Nginx Plus 6 Improves Web Server High-Availability

by Sean Michael Kerner

Building on the open-source NGINX 1.7.11 update, the new Nginx Plus enterprise release provides organizations with improved tools.

Nginx Inc today announced the latest release of its commercially supported NGINX Plus Release 6 (R6), providing new load balancing and high-availability features. The Nginx Plus web server first emerged in 2013 as a bundled enterprise package that expands on the capabilities of the open-source Nginx web server.Nginx Plus 6

The Nginx Plus R6 update builds on the Nginx 1.7.11 open-source web server release. With Nginx Plus, there is now a faster load balancing algorithm and a full-featured TCP load balancing capability.

Owen Garrett, Head of Product at Nginx, explained to ServerWatch that his company's goal is to create a complete delivery platform that allows developers and operations staff to build and deliver applications from any environment.

"Complex and legacy applications need more than HTTP and HTTPS load balancing," Garrett said. "They need sophisticated load balancing algorithms that adapt well to the different environments in which they are deployed and delivered from; that's what has driven the addition of these features."

From a competitive deployment perspective, hardware-based load balances or Application Delivery Controllers (ADCs) are not meeting application needs in Garrett's view. "Every hardware ADC deployment needs a separate web server to deliver the content," Garrett said.

He added that with Nginx Plus, features developers and operations staff need to deliver applications reliably and at high performance have all been combined.

Keepalived Load-Balancing and Routing Integration Debuts

A key new addition the R6 release is the integration of the keepalived load-balancing and routing software. Garrett explained that Nginx Plus R6 ships with an additional package that installs and configures keepalived for a Master/Backup deployment.

"This is a simple-to-install, fully supported HA solution for Nginx Plus users," Garrett said. "Users can manually configure HA solutions using keepalived or other standard packages, but this is only necessary for more complex scenarios."

From a security perspective, the R6 updated now includes SSL Authentication for the SMTP mail protocol.

"It's an optional mail feature, but previously if Nginx was used to load-balance email traffic it supported SSL encryption but not SSL authentication," Garrett explained.

He added that Nginx Plus can terminate and load-balance mail traffic (SMTP, POP3, IMAP) and that secure implementations of those protocols use SSL/TLS for encryption.

"With the addition of SSL Authentication for SMTP, IMAP and POP3, NGINX can verify the identify of clients and prevent clients from accessing the upstream mail servers if they are not known and trusted," Garrett said.

Garret explained that offloading SSL/TLS from the mail servers to NGIX provides a more secure environment as SSL/TLS termination and checks can be concentrated in one location, and email capacity can be easily scaled without affecting the presentation of the service.

The new Nginx Plus R6 server does not currently have explicit support for the new HTTP/2 protocol, though it will later this year. Garrett noted that Nginx is already the industry standard for SPDY; at last count, over 95 percent of the world’s websites that run SPDY are delivered using Nginx.

"HTTP/2 is based on SPDY, and we’re currently updating our SPDY support so that we can support HTTP/2," Garrett said. "This will be made available in an Nginx Plus and Nginx F/OSS release later this year."

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at ServerWatch and InternetNews.com. Follow him on Twitter @TechJournalist.

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This article was originally published on Tuesday Apr 14th 2015
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