Nginx is quietly taking over Apache’s own market share

Since the internet became public at the end of 1993, Apache has ruled the world when it comes to Web servers, and still does, but some say this could soon change. Now, a lesser-known web server, Nginx (pronounced “Engine-X”) has quietly taken some market share away from Apache.

And this has been happening to the point that it now owns almost 12.7 percent of the global web server market, and almost 12.8 per cent of the world’s most heavily trafficked websites, according to new data from Netcraft. Of course, and as it often does, it wasn’t supposed to be that way. Once an open-source project gains traction, it has tended to continue to gain market share, just like the Linux operating system.

But Apache has been on the wane, losing 100 million hostnames since June 2012, and not because of any resurgence from Microsoft’s IIS web server. Apache still claims close to 55.5 percent of all active websites, but Nginx is on the rise, make no mistake.

Started in 2001 by Igor Sysoev, Nginx now powers websites with serious scale requirements like,,, and, last but not least,

Nginx and Lighttpd are probably the two best-known asynchronous servers, and Apache is undoubtedly the best known process-based Web server. The main advantage of the asynchronous approach is scalability. In a process-based server, each simultaneous connection requires a thread which incurs significant overhead. On the other hand, an asynchronous server is event-driven and handles requests in a single thread. While a process-based server can often perform on par with an asynchronous server under light loads, under heavier loads they usually consume far too much RAM which significantly degrades performance and speed. Today, Nginx offers fewer features than Apache, but its performance is significantly higher. In that manner, it’s not unlike MySQL in the database market, or Tomcat in the application server market, where the open-source alternative is initially feature-constrained but significantly better for a particular purpose.

Over time, it adds functionality and continues to improve performance until, like Linux in the server and mobile operating systems, it simply dominates the rest of the segment.

This used to be the story of Apache which displaced all proprietary players in the web server market. But now its market share is being eaten away, and unless it fundamentally re-architects for better scaling features, Apache may ultimately give way to Nginx or other open-source web servers.

The people at Apache already know this and haven’t been sitting idle. Not at all in fact. In early 2012 the Apache Software Foundation released version 2.4, of which ASF president Jim Jagielski declared– “As far as true performance is based – real-world performance as seen by the end-user- Apache version 2.4 is as fast, and even faster than some of the servers who may be ‘better’ known as being ‘fast’, like Nginx.” Despite nearly a year in the market, Apache 2.4 hasn’t stemmed its slide. What’s so interesting and healthy here is that two open-source projects are fighting for market supremacy in the only way open source really knows how– technical merit. Pure and simple.

It will be interesting to see what kind of progress Nginx makes in 2013 and if it continues to eat away at Apache’s strong market share. We will also be on the lookout to see if other big-name websites adopt it in the near future.

In other Linux and open source news, James Bottomley has restructured Linux’s mini bootloader to allow any version to be launched on PCs with UEFI Secure Boot.

The boot loader’s development has been sponsored by the Linux Foundation. The revised version uses a different method to boot the more complex secondary bootloader.

This enables it to co-operate with Gummiboot, which was introduced in mid-2012. Gummiboot doesn’t load or start Linux itself like GRUB does, instead it accesses EFI mechanisms. This keeps its structure significantly less complex than that of GRUB.

But when Secure Boot is active, the approach requires other firmware-related mechanisms to verify the kernel before it is launched.

In a recent blog post, Bottomley says that as a consequence of this, Gummiboot doesn’t work with Shim or the original version of the Linux Foundation’s bootloader when Secure Boot is active. Further details can be found in the slides for a presentation given by Bottomley, a member of the Linux Foundation’s Technical Advisory Board.

In the presentation, he explains that the Linux kernel and the Gummiboot versions should not be verified via keys, and that user-authorised hash values should be used instead.

To provide the functionality, the new version uses some modification that is also part of an extension which was introduced by SUSE Linux developers and has since been integrated into Shim 0.2.

That extension allows Shim to store trusted code information in a MOKs (Machine Owner Keys) database.

According to Bottomley’s presentation slides, it takes a week or two for Microsoft to respond to bootloader submissions and provide a signature that is considered trustworthy by Secure Boot PCs.

This means that the difficulties Bottomley encountered when he tried to get an earlier version of his mini bootloader signed last autumn appear to have been eliminated.

Bottomley says that he submitted the revised version to be signed by Microsoft on January 21st, and that he hopes to receive a signed version shortly. The Linux Foundation plans to offer this signed version for download free of charge.

Shim contributor Matthew Garrett has recently also written a blog post on UEFI and Secure Boot. In that post, the developer provides some details about the issues that have caused Samsung notebooks to refuse to start at all after Linux was booted.

He also mentions a few flaws in the UEFI firmware of various Toshiba notebooks that result in the signatures of the Secure Boot-compatible Fedora 18 being considered invalid, which prevents the distribution from starting when Secure Boot is active.

In other Linux and open source news

For the past week or so, there’s been lots of rumors flying in the open source community that Microsoft might potentially invest in Dell, but a big question has since emerged– if such an investment would occur, will Dell still maintain its very close relationships with Red Hat, other Linux vendors and the open source community?

And there’s also another rumor– Dell could go private soon… In fact, it’s that rumor that triggered the other, as it often happens with rumors.

Other potential investors could include the private equity firm Silver Lake Partners, Michael Dell himself and a few others. If Microsoft injects a lot of its cash into Dell, the software company could strain relationships with Hewlett-Packard, Lenovo, Acer and other PC makers.

Acer has already been very critical of Microsoft’s Windows Surface RT and Surface Pro tablet launches. not to mention other reservations is already has against the company co-founded by Bill Gates.

But while all of this is happening, a Microsoft-Dell financial relationship could also have a ripple effect in the open source and Linux world. Dell is one of the top suppliers of servers running Red Hat Enterprise Linux and SUSE Linux. The company also has a close, ongoing relationship with Canonical, promoting Ubuntu Linux on PCs in emerging regions and also working with Canonical on cloud computing.

But Dell’s own public cloud could leverage OpenStack soon, the open source platform for launching infrastructure services. However, if Microsoft does invest privately in Dell, will the company founded by Michael Dell himself deemphasize or abandon its Linux and open source relationships?

We doubt it, especially when it comes to servers and cloud computing, one area that has always interested Microsoft and one that the software giant continues to invest in agressively.

But with or without Microsoft’s cash, Dell must still answer to its many customers. And enterprise customers will revolt if Dell somehow abandons or weakens its engagements with Red Hat and the other major Linux vendors. Even Microsoft has opened up to the cross-platform reality, allowing customers to run Linux in its Windows Azure cloud.

Still, other major server makers such as HP and IBM could wind up being the big open source winners if customers perceive that Microsoft has somehow undermined, however slightly, Dell’s Linux strategy.

On the PC and in the notebook markets, where Windows still rules over Linux in most regions, you could imagine Microsoft trying to inspire Dell to go all Windows, all the time. The question is, will it happen?

Even as Dell focuses more intensely on enterprise computing, the company still can’t overlook opportunities with Android, Google’s Chrome OS, Linux and other software used today in the rapidly growing mobile market.

In other Linux and open source news

Google says it has released a large chunk of code of its Cloud Platform to the open source community for the benefit of all.

However, just don’t connect the dots between the open source community, clouds and a big search engine company and assume that this is all about generosity.

Twitter and even Facebook may have offered some bits of production code here and there to the open source world in order that anyone can learn from their innovations.

Google has been especially a little more prosaic, offering what it calls starter projects that it hopes will help other developers get more out of its cloudy platform, which comprises the App Engine, BigQuery, Compute Engine, Cloud SQL, and Cloud Storage offerings.

“We will continue to add code repositories that clearly illustrate the solutions, such as the classic guest book app on Google App Engine,” the company said.

“And for good measure, you will soon see tools that will make your developer life easier, such as an Auth 2.0 helper,” Google added.

“You can quickly get your app running by forking any of our repositories and diving into your own code,” the company’s bloggers added.

And Google sure is hoping that the message gets through, because its Cloud Platform hasn’t exactly set the world on fire. Forrester’s James Staten recently said that Amazon Web Services has “has opened up a substantial lead in the cloud platforms market” and currently owns around 70 percent of the market.

The Forrester analyst says that both Google and Microsoft are big improvers, but also believes that emerging OpenStack-based means that increased competition can be expected.

Google doesn’t have natural access to the same number of developers as Microsoft, making efforts like this important if it is to grow its user base and achieve its long-held ambition to build substantial businesses beyond AdWords.

That business, while healthy, is also showing some signs of stress as revealed in the company’s results announcement yesterday.

But Google still remains a genius at giving away code to rake in big revenue later. The Cloud Platform code could repeat the trick again.

It will still be interesting to see how the open source community responds to this, and how soon it starts ‘kicking the tires’.

In other Linux and open source news

Over the past fifteen years, open source has had a strong corporate aspect to it, perhaps starting when IBM pledged to invest $1 billion on the Linux operating system more than 13 years ago. Despite the benefits of corporate funding of open-source software, some industry observers still question whether open source has become ‘too corporate’.

For those who worry about the outright commercialization of the true open source model, we’d like to introduce you to Pedro Algarvio, contributor to the SaltStack project.

Algarvio is interesting because he fits the original mold of the open-source developer– he writes code because he loves it, and not because he gets paid to do so. It’s easy to overlook such open source developers, highlighting how GNOME, Linux, Apache, Mozilla and so many other initiatives are fueled by developers *not* paid to contribute open-source code.

But Algarvio plays an important role with Salt, an open-source tool used to manage one’s infrastructure. In some ways similar to Puppet or Chef, Salt distinguishes itself by being lightning fast and very easy-to-use.

But none of this truly explains why Algarvio got involved in the first place. He’s a core contributor to the project, despite having no commercial or other affiliation with the Salt developers, or even with configuration management or infrastructure management for that matter.

Source: The Linux Foundation.

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