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Nginx Support Enables Massive Web Application Scaling

Your web applications need to scale, especially during demanding traffic events. Nginx is a high-performance web server and reverse proxy that can help you do that. Today, we are extending our Managed Cloud Fanatical Support to include the installation, troubleshooting, patching and performance tuning of Nginx.

Specifics of what is supported can be found in the Knowledge Center article about Cloud Servers with Managed Service Level – Spheres of Support.

At its heart, Nginx is a web server, a very fast web server! The key to Nginx’s speed is its asynchronous or event driven model for serving out objects where each request and response is seen as an individual event that is then forgotten until the next event. By comparison, Apache uses a threaded model where each request ties up resources until the full request is made, responded to and the connection is terminated.

There are three common use-cases where Nginx really stands out, and your Managed Cloud Support Team can help implement for you:

  1. As a reverse proxy / cache in front of Apache
  2. As a reverse proxy /cache in front of an Application Server or Framework
  3. As a replacement for Apache and mod_php

Nginx as a Reverse Proxy / Cache In Front of Apache

Probably the simplest use-case to implement is using Nginx in front of Apache to serve and cache static content while passing dynamic content like PHP back to Apache to serve. Used in this way, you can scale your application right away while changing very little, if any of your code.

Configured this way, you can scale your servers vertically, serving many times more customers by implementing caching and serving static objects directly out of Nginx. If you use any of the most common CMS systems like WordPress, Drupal or Joomla, then you’re probably a good candidate to scale your environment this way.

As a Reverse Proxy /Cache in Front of an Application Server or Framework

Application servers and frameworks like Ruby on Rails, Django, IIS and others handle complex logic and query requests well but generally don’t serve http requests as effectively as Nginx or provide as robust of a security posture as well as a web server.

Nginx can be used in front of those applications to handle the initial requests, cache static content, provide additional security and load balance between multiple application servers allowing you to easily scale out your application.

Nginx as a Replacement for Apache and mod_php

Nginx does not directly replace Apache, so the title of this use-case is a bit misleading. To fully replace Apache with mod_php, an additional application called PHP-FPM is also required to handle the PHP processing. The good news is that it can be easily installed from any of the major distribution repository systems, and our system administrators can help configure PHP-FPM for your environment.

As a replacement for Apache, Nginx can handle all of Apache’s major functions including redirects, authentication, aliases, and server side includes, as well as provides some new capabilities like in-line substitution of page content, streaming video and integration directly with mail servers.

Next Steps

If you’re interested in finding out how Nginx can help you scale your environment, just reach out to your Managed Cloud Support team by ticket, phone or chat and we’ll help you design and implement an Nginx environment customized for your needs.

About the Author

This is a post written and contributed by Chris Johnson.

Chris Johnson is a Product Engineer at Rackspace where he helps define, build and test our latest software and products Previous to Rackspace, Chris served as an officer in the U.S. Air Force doing Developmental Test and Evaluation on Command and Control Systems.


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