We hardly need more proof that the Nginx Web server has become a major-league player. According to Netcraft, it's currently the No. 3 Web server (14 percent of all sites), behind only Microsoft IIS (24 percent) and Apache (44 percent). Netflix, Hulu, Pinterest, GitHub, and WordPress.com all employ it, thanks to its much-vaunted ability to serve up Web content at high speed.
Now, however, comes yet another sign the little Web server that could (and did) has become an even bigger deal. Canonical has elected to add the BSD-licensed Nginx as a fully supported component of Ubuntu Server, starting with the 14.04 release due out later this year.
In a blog post explaining the move, Jorge Castro (Cloud Community Liaison for Canonical) wrote, "[I]ncreasing our support of Nginx has been something many Ubuntu Server users have been telling me they’d like to see and it's good to see us make some progress in this area."
Adding Nginx to Ubuntu in this fashion means Nginx will be kept fresh with security updates for the life of the 14.04 release.
Those expecting to drop Nginx in as a one-for-one replacement for Apache are likely to be disappointed, though, as Nginx is radically different from Apache in its architecture and in its configuration files. Apache rewrites, for instance, need to be redone from scratch to work in Nginx.
That said, switching from Apache to Nginx seems more than worth it from a pure performance perspective. The folks at SimplyTestable.com have done their own Nginx-to-Apache switch (on Ubuntu, no less), documenting the process, and found that they gained an order of magnitude in performance for their work. Likewise, Lee Hutchinson at Ars Technica did his own migration and was pleased with both Nginx's speed and reduced memory footprint and CPU load.
Much of the recent spate of attention directed at Nginx isn't about its performance, though, but about the way the company behind it has ramped up its ambitions to make Nginx into a commercial product. The for-pay edition of Nginx, which costs $1,350 per instance per year, is being marketed to high-end customers as an application delivery controller solution, and it includes advanced load balancing and behavioral monitoring. Needless to say, the version of Nginx included with Ubuntu Server is the free edition.
The release of the commercial edition of Nginx appears to have been largely made possible by the presence of major commercial backing for the software back in 2011, courtesy of a group of venture capital outfits that included Dell CEO Michael Dell's MSD Capital.
InfoWorld's Simon Phipps reported on how this move toward a commercial edition provoked ire and dismay in the free/open source software communities. "The community edition and the commercial editions have disjointed user bases," he wrote, meaning that "the commercial versions are feature-rich and effectively lock their users into a traditional commercial ISV relationship with the vendor."
Red Hat also makes Nginx available as part of its Fedora distribution's repositories, and Nginx can be installed in Red Hat Enterprise Linux via the EPEL repository.
This article, "Nginx joins the big leagues in Ubuntu Server," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Get the first word on what the important tech news really means with the InfoWorld Tech Watch blog. For the latest business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.