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Apache vs NGINX - Who WINS in terms of Performance?

Updated on August 10th, 2022
by Editorial Team

Apache vs NGINX is one of the hottest debate out there (ever since the release of NGINX) because both of these are one of the most common web servers in the word followed by LiteSpeed and OpenLiteSpeed.

Apache and NGINX powers almost 60% of the world websites. Apache vs NGINX are similar in terms of performance and features. Their architecture, security, and performance, on the other hand, are all different.

It can be difficult to select between these two servers because they are both excellent. Because each web server has its own set of advantages and disadvantages, it’s critical to make the best option possible.

You can also check openlitespeed vs nginx debate here.

Apache vs NGINX Speed Comparison

Before digging deep into Apache vs NGINX debate. We will first do a simple speed test, where we will conduct test in following scenarios.

  • Let’s test a small static file of 5 KBytes
  • Static file of size 1MB
  • Testing a simple PHP Hello World Application
  • Benchmarking Apache vs NGINX for WordPress
apache vs nginx

We’ve used the same procedure for testing openlitespeed vs nginx. OpenLiteSpeed is really great alternative to NGINX because it supports basic .htaccess rewrite rules as well, thus you can easily move from Apache to OpenLiteSpeed.

Let’s test a small static file of 5 KBytes

Final Verdict: Both servers performed same with small static file.

Apache

Apache vs NGINX

NGINX

Static file of size 1MB

Final Verdict: NGINX clearly won with large static file.

Apache

NGINX

Testing a simple PHP Hello World Application

Final Verdict: Both servers performed same with hello world php application.

Apache

NGINX

Benchmarking Apache vs NGINX for WordPress

Final Verdict: NGINX clearly won with a WordPress site. You can use this guide to speed up your WooCommerce Store

Apache

NGINX

Result of testing - Apache vs NGINX

As we can see in the tests that NGINX is relatively better than Apache in terms of speed. The results are:

1. Test a small static file of 5 KBytes:

In this test, we see that both Apache ad NGINX are giving relative same results.

2. Test a large static file of size 1MB:

In this test, we see that NGINX’s speed is leaps and bounds better than Apache. NGINX is giving a much less average response time.

3. Test a simple PHP Hello World Application

In this test, we are seeing that both Apache and NGINX are giving relative same results.

4. Test for Apache vs NGINX for WordPress

In this test, we see that NGINX’s average response time is so much less than that of Apache giving it a greater speed than that of NGINX.

Apache

There is a community of developers who maintain Apache as an open-source web server. It uses process-driven architecture where it creates a new thread for each connection request.
Furthermore, Apache offers a variety of modules that can be used to increase your web server’s functionality. Apache is fast, reliable, secure, and highly customizable to meet the needs of different environments through the use of extensions and modules.

Connection Handling Architecture

Apache has a number of multi-processing modules (called MPMs by Apache) that control how client requests are handled. Essentially, this enables administrators to quickly switch out the connection handling architecture.

  • mpm-Prefor: This Multi-Processing Module (MPM) implements a pre-forking web server that is not threaded. Each server process can respond to incoming requests, and the size of the server pool is managed by a parent process. It’s suitable for sites that need to avoid threading in order to work with libraries that aren’t thread-safe. It’s also the finest MPM for isolating each request, ensuring that a problem with one doesn’t affect others.
  • mpm-worker: A hybrid multi-process multi-threaded server is implemented by this Multi-Processing Module (MPM). It can serve a high number of requests with fewer system resources than a process-based server since it uses threads to deliver requests. By keeping numerous processes available, each with many threads, it retains much of the stability of a process-based server.
  • mpm-event: The event Multi-Processing Module (MPM) is meant to allow multiple requests to be serviced at the same time by delegating certain processing to the listener threads, freeing up the worker threads to serve new requests.
    Apache has a flexible design that allows you to choose from a variety of connection and request handling algorithms. As the internet landscape has changed, the choices presented are primarily a product of the server’s evolution and the increased demand for concurrency.

Static vs. Dynamic Content

Static content can be handled by Apache servers using their standard file-based mechanisms. The above-mentioned MPM approaches are mostly responsible for the performance of these procedures.

Apache can additionally process dynamic content by including a language-specific processor in each of its worker instances. This enables it to execute dynamic content without the use of external components within the web server. Dynamically loadable modules can be used to enable these dynamic processors.

Because Apache can handle dynamic content internally, dynamic processing configuration is usually easier. Modules can readily be swapped out if the content requirements change, and communication does not need to be coordinated with an additional piece of software.

Distributed vs. Centralized Configuration

By analyzing and interpreting directives in hidden files within the content folders itself, Apache adds an option to allow further configuration on a per-directory basis. .htaccess files are the name for these files.

Because these files are located within the content folders, Apache looks for an .htaccess file in each component of the path to the requested file and applies the directives found there. This effectively enables for decentralized web server setup, which is commonly used for URL rewrites, access limitations, authorization and authentication, and even cache policies.

While all of the preceding examples may be set up in the main Apache configuration file, .htaccess files provide a number of advantages. First, because they are evaluated each time they are encountered along a request path, they are implemented without requiring the server to be reloaded. Second, it enables non-privileged users to control specific portions of their own web content without giving them complete authority over the configuration file.

Certain web software, such as content management systems, can now easily customise their environment without requiring access to the central configuration file. Shared hosting providers utilise this to keep control of the core setup while offering clients access to their specific directories.

File vs. URI-Based Interpretation

Apache can interpret a request as either a physical filesystem resource or a URI destination that requires a more abstract assessment. In general, Apache uses <Directory> or <File> blocks for the former, whereas <Location> blocks are used for more abstract resources.

Because Apache was built from the ground up to be a web server, it interprets requests as filesystem resources by default. To find an actual file, it starts with the document root and appends the piece of the request following the host and port number. On the web, the filesystem hierarchy is essentially represented by the available document tree.

When the request does not match the underlying filesystem, Apache offers a number of options. An Alias directive, for example, can be used to map to a different place. Using <Location> blocks instead of the filesystem allows you to work with the URI directly. Regular expression variations are also available for applying configuration more flexibly across the filesystem.

Although Apache can work on both the underlying filesystem and the webspace, it prefers to use filesystem techniques. Some of the design decisions reflect this, such as the use of.htaccess files for per-directory setting.

Modulus

The module system in Apache allows you to dynamically load and unload modules to meet your needs while the server is running. The Apache core is always present, but modules can be enabled or disabled, adding or deleting functionality and connecting to the main server.

This feature is used by Apache for a wide range of tasks. Because of the platform’s maturity, it comes with a large library of modules. Mod php, for example, embeds a PHP interpreter into each running worker, and can be used to change parts of the server’s essential functionality.

On the other hand, modules don’t just handle dynamic content. They can rewrite URLs, authenticate clients, harden the server, log, cache, compress, proxy, restrict rate, and encrypt data, among other functions. They can offer enhanced functionality without adding a lot of work.

Support, Compatibility, Ecosystem and documentation

Because Apache has been around for so long, there is a lot of support for it. For the core server and task-based situations involving connecting Apache to other software, there is a substantial library of first- and third-party documentation accessible.

Many tools and web projects contain tools to bootstrap themselves within an Apache environment, in addition to documentation. This might be provided in the projects themselves or in the packages that your distribution’s packaging team maintains.

Because of its market share and the amount of time it has been available; Apache will receive more support from third-party projects in general. Administrators are also more likely to have worked with Apache, not just because of its widespread use, but also because many people begin their careers in shared-hosting environments, where Apache is virtually solely used due to the .htaccess distributed management features.

Advantages of Apache vs NGINX

Many webmasters and developers prefer Apache over NGINX since it is much older. It is compatible with Windows, Unix, and Linux operating systems.

• For serving dynamic material, this is an excellent performance.
• Dynamically load and unload modules.
• Provides a per-directory .htaccess file that can be used to overrule system-wide settings.
• Support and documentation are outstanding.
• The model uses a one-connection-per-process approach.
• It includes the mod_evasive and mod_security modules, which add an extra layer of security.

Disadvantages of Apache vs NGINX

• Unable to handle a large number of requests at the same time.
• When compared to NGINX, it takes longer to display static content.
• It provides extensive setup and management capabilities. As a result, it is not appropriate for novices.
• Websites with a lot of traffic have performance concerns.

NGINX

In an attempt to overcome the “C10k” problem, Russian coder Igor Sysoev invented NGINX. Igor accomplished his goal: NGINX can easily manage more than 10,000 concurrent connections. To better handle new connections, NGINX has an event-driven and asynchronous design. NGINX is a web server that offers a lot of capabilities. Listed below are a few of them:

• An HTTP cache and a load balancer
• Apache and other web servers’ front-end proxy.
• HTTP, HTTPS, SMTP, POP3, and IMAP protocols are all served by this reverse proxy server.

Since its release, NGINX has increased in popularity due to its low resource usage and ability to scale effectively on low-cost hardware. NGINX is a web server that specializes in serving static material quickly and is designed to forward dynamic requests to software that is better suited for such tasks.

Connection Handling Architecture

NGINX arrived to the scene after Apache, with a better understanding of the concurrency issues that sites at scale would confront. NGINX was built from the ground up using an asynchronous, non-blocking, event-driven connection handling algorithm to take advantage of this information.

NGINX generates worker processes, each of which is capable of handling tens of thousands of connections. The worker processes achieve this by developing a fast looping mechanism that checks for and processes events on a regular basis. By decoupling actual work from connections, each worker can focus on a connection only when a new event has occurred.

Each of the worker’s connections is placed in the event loop, where they coexist with other connections. Events are processed asynchronously within the loop, allowing work to be done in a non-blocking way. The link is deleted from the loop after it closes.

NGINX can scale exceptionally far with minimum resources thanks to its connection processing method. Because the server is single-threaded and no additional processes are generated to handle each new connection, memory and CPU use remain relatively constant, even when the server is under intense pressure.

Static vs. Dynamic Content

NGINX does not have native support for dynamic content processing. NGINX must pass PHP and other dynamic content requests to an external processor for processing and then wait for the rendered content to be returned. The client can then be informed of the findings.

For admins, this implies that communication between NGINX and the processor must be configured using one of the protocols that NGINX understands (http, FastCGI, SCGI, uWSGI, memcache). This can make things a little more complicated, especially when estimating the number of connections to allow, because each call to the processor will require a new connection.

This strategy, on the other hand, provides a few benefits. The overhead of the dynamic interpreter will only be present for dynamic material because it is not included in the worker process. Static content can be sent in a straightforward manner, with the interpreter consulted only when necessary. This is also possible with Apache, but it eliminates the benefits mentioned in the preceding section.

Distributed vs. Centralized Configuration

NGINX doesn’t understand .htaccess files and doesn’t have a way to evaluate per-directory configuration outside of the main configuration file. Although less versatile than the Apache approach, it has its own set of benefits.

Increased performance is the most noticeable gain over the .htaccess approach of directory-level setting. For each request, the server will check for these files in each of the parent directories leading up to the requested file in a standard Apache setup that allows .htaccess in any directory. If this search turns up one or more .htaccess files, they must be read and processed. NGINX can serve requests quicker by executing a single directory query and file read for each request by not allowing directory overrides (assuming that the file is found in the conventional directory structure).

Another benefit is that it is secure. Distributing directory-level configuration access also spreads security responsibilities to individual users, who may or may not be trusted to do so properly. By ensuring that the administrator has complete control over the web server, you may avoid several security blunders that might arise when access is granted to others.

If you’re concerned about these issues, keep in mind that you may disable .htaccess interpretation in Apache.

File VS URI-Based Interpretation

NGINX was designed to operate as a web server as well as a proxy server. It works largely with URIs, translating to the filesystem when necessary, due to the architecture required for these two jobs.

This can be seen in the way NGINX configuration files are built and processed in some cases.
NGINX doesn’t have a way to specify configuration for a filesystem directory, therefore it parses the URI.

The server and location blocks, for example, are the most important configuration blocks for NGINX. The server block is in charge of interpreting the requested host, whereas the location blocks are in charge of matching portions of the URI after the host and port. The request is now being processed as a URI rather than a filesystem location.

All requests for static files must eventually be mapped to a place on the disc. NGINX selects the server and location blocks that will process the request first, then combines the document root with the URI, modifying as needed based on the settings.

This may appear similar, but interpreting requests largely as URIs rather than filesystem locations makes it easier for NGINX to serve as a web, mail, and proxy server. NGINX is set up by defining how it should respond to certain request patterns. NGINX does not inspect the filesystem until it is ready to deliver the request, which is why .htaccess files are not supported.

Modules

NGINX has a module system as well, however it is considerably different from Apache’s. Modules in NGINX can’t be loaded dynamically, thus they have to be chosen and compiled into the core software.
NGINX will become far less adaptable for many users as a result of this. This is particularly true for users who are hesitant to maintain their own built software outside of their distribution’s standard packaging scheme. While most distributions’ packages include the most commonly used modules, if you need a non-standard module, you’ll have to build the server yourself from source.

NGINX modules, on the other hand, are still quite valuable since they allow you to specify exactly what you want from your server by only including the features you want to use. Some users may also believe that approach is more secure because arbitrary components cannot be connected to the server. If your server is ever put in a situation where this is conceivable, it is almost certainly already compromised.

Many of the same features are available in NGINX modules as they are in Apache modules. Proxy support, compression, rate restriction, logging, rewriting, geolocation, authentication, encryption, streaming, and mail functions are all available through NGINX modules.

Support, Compatibility, Ecosystem and documentation

NGINX is gaining popularity as more people use it because of its high performance, but it still has some catching up to do in certain crucial areas.

Because most of the early development and documentation was in Russian, it was difficult to locate substantial English-language documentation for NGINX in the past. The documentation has been fleshed out as interest in the project has grown, and there are currently lots of administration resources available on the NGINX site and through third parties.

Support and documentation for third-party apps are becoming more widely available, and package maintainers are beginning to offer options for auto-configuring Apache and NGINX in some circumstances. Configuring NGINX to operate with other software is usually simple even without support, as long as the project’s needs are documented (permissions, headers, etc).

Advantages of NGINX

The NGINX web server is simple, lightweight, and fast. Designed specifically for highly trafficked websites.

• Uses an event-driven, non-blocking architecture that uses less CPU and memory.
• It includes a lot of optimization and serving options for static content. As a result, it serves static content 2.5 times faster and uses less memory than Apache.
• It performs admirably in a multi-processor system.
• DDoS attacks are prevented by a built-in configuration option.

Disadvantages of NGINX

• Dynamic content cannot be processed natively.
• A smaller number of modules are available.
• Linux and Unix operating systems are supported, however Windows support is restricted.
• The .htaccess file, which is supported by Apache, is not supported by NGINX.
• A scarcity of log monitoring software - Simply saves logs to files that must be navigated manually.

To Use Apache and NGINX together

After reviewing the advantages and disadvantages of both Apache and NGINX, you should be able to determine which server is more suited to your needs. Many users, however, find that using both servers together allows them to take advantage of each server’s benefits.

The standard configuration for this cooperation is to use NGINX as a reverse proxy in front of Apache. This will enable NGINX to process all client requests. This makes use of NGINX’s quick processing speed and ability to manage a high number of connections at once.

The files will be served rapidly and directly to the client for static content, which NGINX excels at. NGINX will proxy requests for dynamic content, such as PHP scripts, to Apache, which will process the results and provide the rendered page. The material can then be returned to the client via NGINX.

For many users, this design works well since it allows NGINX to act as a sorting machine. It will handle any requests it can and pass on those it doesn’t know how to handle. We can reduce some of the blocking that happens when an Apache process or thread is occupied by reducing the number of requests that the Apache server is asked to handle.

You may scale out with this arrangement by adding more backend servers as needed. NGINX can simply be setup to forward requests to a pool of servers, improving the configuration’s fault tolerance and performance.

When to use Apache vs NGINX?

Both Apache and NGINX, as described in this piece, are powerful, adaptable, and all-around good web servers. For high-traffic websites, Apache is best for providing dynamic material, whereas NGINX is best for supplying static content or media streams. It’s as simple as this:

When can you use Apache

• If you’re on a shared hosting plan.
• If you appreciate a helpful community with a multitude of resources, this is the place to be.
• Apache is popular among web developers because it is simple to set up.

When can you use NGINX

• If you have a VPS or dedicated server.
• You’re the owner of a popular website with a lot of static content.
• If you want to manage incoming traffic and distribute it to upstream servers that are slower.

Apache vs. NGINX: Which one you should choose for your server in 2022?

Whichever one your hosting company provides is the one you should use. In many circumstances, you will not have an option. Many web providers follow the same strategy, which you should follow if you’re deciding between Apache vs. NGINX:

• Apache is a good choice if you want to host a server that requires constant setup or if you want to give users a configuration option.
• NGINX, on the other hand, is the way to go if you want super-fast performance, rock-solid security, and the ability to manage configurations rather than your users.

Because of its fundamental architecture, Apache can take up more RAM in terms of performance. In high-traffic cases, NGINX will perform better, especially if there is a lot of static material to manage.

NGINX may thus be the ideal solution if you rely on caching to store and serve content. Remember that NGINX can’t provide dynamic material; therefore your performance will be affected by the effectiveness of the proxy your server utilizes.

Conclusion

As you can see, Apache as well as NGINX are powerful, adaptable, and capable. Assessing your individual needs and testing the patterns you expect to see are the primary criteria for selecting the right server for you.

Among these projects, there are significant differences in raw performance, capabilities, and the time it takes to implement each. Often, however, they are the result of a series of tradeoffs that should not be ignored. Last but not least, there is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all web server, so choose the option that suits your needs.

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