NGINX: 40 Million Websites Can't Be Wrong

Second largest open source web server goes commercial

After almost 10 years of development, the second leading open source web server is going commercial. NGINX (pronounced like EnigneX), the brainchild of Igor Sysoev has announced the opening of their US based commercial entity and a three million dollar round of funding. Of course the largest open source web server is the venerable Apache web server upon which the Internet was built. Since 2004 though NGINX has been used by over 40 million domains and about 20% of the largest web sites in the world use it.

So why do people use NGINX versus Apache or another non-open server?  Great question. I spoke with NGINX co-founder Andrew Alexeev and asked him that question. NGINX was built for people that were not satisfied with the performance of Apache. As the Internet's demands were changing, so was the job of the web server. NGINX was built to be more efficient, more scalable, more secure and more powerful than anything that came before. From their web site its features include:

  • HTTP and HTTPS (TLS/SSL/SNI)
  • Ultra-fast web server for static content
  • FastCGI, WSGI, SCGI for dynamic content
  • Accelerated web proxy with load balancing and caching
  • Non-stop live binary upgrades and configuration
  • Compression and content filters
  • Virtual hosts
  • Media streaming for FLV and MP4
  • Bandwidth and connection policing
  • Comprehensive access control
  • Custom logging
  • Embedded scripting
  • Mail proxying for SMTP/IMAP/POP3 with TLS
  • Logical, flexible, scalable configuration
  • Runs on Linux, FreeBSD, Mac OS X, Solaris and Windows

But why go commercial now? Well the obvious answer is "show me the money".  But seriously, NGINX has reached a critical mass where it makes sense to offer commercial features as add ons as well as support to the millions of users.  The pure open source model will only go so far. If the founders didn't commercialize, sooner or later someone would to fill the vacuum.

So they have raised three million dollars in a Series "A" from investors BV Capital, Runa Capital and an entity affiliated with MSD Capital, the private investment firm for Dell Inc. Chairman and CEO Michael S. Dell. They will use the money to open offices here in the US in Silicon Valley. The company has actually been operating since July of this year from its Moscow headquarters. Most of the founders come from Russia. But looking at some of the larger companies using NGINX it is a who's who of the Internet: Facebook, Zappos, Groupon, LivingSocial, Hulu, TechCrunch, Dropbox and WordPress.

So NGINX according to Alexeev will pursue an open core model. They will continue to develop and lead the open source community for NGINX. They will also begin offering a series of add ons and modules that enhance NGINX. These add ons and modules will be commercially offered. The company will also offer support for NGINX users as a service as well.

Making the transition from pure open source to a commercial open source entity is fraught with wrong turns. It will be interesting to see the NGINX team navigate the path to recognizing their dreams.  Choice is always a good thing and it is good to see a second very viable option in the open source web server market.

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Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

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