordPress.com, use it because the web server’s asynchronous architecture gives it a small memory footprint and low resource consumption, making it ideal for handling multiple, actively changing Web pages.
That’s a tall order. According to NGINX’s principal architect Igor Sysoev, here’s how NGINX can support hundreds of millions of Facebook users.