Related Topics: Containers Expo Blog, Java IoT, Linux Containers, Open Source Cloud, IoT User Interface, Agile Computing, @BigDataExpo

Containers Expo Blog: Article

Easily Boost Your Web Application Using nginx

The performance improvement is quite significant for serving static content

More and more Web sites and applications are being moved from Apache to nginx. While Apache is still the number one HTTP server with more than 60% on active Web sites, nginx has now taken over 2nd place in the ranking and relegated Microsoft's IIS to 3rd place. Among the top 10.000 Web sites nginx is already the leader in the field, with a market share of 40%.

And the reasons are obvious: nginx is a high-speed, lightweight HTTP server engine. The performance improvement is quite significant for serving static content. Especially at high load, nginx is much faster than Apache and consumes much less resources on the server. Thus, concurrent requests can be handled more efficiently. As a consequence, the same tasks can be fulfilled by less hardware. And every byte of memory, CPU or even server to be economized reduces your infrastructure costs.

I ran some load tests: 10.000 requests showed quite remarkable differences, even more distinct with more concurrent users. Note that with Apache the total execution time increases with the number of users, while nginx can easily handle that. For 2,000 users, nginx could process the requests almost four times faster.

While nginx uses an event-based request handling in a small number of processes, Apache is spawning new processes or threads for each request, depending on the processing mode. Apache's default multi-process (prefork) mode creates child processes for each request. Such a process is a complete instance of Apache including all linked modules. That means that even a request for static content, like an image, causes a new process to be started and the PHP module to be loaded.

Apache can also be operated in a multi-threaded (worker) mode, which creates multiple threads in fewer processes, one per request. Thus, it consumes much less memory, but the operation is no longer thread-save. Therefore modules like mod_php can't be used.

I went through the exercise of figuring out the best way to leverage nginx on an application that runs on Apache. In this blog we will cover the actual installation steps, different deployment and migration scenarios, as well as how to measure the actual performance gain.

Installing nginx
All you have to do to start boosting your application performance is to install nginx on your machine and follow some configuration rules. In this article I will be referencing an example site running Ubuntu.

sudo apt-get install nginx

No doubt, Apache provides much more functionality by supplying a broad range of mountable modules and many more options to be configured. A common way to adjust the behavior of a website is a combination of the virtual host setup and using the .htaccess file. First of all: this file doesn't exist in nginx, which is another performance bonus. Apache checks every single directory in the path of the requested file for an .htaccess file and evaluates the content if it exists. And, if not configured properly, keeping a config file together with your data could result in a severe security issue. Nginx keeps the configuration in a central place and loads the settings into memory at startup.

Even if you are not sure whether or not you really should replace Apache by nginx, you could always use both together? We will cover this later.

Migrating Configuration
There are quite some similarities, but it's important to understand the differences between the configurations. Just like Apache, nginx keeps the files in /etc/nginx/sites-available. Use a symbolic link for active configurations in /etc/nginx/sites-enabled.

First of all, create a server block for each virtual host.

server {
listen 80;

The basic setup for running a site is similar to Apache, with a slightly different syntax:


# Apache



# nginx


<VirtualHost *:80>

ServerName mysite.com
ServerAlias www.mysite.com

DocumentRoot /srv/www/mysite
DirectoryIndex index.php index.html


server {
listen: 80;

server_name mysite.com www.mysite.com;

root /srv/www/mysite;
index index.php index.html;


To add specific behavior for certain requests define a location inside your server block. You can use regular expressions to select the effected requests:

server {

location / {
try_files $uri $uri/ @notfound;

location /doc/ {

alias /usr/share/doc/;

autoindex on;


deny all;


location /images/ {
root /media/images


location @notfound {

rewrite (.*) /index.php?paramstring=$1;


location ~ /\.ht {

deny all;


This sample configuration shows some of the setup options for server/locations. Make sure to create a config to deny .ht* files, as nginx is not doing that from scratch. Direct access to these files is automatically rejected by Apache. Note that familiar options from Apache can be found here in nginx: allow/deny, alias, rewrite, etc.

Please refer to the online documentation on nginx.org for further information.

Especially when you have multiple websites running on your server, and lots of requests causing high load, it is a good decision to move to nginx. But multiple websites, configured differently, could result in a quite high effort on migration. There are some converters available doing that job for you, but mainly they convert a .htaccess file to an nginx config. But Apache also uses configurations for virtual hosts - do not forget about these! Even if converted by a tool, I recommend checking your configurations manually before using them in a production environment!

Tip: install nginx as the primary HTTP server and leave your Apache running on a different port. Migrate your virtual servers one-by-one by creating nginx server configurations, and forward requests for not-yet-migrated websites to Apache. I'll show you how:

For my insight into nginx, and a look at Apache, click here for the full article

More Stories By Harald Zeitlhofer

Harald Zeitlhofer has 15+ years of experience as an architect and developer of enterprise ERP solutions and web applications with a main focus on efficient and performant business processes, usability and application design. As a Technology Strategist in Dynatrace's Centre of Excellence team he influences the Dynatrace product strategy by working closely with customers and driving their performance management and improvement at the front line. He is a frequent speaker at conferences and meetup groups around the world. Follow him @HZeitlhofer

Comments (0)

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.

Latest Stories
@DevOpsSummit has been named the ‘Top DevOps Influencer' by iTrend. iTrend processes millions of conversations, tweets, interactions, news articles, press releases, blog posts - and extract meaning form them and analyzes mobile and desktop software platforms used to communicate, various metadata (such as geo location), and automation tools. In overall placement, @DevOpsSummit ranked as the number one ‘DevOps Influencer' followed by @CloudExpo at third, and @MicroservicesE at 24th.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Roundee / LinearHub will exhibit at the WebRTC Summit at @ThingsExpo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. LinearHub provides Roundee Service, a smart platform for enterprise video conferencing with enhanced features such as automatic recording and transcription service. Slack users can integrate Roundee to their team via Slack’s App Directory, and '/roundee' command lets your video conference ...
Traditional on-premises data centers have long been the domain of modern data platforms like Apache Hadoop, meaning companies who build their business on public cloud were challenged to run Big Data processing and analytics at scale. But recent advancements in Hadoop performance, security, and most importantly cloud-native integrations, are giving organizations the ability to truly gain value from all their data. In his session at 19th Cloud Expo, David Tishgart, Director of Product Marketing ...
Successful digital transformation requires new organizational competencies and capabilities. Research tells us that the biggest impediment to successful transformation is human; consequently, the biggest enabler is a properly skilled and empowered workforce. In the digital age, new individual and collective competencies are required. In his session at 19th Cloud Expo, Bob Newhouse, CEO and founder of Agilitiv, will draw together recent research and lessons learned from emerging and established ...
The best way to leverage your Cloud Expo presence as a sponsor and exhibitor is to plan your news announcements around our events. The press covering Cloud Expo and @ThingsExpo will have access to these releases and will amplify your news announcements. More than two dozen Cloud companies either set deals at our shows or have announced their mergers and acquisitions at Cloud Expo. Product announcements during our show provide your company with the most reach through our targeted audiences.
Established in 1998, Calsoft is a leading software product engineering Services Company specializing in Storage, Networking, Virtualization and Cloud business verticals. Calsoft provides End-to-End Product Development, Quality Assurance Sustenance, Solution Engineering and Professional Services expertise to assist customers in achieving their product development and business goals. The company's deep domain knowledge of Storage, Virtualization, Networking and Cloud verticals helps in delivering ...
More and more brands have jumped on the IoT bandwagon. We have an excess of wearables – activity trackers, smartwatches, smart glasses and sneakers, and more that track seemingly endless datapoints. However, most consumers have no idea what “IoT” means. Creating more wearables that track data shouldn't be the aim of brands; delivering meaningful, tangible relevance to their users should be. We're in a period in which the IoT pendulum is still swinging. Initially, it swung toward "smart for smar...
Kubernetes, Docker and containers are changing the world, and how companies are deploying their software and running their infrastructure. With the shift in how applications are built and deployed, new challenges must be solved. In his session at @DevOpsSummit at19th Cloud Expo, Sebastian Scheele, co-founder of Loodse, will discuss the implications of containerized applications/infrastructures and their impact on the enterprise. In a real world example based on Kubernetes, he will show how to ...
SYS-CON Events announced today that SoftNet Solutions will exhibit at the 19th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. SoftNet Solutions specializes in Enterprise Solutions for Hadoop and Big Data. It offers customers the most open, robust, and value-conscious portfolio of solutions, services, and tools for the shortest route to success with Big Data. The unique differentiator is the ability to architect and ...
Without lifecycle traceability and visibility across the tool chain, stakeholders from Planning-to-Ops have limited insight and answers to who, what, when, why and how across the DevOps lifecycle. This impacts the ability to deliver high quality software at the needed velocity to drive positive business outcomes. In his general session at @DevOpsSummit at 19th Cloud Expo, Eric Robertson, General Manager at CollabNet, will discuss how customers are able to achieve a level of transparency that e...
“Media Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 19th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. CloudBerry Backup is a leading cross-platform cloud backup and disaster recovery solution integrated with major public cloud services, such as Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud Platform.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Embotics, the cloud automation company, will exhibit at the 19th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Embotics is the cloud automation company for IT organizations and service providers that need to improve provisioning or enable self-service capabilities. With a relentless focus on delivering a premier user experience and unmatched customer support, Embotics is the fas...
In the next five to ten years, millions, if not billions of things will become smarter. This smartness goes beyond connected things in our homes like the fridge, thermostat and fancy lighting, and into heavily regulated industries including aerospace, pharmaceutical/medical devices and energy. “Smartness” will embed itself within individual products that are part of our daily lives. We will engage with smart products - learning from them, informing them, and communicating with them. Smart produc...
As ridesharing competitors and enhanced services increase, notable changes are occurring in the transportation model. Despite the cost-effective means and flexibility of ridesharing, both drivers and users will need to be aware of the connected environment and how it will impact the ridesharing experience. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Timothy Evavold, Executive Director Automotive at Covisint, will discuss key challenges and solutions to powering a ride sharing and/or multimodal model in the a...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Coalfire will exhibit at the 19th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Coalfire is the trusted leader in cybersecurity risk management and compliance services. Coalfire integrates advisory and technical assessments and recommendations to the corporate directors, executives, boards, and IT organizations for global brands and organizations in the technology, cloud, health...