The Difference Between Apache and NginX
Apache and NginX are two important players in the web server sector. According to Stackscale, Apache makes up roughly 34% of the web server market and NginX accounts for about 33%. But how are they different? When should you use one over the other?
We’re going to compare and contrast these two open-source software options and help you to determine which is right for your needs!
What is the difference between Apache and NginX?
Apache and NginX are both open-source servers, but they function very differently. Apache is an HTTP server, while NginX is an asynchronous web server and reverse proxy server.
Apache was created in 1999 and has been a favorite for some time now. It’s a modular web server application that generates a new thread for each simultaneous connection. NginX is newer on the scene, but it has experienced increasing popularity recently due to its powerful performance speeds.
The multi-threaded architecture of Apache HTTP Server limits its scalability. To manage many client requests, NginX uses an asynchronous event-driven mechanism. Its event-driven architecture is designed to improve performance even in high-traffic environments.
The most significant distinction between the two is how they handle client requests. While Apache has a range of multiprocessing modules for handling client requests and web traffic, NginX is specifically built to handle numerous client requests at the same time while using minimal hardware resources.
A single thread in Apache is associated with only one connection, whereas in NginX, a single thread can handle numerous connections. All of the processes, as well as additional connections, are placed in an event loop and controlled asynchronously. This procedure uses less memory, resulting in improved performance.
The Apache server uses traditional file methods for serving static information through its multi-processing modules. NginX functions very simply and effectively with static content, with almost no overhead for serving this type of content.
When it comes to speed, though, NginX has a clear upper hand with static content. Benchmark tests have shown it to be 2.5x as fast as Apache! Plus, NginX uses less system memory than Apache.
NginX is unable to handle dynamic content natively. Its execution is dependent on external processors which send rendered content back to the client.
This will add an extra step for administrators. Communications between NginX and a processor will have to be configured with a protocol that NginX can communicate with, such as SCGI, http, uWSGI, and others.
Apache can handle dynamic content in the web server without relying on external processors. Therefore, Apache is well-suited for users that don’t want to worry about additional configuration steps.
Apache features .htaccess files that allow you to configure directories separately. These files utilize the same syntax as main configuration files, but they allow for Overrides that change which directives are used. If a directive is permitted in a .htaccess file, the Override section in the documentation will specify what value needs to be in AllowOverride for it to work.
Only utilize .htaccess files when you can’t access the main server configuration file. This is because it creates potential security risks as you’re allowing your users to modify your server configuration. If you aren’t concerned with giving your users these privileges, then it’s not necessarily a problem. But if you have a large team with many users, you may want to reconsider this.
That being said, this does allow for ease of customization without needing access to the central configuration.
NginX does not allow for per-directory configuration. Therefore, it is less flexible. However, it does lend itself to better performance. NginX is able to serve requests faster because it’s performing a single directory lookup, without any overrides to slow it down.
Furthermore, you also don’t have the same security concerns because no configurations are done outside of your main server configuration.
Apache was designed as a web server, therefore, it tends to interpret requests as filesystem resources. It takes the document root and uses the host and port number to find a file. However, Apache can also work with the Uniform Resource Identifier (URI) itself rather than the filesystem. <Location> blocks are required for this to work. Overall, though, Apache is tuned to working with the filesystem.
NginX, on the other hand, works best with URIs and only translates to the filesystem in certain instances. It parses the URI every time and it doesn’t have a function for specifying filesystem configuration. Therefore, it’s able to work more effectively in different server roles and doesn’t check the filesystem until it’s time to serve the request.
Both Apache and NginX have a module system, but they function differently. The Apache core is always running, however, modules can be added or removed as needed. Users can download numerous additional modules from an extensive collection as well. They can add functionality such as encryption, authentication, blacklisting, and much much more.
NginX modules need to be added to the core software and they can’t be loaded easily, like Apache modules can. Distro packages usually incorporate the most common modules, but atypical ones will need to be built from source. Therefore, NginX isn’t as simple to use if your server has unusual requirements.
Community & Support
Apache and NginX are two of the biggest players in the web server sector. Therefore, there’s no shortage of solutions and tutorials from users across the web. Plus, both of these platforms are heavily documented internally.
The Apache HTTP server is controlled and maintained by a global community of users and organized by the Apache Software Foundation, whereas NginX is handled by a corporation of the same name that was created in 2011
Recapping: Apache vs. NginX
|Asynchronous web server and reverse proxy server
|Features a multi-threaded architecture that limits its scalability.
|Uses an asynchronous event-driven mechanism that drives excellent performance.
|When it comes to static content, Apache performs worse than NginX.
|NginX can handle thousands of connections to static content more than two times faster than Apache while using a fraction of the memory.
|Can handle dynamic content in a web server without relying on external processors. But rarely used today, and limited.
|NginX is unable to handle dynamic content natively and requires external processors such as PHP.
|Allows you to use .htaccess files to configure directories separately
|Does not allow per-directory configuration, however, it has faster performance because of the lack of overhead.
|Apache interprets requests as filesystem resources.
|Uses URI almost entirely and only checks a filesystem when its time to serve a request.
|Modules can be added and removed at will, and loaded easily from a large library.
|Common modules are included, but unusual and specific module requirements have to be built from source.
|Community & Support
|Features a large global community and years of documentation and support.
|Recent popularity for NginX has led to a wealth of knowledge on the web, but fewer resources than Apache.
Best of Both Worlds
There is growing popularity in the industry for using a hybrid approach with NginX and Apache.
Most users will put NginX in front of Apache and use it as a proxy. This allows you to take advantage of NginX’s fast processing and effectiveness with high traffic loads. Dynamic content is then passed on the Apache.
NginX will serve the static content, cached content, and unload slower HTTP connections. Meanwhile, Apache runs the application code securely. This is an excellent usage of both platforms’ strengths and simplifies workloads for users.
Wrapping Up: Apache vs. NginX
Now you know the differences between these two server powerhouses. Apache is a versatile, established, and proven option that allows for a huge range of customizations and configurations, but it struggles with performance. NginX is streamlined, fast, and modern, however, it’s not as versatile as Apache.
Both are excellent choices, but it will depend on your usage plans and you may want to consider using them together. A-Team Systems has experience working with both, so contact us today if you need assistance. We’ll get you back-on-track quickly and ensure that you’re getting the most out of your system.
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