Apache Vs NGINX – A brief comparison

When you are accessing any website, it is imperative that you are sending and receiving information to and from a web server. This is because web servers are those software tools that store, process and deliver web pages to clients. Operating systems do not come installed with web server by default, so the system administrator has to install it first. Among various web servers that are out there in the market, the most popular ones are Apache and NGINX( pronounced as “engine X”). In this brief article we would learn about the major differences between the two mentioned web servers in terms of their performance characteristics and the various features and tools they provide the developers with.

Both the web servers are very easy to install and to configure and they both have their own set of strengths and weaknesses. Keep reading to find out more about them.

APACHE web server

A brief history:

The development of Apache web server also mentioned as Apache HTTP server started in the year 1995. It played a significant role in the initial growth of world wide web and was also claimed to be the dominant HTTP server in those days. Since 1996, Apache has been the most commonly used web server throughout the world and recently in the year 2009, the user base of Apache crossed 100 million websites. which is the first for any web server ever built.

Prominent features of Apache web server:

  • Apache web server is an open source software which can be downloaded at no cost. Moreover, the source code of the server can be modified according to the personal requirements which gives it a competitive edge over many of its competitors.
  • It is compatible with numerous operating systems including Unix-like OS, Windows and MacOSX.
  • There is an active community of Apache users across the globe which is an added advantage for any Apache user as it becomes easy to find solutions for problems that could arise at any stage. When any new bug is found, the users from the community create a patch to fix the issue and post them on social media for others to make use of.
  • The customization possibilities in using Apache are numerous as there are many add-ons available to customize and modify many characteristics of the web server. For instance, there is a customizable control panel provided which can be used to create customizable error messages and authentication schemes.

NGINX web server

A brief history:

The development of NGINX began in 2002 by Igor Sysoev in Russia . It was developed for filling the needs of various websites . It was serving around 500 million requests per day for one of its customers. It is a very powerful web server which was equipped to handle complex website architectures as compared to Apache which has seen many updates to its basic level of architecture over the years.

Prominent features of NGINX:

  • NGINX servers utilize the CPU in a very efficient way by running one work process per CPU. This provides better hardware efficiency than Apache and hence can process more in lesser time.
  • It also acts as a load balancer and HTTP cache. This allows the developer to reduce the number of hardware components in the network system.
  • The static content performance of NGINX is much better and it provides accelerated support for FastCGI , SCGI and memcached servers.

Current scenario:

Apache HTTP server is a solid platform for any web technology that was developed in the past couple of decades. But as complexities arise in the web development industry with newer technologies popping up every now and then, it is getting difficult for Apache to sustain owing to its simple architecture that was laid out during its developmental stages. Nevertheless it still holds almost 50% of market share but the numbers are decreasing by each passing year since 2010. On the other hand NGINX has been gaining market share quite rapidly because of the wide range of functions that it is capable of performing . That is why NGINX has captured more than 20% of the market in a relatively short span of time and is catching up to Apache really fast. But there is a catch with preferring NGINX over Apache that the former uses a much complex architecture and therefore it is difficult to produce customized modules when compared to the simplicity that Apache provides with numerous customization options.

Conclusion:

Apache HTTP server and NGINX have their own space in the market, but it is seen that as of late, NGINX is being preferred by developers who develop complex website architectures. This is the reason that in past few years, NGINX is the most popular web server among the busiest websites in the world. But when it comes to simplicity and ease of handling various tasks, it is difficult to beat Apache and the services that it provides its clients with. At the end of the day, it all comes down to the exact requirement of the user and it is not possible to recommend any one above the other.

The following table provides a brief comparison across various criteria:

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